There are several possible sources for information on a company – be it Clayton Homes or any other – for those seeking an authentic snapshot. It is natural for a company to say good things about themselves. But what do current and former employees have to say? What do customers that encountered a problem have to say? Those are some of the things that this report will examine, because for both consumers or for those considering a “Clayton Career.”
Let us note from the outset before going further that Mobile Home, Manufactured Home, and Modular Home Living News (MHLivingNews.com) is pro-manufactured housing, but strongly anti-corrupt, unethical, or illegal practices. We have long advised shoppers to find white hat firms to do business with while avoiding those who the evidence, legal, media reports, and common sense suggests are ‘black hat’ brands, no matter how much they dress themselves up.
More on that in articles with videos linked above, herein, and below the byline.
So, MHLivingNews is not here to diminish or demean in any way those who opt to buy and live in a pre-HUD Code mobile home or a post-HUD Code manufactured home. That said, among the sources for information about a company are posts online. Those might be found from sources such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), or online reviews on Google, PissedConsumer.com, or others. Some of these were emailed to our attention and along with other comments directly from manufactured home industry professionals,
Let’s presume that each of these comments posted online at face value. Typos are in the original. We are going to share some of the positive ones for several reasons, as well as the negative ones, for obvious reasons.
Among the positive comments are those that admit that it is a stressful environment to work at Clayton Homes. Some clearly state that working with customers can be different. Why would that be so? The stress seems to be to get people to buy (under pressure, thus stress, right?). Another point of stress, suggested per posted comments, is to buy from Clayton using Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance (VMF) lending. Yet, when someone can qualify for other financing, the interest rates are routinely lower.
As to “stress” reported by Clayton employees in with working with their customers. If a customer is happy with their experience, then it should be obvious that working with customers ought to be joyful, not stressful. Speaking for a few moments as someone who sold manufactured homes for years, worked and lived in manufactured home land-lease communities for years, my working with customers was routinely a positive experience. Helping people identify and find a home that fits their needs and budget can be positive, fun, and is emotionally as well as financially rewarding. Those customers who are unhappy and cause ‘stress’ are usually that way for specific and reality-based reason.
It should also be noted – based upon experience, as well as research – that an unhappy customer can become a happy one, so long as they are properly listened to and all legitimate concerns are addressed. I’d be the first to say that there are some people you can not make happy. But that has historically been a tiny minority, not the majority.
The point is that if employees report stress, that is a warning flag for potential employees as well as for consumers, isn’t that so?
With that foundation, let’s look at some actual comments in recent years that are posted online. What makes these interesting is that they echo similar claims by sources that often went on-the-record such as the Seattle Times exposes or John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight that ripped Clayton Homes. One source went on camera to complain right in Clayton Homes own metro media, in Knoxville, TN. That video will be posted further below.
Note that GM or gm in this context is short for ‘general manager.’ RVP is regional vice president.
- “World class experience
General Manager (Current Employee) – Albertville, AL
“Always upbeat atmosphere, you have to like people if you want to sale manufactured homes. My rvp is a credit to his species. Work life balance is good. It depends on the gm.
Customers can be difficult.” That employee gave a 5-star rating to Clayton.
- “Cut throat and they change the rules to fit them not the employee,” said a former Clayton Homes General Manager from Nashville, TN. “They have forgotten who got them where they are the employees. They lowered the salary to nothing and they want you to work 60 to 70 hours a week even when you can’t get to work.” This former Clayton manager gave the firm a 1 star out of 5 rating.
- “Do not trust anyone” said a former General Manager (GM) in the Western United States.
“I dedicated my life to the company to turn a plant around. Once it was rolling the correct direction, they flew in and said I wasn’t a Clayton guy and terminated me. I have aspergers, maybe that was why they let me go. Took a plant from dust and despair to thriving. Guess I served my purpose.” This former Clayton employee gave a 1-star rating out of 5 rating.
It is worth mentioning that the Autism Speaks website says that: “Asperger syndrome, or Asperger’s, is a previously used diagnosis on the autism spectrum. In 2013, it became part of one umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5).” This former team member raised an interesting point – one wonders why that professional would be removed after doing a good job?
- Fun, fast paced family atmosphere
General Manager, Operations (Current Employee) – Rutledge, TN
“If you enjoy building something of value, hard, honest work and a chance to work with caring people..this is a great place to be. I’ve worked here over 20 years and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. Yes, we have some struggles at times just like any organization but we are led by caring people who recognize that we are human.
Pay, hours of operation, and benefits
hard, fast paced work”
The employee above gave a 5-star rating. What is interesting, is that while Kevin Clayton in the interview linked here speaks about work-life balance, Clayton also said that they make an effort to have employees leave happy. When there are hundreds of online complaints, it begs the question: did Kevin say that for effect – posturing – or did he mean it? If he meant it, why are so many unhappy with their Clayton career experience?
- Lots of paper work
General Manager (Former Employee) – TX –
“Be prepared to bring in your own business and do marketing for yourself. Unlimited earning potential up to your ability to handle the work load. You will be responsible for all aspects of your job from the time the customer walks onto the lot to the time the deal is funded.” This employee gave a 3 star rating. “Funding” is when the loan is ‘cashed’ and when the company – and then the sales person – can get paid by the lender. Notice that this person never mentioned service after the sale?
- fast paced, pays very well for top producers
General Manager (Former Employee) – Kansas City, MO
“very lucrative for top producers. If you are not a top 10% producer you will be broke. Guidelines change constantly. with very little instruction on changes being implemented. Employees often left to learn by trial and error”
meet lots of people.
programs and plans change daily”
The employee above gave a two star rating. While Kevin Clayton and others involved at Clayton Careers talk about training, this person makes the claim that – and it is a manager saying this – that company training is haphazard at best. Yet, a properly trained employee can create a better customer experience.
- stressful environment where the customer is taken advantage of on a daily basis.
General Manager (Former Employee) – Sanford, NC
“Clayton Homes is a monopoly in the manufactured home market. They control the building, sales, financing, insurance and warranty for every client. They steer clients to their own non independent lender Vanderbuilt Mortgage. Totally working in their own best interests.”
This may be one of the more important claims. The customer is saying that Clayton is a monopoly and that customers are being ‘steered’ to Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, both of which are owned by Berkshire Hathaway. The employee above – again, another form manager – gave a one star out of 5 rating. See the related report by a legal researcher at Knudson Law linked below.
Also, that same general manager or GM said that it is stressful at Clayton. One of the posted comments not published here said that employees are on “a 4 month draw.” A “draw” in commission sales is a type of loan, from which commissions are used to repay. If the aren’t making enough sales, then they are terminated. The point made is that there is steady pressure to perform.
- Cut throat and they change the rules to fit them not the employee
General Manager (Former Employee) – Nashville, TN
“They have forgotten who got them where they are the employees. They lowered the salary to nothing and they want you to work 60 to 70 hours a week even when you can’t get to work.” This ex-Clayton employee gave a 1 star rating. It is worth mentioning again that this contradicts what Kevin Clayton claimed in the video with transcript found linked here.
A Good Company to Work For
General Manager (GM) (Former Employee) – Turtle Creek, WV
“The most enjoyable part of this position was to be able to help families into a new home where they might have not been able to otherwise.
Good financing programs to help customers
Management, including myself, was under too much pressure from corporate office,” which had a 3 out of 5 star rating from this ex-Clayton manager.
Pressure. Stress. Is it any wonder that there are unhappy customers?
- Ok place to work
General Manager (Former Employee) – Columbia, TN
“You have to be aware of what you are signing up for when you work here. It is and always will be mobile home sales. You have to know that and understand that. The biggest problem with this company is trying to get the home sold. The homes are great and have a lot of benefits. However, with the land constraints and restrictions it is very difficult to say the least to put a mobile home up.
With that said, management in the corporate level doesn’t seem to understand that the land development cost is overwhelmingly high in some areas on the country.
If the sales centers had more assistance with the land development from the corporate office it would make the day to day flow smoother.
The pay structure is a burden. You are put on a 10 week draw in pay. This means that you have to sale off your pay draw. If you don’t close and book enough homes you may and will lose your job. Company max draw is $10,000. This means at or around 4 months of service with this company you will be terminated. You will be reminded weekly that your draw is raising as long as you aren’t closing and booking homes.”
Can be a high paying job.
No assistance from the corporate level. Constant job lose worries.” This person gave a 3 out of 5 star rating to Clayton.
Note that land access is a problem, per this person. So, why isn’t Clayton or MHI pushing the law that already exists that could make easier land access for manufactured homes a reality? See links here and here.
This ex-Clayton GM also made the point MHLivingNews spotlighted above. Namely, that when someone is ‘on a draw,’ there is constant pressure to perform. Right or wrong, if home placement issues is an challenge – and that is an widely acknowledged problem – how is that fair to employees? Or customers?
- General Manager (Former Employee) – Virginia – who gave a 1 star rating in a lengthy commentary for his multiple year career.
“Everyone has at least one decision, in life, that they would like to have back – and that best describes my decision to work for Clayton Homes.A company’s culture, values and style begins and ends with top management – and Clayton has poor top management. The President, who proclaims himself “The Godfather of Manufactured Housing”, was preaching to middle level managers – during the early severe downturn in housing, that Clayton was entering the “golden years” for manufactured housing, and that we would see banner sales years in 2008 and 2009. Nothing was further from the truth.Clayton states, categorically, that it wants its employees to have a balanced life – between their personal lives and their work lives. Despite this, they require their General Managers to work every day but Sunday – from open to close (typically 10 hour days#. When not at work, they expect their managers to plant advertising signs #called “bandit” or “lick-down” signs# and attend marketing events. In all, they have their managers verbally commit to 80+ hour work weeks. What kind of balance is that?Their product is less than sub-standard. They pride themselves on manufacturing standards that have been forced upon them by various government regulatory agencies. Clayton states that they have put into place site requirements that are second-to-none in the residential homebuilding industry – yet fail to state that these standards #again# have been forced upon them. Their warranty is ridiculous #1 year) and amply demonstrates what little confidence they place in their product. Some of the materials used are poor – from plastic faucets to sub-builder grade carpeting that wears out in less than the first 6 months of NORMAL use.Clayton’s substandard product makes life awful for their General Managers. An average sales center will handle almost 50 active complaints concurrently. Since the buyers are specifically targeted by Clayton’s advertising vehicles to be in the lower income classes, working with them to resolve product issues is extremely difficult.This is only a brief review of what it is like to work at Clayton. Please do yourself a favor – consider employment somewhere else...”
there honestly are no pros.
stress………and lots of it.”
- Worst job you’ll ever hate! – General manger (Former Employee)
“General manager for 2.5 years running the show for a dealership. Horrible product, constant customer complaints, poor culture, and pay. They really take advantage of low income customers by taking their land in lieu of a house and charge them really high interest rates for really bad houses. I would not go bak to work for them for 250K a year.” This person gave a 1-star rating out of 5. Indeed, each of the above are among over 500 comments posted on 2.28.2021. It is worth keeping in mind that other websites have similar concerns raised about Clayton – both for “Clayton Careers” and for Clayton customers, as a sampling of PissedConsumer.com videos sprinkled in above reflect.
Additional Information, MHLivingNews Analysis and Commentary
There are hundreds of such comments online. Let the buyer beware.
There are ways that a system can be ‘gamed.’ It is possible that some of the good ratings were encouraged or possibly even incentivized. It is also possible that some of the negative ones had a strong motivation.
That said, having spoken with, and listened to numerous Clayton customers and team members, past and present, many of these seem to fit the spectrum of comments that Clayton’s own website’s annual report had this graphic below. Properly understood, it suggested a significant level of customer dissatisfaction.
With that graphic from Clayton, here is a former team member went on camera, and a that station reported an ongoing federal investigation.
See the full report, linked here. That’s a wrap on this installment of “News through the lens of affordable housing and manufactured homes” where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
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