Look up CEO’s and other company leaders. Keep the same things in mind as when you investigated companies. Is the company leadership reputable and law-abiding? If company leaders have been accused of carrying out scams or have had legal trouble, you may want to avoid this company.
In June 2016, Sophie (name changed) quit her job in the suburbs of Fort Worth, Texas to sell for LuLaRoe, a rapidly growing clothing company that offers self-employment opportunities to American women in the form of hawking hyper-hued apparel. LuLaRoe’s consultants told her—and tens of thousands of other mostly rural and suburban women over the past five years—that she could provide for her family, join a sisterhood of supportive women, and find meaning in her life again through the conduit of colorful, stretchy fashion—all for a reasonable upfront investment of around $5,000.
LuLaRoe’s messaging is filled with positive language: “I believe in you” is the company’s unofficial tag line, and body-positive imagery floods its website to showcase its large selection of flattering plus-size outfits. “It’s hard to find plus-size clothing that actually looks good—that makes you feel like you look good,” Sophie says. “That’s why there’s such a customer base for LuLaRoe.”
The best-selling car in the World is the Toyota Corolla. Apparently it’s a great car, and yet at the same time is probably not the car of your dreams. Which begs the question, “Does an MLM company deserve a higher ranking simply because more people are involved?”It’s a fair question.
As non-employees, participants are not protected by legal rights of employment law provisions. Instead, salespeople are typically presented by the MLM company as “independent contractors” or “independent business owners”. However, participants do not possess a business in the traditional legal sense, as the participants do not hold any tangible business assets or intangible business goodwill able to be sold or purchased in a sale or acquisition of a business. These are the property of the MLM company.
Lastly, if the company is publicly traded, and six of The Top 25… are, we have linked their year in business above, in red, over to MarketWatch for a real-time stock quote and other financial information.
Two-tier: Participants are paid based on the direct traffic or sales they refer to a merchant or its site, as well as the direct traffic or sales generated by the affiliates who joined the affiliate program via their recommendation.
Jump up ↑ Lewis, Truman (September 10, 2012). “Medifast Subsidiary Agrees to $3.7 Million Penalty”. ConsumerAffairs.com. http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2012/09/medifast-subsidiary-agrees-to-37-million-penalty.html. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
Watch for red flags. According to the Federal Trade Commission, some businesses posing as MLM companies are actually illegal pyramid schemes. Pyramid schemes scam recruits into buying into a company and almost always result in a loss to the recruit. Some things to look out for are:
Especially nasty is the church situation. Will the pastor join? If not, he will take a dim view of MLM proselytizing at church functions; animosity will rise, factions will form. You are either “in” or out. If the pastor joins, then those who are not “in” will feel a little uncomfortable in this church.
However, MLMs are nearly never the get-rich-quick plots their advocates promise. “The number of people who actually succeed at that is very small,” says Douglas M. Brooks, an attorney who represents victims of pyramid schemes. “And some do—people will get up on stage and wave checks around, but they represent a fraction of 1%.”
The combined number of recruits from these cycles are the sales force which is referred to as the salesperson’s “downline”. This “downline” is the pyramid in MLM’s multiple level structure of compensation.
But then we watched Betting on Zero, a documentary featuring a US hedge fund manager’s battle with Herbalife – and some of the lives the company has apparently ruined. After watching the documentary we did some more digging. And the more we learned, the more concerned we became.
If you’ve been thinking about, or already are using, essential oils, at one time or another you’ve likely wondered if you should be part of Young Living, doTERRA, or some other multi-level marketing (MLM) company to get “the best essential oils” at a discount.
Marketing innovations are not rare in the modern world, as evidenced by the success of Wal-Mart, which found a more efficient and profitable way to distribute goods and services than the status quo, providing lasting value to stockholders, employees, distributors, and consumers. But this is not the case with any MLM to date, and after 25 years of failed attempts, it is time to point out the reasons why.
The claim that an MLM is merely a “common man” implementation of a normal real-world distribution channel becomes even more absurd in this case. Imagine buying a product or service in the real world and having to pay overrides and royalties to five or ten unneeded and uninvolved “distributor” layers. Would this be efficient? What value do these layers of “distributors” provide to the consumer? Is this rational? Would such a company exist long in a competitive environment?
But one woman’s trash may be another woman’s treasure. New consultants are reporting getting boxes full of old merchandise that appears to be from merchants who went out of business—the ugly stuff others couldn’t sell. “While LuLaRoe may resell some inventory returned in original packaging and in new condition to its employees in its company store,” LuLaRoe CMO Lyon says, “LuLaRoe prefers that product that is returned in original packaging and in new condition be used for donations or giveaways only.” Consultants dispute that claim, posting pictures of “new” merchandise with old patterns and tags that have been marked up by other consultants.
FLARE spoke to a handful of young Canadian women, most of whom said they make money on their businesses. For some, this additional income covers “extras” they might not have been able to afford on the paycheque from their day jobs. Take Stella & Dot stylist Elyse Berendson, a 29-year-old preschool teacher who joined the company to supplement her income.
Walter J. Carl stated in a 2004 Western Journal of Communication article that “MLM organizations have been described by some as cults (Butterfield, 1985), pyramid schemes (Fitzpatrick & Reynolds, 1997), or organizations rife with misleading, deceptive, and unethical behavior (Carter, 1999), such as the questionable use of evangelical discourse to promote the business (Höpfl & Maddrell, 1996), and the exploitation of personal relationships for financial gain (Fitzpatrick & Reynolds, 1997)”. In China, volunteers working to rescue people from the schemes have been physically attacked.
Direct selling does not necessarily incorporate the endless chain of recruiting that makes MLM so controversial, and is not necessarily unethical. However, the modern direct selling industry is utterly dominated by MLMs. According to the Deceptive Direct Selling Association (DSA), the industry’s trade association and lobbying arm, 97% of its members are MLMs as of 2017. The distinction between direct selling and network marketing, which many MLMs hide behind to maintain their legitimacy, is therefore essentially meaningless.
MLMs aren’t a new business model—they’ve just done a little rebranding. A lot of the old guard such as Avon and Mary Kay are still around, but nowadays, some of the most popular MLMs include Herbalife and Plexus (nutrition and weight loss), Young Living and DoTerra (essential oils), Pampered Chef (kitchen tools), Rodan + Fields (skincare), and Jamberry (nail stickers).
On the flip-side of the issue of being stuck with the recruitment “pitch” is the fact that the MLM organization is otherwise loose, to say the least. This is part of the appeal to many, to “be your own boss.”
On the seller side of things, it’s also somewhat demeaning to imply that women who join MLM companies are doing so blindly. Jamie Clarkson, a 28-year-old Arbonne executive regional vice president from Winnipeg who joined the company as a 22-year-old university student, says she didn’t sign anything until she’d done her research. “It was really important to me to do my due diligence on the business and the industry before starting this opportunity,” she says. “What really drew me to Arbonne was the fact that they are a member of the DSA, which has a strong code of ethics and high standards for business practices.”
But even if LuLaRoe were to go out of business tomorrow, another MLM pushing scented candles, jewelry, or kitchen products would rise up to take its place. “The regulators cannot keep up with these companies,” Brooks says. “There are so many of them. When one company blows up, the founders and high-level distributors move on to another company, and it goes on and on.” At best, LuLaRoe is a company that grew too fast; at worst, it consciously preyed on business-naïve communities eager for a sense of self-sufficiency.
The most recent, high profile multi-level marketing company to defend its practices is Herbalife Ltd., a manufacturer and distributor of weight-loss and nutritional products with more than 500,000 distributors. Although the FTC has been investigating Herbalife, it was activist investor William Ackman who shed a national spotlight on the company by shorting $1 billion of the company’s stock in 2013. Ackman accused the company of operating a pyramid scheme and backed his allegations with a bet the company’s stock price would fall under the weight of the scam. As of May 27, 2016, the company’s stock price traded at $59 a share, about where it was five years ago. A lawsuit filed against Herbalife accusing it of misrepresenting its sales practices as legitimate was dismissed.
Jump up ↑ Taylor, Jon (2011). /00017-57317.pdf “The Case (For and) Against Multilevel Marketing” (PDF). Consumer Awareness Institute. https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/public_comments/trade-regulation-rule-disclosure-requirements-and-prohibitions-concerning-business-opportunities-ftc.r511993-00017 /00017-57317.pdf. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the knowledge I gained from [Michael’s] live events and training CDs. Two MUST-HAVE [programs] in your CD library should be ‘The Total Success Pack‘ and ‘Building a Better Life.’ I’ve listened so many times I’ve lost count. PRICELESS information for your journey to success in business and in life… ‘Easy to do. Easy not to do’ The choice is yours.”
MLMs sell themselves using self-empowerment language and sparkly beauty products. MLMs only sell through a network of consultants, not in online stores or in brick-and-mortar shops. Sellers buy inventory from a parent company and sell it to their friends and family, keeping the profit for themselves like a franchise would. But the real potential to earn money generally isn’t in peddling wares: It’s in building up a team of sellers below you and getting a cut of their commissions. Once a seller has recruited new consultants, she has to push them to buy more inventory each month or to hit consumer-sales targets in order to earn her bonus check and keep the money flowing upstream. This means the further down the recruitment ladder you are, the less opportunity there is to make real money.
I can’t promise I’ll always be right, but I can promise you that I will do my best, within reason (I do have a family with health conditions, and we homeschool and eat all whole foods) to get the best information to you and correct myself whenever I’m wrong.
MLM can no longer claim to be new and, thus, exempt from the normal rules of the market and the way goods and services are sold. They have been tried and, for the most part, have failed. Some have been miserable failures in spite of offering excellent products.
I am not up on the practices of Be Young, but I know YL and doTERRA both have a heavy emphasis on internal use of essential oils. I wasn’t too concerned about this at first, but as I’ve learned more I have gotten more worried about this.