Many readers will share the experience of observing MLMs divide families, friends, churches, and civic groups. Lifelong friends are now “prospects.” The neighborhood is now “a market.” Motives change, suspicions rise, divisions form. The question is begged: “Is it worth it?”
Interestingly, the issue of supply and demand is what brought the USSR to its knees. By design, the Soviet government tried to macro-manage supply, where bureaucrats would decide how many potatoes were needed, how much toilet paper, etc. Assuming these bureaucrats did the best they could, unfortunately their efforts to deliberately manipulate the control “knob” of supply and demand was not good enough. Notwithstanding their good intentions, they were usually wrong, which created huge shortages and surpluses, and led to a massive economic collapse.
Dynamic Essentials was an MLM promoting “Royal Tongan Limu,” a seaweed extract. The company was dissolved by its parent after it was ordered to pay $2 million in fines and destroy almost $3 million in unsold inventory for falsely claiming the product could cure cancer, arthritis, and attention deficit disorder (ADD), among other ailments.
The main pitch of most MLMs is passive income – the promise of being able to sit back and relax while someone else does all the work. But if everybody wants to “let someone else sell the products,” who will actually do the selling?
A number of folks in the oils industry have suggested that the reason YL and doTERRA recommend so much internal usage of oils is to drive up usage and drive up sales. I don’t know their motivation, but that would make perfect sense.
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.
“Right now, I make more doing hygiene than recommending products to people, but maybe in four or five years I could retire as a hygienist,” says Donald. “Because people don’t realize that you actually have to work and put in a good few years before you start seeing money — it’s like any business. You can’t open your doors and expect to be rich tomorrow.
Instead, those who fail just didn’t work hard enough (funnily enough one of the new promotional UK videos for an MLM emphases ‘hard work’ several times). The message? It’s not the MLM that didn’t work, it’s you.
None of these conditions exist anywhere in the real world. Markets change, trends come and go, customers are fickle and demanding, and competitors constantly enter/exit the market. There isn’t an endless supply of people willing to serve as self-appointed salespeople in any market, anywhere – some of us have better things to do than sell overpriced supplements to our friends on Facebook. And there are almost always plenty of competitive alternatives to every consumer product. So what inevitably follows is point #4…
“I can’t believe you call yourself a Christian,” one retailer wrote to someone trying to sound the alarm. “Where is the Jesus in you?” Even when consultants wake up to the fact they’ve been hoodwinked, many don’t warn their friends to stay away. That’s because if you speak out against any of LuLaRoe’s rules or mishaps, the community could publicly shame and harass you for being negative. “I can’t believe you call yourself a Christian,” one retailer wrote to someone trying to sound the alarm. “Where is the Jesus in you? I have to block you due to your constant-gross-delusional-uneducated opinions of LLR.” If you reveal you are struggling to make sales, you might be told to stop playing the victim, that you’re not putting in enough effort, to be more enthusiastic, and, of course, to buy more inventory.
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%.”
Jump up ^ Jeffery, Lyn (March 21, 2001). “Placing Practices: Transnational Network Marketing in Mainland China”. In Chen, Nancy N. China Urban: Ethnographies of Contemporary Culture. Duke University Press. pp. 23–42. ISBN 9780822326403. Archived from the original on April 22, 2016.
Apparently, it is difficult for gung-ho MLMers to see how they look from the outside. They can watch lifelong friendships unravel, churches and civic groups poisoned, the avoidance of friends and family, etc., and never see that MLM was the cause.
Jump up ↑ “Women say they were branded and traumatized by secret group’s doctors”. CBS. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nxivm-women-say-they-were-branded-traumatized-group-doctors/. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
To represent MLM distributorship as a “business opportunity” or “additional income stream” or “side hustle” – let alone claiming that it’s a way to get rich – is manifestly deceptive and a complete misrepresentation. To succeed in an MLM, you must essentially con your downline into buying tickets for a plane that has already taken off.
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.
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.
I’m sure you’re wondering now; can you actually make money with Network Marketing? The answer is “YES”, you can, but only if you are willing to do the work to grow your network, to really sell the product or service. You have to really believe in yourself and the service or product you are selling if you are going to achieve any level of success. You do not only have to be willing to SELL to the end consumer, you definitely have to be willing to put in the time and effort to train others, and to get them ENTHUSIASTIC over the product or service as well. It takes some time and dedication, but if you believe in yourself, you believe in the product or service and are willing to put in the hard work, you CAN succeed beyond your wildest dreams in Network Marketing!
Independent non-salaried participants, referred to as distributors (variously called “associates”, “independent business owners”, “independent agents”, etc.), are authorized to distribute the company’s products or services. They are awarded their own immediate retail profit from customers plus commission from the company, not downlines, through a multi-level marketing compensation plan, which is based upon the volume of products sold through their own sales efforts as well as that of their downline organization.
Where is the “switch” that can be flipped in an MLM when enough sales people are hired? In a normal company a manager says, “We have enough, let’s stop hiring people at this point.” But in an MLM, there is no way to do this. An MLM is a human “churning” machine with no “off button.” Out of control by design, its gears will grind up the money, time, credibility, and entrepreneurial energy of well-meaning people who joined merely to supplement their income. Better to just steer clear of this monster to begin with.
LuLaRoe also says it invests “considerable time, resources, and talent” to support its “independent retailers,” as it calls its consultants. If they experience financial or psychological hardship through operating their businesses, it says it’s not the company’s fault. “Retail is not for everyone,” says a LuLaRoe spokesperson. “Retailers own their own business and make their own decisions…The success of any business depends on its leader’s own respective and independent business goals, and the strategies they employ to achieve those goals.”
Research has shown that our brains release more of the pleasure chemical dopamine when we unexpectedly get a reward at a random time. Gambling addicts will run up credit cards and bankrupt themselves chasing that high, continually putting coins into the slot even though it’s become clear that, overall, they are losing. Likewise, LuLaRoe customers will stay glued to Facebook groups and consultants will keep buying inventory they can’t afford in the hope they will stumble across the rarest, most elusive styles.
Jump up ↑ Vowell, Nicole (September 25, 2014). “2 Utah companies respond to FDA warning over health claims”. Deseret News. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865611752/2-Utah-companies-respond-to-FDA-warning-over-health-claims.html?pg=all. Retrieved 26 October 2014.
Use of invented jargon and euphemisms, which has led to a predictably hilarious euphemism treadmill (i.e., “network marketing,” “referral marketing”, “affiliate marketing”, “home-based business franchising”, “Independent Business Owner”)
Christina Hinks, an aspiring journalist and the former moderator of the Facebook group, attempted to draw attention to LuLaRoe practices she found problematic. She has been collecting and documenting LuLaRoe issues at her blog, Mommygyver, which went from product reviews to educating readers on the risks of MLMs and inventory loading, revealing fat shaming by consultants, sharing stories of women who claim to have been victimized by LuLaRoe, and posting screenshots and stories of shenanigans by consultants and leaders at the top.
Jump up ^ Richard Eisenberg (June 1, 1987). “The Mess Called Multi-Level Marketing With celebrities etting the bait, hundreds of pyramid-style sales companies are raking in millions, often taking in the gullible”. CNN. Archived from the original on August 31, 2012.
Jump up ↑ “Attorney General Abbott Shuts Down Pyramid Scheme That Marketed Bogus Fuel Pill”. April 2, 2007. https://web.archive.org/web/20070402211346/http://www.oag.state.tx.us/oagNews/release.php?id=1906.
Telling lies about people or groups is slander. Systemic and malicious slander is illegal in most civilized countries. Slander is a sin listed next to murder and adultery in Biblical texts. But how will you know when you become the slanderer by repeating what you heard in an MLM meeting?
Would a rational person, abreast of the facts, go to work selling any product or service if he or she knew that there was an open agenda to overhire sales reps for the same products in the prospective territory?
Health insurance premiums never seem to stop going up. The 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health insurance increased by 4% over the last year, … Read more
Besides being cheesy and offensive to our sensibilities, this is not a big deal for participants, right? But consider that all companies must have control over the way they are presented to the public. Thus, an MLM has the right and obligation to dictate what material is used. Otherwise any agent could say whatever he or she liked about the nature of the company, causing obvious problems. Again, it would take too much time to audit and approve each individual’s idea for a presentation where the goal is mass marketing. Using “boilerplate” presentations affords the added benefit of consistency. This is basic “information quality control.”
Multi-level marketing is a strategy that some direct sales companies use to encourage their existing distributors to recruit new distributors by paying the existing distributors a percentage of their recruits’ sales; the recruits are known as a distributor’s “downline.” All distributors also make money through direct sales of products to customers. Amway is an example of a well-known direct-sales company that uses multi-level marketing.
Such a transparent appeal should make people suspicious. “Why the bait?” “Are they trying to ‘get my juices going’ so that my brain turns off?” “Couldn’t they show people doing more wholesome things with the money they make?” “If this is really a legitimate opportunity, why not focus on the market, product, or service instead of people reveling in lavish materialism?”
“Retailers should absolutely never put their personal financial situation at unreasonable risk to establish or operate their retailer business. Period,” Lyon says. “If any retailer is encouraged to do that, we do not support it.”
If you are a materialist, you only have to get over the cheekiness of the presentation. But if you do not wish to promote such ideas, if you consider them sinful, then this puts you at the focal point of a moral dilemma. Do you wish to be a salesperson for materialism?
With the company’s rules shifting and no small-business training offered to consultants, it’s easy to let enthusiasm blindside reality—and if you’re drowning, you’re fighting against a riptide of consultants to save yourself.
Even if you’re not put under any pressure to sell – and some of the MLMs now targeting the female market do reassure you by saying you have no targets to meet – the fact remains you NEED to sell to make money.
And again, this example scenario makes all kinds of assumptions (the profitability of the product, the availability of new recruits and new customers) that are absurd and completely unrealistic, which leads us to point #3…
Multi-level marketing is a legitimate business strategy, though it is controversial. One problem is pyramid schemes, which use money from new recruits to pay the people at the top, often take advantage of people by pretending to be engaged in legitimate multi-level marketing. Pyramid schemes can sometimes be spotted by their greater focus on recruitment than on product sales.
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.
Targeting vulnerable or disadvantaged groups (ethnic minorities, recent immigrants, non-English speakers, ex-cons, recovering addicts, poor communities, high school/college students, women), often accompanied by love bombing
Speak to your lead in a way that gives them what they’re seeking in life. Are they looking for financial freedom? Or do they just want to take control of their business life? Are they in this to help others? Take them from their idea of success and show them how they can reach that with your help.
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.
Assuming the blue individual recruits five, and those five recruit their own five, and so on, the maximum theoretical cycles of recruits possible in the “downline” of the blue individual is 14 cycles (514 = 6.1 billion people), after which point the total human population is exceeded.
Because of the encouraging of recruits to further recruit their competitors, some people have even gone so far as to say at best modern MLMs are nothing more than legalized pyramid schemes with one stating “Multi-level marketing companies have become an accepted and legally sanctioned form of pyramid scheme in the United States” while another states “Multi-Level Marketing, a form of Pyramid Scheme, is not necessarily fraudulent.” In October 2010 it was reported that multilevel marketing companies were being investigated by a number of state attorneys general amid allegations that salespeople were primarily paid for recruiting and that more recent recruits cannot earn anything near what early entrants do. Industry critic Robert L. FitzPatrick has called multi-level marketing “the Main Street bubble” that will eventually burst.
Eric Scheibeler, a high level “Emerald” Amway member: “UK Justice Norris found in 2008 that out of an IBO [Independent Business Owners] population of 33,000, ‘only about 90 made sufficient incomes to cover the costs of actively building their business.’ That’s a 99.7 percent loss rate for investors.”
It is a fact that a few large MLMs have survived against the best efforts of law enforcement officials to shut them down, spending millions of dollars to protect, lobby, and insulate themselves. But the same could be said for any organized crime. It is difficult to stop once it becomes so large.
MLMs often teach their participants to recruit their best customers. What kind of normal business turns one of its best assets into a liability? Imagine if the local Starbucks started encouraging all its best customers to open up their own Starbucks, where all the customers would, in turn, be encouraged to open up their own Starbucks. How long before there are too many Starbucks and no paying customers left? Which brings us to point #2…
After that package, consultants can start choosing styles and sizes for their next orders, but they never get to choose the patterns they’re delivered. This means they can wind up with a box of clothes that is less “chic young mom” and more Pee Wee’s Playhouse. There are 400 new prints apparently designed every day, and LuLaRoe says most patterns are limited to around 5,000 pieces each. When a consultant opens a box, they hope to find a few “unicorns”—the styles everyone wants—among armfuls of duds, like the infamous Dorito pattern.
As noted, many MLM companies do generate billions of dollars in annual revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profit. However, the profits of the MLM company are derived to the detriment of the overwhelming majority of the company’s non-salaried workforce (the MLM participants). Only some of the profit is then significantly shared with none but a few individual participants at the top of the MLM participant pyramid. The earnings of those top few participants then allows the creation of an illusion of how one can potentially become financially successful if one becomes a participant in the MLM. This is then emphasized and advertised by the MLM company to recruit more participants to participate in the MLM with a false anticipation of earning margins which are in reality merely theoretical and statistically improbable.
* Why 10 years? Because that amount of time really seems to matter. For example, according to research, since 1956 thousands of different MLM, Multi Level, or Network Marketing companies have opened their doors; and to date only +/- 50 MLM companies have found a way to celebrate their 10th anniversary and still remain in business today. Now, to be completely fair, we should also point out that each and every company on our list was at one time a start-up company too.