The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states: “Steer clear of multilevel marketing plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors. They’re actually illegal pyramid schemes. Why is pyramiding dangerous? Because plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors inevitably collapse when no new distributors can be recruited. And when a plan collapses, most people—except perhaps those at the very top of the pyramid—end up empty-handed.”
Multi-level marketing, abbreviated as MLM, also called pyramid selling, network marketing and referral marketing, is a controversial marketing strategy for the sale of products and/or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce (also called participants, and variously known as “salespeople”, “distributors”, “consultants”, “promoters”, “independent business owners”, etc) selling the company’s products/services, while the earnings of the participants is derived from a pyramid-shaped commission system.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a decision, In re Amway Corp., in 1979 in which it indicated that multi-level marketing was not illegal per se in the United States. However, Amway was found guilty of price fixing (by effectively requiring “independent” distributors to sell at the same fixed price) and making exaggerated income claims. The FTC advises that multi-level marketing organizations with greater incentives for recruitment than product sales are to be viewed skeptically. The FTC also warns that the practice of getting commissions from recruiting new members is outlawed in most states as “pyramiding”.
A few MLMs (Mary Kay, Avon) are significantly more sales-driven, with a larger customer base, and offer more added value to customers. They are still definitely not without controversy or criticism, however – no MLM is.
“Retailers can generate a sense of excitement among consumers because the garments they purchase are unique to them,” says a LuLaRoe spokesperson. “Many retailers report that they use the unexpected nature of the shipment to build excitement among existing and new consumers for their new inventory. This also fosters a sense of cooperation among retailers as retailers will often refer consumers to other retailers to help consumers find the patterns that they seek.”
Jump up ^ “Hong Kong multi-level marketing plan needs closer look (editorial)”. South China Morning Post. October 31, 2013. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
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).
Buying products from a network marketing company isn’t cheaper, faster, or more pleasant than buying them on the open market, and it’s often considerably worse in all three of these categories. That’s because unlike normal retail business, where the supply chain is direct and logical (from manufacturer, to wholesaler, to retailer, to customer), in MLMs the supply chain follows the customer’s upline, accumulating markups and compounding inefficiencies at each level of the pyramid. The result is higher prices, frequent unexplained delays, and products that are constantly “on back-order.” MLMs will often try to artificially suppress competition by claiming their product is unique or superior to all others – even claiming that their competitors’ products are poisonous or even Satanic – but equivalent products are always available from normal retail outlets, often at a fraction of the cost.
Shortly after, Stern began to pull in anywhere from $18,000 to $24,000 a month in sales. She was working 80-hour weeks with seven women selling underneath her. “The moment I woke up, I was taking pictures and answering questions,” she says. “My husband had to do the food shopping. My daughter has dance one day a week. While she was dancing, all the other moms would talk, but my face was always in my phone. I was uploading albums, or I was part of a multi-consultant sale.”
In some cases, of course, direct selling does replace full-time, salaried gigs. That was the case for Sarah Millar, a 25-year-old personal trainer from Ottawa who joined Stella & Dot because she wasn’t making a consistent enough income on her fitness biz. Since signing up in January 2016, she’s paid off her student loans, gone on two vacations and started saving for a down payment. (She and her high school sweetheart are aiming to buy a home this spring.)
The percentage of an MLM company’s total profit that is ultimately distributed to its participants (the sales force), away from the MLM owners or shareholders, differs from one MLM company to the next. However, the percentage earmarked to be paid to participants is usually a quite smaller share of overall company profits. The earmarked figure is then distributed in complex compensation plans which, ultimately, funnel most of it to a few individual participants in the upper-most levels of the MLM participant pyramid. The remaining majority of participants (often over 99.5% or more) receive no returns, or negligible return which are more often than not at a net loss after they deduct expenses which were incurred in the promotion of their “independent businesses”.
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.
Seeing the disastrous end of market naiveté in Russia should help clarify the fundamental problem with the MLM approach. In the real world, the profit of a company is directly related to the skill and prescience of the “hand” on the “supply knob,” so to speak. In the USSR, that “hand” could not react fast or accurately enough to market realities through the best efforts of the bureaucrats.
The longest-running, most trusted, well respected and relevant Direct Selling Event in the World. “Direct Selling” encompasses the terms “Network Marketing,” “Social Selling,” “Party Plan” and “Multi-Level Marketing.”
But advocates of the industry, including Derek Hassay, a marketing expert and professor at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, say MLM’s bad rap is unfair — especially in the Canadian marketplace, which is light on U.S.-style MLM horror stories.
The overwhelming majority of MLM participants (most sources estimated to be over 99.25% of all MLM participants) participate at either an insignificant or nil net profit. Indeed, the largest proportion of participants must operate at a net loss (after expenses are deducted) so that the few individuals in the uppermost level of the MLM pyramid can derive their significant earnings—earnings which are then emphasized by the MLM company to all other participants to encourage their continued participation at a continuing financial loss.
The unfortunate “distributor” at the bottom is the loser, and once this becomes apparent beyond all the slick videotapes and motivational pep-talks, good people start to get a bad taste in their mouths about the whole situation.
That self-help-tinged speak is a common thread among MLM companies. Arbonne’s tagline is, “transform your life and the lives of others.” Part of Stella & Dot’s appeal, says Berendson, is that, “the [company’s] name stands for the CEO and Chief Creative Officer’s grandmothers, and the business is all about empowering women and creating a business her way on her own time.” But that enthusiastic brand loyalty might be part of the reason for the persistent negative perception of MLM companies, which have sometimes been described as, “cult-like.” If you’re not in the community, that much enthusiasm can be off-putting.
Herbalife was able to show its revenues were based more on the sale of its products than through recruitment, and it offered numerous protections, such as a money-back guarantee, so members would not be stuck with products they could not sell. According to Herbalife, 80% of its members do not recruit other members.
More than professional success or flexibility, though, community might be one of MLM’s biggest draws. Like Donald, “a lot of women will join direct selling companies when they become a mom,” Hassay says. “They’re looking for something to do to get out of the house. That one party a week is a significant contributor to mental health, income, a sense that they’re contributing to the family.”
I’ve been pretty disappointed with the response of some readers to Part 4 of this Best Essential Oils series. There’ve been numerous attacks on my character, both here, on Facebook sites, and elsewhere. (Check out Part 4 to see comments and my responses.)
^ Jump up to: a b c d e f Carroll, Robert Todd (2003). The Skeptic’s Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 235–36. ISBN 0-471-27242-6. Archived from the original on June 26, 2009. Retrieved June 29, 2009.
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.
Not so with the MLM crowd. Pick up any brochure or videotape for an MLM and you are more than likely to see a cheesy, obvious, and blatant appeal to greed and materialism. This is offensive to everyone, even die-hard materialists. Typical is an appeal to “the American dream.” Usually there will be a mood shot of a large new home, a luxury car, a boat, perhaps a beautiful couple boarding a Lear jet, and so on.
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?
So concerned, we felt the need to write this article, as we know mothers are a big target group for MLMs (read on to find out why). So if you are considering joining one, please do read this first – and forward to any friends tempted by promises of ‘income opportunities’.
In recent months, sellers have claimed that LuLaRoe leggings have a tendency to tear like “wet toilet paper.” The $25 leggings—their most popular item—are manufactured in the US, Vietnam, Guatemala, Indonesia, and China, and are mostly made of a mix of polyester and spandex. Starting in fall 2016, customers started reporting that LuLaRoe’s “buttery soft” leggings were falling apart. Sometimes within just a few hours of wearing them, pinholes would splatter across the fabric, a “blow out” would reveal the wearer’s underwear, or they’d lose all their dye in the wash, leaving them a sad, mottled grey. LuLaRoe has denied that anything was wrong with its leggings, saying that only 1% of its clothing is returned with defects.
Well, I’ve been an MLM rep for a number of different companies, including YL and doTERRA (DT), so here are my thoughts about MLMs–mainly regarding the oils companies, but some of my thoughts extend to other MLMs as well. I did some research into BeYoung but chose not to become a rep of their company.
If you’re tempted to join an MLM, we hope this has helped give you a more balanced view than the spiel offered by your rep. (If a friend is considering joining one, please send this article to them before they commit!)
You can begin searching for a position anytime you want! Once you’ve gotten a job, it may take a few weeks or months to get fully trained and ready to begin working, but after that you’ll be able to become a full blown network marketer.
This is just an inkling of the things you need to learn, in order to run a successful network marketing business. You know that this isn’t a get rick quick scheme. You may get rich, but it won’t be quickly. If you focus on learning all you can and applying what you learn, you will see results.
Network marketing seems like a breeze on the surface. Many people jump in, thinking they just have to pull in a few people and then sit back and watch the money roll in. Those people do not last very long. Take some time and learn these tips and tricks for your new business.
How long would it take a seller to earn back their initial $5,000? Let’s say she sells 30 leggings in an online party. They cost $10.50 each wholesale, and the manufacturer’s advertised price is $25, so she would make a $435 profit. After that, consultants often tell other sellers to replace their inventory and build up more in order to be successful. “The question of inventory levels is determined by each retailer in the conduct of the retailer’s own independent business,” says a LuLaRoe spokesperson. “If the retailer believes greater inventory would help, they are encouraged to order.”
Before joining with a particular network marketing program, make sure you fully understand their process for compensating you. Preference should be higher returns that offer multiple income streams and residual income. Also, your first sales usually go to your sponsor. They are helpful sources, and you can gain some leverage.
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.
Thankfully, getting out is easier than it used to be—sort of. Thankfully, getting out is easier than it used to be—sort of. LuLaRoe has started providing free shipping so that consultants who want to leave can return their inventory and get back what they paid, as long as those items are in perfect condition and in their original packaging. This sounds reasonable—except that retailers generally have to unbox, hang, and photograph each item in order to have a shot at selling it, meaning a lot of their unsold inventory isn’t eligible for a refund.