Nu Skin, a cosmetics MLM, has accumulated more than $48 million in civil penalties since 1994 for exaggerating the effectiveness of its products, which include baldness treatments, wrinkle lotions, burn creams and others, and for making bogus claims regarding chromium picolinate and L-carnitine, key ingredients in several of their supplements.
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:
^ Jump up to: a b Merrilees, Bill; Miller, Dale (1999). “Direct Selling in the West and East: The Relative Roles of Product and Relationship (Guanxi) Drivers”. Journal of Business Research. 45 (3): 267–273.
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.
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.
For most people, this means if we are going to be materialistic or greedy, we would rather not be obvious about it. Thus, Madison Avenue has subtle, highly polished ways of appealing to these vices without being heavy handed. We don’t mind so much… as long as it is “veiled.” This hypocrisy, while sad, is the status quo. So, Madison Avenue is trying to be ever more subtle in appearing not to be manipulating our immoral “bent” towards greed and materialism.
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.”
Consultants and clients say the clothing’s quality has been going back up, but the PR damage has been done. Shoppers are becoming wary—and wondering why they’re not buying leggings that don’t rip on the first wear for $7.99 at Wal-Mart instead.
Stern was taught ways to unload her unwanted stock on unsuspecting buyers by her group’s leaders. “You have to be creative about how you sell it,” she says. Stern would bundle 10 pairs of leggings together—nine less desirable ones and one unicorn pattern—into “mystery sales,” where the first 10 women to comment “sold” would purchase a random pair, but only one would get the coveted leggings. She feels guilty about using this psychological gambling trick, but it worked.
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.”
At issue in determining the legitimacy of a multi-level marketing company is whether its products are sold primarily to consumers or to its members who must recruit new members to buy their products. If it is the former, the company is deemed a legitimate multi-level marketer. If it is the latter, it could be operating a pyramid scheme, which is illegal. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been investigating multi-level companies for several decades and has found many that blur the lines between the two. According to industry data, there are 90 million members worldwide, but relatively few earn meaningful income from their efforts. To some observers, that reflects the characteristics of a pyramid scheme.
The Direct Selling Association (DSA), a lobbying group for the MLM industry, reported that in 1990 only 25% of DSA members used the MLM business model. By 1999, this had grown to 77.3%. By 2009, 94.2% of DSA members were using MLM, accounting for 99.6% of sellers, and 97.1% of sales. Companies such as Avon, Electrolux, Tupperware, and Kirby were all originally single-level marketing companies, using that traditional and uncontroversial direct selling business model (distinct from MLM) to sell their goods. However, they later introduced multi-level compensation plans, becoming MLMs. The DSA has approximately 200 members while it is estimated there are over 1,000 firms using multi-level marketing in the United States alone.
It is important to distinguish between the MLM company itself versus the so-called “independent businesses” run by the MLM participants. Many MLM companies generate billions of dollars in annual revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profit, however, an MLM company’s overall profitability does not correlate to the profitability experience of their participants.
Later the same year, by the way, the founder of FUND AMERICA was arrested for having generated some 90% of revenues selling “distributorships” versus product… making it clear that this particular MLM was little more than a pyramid scheme.
“Roland Whitsell, a former business professor who spent 40 years researching and teaching the pitfalls of multilevel marketing”: “You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone making over $1.50 an hour, (t)he primary product is opportunity. The strongest, most powerful motivational force today is false hope.”
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.
Jump up ^ Berkowitz, Bill (January 28, 2009). “Republican Benefactor Launches Comeback”. Inter press service. Archived from the original on September 12, 2010. Retrieved July 11, 2009. (in reference to BERR vs Amway (Case No:2651, 2652 and 2653 of 2007) in point of objectionability”c”)
Raise your hand if you remember when MySpace and Friendster were all the rage. Today, we use a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and more. It has to be at least nine years since I logged into MySpace. Although, I created my Facebook account in … Read more
As a means of moving capital from the bottom of the pyramid to the top, MLMs are very effective; their chief promoters and high-level members aren’t lying when they boast of the money they’ve made from the scheme. However, as a business model (i.e., a means of creating and capturing capital), MLMs are hilariously ineffective – like a toddler imagining what it’s like to start a business. Here are just a few of the reasons why.
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.
In April, Stern quietly put all her inventory on sale for 25% off, paid off her credit-card debt, and got out. She’s an example of someone who rode the wave and managed to leave before wiping out entirely. She has now started a new company selling leggings using the same skills she learned from selling LuLaRoe—without the binding policies, and with an added charity element. She’s one of the fortunate ones. But what about the rest?
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?
Nothing irritates a die-hard MLMer more than the preceding argument. If you point out the absurdity, for example, that if “the pitch” at an Amway meeting were even moderately accurate, in something like 18 months Amway would be larger than the GNP of the entire United States, then listen closely for a major gear-shift: “Well, that is absurd, of course. Not everyone will succeed, and so the market will never saturate.”
As economic opportunity has become more concentrated in urban areas in the US, rural communities have fallen behind. Residents of towns like Casper (Wyoming), Spring Creek (Nevada), and DeRidder (Louisiana) all missed out on economic recovery following the 2007 global financial crisis. Bootstrapping, hard-working families in these regions are urgently searching for a way to regain their economic liberty, along with their dignity.
In 2016, the US Census Bureau stated the median rural household income is 4% lower than it is for urban families, and income inequality is also higher. The US government tried to help people understand the risks before joining these kinds of companies, but MLMs had their way. In 2012, federal legislation passed requiring all franchise companies to provide a disclosure document with information on weighing the benefits and risks of signing up. However, MLMs poured money into lobbying and flooded the FTC with more than 17,000 comments from consultants saying the disclosure would be a burden, and asked to be excluded. The FTC complied, and now MLMs aren’t required to disclose information on risks to interested consultants.