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The Sir

The Anti-MLM Thread

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I've had several run-ins with multi-level marketing schemes in my relatively short existence. I spent a winter break during college with Vector Marketing, which is the MLM that sells Cutco knives. It's kind of a strange one, since it doesn't focus so much on recruiting new salespeople but you do have to harass your "clients" for further references to sell your crap to. They prowl college campuses offering $17 per appointment, which is scammy because it's either the $17 "salary" or your sales commission. If you rely on the former for too long, you'll get axed. My bosses were super pushy, and even urged me to line up a 10 PM appointment on New Year's Eve, which I ignored. A girl I went to high school with was the assistant regional manager or some such shit- I always thought she was on the up and up when we were in school, but I guess that fizzled out.

Fast forward to early this year, and a totally different scenario, but a guy from Craigslist came over to my house while I was away to pick up some free furniture that was clogging our garage. I have a jeep that's sitting in the driveway that I'd like to sell, and he made some comments about it. So when he texted my wife later and asked if he could contact me, I figured it had to do with the jeep so I approved. The next day, I get a call from this dude, and he starts talking about how I seemed like a cool guy (he'd never met me, mind you) and he just wanted to reach out. I actually went along with it and made the standard small talk as non-awkwardly as I could. Suddenly, he starts talking about this business opportunity he's involved in. I asked what his business is, and he says, "Before I tell you what I do, let me talk to you about our need to shed the employee mindset in this country." I cut him off and said, "I don't want to waste your time, so I have no interest in being involved an MLM, now or ever." My hunch was apparently dead on, because he said he appreciated it and hung up. I briefly considered calling him back and asking what happened to our blossoming friendship, but thought better of it.

Then, a few months ago, I took my son to the neighborhood playground and met another dad who was there with his kids. We made small talk, including what we did career-wise. I mentioned my actual business ideas, and he started talking about his work in finance/insurance. He threw out some earnings numbers from his field that seemed cartoonish, but I'm a terrible listener (I prefer to read things) and I was watching my kid so I didn't put too much analysis into it. He texted me on and off over the next few months, usually about finance stuff, which I can appreciate. He even gave some bad advice, like that the stock market was about to collapse entirely, which almost made me pull my assets out until I did a bit of research and calmed down. Still didn't hold it against him. Then I made a mistake- he asked if I knew anyone who was interested in making some side money, and I jokingly said, "Me?" That was it. Now he texts me weekly or so. If I don't respond? He doesn't get offended, he just texts me the same thing again two days later! Fears were confirmed the other day when I responded by asking how he's doing, and he said, "Business is booming! I'm enjoying financial freedom, no boss, no quotas, no limits...priceless!" Well, fuck. I know what this means (and if you think I'm making assumptions, I did ask him what the company was called- it's People Helping People Agency).

On top of all this, my wife got involved in one a few years ago. A coworker friend lured her in and she did it for a couple of months. We spent a non-crucial amount on essential oils (to be fair, some of them did make the house smell better after our Roomba plowed through a pile of dogshit while we were at work one day). She hosted something like two parties with limited attendance, made zero money, and then quit. I love my wife to pieces, and honestly, the strife caused in small part by our participation in that resulted in probably the darkest year of our marriage. And while our whole life made a pretty quick turn-around when we sold our house, moved to a nicer area, and she quit that crap all around the same time, it was disheartening to see how quickly her former friend ditched her. Went from BFFs and being at birthday parties for each other's kids to nothing in the blink of an eye. So that's how it is. Whatever.

I am an unabashed capitalist pig. I'd like to swim through my mansion's living room in a pile of gold coins, like Scrooge McDuck. But man, MLMs really suck. First, you're never going to make any money, much less big money. Second, you're going to alienate every friend that you have. And third, I'd really like to go to the park, talk to other dads, and make friends just because we both like baseball and international travel, and not because I'm a possible mark for your crummy, overpriced product. Hint: I'm not.

What are y'all's stories with these God-awful entities?

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Not one person from the past 10+ years who approached me with a MLM pitch that I resisted and subsequently proceeded to mock me for my "Just Over Broke" (job) or working for "massa" is wealthy now, or even still doing their MLM.

I remember the first time I sat in on one of these obvious scams, it was Tahitian Noni, and they hyped up the product so much but the tell was instead of talking about how to actually sell this product they went right on to trying to recruit people for the downline (people who are lucky enough to get high up in MLMs get really defensive when you call it a pyramid scheme). I distinctly remember sitting through the sales pitch where they talked about the health benefits of the noni juice (helps relieve arthritis symptoms, resolves diabetes, lowers cancer risk, the moment where my inner voice started laughing is when he said "HIV" - this was the mid 2000s and the treatments they have for it now weren't common yet). They've since been sued and changed their name. Once you've had a couple friends approach you with this stuff you become attuned to it. "Hey man, I wanna talk to you about a business opportunity when I have some time" or an old high school friend hitting you up out of the blue then abruptly bringing this shit up.

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A super nice high school kid sold me a set of Cutco knives, they work and we needed them.  I passed him on to two others who bought some stuff from him.  We all knew the drill but he was a really nice kid.

I hope he got a real job.

I think I have essential oils burning in my house.

I understand the model and stay away and my wife is too lazy to get on that train.

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2 hours ago, Harry Chappas said:

A super nice high school kid sold me a set of Cutco knives, they work and we needed them.  I passed him on to two others who bought some stuff from him.  We all knew the drill but he was a really nice kid.

I hope he got a real job.

I think I have essential oils burning in my house.

I understand the model and stay away and my wife is too lazy to get on that train.

Cutco's a weird one, to be honest. My definition of MLM is that there is that you pay to sell a product AND you recruit other people to sell as well. In my experience, Cutco never met that second requirement. And those knives are actually decent quality (unlike most MLM products). That being said, it's not sustainable at all. I made probably $900 in commissions in two weeks because my parents are well-off and I contacted all of their friends, but getting those other references was a bridge too far for me. If I had tried to stay on longer, I would have fizzled out fairly quickly.

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12 hours ago, The Sir said:

I've had several run-ins with multi-level marketing schemes in my relatively short existence. I spent a winter break during college with Vector Marketing, which is the MLM that sells Cutco knives. It's kind of a strange one, since it doesn't focus so much on recruiting new salespeople but you do have to harass your "clients" for further references to sell your crap to. They prowl college campuses offering $17 per appointment, which is scammy because it's either the $17 "salary" or your sales commission. If you rely on the former for too long, you'll get axed. My bosses were super pushy, and even urged me to line up a 10 PM appointment on New Year's Eve, which I ignored. A girl I went to high school with was the assistant regional manager or some such shit- I always thought she was on the up and up when we were in school, but I guess that fizzled out.



Fast forward to early this year, and a totally different scenario, but a guy from Craigslist came over to my house while I was away to pick up some free furniture that was clogging our garage. I have a jeep that's sitting in the driveway that I'd like to sell, and he made some comments about it. So when he texted my wife later and asked if he could contact me, I figured it had to do with the jeep so I approved. The next day, I get a call from this dude, and he starts talking about how I seemed like a cool guy (he'd never met me, mind you) and he just wanted to reach out. I actually went along with it and made the standard small talk as non-awkwardly as I could. Suddenly, he starts talking about this business opportunity he's involved in. I asked what his business is, and he says, "Before I tell you what I do, let me talk to you about our need to shed the employee mindset in this country." I cut him off and said, "I don't want to waste your time, so I have no interest in being involved an MLM, now or ever." My hunch was apparently dead on, because he said he appreciated it and hung up. I briefly considered calling him back and asking what happened to our blossoming friendship, but thought better of it.

Then, a few months ago, I took my son to the neighborhood playground and met another dad who was there with his kids. We made small talk, including what we did career-wise. I mentioned my actual business ideas, and he started talking about his work in finance/insurance. He threw out some earnings numbers from his field that seemed cartoonish, but I'm a terrible listener (I prefer to read things) and I was watching my kid so I didn't put too much analysis into it. He texted me on and off over the next few months, usually about finance stuff, which I can appreciate. He even gave some bad advice, like that the stock market was about to collapse entirely, which almost made me pull my assets out until I did a bit of research and calmed down. Still didn't hold it against him. Then I made a mistake- he asked if I knew anyone who was interested in making some side money, and I jokingly said, "Me?" That was it. Now he texts me weekly or so. If I don't respond? He doesn't get offended, he just texts me the same thing again two days later! Fears were confirmed the other day when I responded by asking how he's doing, and he said, "Business is booming! I'm enjoying financial freedom, no boss, no quotas, no limits...priceless!" Well, fuck. I know what this means (and if you think I'm making assumptions, I did ask him what the company was called- it's People Helping People Agency).

On top of all this, my wife got involved in one a few years ago. A coworker friend lured her in and she did it for a couple of months. We spent a non-crucial amount on essential oils (to be fair, some of them did make the house smell better after our Roomba plowed through a pile of dogshit while we were at work one day). She hosted something like two parties with limited attendance, made zero money, and then quit. I love my wife to pieces, and honestly, the strife caused in small part by our participation in that resulted in probably the darkest year of our marriage. And while our whole life made a pretty quick turn-around when we sold our house, moved to a nicer area, and she quit that crap all around the same time, it was disheartening to see how quickly her former friend ditched her. Went from BFFs and being at birthday parties for each other's kids to nothing in the blink of an eye. So that's how it is. Whatever.



I am an unabashed capitalist pig. I'd like to swim through my mansion's living room in a pile of gold coins, like Scrooge McDuck. But man, MLMs really suck. First, you're never going to make any money, much less big money. Second, you're going to alienate every friend that you have. And third, I'd really like to go to the park, talk to other dads, and make friends just because we both like baseball and international travel, and not because I'm a possible mark for your crummy, overpriced product. Hint: I'm not.



What are y'all's stories with these God-awful entities?

Sounds like a Ponzi scheme.

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Haha, Vector marketing.  I did that the summer after I graduated HS.  I remember my Dad waking me up every morning at 0745 because you had to call the manager every morning instead of going into the office.  They really want you to just beg to your family and friends for money.  I did it for like 3 weeks and was done.  

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48 minutes ago, BackDoorBreach said:

Haha, Vector marketing.  I did that the summer after I graduated HS.  I remember my Dad waking me up every morning at 0745 because you had to call the manager every morning instead of going into the office.  They really want you to just beg to your family and friends for money.  I did it for like 3 weeks and was done.  

Ha, this sounds almost identical to my experience. You called every morning and then before and after each individual appointment. There were also one or two days out of the week where you'd go into the office and make phone calls for an hour. I skipped those because I didn't give a shit, and even then I realized that they weren't going to fire me because I cost them nothing and brought in a decent amount of revenue (again, only because of my parents' SES). I had an appointment on NYE (girlfriend's dad, IIRC) that ended about 4 PM. I called my manager, told her I was going home to watch football and the ball drop, and she said, "No, not yet, try to schedule a 6 PM, an 8 PM, and a 10 PM."

Yeah, I did not do, or even attempt, that.

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Never got involved with these but my parents still have the Cutco knives a friend of mine sold to them 25 years ago and they still work great.

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never do MLM

 

 

my dad got into Amway for a brief period in the 90's but thankfully it only lasted a year or two and as far as I'm aware never emptied the family bank accounts or anything

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I was in an entrepreneurship class in HS and one of the main projects for the class was starting up a fake business. We had to do all the paperwork for it, explain how/where we would get the money for everything, etc...

Well apparently one of the guys in the class was already into some MLM business and was trying to explain it to us. Although throughout all his presentations he kept telling us "it's not a pyramid scheme!" even though the way it was explaining it, it totally was.

Edited by Iwritecode

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5 hours ago, StrangeSox said:

never do MLM

 

 

my dad got into Amway for a brief period in the 90's but thankfully it only lasted a year or two and as far as I'm aware never emptied the family bank accounts or anything

I'm pretty sure my second story from the original post was an Amway couple. He never said it outright (bad reputation, I guess) but he talked about how he and his wife were mentored by a couple who were retiring in their early 30s, and Amway is big on that line.

Honestly, I just feel sad for someone who is reduced to harassing random strangers from Craigslist into joining their marketing scheme.

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21 hours ago, StrangeSox said:

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LMFAO

These things should be illegal. It's fraud, and you should go to jail for running them. 

Edited by Jack Parkman

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On 9/20/2019 at 11:36 AM, Jack Parkman said:

LMFAO

These things should be illegal. It's fraud, and you should go to jail for running them. 

Do you always take the most extreme viewpoint possible on a given topic?

It should be perfectly clear that I despise MLMs. I think the products are overpriced junk, I think the business model is near impossible to get started at all and actually impossible to sustain if you do, I think the prevalence of salespeople and their tactics poisons society so that you can't even socialize without risking being drawn into some ludicrous sales scheme, but I do NOT think anyone should go to prison, even at the tops of these pyramids.

At some point (and I think this goes back to our near total disagreement on almost everything), people are responsible for defending themselves. People need to not be naive and fall into money traps based on their own analysis and decision making ability, and not ask the government to wield that discretion for them.

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22 minutes ago, The Sir said:

Do you always take the most extreme viewpoint possible on a given topic?

It should be perfectly clear that I despise MLMs. I think the products are overpriced junk, I think the business model is near impossible to get started at all and actually impossible to sustain if you do, I think the prevalence of salespeople and their tactics poisons society so that you can't even socialize without risking being drawn into some ludicrous sales scheme, but I do NOT think anyone should go to prison, even at the tops of these pyramids.

At some point (and I think this goes back to our near total disagreement on almost everything), people are responsible for defending themselves. People need to not be naive and fall into money traps based on their own analysis and decision making ability, and not ask the government to wield that discretion for them.

It's no different than any other form of white-collar fraud. Bernie Madoff is in jail, the people that run these things should be too.

The bolded is too much to ask. The average person is really stupid. Sometimes, you have to protect people from their own stupidity. 

People should not be allowed to get super rich running a scam like this. It's criminal. 

White collar crime is a huge problem and much of it has become legal. They're just stealing a piece of the pie that everyone should be getting. 

I don't think this is an extreme viewpoint at all. I think it is common sense. It already walks on the borders of legality. Let's just put it on the other side where it belongs. 

If you want to discuss further, take it to PM. 

Edited by Jack Parkman
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6 minutes ago, Jack Parkman said:

They're no different than a ponzi scheme. It's no different than any other form of white-collar fraud. 

This is too much to ask. The average person is really stupid. Sometimes, you have to protect people from their own stupidity. 

A Ponzi scheme has no product. You're just getting new people to invest, which pays off older investors. An MLM is similar in that new people are constantly recruited to buy the product and those purchases pay off earlier purchasers, but they're still getting something. A person at the lowest rung of an MLM who never successfully recruits anybody still does get something; a person at the lowest level of a Ponzi scheme, who enters just before the inevitable collapse, gets nothing. That's a big difference.

As for protecting people from their own stupidity, I disagree. Does the government need to prevent people from spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on college degrees with little economic value, or does it need to arrest the deans who promote such degrees? Does the government need to protect people from abusing credit cards? Does the government need to protect people from high interest payday loans?

I don't care if people are smart or stupid. It doesn't matter. People need to make their own mistakes. Also, people can learn. I wasn't anti-MLM until my wife spent some time with one and we both saw how crummy the whole thing was. Give people a chance, Jack.

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7 minutes ago, The Sir said:

A Ponzi scheme has no product. You're just getting new people to invest, which pays off older investors. An MLM is similar in that new people are constantly recruited to buy the product and those purchases pay off earlier purchasers, but they're still getting something. A person at the lowest rung of an MLM who never successfully recruits anybody still does get something; a person at the lowest level of a Ponzi scheme, who enters just before the inevitable collapse, gets nothing. That's a big difference.

As for protecting people from their own stupidity, I disagree. Does the government need to prevent people from spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on college degrees with little economic value, or does it need to arrest the deans who promote such degrees? Does the government need to protect people from abusing credit cards? Does the government need to protect people from high interest payday loans?

I don't care if people are smart or stupid. It doesn't matter. People need to make their own mistakes. Also, people can learn. I wasn't anti-MLM until my wife spent some time with one and we both saw how crummy the whole thing was. Give people a chance, Jack.

Yes, and yes. 

1) The problem isn't the education, it's the cost. I don't think College should necessarily be free, but tuition and books shouldn't be more than 2-3K per year. The scam isn't the education, it is the price of it. Any degree can be useless. I got a STEM degree and I'm not using it.

2) Interest rates on those things are outrageous. They used to call it loansharking, and it used to fall under racketeering. It still is. It is impossible to get by in modern life without borrowing money here and there. 

The problem isn't the people, it is the predatory nature of these industries. 

 

Edited by Jack Parkman

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8 minutes ago, Jack Parkman said:

Yes, and yes. 

Of course that's your answer. Personally, I don't need government to be my daddy. Let's duke this out in PMs.

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3 minutes ago, The Sir said:

Of course that's your answer. Personally, I don't need government to be my daddy. Let's duke this out in PMs.

Ok, I'm game. Send one over. 

Edited by Jack Parkman

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The son of the owner I worked for has been 100% full time with that travel MLM for 25 years now. He was a great salesman to begin with. 

My disagreement I have with him is people he never would have hired for a salary sales job, he'd accept their money to start their "own business", then criticize them for not being successful. Damn they never would need successful in sales no matter the job or commission structure. 

I made some money with the Prepaid Legal advice MLM program but had to get out when my full time job required me to a no part time job restriction. I missed the hustle. 

If you think about it the commission structure it's the same as other sales. You make a sale and your sales manager, general manager, area manager, regional manager, VP, President, and shareholders make money. That sounds like multi levels. The difference is by buying in, the company has no investment in you and will hire anyone. Of course people fail.

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