MLM’s and Me.

A couple weeks ago an old friend texted me out of the blue. We hadn’t been in touch since she moved and switched churches. We were never super close but we had been in several bible studies together and our kids were similar ages. She was the kind of friend you see at church, bring a meal to when they have a baby (and vice versa), and in the season of play dates hang out with a couple times a year.

She had asked me a few times back in the day if I was interested in becoming a consultant for a well-known MLM company which I won’t name. I was a little irritated at the time that she never even tried to sell me the product first; though Jason pointed out that she clearly “got” the point of MLM’s… if you want to make any money, that’s the only way to go – sell the business and get people to spend $1000 instead of $40 in order to “get started”. So why waste time pretending that the product is at all relevant?

Anyway. I was happy to get a text from her after literally two years of not seeing her, until she asked “are you working right now?” – and, in the absence of any other meaningful questions or reasons for reaching out, I realized she was circling back to Kallah, the potential added tier in her pyramid of salespeople. I was just another check to her when she had already dried up her pool of closer friends and family.

When I lightly told her no way am I working, my hands are totally full (heartface emoji), sure enough, I didn’t hear anything else from her. Not a peep.

Y’all I cannot begin to express my disappointment when yet another person bites the dust in my Instagram or blog feed, and jumps on the MLM train. And everyone always says they “never usually go for these things but this one product is just such a game changer you have to!” In this day and age when it is really, really hard to support a family on one income, I suppose it’s inevitable that the MLM market would become intensely over-saturated. Scheming companies see easy opportunities and vulnerable targets and they will use them to sell literally ANY THING. Far from the simple days of our mothers’ Tupperware and MaryKay parties, we now have MLM’s for clothing, makeup, jewelry, skincare, anti-aging, household cleaning, dieting, fitness coaching, and even alternative medicine slash healthcare.

I have had to decline invitations to countless sales parties. I am still a MLM/sales party virgin and that is a very precious thing to me! 😉 I really don’t want to offend anyone and I know many lovely, sincere women who do the whole MLM thing. Please know if you are reading this, and feeling offended, I truly am not writing it AT anyone (I know way too many people who are into this to single anyone out even in my own head)… but it’s more that I perceive this situation has gotten so out of control and is largely so poisonous to relationships.

I understand that a big part of why MLMs happen is that people really, really jump on these bandwagons. They buy the company’s pitch, lock stock and barrel, and they believe with innocent hearts that even though it may be an MLM, this company is the ONE COMPANY that is actually using it for good reasons, and it’s not at all a scam.

I for one am extremely skeptical. I don’t believe any company is incidentally an MLM. I believe these companies shrewdly choose a shady sales tactic for shady reasons. For one, they have far, far less accountability. Nowhere else in this glorious country where lawsuits are cheap and plentiful, is a company able to indirectly make claims about their products in order to sell them… but then when they are sued for misinformation, or God forbid, life-altering consequences, the company is able to defend themselves by wide-eyed innocence that they had no idea their “over eager” saleswomen were making these claims! They would never dream of making these absurd and unfounded claims and in fact, you can never find them in writing on any of their official brochures or websites.

I personally felt that my suspicions and distrust were confirmed with the FDA cease and desist warnings to doTerra and Young Living. Of course true believers will try to argue that “Big Pharma” is just “scared” of losing money, but I for one still have a lot of confidence in our justice system and I trust the FDA more than I trust the company founded by a man with a bizarre and criminal background. Sorry. [sidenote: my aunt is a lawyer who currently works for the FDA and I can tell you, she isn’t getting paid off by Big Pharma or she wouldn’t be doing what she does. They are literally the ones protecting us from Big Bad Pharma.]

My distrust of MLM’s was further reinforced by the studies I discovered on this awesome little website. My sisters had years ago entertained us with unbelievable and hilarious stories about families they babysat whose moms told them to clean everything in the kitchen with the Norwex cloth and then, to clean the cloth “just shake it!” Dr. Annie Pryor’s experiments disproved the companies claims here, as well as their justification for the extra expense of their “one of a kind” product’s silver, which they apparently have asserted killed germs. Her experiments led this particular MLM to a bit more honesty (praise hands, Dr. Annie Pryor!), at least on their website… though it led ME to decide I’d buy eCloths on Amazon for half the price. I loved supporting a more respectable company than an MLM, and I have LOVED the quality and performance of my eCloths. I’ll share the link with y’all here. [I promise I’m not getting paid for that ;)]. Unfortunately, they don’t pay you to throw any parties but when you see how clean you can get your windows with zero chemicals, you’ll probably want to throw one on your own. 😉

I would’ve been a perfect target for several of the big MLM trends. I have the Think Dirty app on my phone and I use it fairly obsessively, so Beautycounter’s “philosophy” is right up my alley. I look for natural methods of boosting our immunity and health and I consider drugs a last resort, so I’m not opposed to using essential oils themselves though they seem like A LOT of extra work and I actually hate the smells!

But I really do believe that these MLM companies – ALL OF THEM – are bad news; evidence overwhelmingly shows they are misleading you to waste money on inferior products, and they are taking advantage of you and your relationships. I probably won’t ever again reach out to the friend I mentioned at the top of this post, and I can honestly say it’s because her MLM poisoned our disinterested friendship.

I worry about offending people I like who might randomly click on my blog and read this. But at the same time, I wish more of us would stop and worry about offending people before we ask them to come to our house to buy something from us. I wish more of us would stop and realize how bombarded our poor friends are by the sheer numbers of friends selling crap to friends.

Finally, I am the daughter of a man who built his career on sales. My dad is an amazing salesman who has won the “Salesman of the Southeast” award many years in a row for his company. He has singlehandedly kept his small company going through the recession and now keeps up with all the industrial growth in Greenville and I could not be prouder of him. Really, when you think about it, my dad is the one who enables all the other people who work for his company to get their paychecks – all the warehouse guys, and the ladies at the desks doing paperwork. He makes sure the money comes in so they can have a stable income and happy Christmases. My dad has taught me many things about sales over the years – and honestly, its at the top of my list of jobs I would like to have in an alternate universe and or when all my babies are in school ;). So by all means – SELL YOUR LITTLE HEART OUT if you really believe in your product and company. But do it officially, for a company that isn’t a pyramid scheme, and don’t do it to your friends. 

If you like sales, you can do A LOT better, not only when it comes to the quality of the product you’re selling but certainly of the company you’re serving. 

If you don’t like sales, don’t kid yourself about how you’re being used. YOU ARE THE PRODUCT. Your distributor buy-in is the goal. That is the textbook business strategy of an MLM. You might see it differently, but the company you work for does not, or else  they would not be an MLM. MLM’s are the way they are for a reason, and it isn’t a good one.

Step back and ask yourself, why did this company choose the MLM strategy? What about their product wouldn’t do well competing for customers on the shelves? What about it required a business model built on un-salaried salespeople? For me personally, this stepping back leads me to prefer the quality of products not sold through MLMs. 

 And if you still need evidence, these articles are all really damning:

”No, Your MLM Health Product Doesn’t Work” 

Is Multi-Level Marketing a Legitimate Business Model?” 

If you’re curious about a product being sold via MLM pyramids as a One of a Kind, do a little research to find an honest company that sells comparable products respectably through brick and mortars. Chances are, you can definitely find them (like I did with the eCloths!) and they’ll cost a lot less, and come without a string of misleading empty promises.

*edited: if your particular sales company does not give you commission on getting others to also become distributors, but just gives you commissions solely on the products you sell, then I don’t think that qualifies as an MLM! Since their focus for sales is clearly the actual product, not the tiers of distributors, I would be more inclined to trust such a company. And I heartily believe in supporting hard-working friends, and in sharing products we love with people we love. 😍

15 thoughts on “MLM’s and Me.

  1. YES! I know so many people who make a living off of selling, so in that light I respect that you gotta pay your bills. But man it’s allll about the right way to sell. Not a farfetched empty promise. Not rekindling a friendship on a hiatus by pitching a sell or asking them to join a world of “be your own boss!” Can’t we just maintain friendships without an underlying motive???

    Also, I too trust the FDA. People assume government departments and programs are these big mystical evil entities out to get us all! Drives me nuts.

  2. Oh man. I too know so many women in my life who are trying SO hard to add to their family’s income but in all the wrong ways! The worst story I’ve had happen was shortly after the birth of my #6, I had a (I thought!) friend who asked me how I was doing and then told me that I should look into her company’s weight loss program! What the what?! I was so hurt and our relationship has since been damaged because of it. So sad.

    1. Oh Ashley. That’s awful. I’m sorry! It’s so sad cause I really think these poor people are the victims of these companies. The companies are for the most part, so unprincipled. I hope that’s how my rant came across!

  3. Thank you for mentioning my articles here. This covers a wide range of problems with MLMs.

    My view has been that they’ve tried to blend a pyramid scheme (the recruiting) with a commissioned sales job (the selling). Until you break apart the internal sales of the MLM to see what those sales are to people NOT recruited it’s impossible to know if it is 99% pyramid scheme, 1% sales or the other way around. My experience leads me to hold the opinion that it’s usually the 99% pyramid scheme case.

    A quick test I like to apply… is to ask the top earner making is money through a “downline” or by making personal sales? If it’s the former, that earner appears to be running a pyramid scheme. At a minimum a reputable company should discharge him/her for pyramiding. Instead, MLM companies typically reward such pyramids.

    1. Thank you, Lazy Man! I was so happy to discover your incredibly well-researched articles on the subject, which had bothered me for years but was hard to explain why. 🙂

  4. I arrived at this article by way of Colleen Martins link to your post that links here and I guess I’ll be exploring your archives now. Thank you for your honesty. I don’t feel it is too much of a rant at all.

  5. Oh my gosh I love this. I run hard from any MLM .and I also hate the smell of essential oils. No. Those companies use the female need for friendship and comraderie and completely distort it. I totally agree w you!!!!!!

      1. OK one more thing about the essential oils – it just seems like women and moms in particular – we are so anxious to have some sort of control over our children’s health – and I think that makes sense. But I feel like essential whales give a false sense of hope or control. Thoughts?

      2. I am v aware of how easy it is to let my anxiety as a mom take over and make me do crazy things in the hope of control! Lol
        My aunt is a doctor and she said that there IS something to aromatherapy – not because the oils are at all special, but because the scents can trigger responses from our brains which can be helpful with the immune system or like with headaches, etc. But essential oils sold DIY w a little pamphlet is NOT licensed aromatherapy. And in fact, I read that most aromatherapists are horrified by YL and Doterra because both companies encourage their consumers to ingest the oils, which is apparently can be quite toxic and is completely against traditional aromatherapy.
        I think that the companies are selling them as magic cure-all’s – exactly what you said! It’s marketed as a potent substance that can give you a sense of control. Which is not aromatherapy, to my knowledge.
        It always drives me nuts when women selling it say things like “my kids used to get sick all the time; now that we use these oils, they haven’t had to go to the doctor in over a year!” – cause HELLO that’s exactly how the immune system works! You catch a lot of things one year, and it toughens you up for a year or two after. My kids haven’t been to the doctor at all this year but I have done nothing to make that happen – they just happened to catch every virus possible a year ago! 😂

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