May 11th, 2010


Multi-Level Marketing

Why oh why do we, as individuals - and to a greater extent, a nation - continue to buy into cultish, shady, multi-level marketing scams? Furthermore, outside of the obvious "to rob people of their money", why do they even exist? When I go to the farmer's market its to get fresh produce sold by the grower at a tremendously discounted value. How is this possible? It cuts out the middle-man and I'm not paying for advertising. WHAT A DEAL!

However, when I purchase something from an MLM the price is invariably inflated, yet the claims are often the same: Fresh/natural. Direct. Similar to the irony surrounding that political hysteria tool recycling, if it worked as advertised they would pay me for my trash instead of demanding I pay them. But its not, so they don't. Notice how they'll buy my aluminum cans, but not my used milk jugs?

If your product were really that outstanding, you'd want to sell as much of it as possible. That's how you make money - the widest distribution possible. No one wants to only sell a few - not if its a money venture. Unless you have something to hide? With a standard market comes regulations. Disclosures. Ever noticed how many MLM's don't tell you the ingredients in their products? Yes they have many varied and creative reasons for obscuring this data don't they? It makes me laugh. "Ha ha ha."

So why do we do it? Why do we pay outrageous amounts for common, everyday items?

When I started buying Mona-Vie from a co-worker I trusted, it was because of personal testimonials. And I had to approach him - he wasn't "selling." But after several cases I started looking more closely into it. Mona-Vie is a huge, successful MLM and I wanted to know why. Unsurprisingly (and as with most MLMs) there were two camps: Those who claimed that [product name] cured cancer, restored stolen souls, regrew hair & created MENSA applicants overnight; and those who proved [product name] was a scam, didn't contain any [advertised product], along with horror stories about it causing cancer, stealing souls, causing hair loss & accelerating retardation. In short, not helpful. At all.

Then I found an investigative Newsweek article which discovered most Mona Vie "resellers" become so to purchase the drink for their own consumption at reseller prices - Just like my co-worker. So while those at the top of this particular pyramid scheme may be getting rich, even if it weren't structured as it is, they would no doubt be in the same position. People like drinking Mona-Vie whether they buy into the claims or not. Why does my wife still drink it? She's found its the only thing which sates her sweet tooth without restoring to chocolate. She's lost 35 pounds since January and while it would be ridiculous to claim it was because of Mona-Vie it certainly did help facilitate that transformation. Isn't that worth the price?

Recently my neighbor has begun reselling Arbonne, another controversy-plagued MLM. This one with accusations of being unethical because it relies on "pressuring" your "friends" to "buy-in" to the $2000 start-up fee for the privilege of selling their product (amusingly enough I did spy an "Ethics in Business" logo on their page :P) and deconstruction websites which have proven nearly-identical ingredient lists to common everyday off-the-shelf products. So why would I would I spend $35 on a bottle of ninety-nine cent shampoo? Its not to be a good neighbor - I reserve that for the neighborhood kids fund-raising popcorn (which you'd think was sprinkled with ground unicorn horn for as much as they charge for it; "fund-raising" ain't a misnomer).

No, you see every time I get a flattop, the sides of my scalp flare up from the one-guard being scraped against my skull. For months. And just as it subsides, its time for another haircut. Her claim was that their super-fantastic auto-adjusting made-with-green-tea (because green-tea in your shampoo is...good?) product would "clear me right up." So we'll see. She gave me a bottle for free (How cool is that?) and boy was I surprised when my wife mentioned it working a couple of weeks later.

If it didn't work, I'd never purchase an Arbonne product again. She put her product (and to a lesser degree her reputation) on the line - but if it does work, she'll have a customer for life. Is there something less-expensive out there which may work? Surely - but I don't have that kind of time for product testing - and I'm awfully loyal.

This is why we purchase from MLM's. People.

And you can't find that kind of fanaticism anywhere else.

Thanks, neighbor.