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Relationships in Multi-Level Marketing - Why it IS a Scam

This page discusses the exploitation of relationships that is inherent inMulti-level Marketing. Also see these pages for:


MLMs grow by exploiting people's relationships. If you are going to be in an MLM, you must accept that selling to your friends, neighbors and family is part of "building your business." The MLM's call this "networking." But to those not "in" the MLM, it seems as if the friendship is being abuses or used merely a pretext for selling. There is no compromise here, try as you might.

While this is the most difficult point to make, it is perhaps the most important. Anyone who has any experience with an MLM has strong feelings, either for or against, and this is the problem. Polarization runs deep.

High-pressure Selling -- Reserved for Pyramids Only

When it comes to selling product, MLM sales reps are probably no more aggressive or obnoxious than ordinary salespeople. Since most are not salespeople by nature, and it is characteristic that MLMs attract few people with any experience selling this particular product or service, they usually sell through pre-fab "parties" or home "demos." Thus, sales pressure is exerted by situation, if at all.

It should be noted that when selling product, the only distinction from a real-world business is the possibility for deception due to the "looseness" of the MLM and the incentive to exaggerate claims without any accountability. Other than this, selling product in an MLM is fairly similar to selling any product in the real world.

But when it comes to getting you "signed up" as a "distributor," the MLMers get pushy and deceptive beyond the boundaries of polite social norms.

Remember, an MLM is defined by its rewarding people to recruit others in multiple levels.

"Mother, Let Me Tell You About a Fantastic Opportunity..."

Even ex-accountants are willing to practice the crudest of high-pressure selling tactics, at least when it comes to "signing people up." The end justifies the means, when it comes to getting people to come to the "meetings," where the objective is to get a materialism frenzy going at high pitch through a slick speaker or video. The reasons for this "confidence building" should be obvious by now, but here we are considering the relationship cost associated with the "success" of the MLM.

The above title is meant to be absurd. Most people, no matter how greedy, would not foist such a con on their own mothers. Even if people don't know the specifics of what is wrong with MLMs, intuition often warns us: "Don't tamper with that relationship." The first marks for recruitment are the gullible, or the "expendable" friends. But successive moral compromise, experience, and desperation... may yet lead to "good old Mom."

Never Admit You Are Wrong

Many have left high-paying jobs to "pursue their dreams" in an MLM. Having been conned so dramatically, they do not easily admit defeat. It seems easier to cling to the bad dream in an increasing cycle of desperation to make the MLM work against all odds. "Losers" at the bottom congregate into support groups, perhaps spinning-off another MLM where they can be "boss."

There is an undeniable camaraderie among MLMers. But for everyone else, "there goes the neighborhood." It is saddening to see people being encouraged against all instinct and common sense to chase after an illusory "pot of gold," but what can be done?

Counting the Cost: The First Church of MLM

Many readers will share the experience of observing MLMs divide families, friends, churches, and civic groups. Lifelong friends are now "prospects." The neighborhood is now "a market." Motives change, suspicions rise, divisions form. The question is begged: "Is it worth it?"

Especially nasty is the church situation. Will the pastor join? If not, he will take a dim view of MLM proselytizing at church functions; animosity will rise, factions will form. You are either "in" or out. If the pastor joins, then those who are not "in" will feel a little uncomfortable in this church.

A church (or any community group) can be easily torpedoed by an MLM.

Trust Your Instincts?

For most people, thankfully, the MLM experience usually ends in very quick financial failure and is then sidelined. Two possible responses are: 1) being embarrassed about participation, or 2) becoming even more intractable when the MLM has failed. You will find the latter chasing after the latest "get rich quick" scheme with similar results. "If we could have just sponsored so and so--they have so many friends--we would have made it."

Thus, there is reason for the "bad taste" most people have for MLMs. By instinct if not experience or insight, we wince at the thought of what we know will follow in the wake of an MLM. Relationships strained, factions formed, deception, manipulation, greed, loss, a closet full of videotapes, brochures, and useless inventory that "everybody wants."

Business failure of any type is traumatic on the relationships involved, but in most small businesses there is at least the chance of success. And this is never the case in an MLM, unless "success" can be defined as profiting off of the failures of others.

 


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