Enough with the MLMs!

Warning: Any comments from MLM trolls will be treated as spam, and if there are multiple abusive, bullying comments, à la the ones from my anti-Arbonne post, I won’t hesitate to close comments. I don’t let butthurt trolls in need of the Wahmbulance dictate the topics I post about or try to convince me my own opinions are wrong, immature, hateful, etc.

For some reason, my anti-Arbonne post from December 2013 went viral, with so far well over 8,000 views. Many of the search terms turning it up are along the lines of “Arbonne cult,” “Arbonne scam,” and “Arbonne pyramid scheme.” Intelligent people know the truth about MLMs, no matter how upset that makes the pro-MLM shills.

MLM, or multi-level marketing, is a legalized pyramid scheme. Though their structure is exactly like that of a pyramid scheme, they get around that red flag because they sell actual products. However, you can’t deny what’s really going on when you look at all these levels fanning out into the clear shape of a pyramid.

This business model isn’t sustainable past the first level or so. How many people can be recruited to sell the exact same product, particularly in the same area? And how many people will want to buy this product anyway?

These products are overpriced for what they actually are. Who’s going to drop $200 on a week-long facial care regiment? Or $50 on floor cleaner? You can find all this stuff for much cheaper on eBay.

They use euphemisms. Just call a spade a spade already and say your reps are salespeople! What’s with calling them “distributors,” “consultants,” “network marketers,” “presenters,” “coaches,” when it’s so obvious they’re selling stuff?

Focus is more on recruitment, not selling. They’re selling the dream of getting rich quick and constantly bringing in new people to the “downline,” not the actual overpriced products.

Very few people make real money. The people at the top of the food chain certainly do bring in the big bucks, but not all the people in the “downline.” Very few people who aren’t at the top are doing well enough to buy houses, vacations, yachts, cars, and private jets. It’s really irresponsible to make gullible people believe they can quit their jobs and get so much money selling MLM products.

People who fail are told something’s wrong with them, not the model they failed in. They weren’t assertive or aggressive enough, they didn’t know enough people, they weren’t committed enough, they didn’t care enough, they didn’t take advantage of enough opportunities, they thought money would just flow in effortlessly, they just plain suck.

You shouldn’t have to pay money to start working at an established company! Sure you need to invest some money when you start your own business, and keep spending money on rent, supplies, sales, etc. Eventually you turn a profit, and it’s no big deal. But when you join an MLM, you’re required to buy a “starter kit” (for as much as $500), and keep buying expensive products as free samples and to show at parties and stuff. That’s not how an ethical business should work.

It really alienates friends and family. Who doesn’t feel uncomfortable when a loved one is constantly shilling? Some of these people are walking advertisements for these MLMs, like the local Arbot. Who RSVPs to a community-wide event by saying, “Of course I’m coming! I look forward to promoting [MLM name] and telling everyone about how awesome it is!”? The local Arbot even pitched her business at a Yom Kippur service!

Most of the money is made from the salespeople, not customers. The salespeople (yes, I’m going to call them what they really are!) are constantly forced to buy more products to show and give away, and kicking money to their “upline,” while getting money from the “downline” to in turn go back to the “upline.”

They often trash the competition. The other people selling these kinds of products aren’t “natural,” don’t have enough to last as long, don’t have a special seal of approval, etc. The local Arbot has even claimed everyone else uses roadkill in their products.

So much cultish behavior. They recite canned phrases, gush about what a great business opportunity this is, tell people who’ve failed or left they were the problem, claim this business changes lives, talk about joining a family, insist you can make millions and quit your day job, you get the idea. That’s not how legit businesses operate.

They frequently go out of business after the bubble bursts. Many of these products are built on trends, and trends don’t last forever. Some pyramids also collapse sooner than others.

They use clickbait headlines for blog posts and YouTube videos. “MLM cult?” “Can you really succeed in MLM?” “[MLM name] a scam?” Then you see it’s just someone shilling for the MLM.

Honestly, I’m so freaking tired of seeing people I know getting into these MLM cults, as though they’ve never done any research before signing up. I did a lot of investigation after the Arbot tried to recruit me, and the honest, unbiased sources I found made me very uncomfortable and convinced me this was a mistake. MLMs aren’t a great business opportunity, they’re soul-sucking cults which create victims and steal money.

No, I will not get sucked into the cult of Arbonne!

(The first part of this piece is edited from a much-longer piece I wrote for my old Angelfire site in 2010. Any comments from Arbonne shills will be treated as spam.)

I went to the fifth annual Jewish Women’s Spa for the Body and Soul this past January (2010), and entered a free raffle run by a woman I’d met through a now-disgraced local rabbi. (All I’ll say is that child molestation was involved.) I won a gold purse, which I picked up at an alleged “free lunch.” This woman is an independent sales consultant for Arbonne.

At this time, my eczema was at its worst in years, even worse than when I was a child. She thought I had rosacea (since when?!), and said those hideous red patches on my arms and hands “are always gonna be a part of who you are.” Um, no, they’d only appeared about three months prior. The free samples were for a week-long facial care regimen, and the full-sized versions cost over $200!

Of course, this wasn’t really a free lunch or getting some free samples and a prize. She fully expected me to contact her with a testimonial and to place my order, even to become an independent sales consultant myself to get up to 80% off. She left several messages on my phone in the weeks after, and put me on her e-mail list. I’m told that that when you place an order, Arbonne asks for your social security number and birthdate because they’re expecting you to become an independent sales consultant.

She also tried to push Arbonne’s makeup on me, though I haven’t regularly worn makeup since I was 22 and never wore it daily even when I was younger. These days, I only wear it for a special occasion like a wedding. Can some people just not understand that there are women out there who don’t care for makeup?

The expectation after a “free skin consultation” is that you’re going to be placing an order, and buying lots of stuff. I wasn’t that impressed by these products. Their ingredients are pretty much the same as in other natural products, which don’t cost an arm and a leg. She claimed that if your skin turns red after using Arbonne following Dove or Oil of Olay, it’s all the garbage coming to the surface as your body detoxifies. Arbonne itself contains artificial products!

The further she got into her “free skin consultation,” the more and more it sounded like a sales pitch. Even some of her lines sounded like they were straight from a commercial. “Why am I so passionate about Arbonne’s products? Because I’ve used them all.” She said her skin is so soft because she uses Arbonne. She also claimed she’s never had an averse reaction to any of the hundreds of Arbonne products she’s used, as though it’s unheard of to have any type of allergic reaction or experience a product which just doesn’t do anything for you.

She also talked about how she was earning so much money, is “goin’ to the top,” and how there’s one local woman who makes $30,000 a month, $2 million a year. She said she’d helped people to afford weddings, houses, and cars, and that she was wearing Tiffany’s jewelry and driving a black Mercedes Benz courtesy of Arbonne, which is “gonna turn white” soon. Arbonne doesn’t actually give you a car, but rather gives you the $400 a month to lease it.

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I ran into the local Arbot at a house party this past summer. A local rebbetzin had won a free facial, and decided to give it to the counselors as a reward for the hard work we did all summer. I had a sick feeling in my stomach when I came to her house that evening and saw the Arbot, but I tried to relax and enjoy the evening.

The facial and hand cream were pretty good, though again, completely out of budget. And when my skin has finally been back to normal, mostly, for so long now, I don’t want to ruin it by suddenly switching to new products. One of the so-called “party games” involved writing down the names of people in certain categories, people you could sell Arbonne to or rope into being consultants. WTF?!

She had the decency to not try to sell anything to the two 17-year-old counselors, though I heard from the other two adult counselors later that she was pretty aggressive over e-mail, in spite of claiming at the party that she didn’t want to sell anything. Oh, and she claimed that everyone but Arbonne uses roadkill in their products.

The only businesses I’m interested in starting are my own small publishing company and selling embroidery designs, NOT multi-level marketing cults.