Why I Will Always Be Anti-MLM

Saturday, 28 December 2019

I've been on a weird MLM black hole-ish journey the last few days. I find the concept of MLM businesses so bizarre and have often wondered how they get away with it, how they trick so many people into joining and why anybody continues to sign up, with everything we are aware of now, even to this day. The more I read, the more angry I became, and I really wanted to write about it in some way with everything I have learned over the last few days because it truly infuriates me. 

On that note, let's begin.

What is an MLM And How Does It Differ From A Pyramid Scheme?

For people who haven't got a clue what I am talking about - MLM businesses are multi-level-marketing businesses. They aren't a pyramid scheme, because that would be illegal, but lets just say they are almost identical to one, if you catch my drift. A pyramid scheme is illegal because it focuses on investment recruitment. You pay to sign up, and then you recruit other people to pay to sign up and get a small commission per person. That person at the very top is throwing your hard earned cash around their million pound mansion in handfuls whilst laughing like an evil Disney villain at the debt you are now in.

That may be an exaggeration but that's how I imagine it goes.

An MLM cleverly differs because they introduced the sale of goods too. They focus more on the sale and commission from products in advertising their 'roles' than they do on recruitment, but as you will find out soon, these products almost never sell, which leaves recruitment of other people as an only option/last resort to gain some commission on their behalf (usually depending on how much your recruitment buys/sells, who they end up recruiting and how much they sell. Doesn't sound at all like a pyramid scheme does it?)

If you still don't know what I am referring to, think about those annoying DM's you get every five minutes on Instagram, or that friend you have on Facebook who you haven't spoken to in years who is suddenly interested in your life, before offering you an 'amazing opportunity' to 'start your own business', 'work from home', 'spend more time with your kids', 'enjoy newfound control over your finances', 'afford luxuries and treats for yourself' and much more generic waffle that literally every single one of them spouts at some point.

Whoever recruited you becomes your 'upline' and whoever you recruit becomes your 'downline'. You essentially have a manager who 'helps and supports you to succeed', all whilst taking your money, and then you become a manager when you recruit and take other peoples money via commission. Again, I CAN'T STRESS ENOUGH that this isn't a pyramid scheme, get that pyramid idea out of your head, this is the furthest from a pyramid scheme EVER, I swear. 

I recently discovered that these people have a nickname in the anti MLM community - HunBots. If that isn't the best thing ever I don't know what is.

How People Get Sucked In

I recently watched a fascinating documentary on BBC about this (which I will link here) but the recruitment process is about the most disgusting thing I have ever heard.

The typical process is that somebody will be recruited, usually through DM's of some kind where 'presenters' will display highly manipulative tactics to pray on someone's vulnerable spot. I never got a single MLM message until I started using 'mum blogger' hashtags, and I noticed almost every message I ever got was primarily focused on how I would get to spend more time with my kids.

They tell their 'downline' (explained above) to search for 'no money' 'wish i was at home with kids' 'hate having a disability' and other really sad situations people might be in that will make them 'easy targets'. Some presenters have also been caught and exposed for recommending selling to and recruiting single parents and young parents, disabled people, elderly relatives who may not know better due to lack of internet and even those elderly relatives who may have a condition such as alzheimer's and dementia. They use tactics such as miscarriage, mental health awareness and grief to spark conversations about essential oils and pills, target dieting accounts for shakes and supplements... it gets worse as it goes on, honestly, but if you're interested then I'd suggest looking at the Anti MLM thread on reddit where you won't believe half of the things you see.

Some other tactics include telling people you have 'a limited number of spaces on your team available' which makes people who are on the fence jump at the chance to sign up thinking there may be no other opportunities left. The reality is that there is an infinite number of people who they can recruit, there is no 'limited number of spaces'. I recently read a series of posts which I would also highly recommend on Elle Beau's blog, which details this method of recruitment and her experience with MLM selling way more thoroughly than I could. I spent hours reading the whole thing because I was just gobsmacked.

You also have to pay a pretty substantial amount to become a presenter, which the person recruiting you will then say 'you will make it back in your first month, don't worry, everyone has to invest in business and take a risk to make it work'. They are also known for suggesting using credit to pay for it. Some 'presenter packages' start at around £80 for a few booklets and a few products, and some even go as high as £10,000 for hundreds of items. Whoever recruited you will see around a 10-20% commission of whatever package you choose to sign up to, which is why they usually push the higher priced ones so you can 'get everything you need to make this work and become the boss of your own stay at home business'.

Manipulation, Patronising and Belittling Behaviour

Now that these poor souls have been convinced and make the presenter package purchase, what happens next?

Well they are trained by their 'upline' (think about the word trained loosely, because this is likely just a random stranger who has been doing this months themselves), who usually has perfected their perfectly positive social media facade. They are instructed to post a ridiculous number of positive quotes a day, take photographs whenever they go anywhere and say 'this is why I love my stay at home job!', post fake paypal screenshots to make it look like they're being paid and to never be honest about the lack of products sold. They're also instructed to share 'empty boxes' to make it look like orders are coming in, be positive at all times regardless of what you're going through, believing 100% in the products regardless of if they're absolute garbage, and even recommend presenters order the products themselves in order to meet their 'monthly sales targets' to avoid suspension - yes, that's right, if you don't sell enough per month you are suspended, meaning you'd have to pay the start up fee again if you want to carry on, having probably already invested hundreds. 

They tell their 'downline' to 'block the haters' because these are just 'judgemental people who are jealous of their success' and that the people who support them are their true friends... hence why a lot of these MLM sellers suddenly find themselves alienated from everyone they know and love. The most common of all advice is to turn every conversation you ever have back to your business, in order to encourage sales and pique interest. Interesting tactic - whenever someone does it to me I immediately see right through everything they've said previously and just won't reply. 

When people eventually come to their senses, hundreds of pounds down, and realise that these products just aren't selling and that they've been blocked and muted by their entire Facebook friends list, they do what any other person in a really desperate, financially devastating, situation would do, and that is to go to their 'upline' for advice. I have seen from multiple sources that this is usually followed with a 'well you clearly aren't trying hard enough, you aren't posting enough positive quotes and you aren't messaging enough people. You should aim to message at least 1000 people per day, and interact with every person you see so that they can see your posts. Keep adding them to your Facebook group regardless of if they've left and they'll eventually get bored of leaving and will stay' - erm, no hun, that's how you get a message from someone near and dear telling you to piss off.

They manipulate their downline in splurging even more on new products to try, that may motivate them again, to give it 'one more week', to just 'try a bit harder'. This inevitably makes lots of people think that they are the ones in the wrong, that they just aren't doing enough and that it is their fault their products aren't selling. Newsflash, they're shit and your upline can't sell them either. 

But My Friend Who Sells MLM Says She Earns A Lot Of Money

The short response to this is that your friend is talking out of her arse to try and get you on her team.

Something a lot of people don't know or research before MLM's is that a lot of them actually provide annual income reports (which you can look at here). Some are more detailed than others, and some are definitely shady beyond belief, but mostly all of them will tell you what you're more than likely to get when you look at the lower income figures. 

Lets look at Scentsy's 2018 annual report, as an example: 

The most accurate column to look at on there would be the very last one, where they work out the median, because it isn't affected by higher and lower numbers like the average would be. So out of all 41,000 who sold Scentsy for the whole of 2018 (group 1), most likely received around $697/£530 or lower PER YEAR. £530 per year you ask? YES. FOR FUCK SAKE. That's like what you'd earn working 9-5 in a minimum wage job every day for 2 weeks, and then quitting. The lowest anyone got is $166 in the whole year, which again converted is just over £120. Imagine working the whole of the year, day and night, for £120. I just can't. Group 2 is even more shameful to look at. 

Having spent about 5 minutes on the Scentsy website, I can see that they have a handy slider tool which predicts what you will earn based on sales with the maximum going up to £1000. You'd need to sell £1000's worth of products to earn a fantastic sum of £166.  They offer an 'everything you need' starter kit for £91, so even if you bought that and sold £1000 worth of product for them, you'd be making a grand old total of £75. What a fantastic opportunity folks, sign me up

And Finally, Why I'd Never Support A Person Selling MLM

The narrative between presenters and their upline tends to be as follows: 

"Oh your friend's won't buy from you? They don't want to see you succeed because they're unsuccessful and would rather support large corporations than small businesses ran by their own friend. Could you imagine being that selfish? Block them."

This is the furthest from the truth.

When I think about people choosing corporate over small business', I think about a family in a coffee shop struggling to make ends meet because people now prefer Costa and Starbucks. I think about people shopping for books on Amazon and at WHSmith instead of independent bookstores, and the likes.

The reality is that Scentsy, Younique, JuicePlus, Avon, you name it... none of them are 'small businesses' at all. You may have convinced yourself that you're a small business owner, but you're actually just a pawn in a rich persons game. It's not that your friends don't want to support you as a person. If you started selling arts and crafts that you personally handmade, or posted videos giving people make up advice, or even knocked up your own wax melts, people close to you would be thrilled to help you out, knowing you aren't being taken advantage of by the many people above you. Nobody wants to support an MLM seller because nobody wants to support the MLM industry, and it's quite honestly as simple as that. 


There are so many ways you can work from home these days that are more cost effective than signing up for a business you have to pay into that is just out for your money. Surveys, product testing, entering competitions, even blogging and YouTube are all ways you can increase your income, albeit probably by very little unless you're extremely successful, but it's way more of an effective and rewarding way of putting your time into something that will actually pay you without leaving you in debt.

I truly feel for people who have found themselves in the situation where they felt like this was their only option, and then found themselves following these awful tactics in order to gain some of their money back in a panicked state, but I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for those who continue to do it, knowing how shit it is and knowing they will make no money, yet continuing to recruit vulnerable people who will end up in the same position.

I'd really love for all of these companies to be gone in the next 10 years, but sadly I can only predict that even more will pop up. Please make yourself aware of all of the tactics and methods these people use, and alert as many members of your family as possible too, so they don't become yet another victim of MLM 'HunBots'


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