The Money, Madness, and Scams of MLMs

A little over a year ago, I made a decision, and later an announcement on social media that I would soon come to regret. I joined BeachBody as one of their “coaches” and began trying to earn some extra money this way. I had been doing really well with my weight loss and getting into shape, and I was excited to get the opportunity to help others. Never mind that I didn’t have a degree in nutrition or personal training. But I had learned a lot on my own through cutting out sugar and regular exercise, and I wanted to help people with what I had learned. So the second time a BeachBody coach messaged me, asking if I wanted to be a coach, I accepted her invite to a Facebook group explaining what it was about, and soon, I was signed up and had paid for the things I was told I needed to be the best coach.

I was concerned about the cost – I didn’t have a lot of money to begin with – but my coach reassured my that we would “work really hard together to earn back every cent in the first month.” For some reason, I trusted her. Spoiler alert, I did not make back every cent. I did not earn any money. I went through a week or two of “training” (aka, watching videos this woman had made talking about the ins-and-outs of coaching, which seemed to mostly have to do with posting on social media a lot). After that, I “went public” (read: made an obnoxiously cheery post about accepting an “exciting opportunity” and how “BeachBody was amazing and life changing” and then proceeded to message TWENTY people, asking them if they wanted to pay money to join my super cool private challenge group. How these people still talk to me, I’ll never know).

It did not take long for me to see the light. Probably two months from when I joined BeachBody to when I cancelled my coaching membership, maximum, and it only took that long because I’m a procrastinator and their “coach’s office” is not user friendly. They also don’t make it easy for you to quit.

But numerous people on my friends list continue to do BeachBody coaching, posting constantly how successful they are. And it’s not just BeachBody being posted all over Facebook and Instagram feeds everywhere. If it’s not BeachBody, it’s ItWorks!, LuLaRoe, PerfectlyPosh, Monat, Rodan & Fields, Jamberry, MaryKay, Younique, and the list goes on. Thousands, if not millions, of women have joined these multi-level-marketing companies (also known as direct sales) to try and make some extra cash. MLMs prey on stay at home moms, military wives, college girls, single moms, working moms, young wives and even single working women. Recruiters comes with wild promises of great success, early retirement, boosted confidence, great wealth, and the best life. And women fall for this trap over and over again.

But what is really so bad about MLMs? You see that YoungLiving rep posting about how great her life is and how much money she’s making, and your neighbor that sells Herbalife just went on a Disney vacation. Not to mention the well-dressed, confident Amway salesperson that keeps inviting you to meetings. These people all seem to be doing so well! Unfortunately, it’s all a facade. 

MLM (multi-level marketing) companies sell products that do not have much value and do not necessarily work (or are even harmful instead of helpful) for an inflated price. Only those who are at the tippy top of the pyramid actually make any decent money. This is because the real money in these businesses is not through selling a product, but through recruitment. The more people in your downline (and the more people those people recruit and those people recruit and so on), the more money you make, because you make commission off what they sell. So from the very beginning, if you actually want to be successful in this kind of “business,” you have to recruit.

If you join an MLM, you will be required to post on social media 3-5 times a day, cold message anywhere from 20-100 people (it varies between MLMs) to either recruit them for your downline or get them to purchase your product, maintain your status on your “team” through any means possible (including paying fees and/or buying your own products so you don’t go inactive), and spend copious amounts of money on “personal development” and “educational” material supposedly designed to help you be as successful as possible in the “company.”

Your social media posts must always be positive and always have a bend towards the company. You must always have only good things to say about the company and how you’re doing with it. You will be encouraged to fudge client results or sent “before and after” images to share as “results from a friend” (even though you’ve never met the person in these photos a day in your life). You will be told to “fake it til you make it,” aka, act like you’re doing better than you actually are to gain interest in your product or “joining your team.” You will be told you own a small business when in actuality, you are a highly underpaid lackey who only serves to make someone at the top lots of money.

If you see someone posting about how much money they’re making or how well they’re doing “with this business,” chances are extremely likely (as in, 99%) that they are not telling the whole truth. Maybe a commission check dropped, but who says it was any decent amount of money? Or maybe they did get a couple hundred dollars this month, but how much money did they have to spend to get there? Probably much more than they “earned.”

The fact of the matter is, 99% of people who join MLMs lose money and fail in succeeding with the company they join. They are quite literally set up to fail. But the higher-ups that prey on these women (and even some men) don’t lose anything. Rather, they make money off this failure.

The business model of an MLM is the exact opposite of a decent, honorable employer. As mentioned above, you have to spend tons of money just to maintain your status as a presenter, coach, rep, or whatever they call the people who sell their product. At a regular sales job, you get paid to go through their training. With an MLM, you get a small commission of every sale you make, along with a commission off of the sales of anyone in your downline if you’re lucky enough to have a downline in the first place. At a normal sales job, you often get paid a salary (although not always) along with a decent commission off whatever you sell. What is the big difference here? In an MLM, you are encouraged to message, add to groups, and harass anyone who even might possibly look like someone who would want to buy your products at some point. In a sales job, the client typically comes to you, such as with real estate and cars.

In an MLM, you “keep” your “job” and succeed by recruiting people for your downline and occasionally making sales. In a normal sales job, you keep your job and rise through the ranks by being a good salesperson that is knowledgeable and well-liked by customers.

Another huge problem with MLMs has to do with how they represent their products. A large number of the big name MLMs (ItWorks!, Monat, Younique, Plexus, Young Living, LuLaRoe) have been caught fudging the quality and/or results of using their products. From stealing before and after photos, to making false medical claims, to causing damage, to low-quality products, and even receiving warning letters from the FDA, these big name companies fall far short of their big claims. And additionally, some of these companies are infamous for suing or doing everything in their power to discredit anyone who even thinks about giving a negative review or calling the company out on their lies. Looking at you, Monat.

Honestly, I could go on for days about how predatory and harmful MLMs are to women. There are entire blogs dedicated to fighting against MLMs, like the anonymous blog run by “Elle Beau.” Her Younique story is, unfortunately, a classic example of the havoc joining an MLM can wreak on your life. MLMs prey on women who need an extra source of income like stay at home moms or military wives. They are deceptive, and make empty promises.

There are far better sources of work-from-home income that actually earn you money that are not multi-level marketing scams. You do not have to join Scentsy, Avon, or Primerica to have a successful career working from home. In fact, if you truly want to have a successful work from home career, you should do anything but join an MLM.

If you are already elbows-deep in an MLM, it is not too late! You can still get out. Cancel your membership, go inactive, delete your account, whatever you need to do. Your wallet, your friendships, your significant other, and your family will all thank you. There are far better ways to earn extra cash than posting fake Facebook statuses and spending more money than you earn.

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6 thoughts on “The Money, Madness, and Scams of MLMs

  1. I made a really pissed off video about Younique awhile ago.. and also have some experience with Beach body. I went through a time when I couldn’t even go on facebook or twitter because every single person who was messaging me, was harassing me about “working from home for free makeup” It was so annoying, and they were so damn pushy. I also went through a huge weight loss journey around the time that Beachbody was really ramping up, and I had alot of that pushed on me as well. Lauralostweight was a huge social media presence in my world at the time and she was one of their bigger coaches.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I got sucked in to Mary Kay while in college (and I believe I recommended you, my bad). How I got the money I don’t know. The rep kept pushing and pushing me to take out a loan to have a full store so I can sell more items. *Eye roll* I was a poor college student with student loans! Why would I take out another loan? And what bank is going to allow a college student to take out another loan? I wished some one was up front about ALL the expense that it would cost. And I certainly didn’t have time for all the meetings they wanted to do and I never did get my Mary Kay pin. . . I DO use one of their cleansers regularly because it works, but that’s about it.

    I have tried Plexus, another MLM. And I really do like it. For me, that’s an expense I’m willing to have. But I’m not going to sign up as an ambassador and pressure other people and join their FB groups. I joined a group for the trail week. You could win prizes and this stuff, but honey, I don’t have time to watch 10 videos a day and listen to people ramble on about the same thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love using Jamberry, but I’d never be able/willing to seel the product, or any product. I’ve been chased after to represent Scentsy (love the product), Mary Kay, Jamberry–I’m not a social, active, try and talk people into spending money on things. And I don’t have the time or energy to invest what is needed to make it anywhere close to successful! I know a few people who make it work, but most people stop selling whatever it is they’re promoting within a couple months.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. YES! Yes to all of this!!!!!!! My biggest problem is how pushy people get when they start selling it!!!! Like, if you havent talked to me in 5 years, dont hit me up with a “hey how are you? Are you interested in candles?” Type stuff. Chances are I already know you sell it, so if I wanted it, I’d come to you. Don’t fake ask me how I am. So freaking annoying. I literally got bullied into signing up for Mar Kay. I felt like she wasn’t going to let me go unless I did. It was awful. My husband was mad at me. But legit I felt bullied. Ugh! I do love me some Scentsy, but ain’t no way in a million years I’ll be signing up for any MLM! I’m a stay at home, homeschooling military wife. And you know what I do when we’re broke? I babysit. Or offer to clean. Or teach piano. Or tutor. Because all of that is STILL better than MLM!

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  5. Most MLMs are scams. Do your part and forward the below John Oliver video link to everyone you know, except current Amway IBOs, and encourage them to do the same, and so on, à la network marketing/MLM. If you don’t, then you’re part of the problem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6MwGeOm8iI

    Amway has 2 major problems, and most MLMs have at least one of these issues:

    1. The products are overpriced, which makes them almost impossible to sell to customers and results in Amway being an illegal pyramid, according to the FTC and SEC websites and previous court decisions; and

    2. The Tool Scam is hidden profit for the top level distributors only, and the vast majority of distributors operate at a net loss as a result. This is RICO fraud.

    For recent examples, google “FTC” along with the following companies, one at a time: FHTM, BurnLounge, Zeek, TelexFree, Vemma, and Herbalife.

    Although there is no federal law defining pyramid schemes, the FTC has a long and successful track record of using its Section 5 law prohibiting “unfair and deceptive” business practices to go after MLM scams: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/multilevel-marketing which states, in part, “Not all multilevel marketing plans are legitimate. If the money you make is based on your sales to the public, it may be a legitimate multilevel marketing plan. If the money you make is based on the number of people you recruit and your sales to them, it’s probably not. It could be a pyramid scheme. Pyramid schemes are illegal, and the vast majority of participants lose money.”

    Read about these and much more at http://www.StopTheAmwayToolScam.wordpress.com and http://www.AllMLMFacts.org, and email stoptheamwaytoolscam@yahoo.com if you want to help shut down Amway and other MLM scams.

    Watch this video about Amway and other MLM scams, then forward it to everyone you know, except for current IBOs, and encourage them to do the same. When enough people know, these scams will collapse:

    English version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6MwGeOm8iI

    Spanish version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cy-O4myeUzg

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