So, I get messaged by MLM (multi-level marketing) sales consultants almost every single week. I try to respond to them all and be polite, yet honest, that I’m not interested and don’t really like MLM businesses. Usually people just say okay, and move on. Occasionally though, people ask me why..
I have a lot of reasons. I’m happy to share them with anyone who asks, but its an awful lot to get into through messages so I thought I’d write a post about it for those who are genuinely curious. This will hopefully be a good explanation of my issues with MLM Businesses!
Pros of MLM Businesses
My personality is the type to question everything. It’s a blessing and a curse. Mostly a blessing because I can see many different perspectives on things, but also a curse because it often lends itself to me having unpopular opinions. So before writing this I played devil’s advocate to try and see what people love so much about these popular MLM businesses. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
-People love feeling like a part of something; they love community! You definitely get that when joining an MLM business. I’m sure that’s very appealing to some people.
-People also love making side money (or even full time amazing pay money) and these businesses provide an opportunity for that and to work for yourself from home. I can definitely see the appeal of this one too. Who wouldn’t want to make a good living from home?
-And thirdly, a lot of MLM businesses have genuinely great products.
If you love the products, have desire to be a part of a community and would like to make money from home, I can see why you joined the MLM company. I really can, and I don’t think that’s a BAD thing in and of itself. I have a lot of friends who sell for MLMs, some who are very successful and love it and I’m genuinely happy for them.
Cons of MLMs
So why am I opposed MLM businesses? I’ve bought things from MLM companies in the past. I’ve been to the “parties” and been given the sales schpeils, etc. I know they’re not all the same and not every consultant/sales rep/distributor is the same but there are lots of common threads between most of them. There are 4 main reasons I’m not a fan of MLM businesses: The poor business structure, the ridiculous pricing of the products, annoying sales tactics often used, and in many cases, misleading or dishonest information.
Poor Business Structure
I know fans of MLM businesses hate to hear the term “pyramid scheme” but I’m just going to casually point out that the “shape” of these business structures is….triangular. I’m all about supporting small businesses and supporting other moms trying to make a living but I don’t see MLM’s this way. I see them as the giant corporations that they are, and I prefer to shop smaller when I can. If the companies only sold wholesale products to distributors who sold them for a profit I wouldn’t have any issue with that. But people in these companies don’t make the majority of their money that way. They make money by recruiting others underneath them to sell the stuff. Their “downline.” They get a cut of the profits from every person in their downline who sells stuff too. The higher up on the…triangle…you are, the more successful you are. There’s no other way of saying it. I just personally don’t like that. This sucks for anyone who’s not at the top of the company. I don’t want to pay more so every person above you gets some of my money. Some MLM companies also require that you buy hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of inventory to maintain your status as a sales rep. People are actually getting themselves into debt to keep their status in some of these companies. Yikes! Not all of them work like this thankfully, but many of them do. It’s not hard to find countless stories of people who were screwed over by MLM businesses they were trying to sell for. It’s really sad. I’ll also mention the loss rate of those involved in MLM businesses is 99%. Those are poor odds of success. If you’re curious, here’s one anonymous story from a former Arbonne rep that paints a picture of MLM failure that ends up being the reality for most people.
Ridiculous Pricing of the Products
Because the business structure allows so many other people to get their cut of the sale, it inflates prices of the actual products a lot. The businesses will use all kinds of marketing to make you believe you’re paying more because the products are so superior, but really, you’re paying more because your money is going through middle men; Not to mention reward systems in place that give top sellers luxurious gifts and vacations. While I do believe some MLM businesses have great products, they’re not the only ones that do. I can get pure essential oils, toxin free makeup and skin care products, vitamins, supplements, protein powder, antibacterial cloths, leggings, books, etc. etc. etc other places. Usually at equal or better quality. There’s nothing proprietary about any of these businesses. And nothing I can’t find somewhere else for a better price or at a smaller business.
Annoying Sales Tactics Often Used
I think there is a subtle and classy way to be a salesperson and there is an all-up-in-your-face way of doing it, and unfortunately many MLM reps get a bad reputation for being the latter. Please hear me that I am not making blanket statements for ALL sales reps. I have dear friends who sell for MLMs companies that are really tactful about it, but I have also had some very unpleasant experiences with other sales reps. For example…
-Having a stranger on the internet send me a 10 minute long voice message ranting and raving about Plexus and how it radically changed her life. She was even using my first name so I know it wasn’t pre-recorded. (I didn’t know this person at all, she found me in a Facebook group.) So weird.
-Having an old acquaintance I never talked to add me to sales groups on Facebook multiple times and repeatedly message me about the nail products she was selling even though I told her I wasn’t interested.
-Getting suspiciously over-friendly messages on Instagram from strangers that have so many nice things to say to me about my blog and then they finally get around to the point that they want to recruit me for something or other because I would be so perfect for it.
-People soliciting/almost preying on others in Facebook groups trying to “help” them out or solve their problems by selling them a revolutionary product.
-Friends who decide to join an MLM company and suddenly it’s all you ever hear about. Everything they post now is tied into their brand and it becomes like a complete unhealthy obsession. I usually just unfollow people who do this but its still sad how it can completely take over someone’s life.
-Friends who reach out to catch up and chat and then end up trying to sell you something or recruit you. This has happened a handful times to me. It hurts actually because you think a person is legitimately interested in your life and chatting but then you realize the whole thing was planned to try to sell something to you or recruit you. It makes the conversation feel inauthentic and like they don’t actually care about you as a friend at all. If you’re talking to a friend and your business comes up and they want to know more, that’s awesome. But premeditated salesey conversations are always obvious and can really hurt friendships. Especially if you’re not interested in their business and you end up hurting THEIR feelings because they take it personally. It’s all just awkward and sad. There have even been many friendships that have ended because of people trying to turn all their friends into downlines and customers. I’ve seen posts like this all over the internet and I think it’s awful that some people show more loyalty to a MLM company than to their friends. We CAN disagree with people and remain friends! No one agrees on everything.
Those are just a few examples of the kinds of things I see every single day. It all puts a bad taste in my mouth about MLM businesses. I have respect for those who sell in MLMs but don’t do these types of things.
Misleading and Dishonest Information
For this point I’m going to have to get a lot more specific about brands, so I’m sorry if this offends anyone but this is a big deal. I don’t take manipulative wording and fake information lightly.
I have issues with both leading MLM essential oil companies for this exact reason. For example, DoTerra actually trademarked the phrase “certified pure therapeutic grade” so that they would be the only ones who can make the claim, which is misleading since there is nothing that makes their oils more or less “certified” than other brands.
And Young Living… Young Living is the company people try to recruit me to the most so I’m going to dedicate more space in this post to thoroughly explain my beef with YL. Young Living friends, I still love you, just not the brand.. 😉
-First and foremost, Young Living’s praised “seed to seal” promise (where they claim to have control over the entire process of making the oils from the seed to seal.) has been extremely misleading as they only farm a tiny amount of their own oils- (Its rumored to be as small as 1%) No one knows the exact percentage though and I don’t expect Young Living to disclose this info anytime soon. Many reps actually believed that YL was farming all their own oils..I’ve personally heard a lot of folks raving about that “fact.” Its easy to see why they were confused based on wording in some of YL’s catalogues like this one from 2011: “A treasured part of Young Living history, our farms are where we grow, harvest, and distill Young Living Therapeutic Grade essential oils.” (page 27)
Really misleading. If you look at the farms Young Living owns and the output quantity they sell, you can easily see what a tiny fraction that they’re actually producing themselves. All of their marketing materials now read “seed to seal ‘suppliers’” or “partner farms,” and they promise that they only partner with farms and suppliers that they “trust.” But there’s obviously no way for them to have control over the whole process from seed to seal. They’re way too big of a company to be able to micromanage all that. So this seed to seal promise doesn’t really mean a whole lot, and all its doing is confusing people and making them believe the oils are so much better. The red lines are emphasis by me. Each of these infographics are so misled. There’s stuff like this floating all over the internet and people believe it.
It’s a shame none of that is accurate information.
-Additionally, Young Living was caught illegally trafficking rosewood oil and spikenard oil last year which violated The Lacey Act. They were fined $760,000. They say that they’re the only essential oil company working with the government to be complaint with the Lacey Act, but that’s only because they were the ones caught violating it.
–DoTerra was founded by people who were fired from or quit Young Living- They were unhappy with deceitful business practices and lying to promote the seed to seal scheme, as well as fighting for equal pay for the women workers, which was unsuccessful by the way. This is public info that hasn’t been disputed. There have also been multiple lawsuits between these two companies and lots of accusing each other of adding synthetic things to their oils. Dramaaa.
–Young Living’s cinnamon oil (and consequentially their Thieves blend since it contains cinnamon) was found to contain synthetic cinnamaldehyde. This source contains actual documents from the order of the cinnamon oil shipped directly from YL to the independent testing lab in Canada, to the lab results he received back showing the presence of cinnamaldehyde, as well as emails from Young Living’s legal team telling him to remove this post. Young Living has since responded that they’ve done more and more tests on this oil and sent it to other labs who will verify that it is in fact pure. They didn’t release any of that data, they just expect you to take their word for it. They say the Canadian lab must not have as extensive of an oil library as they do to get accurate results. I’m not a scientist to be able to understand any of that to be honest, but I’m just saying it seems really fishy to me. I’m not sure what to believe about this point, but its not something I’d be willing to gamble on.
-The founder and former CEO of Young Living, Gary Young, also has a colorful history of deception, controversy, and fraud. For starters, he only has a high school education. I don’t believe that you have to be college educated to be knowledgeable about something, but apparently Gary did because the brochure from his Rosarita Beach Clinic in Mexico stated that he had a degree from the American Institute of Physioregenerology. Once this was revealed as false he admitted it and brushed it off as a “typographical error.” Right. He also later claimed to have a doctorate in naturopathy from Bernadean University on his own website. This info has obviously been removed since then. Bernadean University was busted for being a diploma mill supplying fake diplomas. Many older articles about him still list his doctorate “credentials.” Old YL publications also call him “Dr. Gary Young” and his older books he wrote still say “D. Gary Young, ND.” Gary never received any of this formal training or education. I don’t care if he was formally educated or not, but the fact that he lied about it to gain credibility is very deceitful and I hate that.
So much drama! That was more than enough red flags for me to want to steer clear from these businesses. They don’t have a good track record for being trustworthy or moral in any way.
Another disappointment to me was Arbonne. I really wanted to like Arbonne! It was actually an Arbonne representative’s post on Facebook that really opened my eyes to how many toxins are in our makeup and skincare products. This was back before my natural living days. That was all new information to me and I was grateful for it and happy to start making better choices. My mother-in-law that mentioned to me that Arbonne’s products aren’t really as clean as I had thought them to be. I researched it and….she was right. The company makes it very difficult to obtain ingredients lists for any product. Their trademark is “pure, safe, beneficial” but their products are not pure. I will agree that their products are more pure, more safe, and generally better than makeup from the drugstore but that doesn’t mean it is actually pure or safe. A blogger went through a bunch of loopholes to obtain ingredients lists for some of Arbonne’s products and the results were really disappointing. The ingredients lists were extremely long and contained some questionable things. Click the link for more info.
I just don’t like being misled by big brands. Dishonesty is a common thread in just about every MLM brand I’ve taken the time to research. I could go on and on about more MLMs but I don’t want this post to get any longer.
Certainly not every MLM is based on misleading information I’m sure. But enough of them are that it’s a major turn off for me and makes me very skeptical of all MLM companies.
So, in conclusion, alllllll of that is why I’m not interested in buying from or joining any MLM brand, ever. They’re just not my cup of tea. Even if you love MLMs, I hope I can encourage everyone to really think about things a bit more. Do more research. Don’t take a big brand’s claims at face value, don’t take a salesperson’s info at face value, and don’t even take what I’ve said at face value. I try to encourage others to research things and come to their own conclusions and to really know EXACTLY what they’re behind and why! And stand by it whether you agree or disagree with me. 🙂 I just think it’s important that you always know exactly why you believe what you do. Our society follows so many things blindly and I like to shake things up sometimes and create thoughtful conversations and free thinking. 😉 Do you love or hate MLMs? Let me know YOUR “why” in the comments, but please always be respectful! I know this can be a hot topic. 🙂