Is multi-level marketing a scam? If not, why did I quit MLM? Should Christians join MLM companies?
If you have been around this blog from the get-go, you might have gotten the sense that I began the blog to market “my MLM opportunity.” If so, you are right, and I cannot begin to apologize enough.
The long and the short of my story
I have had a love-hate relationship with network marketing. “It’s just a game.” “No, it’s a legitimate business!” “I’ll never make any money.” “What do you know, my first check from the company!”
I’m not going to go into great detail here. Maybe one day I’ll tell my whole story in a book. (Oh, I already have, in a more dramatic, fictionalized way.) Let me just say these three things. First, the first company I belonged to, I left with a really bad taste in my mouth after about a year and a half – and one whole year I did nothing but purchase product, foolishly hoping for “spill” so I could start to make money without even trying.
Second, although it was fifteen years between that company and the next, I was then consistently part of one company or another for the following seven years, so I consider myself an “insider” in the industry. In other words, I know what I’m talking about.
Third, the last company started great. It was almost brand new when I joined, and for a couple of years there was a definite family atmosphere about it. But as it grew bigger, it became more and more like the other companies I had belonged to. I realized that all network marketing companies share the same foundation.
Why I left MLM
What is the foundation? First of all, how about lies? MLM, after all, stands for “Mostly Lies and Manipulation.”
What, you heard that it stood for “Most Lose Money”? Well, that’s true, too, but that’s not the primary reason I left. And if you’ve heard that, you probably don’t need an explanation about it.
Back to my acronym. The last company for which I was a distributor strongly implied that you needed thus-and-such supplement to be healthy. No way can you get everything you need from your diet; the soil is depleted! (This is a lie, by the way, perpetrated by every single nutritional MLM.) But last year, I heard about the “Blue Zones.” These are the five areas on the planet where people tend to live, without health problems, beyond a century. I learned that none of these groups of people take supplements – and one of them is in a city in southern California!
Then I started to do some serious nutrition research in the book, The World’s Healthiest Foods. The reason is that my family was going to go vegan 100% plant-based, and I wanted to plan a general diet that would give us what we needed. During my research, I discovered (by what another nutrition author stated) that the nutritional values of food stated in the book come from non-organic food raised in soil that likely uses chemical fertilizers.
I also discovered that in spite of this, yes, there was a way to eat an animal-free diet and still get everything we needed. I discovered further, from online research, that anyone eating as much produce as I am on a daily basis gets plenty of anti-oxidants, thank you very much! (The original supplement created by the company’s founder was an anti-oxidant juice.)
Yes, I still believe some people can benefit from some supplementing. But with only a handful of exceptions, that’s only because they haven’t crafted (or, let’s be honest here, cannot afford) a diet that will give them everything they need.
But wait, there’s more!
In one of the earliest company conference calls I participated in, the speaker claimed that of all the brands of essential oils sold in the United States, only five percent of them really work. So of course I had to buy my oils from that company, because I wanted “the best.” (This is where the manipulation comes in.)
When my sense of morals and ethics would no longer allow me to be a part of MLM earlier this year, I had to search for another brand of oils. Lo and behold, I found two non-MLM essential oil companies on Amazon, Plant Guru and Plant Therapy. I bought a couple of oils from them, and they smelled, tasted and worked EXACTLY like the Be Young oils (oh, sorry, I guess you know the company’s name now, don’t you? But I could have easily inserted “Young Living” or “Doterra” as well.)
So far, my only angst is about frankincense oil. I am still on the lookout for frankincense oil that is completely undiluted. Apparently, most companies are afraid to sell that kind of frankincense oil because it ends up being expensive and they’re afraid people won’t buy it?
Still, that’s two brands of essential oils available through Amazon (and did I mention how much less expensive they are?). If only five percent of oils on the market really work, I must have hit the jackpot, man!
The biggest reason of all
To my mind, those are pretty important reasons to shun the MLM industry. But the biggest one of all should also answer the (sort of popular) question, “Should Christians join MLM?”
The foundation of multi-level marketing is greed. Yes, I know, there are plenty of greedy and unethical non-MLM corporations and entrepreneurs. But grasping for gain is not necessarily at their foundation. Sometimes greed just creeps up on someone who sees financial success.
But it’s different with network marketing. Watch the “opportunity video” of any company. Tell your neighborhood Mary Kaye or Amway distributor that you’re interested in joining – and watch how they turn three shades of red and try not to throw up because they’re so excited that you want to join because if you do, you will start building business and they will get RICH!
I’m sorry, but nobody watches an MLM opportunity video and decides to join because they’d like to earn “a few extra hundred dollars a month”. Or if they do, that goal doesn’t last long. Because the training videos they get in their distributor kit, the conference calls they listen in on, the local events they attend, all have one goal: to turn you into the greediest person possible so that you will help make the company serious money.
Go ahead and argue. I will stand my ground.
God never purposed me to be greedy, or to deceive people into buying products they really don’t need or can buy somewhere else for (often) less than half the price. So I quit `MLM.