Why I Abhor Multi Level Marketing Schemes and "Businesses"

Please excuse my hastily put together image. Yes, its someone putting money in the trash, because, at best, thats what MLMs are.

Today I want to talk to you about a topic that is near and dear to me. A topic that hits home for me, very much. A topic that is misunderstood by many. And a topic that I feel is extremely important to talk about. With some embarassing confessions included. 

It is the topic of multi-level marketing, also known as MLMs.

Before I get into it, I want to say that I am all for promoting small businesses. While there are perks for working for large businesses (I have to say I definitely am jealous sometimes of my friends who work for Google), there are many benefits of working for yourself, having your own business. I, myself, am someone who works only for myself- it is what works best for my personality, lifestyle, being a single mom and a stay at home mom, and previously a homeschooling mom. And when people want to build up their business, I'm happy to give them tips, discuss technicalities of it, like the best ways to accept money, whether with credit card processors such as NAB, or wire transfers, or paypal, and tips on how to deal with clients as needed and stand your ground when important. (Do you know how many times a day I respond to emails saying "My prices are non negotiable"?) I've also been known, occasionally, to advertise for my friends businesses.
But one thing I will not do is help anyone who runs a multilevel marketing business. And in fact, not only will I not help them with their "business", I often will have as little as possible to do with them, and may even unfriend them.

Let me tell you a story.

It's an embarassing story.

One I don't think I've ever told anyone before.

But it's important. And that's why I'm going to air my dirty laundry for the entire world to see.

Remember how I've written before about when I was completely broke

Well, broke people can get really desperate, and out of desperation, make bad decisions. Hoping that it'll make their situation get better. But, of course, it gets worse.

So there was this guy who approached myself or Mike, I don't remember. And he said that he had a business opportunity for us, something he can do on his own time, and it is able to make a great deal of money. 

He invited us to meet with him in this lobby of a hotel, where he'd explain to us how it works.

He had a whole slideshow prepared. First about the product, and then about how this business opportunity works.

You pay a certain amount of money to join and buy products. Then you sell those products to other people. And make profit. But you make even more profit if you show other people that they can make money with this, because when they sign up to be sellers, you make a profit, and make a cut off all the sales they make, and then if people join in under them, they can make a profit off them, and you make a profit off them as well, and so on and so forth.

And then the product. Well, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Supposedly it was this "patented" technology that was this tablet that you stuck in your fuel tank of your car. And it made your car burn fuel more efficiently, and you get more miles to the gallon. So however much money you spent on these tablets, you saved more money on gas, or so the story told.

It sounded great, we were desperate, I have no idea where we got the money to join because, as I mentioned, we were strapped for cash, and we tried to sell these tablets. I hit up the taxi stands in the city, because taxis use a lot of gas, and if they could spend less money on gas, they'd be making more money, and they'd love this product, recommend it to their friends, and buy more. Yay!

Only, no one bought. 

The only one person who did buy was my former sister in law.

And I don't know if its connected or not, quite possibly yes, but not long after she did so, her car engine overheated, caught on fire, and her car blew up.

Only casualty being the car.


If there ever is a story more apt that shows why multilevel marketing schemes are bad news, its this one. 

And yes, I'm embarassed that I ever was part of this. Which is why this is the first time I'm ever telling this story. 


So, what exactly is multilevel marketing, and why is it so bad?

Multilevel marketing is also known as network marketing or referal marketing are a modern day pyramic scheme that dupes people into making the owners of the business rich while everyone else just loses money. 

As I mentioned in my story above, you always have to spend money to join. And you generally have to keep paying money to remain a seller, often on a monthly basis. Of course, for this you generally get "product" but the products are typically inferior, but more on that later. But since that doesn't generally make enough money, you're encouraged to find people to join the company "under you" also called the "downline" so that any money they make, and any people they get to join under them, you'll also make a profit from.

So, you have a product. Quality to be discussed below. You often have lots and lots of products. That you spent lots of money on. And to sell them you need to find clients.

Do you know how often I get contacted by random people that have my number? A lady I met in the supermarket once. The parent of kids in my kids' classes. That person who I talked with at the playground. A neighbor I once borrowed something from.

Usually if I get a call from someone I'm not expecting, I already know how this conversation will go. The first two minutes, if I'm lucky, they might be making small talk. "Hey, how are you, how's it going? How are your kids doing? What's new with your life?" And then comes the "punch line". "So, have you heard of this company 'Forever Living?'" "I found this product that makes my life so much better and I wanted you to benefit as well." "Are you looking for a way to increase your earnings?" And even if its someone that you do talk to occasionally, it turns your relationship into something where they want something from you, like when a relative who never calls you all of a sudden wants to strike up a relationship so they can sell to you.

By being involved in multilevel marketing schemes, you end up trying to turn everyone into a client. Because that is what you need to do in order to not lose money. (More on that in a minute.) Every interaction turns into a sales pitch. Every Facebook post and Instagram post turns into a sales pitch. Get togethers, classes, and parties are very thinly veiled sales pitches. Everything they write, its because they want you to buy into their company. They post pictures of them sipping lattes or on cruises with hashtags and pithy quotes about them "living the life" because of this MLM company. They post pictures of them with products in the background "Just a pretty picture of myself" but really trying to get you to buy their product. These sales tactics are so insidius that people refer to MLM salespeople as huns (in reference to both the aggressive huns, and the fact that they usually approach you referring to you as honey when trying to make a sale). 

But, as annoying as this is, and as socially problematic as this is (no way to get people to hate you more than get involved in this irritating sales tactic), these products are problematic as well. 

I don't even know what the name of that tablet that makes your gas bills lower, but if it were any good, don't you think it would have become famous? Been marketed the "normal way" instead of getting the lowly people on the street to do their work for them? 
Other companies that are MLM, like Lularoe, have inferior quality products at extremely jacked up prices.
Or you can even have companies like DoTerra, that sell essential oils, which isn't something I oppose, but the prices for essential oils through them is ridiculously more than buying from a company like NOW Foods or anything available on Iherb or Amazon. 
Or Melaluca which sells tea tree oil products, which you can get much cheaper through any other health food source.

Anything thats a good product that you can get through an MLM, you can get cheaper, and generally better, NOT through an MLM.

But then you have companies like Optavia, who have a product that is dangerous. A "meal supplement" that they get you to take and eat very few other stuff. They basically put you on a dangerous starvation diet, that not only can contribute to eating disorders, but messes with your metabolism and can permanently harm your body.

And then because what they do is already becoming known as dangerous, they market themselves not under the name Optavia, because people are already skeptical of Optavia, but instead say they're "health coaches" and profess themselves to be professionals about nutrition and health, when all they are professionals are is in conning people into buying dangerous products. They post pictures of themselves and others with bags of sugar representing to people how much weight they lost, without mentioning the name of the company they're promoting, or the dangers involved in it, not to mention the very hefty price tag.

These people don't just content themselves with marketing to people on their feed and people in their social circles, they often message people who share pictures about themselves or talk about anything, trying to market their "weight loss products" which in addition to being extremely intrusive, can be very triggering to people who have eating disorders. Randomly messaging strangers to tell them their body isn't good and you can sell them a product to fix them and you're a "professional coach" is reckless endangerment.

Then you have the people who sell essential oils who claim to be professional healers, when again, they haven't learned anything other than which products to attempt to sell for what. They don't actually have an education in this, to know which essential oils are fine, which are helpful for certain things, and which are actually dangerous and contraindicated for certain people and situations. They just want to make sales.

So in addition to all these aforementioned problems with multilevel marketing...


Article after article after article after article after article after article shows study after study after study with proof that 99% of people involved in MLMs lose money from it.

So in addition to alienating people, losing friends, pissing people off, and doing dangerous things, it isn't even a good way to earn money. It is a lose, lose, lose, lose situation. Nearly everyone I know that has been involved in MLMs in the past regrets it, other than a few that still buy into it, for the simple reason that MLM companies use cult like mind control techniques.

I abhor, detest, hate, say any bad words you want MLMs because MLM culture is to prey on the weak and vulnerable and screw people over when they are in their worst situations. 

In the past, you could have maybe said people are naive and don't know better, but anyone who has any connection whatsoever to the outside world can see article after article about the dangers of these, and people who choose to go ahead with these anyhow are knowingly engaging in predatory dangerous behavior and I can't say enough about bad things.

If you are a reader of my blog and you DO work in MLM, its not too late. Stop marketing Forever, Scentsy, Jamberry, Avon, doTerra, ItWorks, JuicePlus, Herbalife, NuSkin, Shaklee, Beachbody, or any of the other numerous MLMs out there. Stop trying to make back what you spent in the company (no, its not an investment) because you won't ever make it, and if you do make it, it's only by conning other people. 

Yes, I know, its hard to be strapped for cash. And if you are starting a business, I'll help you out, maybe give you tips and advice, maybe promote you, maybe use your services. As long as you're a legit business.

But if you're an MLM hun? Well, expect me to call you out on it. Because MLM is a dangerous predatory practice and is not a viable "small business". Period.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. "Well, broke people can get really desperate, and out of desperation, make bad decisions. Hoping that it'll make their situation get better. But, of course, it gets worse." This i feel describes my situation perfectly of course not broke literally but mentally 😢

  2. There is a good reddit group on the sub


  3. Excellent and important article. I didn't know Avon was an MLM

    1. It is--my grandma sold avon products. I think the "difference" is that

      1) Avon has been around over a century (Originally as the california perfume company) and hasn't ALWAYS been a MLM. They did door-to-door sales stuff back in the era when, well, that was a legit business practice.

      2) I don't know what they sell these days, but when I was a kid, a lot of presents from grandma were from Avon. And while she gave me far too many earrings and necklaces, she also gave me a lot of stuffed animals and kids books that were some of my favorites. But, y'know, that was back in the 80's and that was a pretty different time. And a stuffed animal or a book are basically going to be what they are and do what they say they're gonna do. Unlike, say, a beauty product.

      That said I know several people who swear by skin so soft.

  4. Bravo. They are insidious, terrible, and they not only suck people in, they make them lose all sense of reason and decency. I have a friendship that will never be the same due to an MLM.

  5. you should obscure the company names in this post before you get sued for libel

    1. Everything stated here is defensible, so I can't imagine on what they would base a claim of libel. These are well-known MLM companies. Anyway, most if not all of these companies have legal teams that are tied up fending off the Federal Trade Commission.

  6. Amen to this. Also, as another option for high quality non-MLM essential oils, I really love Edens Garden.

  7. I have ALWAYS known and felt this way regarding MLM's! My late husband had us up to our eyeballs in a company right before he suddenly passed away. I did not want to "invest" in the business, but I was between a rock and a hard place. He told me I didn't believe in him. :( Can you believe they actually came after me for some money they said he "owed"? I told them in no uncertain terms that they had made ENOUGH money off of us. After that they backed off.

  8. Thank you so much for publishing this important information! MLMs are a dangerous and harmful business model. I want to add, if you have a friend or relative who sells MLM and who is begging you to buy their stuff to help make a target, Don't do it!! The best thing you can do for your friend is NOT to buy their stuff, because each purchase will only keep them in the cult for longer. Even if you like an MLM product, find a non-MLM alternative version. Each and every purchase supports the business model, even if you aren't personally selling.

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