Multi-level marketing ( MLM ) companies do not sell their products / services via retailers , but through a workforce of self-employed people sometimes called their ‘ distributors ’. This strategy can also be labelled network marketing . Examples of these companies include Herbalife , Amway , ACN , Younique , LuLaRoe , Arbonne , doTerra , Mary Kay and Nu Skin , many of which have been subject to a great deal of backlash .
They use a pitch of motivational speaking , of ‘ love bombing ’, promises of dreams come true , of miracles and life-changing experiences . The opportunity they present to you is the next step of drawing you in – you must invest in the business to make business . You ’ re recruited and once you ’ ve invested you ’ re encouraged to recruit . You ’ re expected to attend regular seminars and to get rid of the people in your life who are ‘ negative ’ and telling you that it ’ s a cult or a scam . You ’ re encouraged to reach out to as many people
you know who could be good for this business as you can . Recruit , recruit , recruit .
Your new life is going to cost you your old one . But when your efforts at recruiting don ’ t seem to be working , hope and the constant reinforcement of the organisation ’ s seminars keep you convinced that other people are the problem , not the company . You work harder , stay positive , reach out further – you need recruits to stay onboard the company dream . You find that you ’ re faking it to make it and your friendship group has changed to comprise mainly other distributers . You ’ re told you need to work harder and if you fail you haven ’ t worked hard enough , it ’ s your fault . You ’ re failing , not the organisation .
PYRAMID SCHEME ? The membership of MLMs resemble a pyramid . So does the membership of Alcoholics Anonymous ( AA ), with the majority of attendees in their first few years of recovery and the numbers dropping off greatly after that until there are just one or two old timers in the group with 20-plus years of sobriety . We ’ ve probably all heard of pyramid schemes and how
only those at the top make money . They target vulnerable people and use shame to motivate them . These vulnerable people typically have low emotional resilience . But an MLM is not a pyramid scheme , because for everyone to make money in a pyramid scheme you need constant new people – pyramid schemes are mathematically designed to collapse .
MLMs and AA haven ’ t collapsed and aren ’ t about to . Also , MLMs are not cults . Cults are designed to influence who you are with techniques like unquestioning loyalty to the leader , a pseudospirituality and an us vs them mentality . Anyone who leaves the group is shunned , criticism of the group gets you shut down or banned , and you ’ re isolated from friends and family . You ’ re turned into a drone . MLMs are not a cult . Some individual AA meetings may be a cult , but the organisation isn ’ t .
MLMs don ’ t have employees to sell a product – they have distributors , and distributors make a commission . Another reason an MLM is not a pyramid scheme or cult is because to survive in an MLM you don ’ t have to recruit .
‘ You find that you ’ re faking it to make it and your friendship group has changed to comprise mainly other distributers . You ’ re told you need to work harder and if you fail you haven ’ t worked hard enough , it ’ s your fault . You ’ re failing , not the organisation .’
20 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • JUNE 2022
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