Multilevel Marketing: Doomed by Design (II)

This write-up is a continuation of the last post with the same title but (II)


A “partner” shared a video about the health benefit of a particular supplement on WhatsApp. The first thing that was shown on the video was the disclaimer notice: “No copyright infringement intended. Names, logos, contents being used are not official.” After that they listed 100 uses of the supplement by listing conjunctivitis, deafness of old age, ecopora, epilepsy, gingivitis, and ninety-five others. They were just mentioned in a list one after the other and after that the video ended. Was it for cure or prevention? What exactly is the use? Nothing like that was mentioned. They left it to the salesperson to make his unfounded claims especially to those who do not know that a dietary supplement is what it is – a supplement. A supplement cannot take the place of the variety of foods that are important to a healthy diet even though they may be good. Many MLM sales persons do not know that supplements should not be taken in place of, or in combination with prescribed medications without one’s health care provider’s approval.

In a seminar I attended organized by the “partners” of the MLM organization, the moderator mentioned that questions about any of the products of the organization would not be entertained. “We are not here for the products. Let us talk about what is important, how to make the money, which is why we are here,” he said. No question about any of the products was asked and some “partners” were selling these products. The untrained MLM salesperson ends up promoting the product in a shady manner. When a suit arises as a result of this, I guess the MLM organization will make it clear that the “partner” was “independent” and probably was overzealous.

I got very disappointed when the man under whom virtually everyone at the seminar was, in the organization, said that education has failed us. According to him, what is needed is skill. I do not need to argue for the importance of education especially in this age. But this was a man who was almost an idol before his downlines and at the seminar, a lot of people clapped for him for some sentences he made.

What the MLM organization actually does is to exploit the personal relationships of “partners” in the name of “networking.” Through word-of-mouth testimonials that cannot be proved as well as rumours, they promote a product that may not be promoted in the real world of product promotion. They get credibility, undue as it is, through this means.

In the “training” I was given by the MLM partners of the organization I joined, trainees were told to contact those they knew – those on phone contacts, colleagues at work, brethren at church. Not even family was spared. Everybody is a prospect. Everybody except your mother. But how sure am I that somebody has not made a presentation to his mother with the hope of converting her? One thing we were told was that if you do not talk to that prospect, another person will, thus, you lose a downline and the bonus. So, before someone else converts mother, “Mummy, let me tell you about this wonderful business opportunity…”

I have received a presentation from a priest to join an MLM organization. He told me he had joined. Someone had made a presentation and actually converted him!

Some have left their jobs to pursue their “dreams” in MLM. When they are fully in and they see the difficulty associated with MLM, they become desperate not wanting to admit defeat. Family and friends are prospects and the neighbourhood is a market. One can start viewing a prospect who did not convert as an enemy. Polarization can be the consequence.

One of the reasons that prompted me to write this article was that MLM exploits the vulnerable and the poor. Some like me join after paying with borrowed money which could have been used for some other noble goal. For most, the whole MLM thing ends in failure and it is sidelined. The consequence of failure could be being embarrassed about ever participating in MLM or becoming even stubborn to call it quits with MLM. People with the second situation chase after the latest “get rich quick” scheme and end up with similar result. They may even blame one of their friends with many friends, “If only David had joined…” This may deepen polarization.

Norm Brodsky writes:

You make money on your ability to use people. Once you sign on, you hardly have a choice. Not that you want anyone to fail, but you can’t hit the jackpot unless you build the network, and that means signing up as many recruits as possible – most of whom have no chance of making the grade.

Listen. There are better ways to earn a living, especially if you have the ability to sell. Anyone who can make millions in MLM can do just as well in another type of business, one that doesn’t require you to take advantage of other people. Selling is an honourable calling. Good salespeople provide a service to their customers. Good sales people generate the revenues that pay other people’s wages. Good sales people are often the ones who start their own businesses. And good sales people don’t need multilevel marketing to get rich.

The moral compromise one has to make to become successful in MLM is difficult for most people. There was deception at the “expo” I attended before joining the MLM organization. Attendees were told that if two downlines who would be matched were placed under them without their effort, they would get their matching bonus. At the seminar I attended after joining them, new “partners” were told that downlines (the ones that come in without your effort) are placed to the left by uplines which means you must recruit to place a downline to your right so you can get a matching bonus. Why the initial deception? On her website, one of the speakers at the “expo” said that she joined by purchasing three slots. At the expo, the same person said she joined with seven slots. Why the lie? How low can one get just to recruit to get paid bonuses?

I am well aware that this write-up will serve to enrage die hard MLMers. I expect that. But to those whose consciences are still alive, I hope they have the courage to come out of the system seeing the evil grand design. For those who are yet to join, you are better off avoiding MLM.

Someone may want to know if I made any money with MLM? Well, I joined and I started talking to people about the “supermarket business.” I even had emails for the purpose of marketing. At a point I noticed that I had downlines at my left without my effort. I observed this on occasions when I login on the website with my details. But being an inquisitive person, I learnt about MLM generally although later. I discovered the whole agenda and stopped my marketing altogether. Due to the downlines I already had, I would have been paid referral and matching bonuses for each of the first few persons I would have referred but decided not to. Everything in life is not about money and I have never wished that money would be my master. So I did not make a dime out of MLM because I chose not to. If I had brought in only one person then I would have contributed to recruiting those who would suffer loss and I would have profited from their losses. I am not a saint but I am not yet that sort of person and hope not to be.

But the wind of MLM is still blowing. Watch out, another one is coming. Perhaps, it is that smiling face approaching you to talk about a wonderful “business opportunity.”


  1. Norm Brosdky, Multilevel Mischeif, Inc.,, Accessed June 7, 2016.

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