MLM — The Flipside

Let me first say, I’m not against people making a living or even supplementing their income.  I’m not against selling stuff.  I’m really not completely against the MLM business model.  I would just like to present the flipside.

If you are on any platform of social media, I’m sure you see what I see and hear what I hear.  It’s like a running commercial…all day long…everyday.  What was just a couple of years ago invites to business pages, turned into online parties, then live videos with daily and even multiple times a day posts trying to get me to buy something or sign up to sell something.  The feeds are so full of these selling techniques it’s a wonder anyone can make any money. But people are making money…lots of it.

This is not a new phenomena.  MLM’s (Multi-level Marketing) have been around for many, many years.   Google told me that the first MLM was formed in 1932.  So it’s not a new thing.  What is new is how easy it is to get involved and succeed.  No more spending nights away from home in someone’s house carrying all your plastic kitchenware to sell to a bunch of ladies you don’t know.  While those parties were fun, they were time consuming for everyone.  Now all you have to do is host an online party and everyone can stay home and tend to their responsibilities while shopping.  It’s genius.  There is no need to sit across the table from one customer at a time selling beauty products when you can sell to lots of people online at their leisure.  So the concept is not new but it has changed…improved actually.

What a great way to bring a great product directly to the people who are interested in purchasing it.  What a great way to bring in some extra income while blessing friends and family with a new lifestyle that will be healthier for the whole family.  All is not rosy though.  There is a flipside to MLMs. 

My opinion on this is not one sided.  I have experience.  I was a Discovery Toys representative when my children were younger.  I loved their toys and saw it as a way to get the toys I wanted at a great discount while possibly bringing in extra money.  I also sold Tupperware for a very limited time.  I have been a customer of many of these companies through friends and family so I’ve seen both sides.

What is the flipside to MLM?

  • An MLM can wreck relationships.  I have had friends/family who are so enthusiastic about their product and so sure that their product will help me that they have been relentless about getting me to buy their product which ultimately means I will sign up with their company because no one can afford the product paying full retail.  I understand wanting to help people but the drive to sell more and more product and the drive to sign up more and more new people is so strong that the relationship that was there is weakened if not severed.
    Let me give you a real life example.  Years ago a close relative came to visit me while I was living in another state.  She had just recently signed up with the current hot MLM that sold supplements and cleaning supplies.  She was very eager to meet all my friends and even wanted to visit some in their homes. She was always pretty outgoing so while it was a little surprising I just thought she wanted to visit.  Once we arrived in the home, she started with the typical sales pitch for this particular company.  I was a little stunned.  My friend was a little stunned.  She hadn’t want to get to know my friend at all. She wanted to turn her into a customer. It was the first time I had seen the flipside of MLM and I didn’t like it.  I could tell other examples of the same thing happening in various scenarios over the years.  Each time it happened there was a weakening of the relationship.  Friendship gets looked upon as a new business prospect.

  • MLM products are expensive.  The very nature of MLM products requires that the product be more expensive than a similar item sold retail. With so many people getting a piece of the pie, the pie has start out pretty large.  I think that many of those selling for MLM companies forget just how expensive their product is because they don’t pay that price.  When it is suggested that their products are too expensive the comeback is always the same.  Sign up and get the discount.  Begin signing other people up and get a larger discount.  Become a frequent buyer and get a larger discount.  That’s fine if you want lots and lots of that company’s product in your home but if you just really want that one lotion or that one supplement on a regular basis it’s a lot of money.
    I signed up with one of these companies several years ago because the lotion they sold was truly amazing. I had severe eczema and this stuff worked wonders.  I could have just bought the product at full retail but by signing on as a member I could get a discount and, if I wanted to, even begin selling it myself.  I was committed to purchasing a certain amount every month.  It came to about $70…every month…for the privilege of buying their lotion.  The lotion was expensive but in no way met the minimum monthly commitment so I had to try other products that the company sold.  I found some I liked and used for several years but to meet that monthly commitment I had to buy much more than I could ever use.  To get the one product I needed, I spent lots of money.  Looking back, I probably should have just paid full retail.  Live and learn.

  • Selling MLM products can take advantage of people.  Of course, everyone has the right to say “no” but it is hard.  Back in the day when you were invited to a home party of any kind, it was pretty much expected that you would buy something.  It would be rude to walk out without buying something.  I remember many times that I couldn’t afford anything but I felt like I had to buy anyway.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want the product, I just didn’t have the money.  I saw it also when I sold the toys.  People would buy who obviously were just making a purchase out of loyalty to their hostess.  Even now I feel the push to buy something just to show support.  Everyone wants to help out their friends, whether the friend is the hostess or the company rep.  There are even comments on social media that guilt trip you into supporting your young mom friends who are just trying to bring in a little extra money for their family.  When is this ever acceptable in any other business?
    And then there are the people who request to friend me or follow me who I do not know. I usually do not accept friend requests from those I do not know but when we have several mutual friends I go ahead. Who knows, we might become close friends someday. But there have been several times that the friend request turns into a sales pitch. I was just another contact to add to the list. Not cool.

  • MLM takes precious time away from serving God.  Now before you get all defensive here, hear me out.  Yes, everyone has a right to make a living.  Yes, you are selling a product you believe in.  Yes, the way to do that is to talk to everyone you know about how wonderful this product is.  What I see is people who used to talk to everyone about God, about their need for salvation, are now talking to everyone about vitamins or cleaning products.  If the friends I have who are succeeding in their MLM company would use that kind of energy and that kind of enthusiasm and those kinds of platforms to teach others about God…now that would be a blessing to your friends/family.
    Again, this is nothing new.  I have seen preacher’s of God’s word get so involved with their new venture that instead of teaching strangers they come in contact with about the most important thing in the world, they start talking about their product, or they leave a pamphlet for their product on the restaurant table (yes, that’s how they did it before social media).  Is it wrong to sell the product?  No, but what is sad is the change of interest once an MLM company comes into the picture.  When meeting a new person in the grocery line or at the kid’s ballgame, what are you going to talk about?  Your product or your God?

Why am I writing this? I’m really not anti-MLM. I’m even signed up under a couple of them right now — not to sell to others but to get that discount. Usually I love the products of most MLMs. I like being able to shop without wading through the mass of things and people at the big stores. I would just like to ask my friends and family members who actively sell MLM products to consider what I’ve written.

Thank you for your comment.