What makes a pyramid scheme a pyramid scheme isn’t its pyramid shape, however, but how its pyramidal structure works. If you apply for a job at Walmart, Walmart doesn’t require you to buy $50 worth of product from them before they’ll give you a job. And once you start working for them, they don’t require that you make $100 worth of purchases from them each month to keep your job. But an MLM does.
Each distributor is essentially an independent business owner, or more accurately put, an independent sales representative. Each representative gets paid for sales he or she makes, as well as sales made by each person he or she has recruited. Network marketers often earn bonuses for acquiring new distributors and customers and residual income on repeat business.
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In other words, they built their nest egg in a dead or dying tree. They may not get along with their spouse any longer, don’t have a life or friends outside of work, have broken relationships with their children, or have let their health go in hopes of getting it back later. They essentially sacrificed some of the things that are most important to them for the benefit of trying to buy them back in retirement. As a result, when they get there, they can feel lost, out-of-sorts, and struggle with their transition.
Multi-level marketing (MLM) is known by a variety of names: network marketing, referral marketing—and more pejoratively (and/or when done unethically), pyramid marketing. In this structure, marketing and sales reps not only receive compensation for their own sales, but also receive a percentage of the sales generated by other salespeople they recruit (commonly known as one’s “downline”). (See also Referral Marketing)
That brings up another difference between traditional franchises and MLMs: When you own a traditional franchise, you’re not pressured to recruit other people to become fellow franchisees. In fact, if you did that, it could ruin your chances at economic success because you’d be competing with multiple business owners for the same customers. Also, that would be an illegal franchise pyramid scheme.
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“Fast forward 10 years or so from the home equity line of credit losing, after we had paid off our home mortgage, we were in the process selling our home and purchasing another home,” he wrote. “We had to close the unused line of credit. We had to get a satisfaction letter to move forward with the new home purchase. We were fortunate that we never had a need to tap into the line of credit for any purpose, including educating our children. While a home equity line of credit may be beneficial and perhaps needed by some we simply decided to live within budget and never had to use [it] for any purpose.”
Not all MLM companies are created equal. Many see an initial burst of success followed by a gradual tapering off of profits, causing them to collapse and go out of business. MLM companies that succeed have sound business models, both for those who run the company and for those who sell product and recruit new sales agents. There are many sites devoted to MLM rankings, creating lists of companies likely to provide a return on investment to sales agents interested in the industry.
If you insist on trying one of these MLM offers, the least you can do is look for proper business registration with BBB, toll free number, and proper address (no Post Office box). Also, you will need lots of family and friends to make it work. As a final step, check the MLM materials for one or more of these "red flags" that are associated with the worst of the offerings:
MLM Company Service