The reality is there’s nothing special about the stuff MLM companies sell. You can find whey protein and meal replacement shakes at your local CVS or online. You can buy essential oils at Whole Foods and Amazon. Your wife can buy quality make-up and skincare products at Ulta, Walgreens, or online. You can get pretty much anything an MLM sells and often for much cheaper, even when your MLM distributor discount is factored in (see the next section). There’s nothing significantly different about MLM products besides the marketing and branding.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states: "Steer clear of multilevel marketing plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors. They're actually illegal pyramid schemes. Why is pyramiding dangerous? Because plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors inevitably collapse when no new distributors can be recruited. And when a plan collapses, most people—except perhaps those at the very top of the pyramid—end up empty-handed."
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Network marketing is a business model that depends upon a network of distributors for growth, such as in multilevel marketing. It is a direct selling method that features independent agents that make up a distribution network for goods and services. Some network marketing systems are based on tiers that denote how many levels deep a sales and distribution network goes. In two-tier or multi-tier examples, the people that make up the top tier of a distribution network are also encouraged to build and manage their own networks of salespeople. Each network creator (or "upline") then earns a commission on their sales revenue, as well as on the sales revenue of the network they have created, otherwise known as "downline." There are many examples of reputable network marketing operations, though some have been criticized of being pyramid schemes and have been banned in some countries as a conduit for consumer fraud.
One of the best skincare products in and outside of MLM, no doubt. They were founded by a couple dermatologists, and they used to be an upscale department store brand before entering the world of network marketing. Rodan and Fields created Proactiv, which ended up being one of the most famous skincare products of all time (and a hero-in-a-bottle for every middle schooler who’s ever been called pizza-face). Just this one product line is nearing $1 billion in annual sales.
A 2018 poll of 1,049 MLM sellers across various companies found that most sellers make less than the equivalent of 70 cents an hour. Nearly 20 percent of those polled never made a sale, and nearly 60 percent earned less than $500 in sales over the past five years. Nearly 32 percent of those polled acquired credit card debt to finance their MLM involvement.
“The two years I was supposedly building my Amway business, I lost nearly $10,000 on tapes, seminars, books, gas, and travel expenses for out-of-town seminars. My earnings? Less than $500 total. Since I was unemployed — and pretty much unemployable for any nonburger-flipping job — those $10,000 came exclusively from my grandmother, who was also my biggest (and only) Amway customer, buying expensive, ‘concentrated’ Amway products she didn’t need, every month to support me.”
The Isreali immigrant brothers turned entrepreneurs behind Seacret Direct managed to take a cliche mall kiosk (you know, the ones that bother the crap out of you while you’re trying to shop) and turn it into a multi-million dollar global direct selling ccompany. Skincare products are pretty yawn-worthy nowadays, but Seacret’s dead sea products come with a 5,000 year history and a lot of fanfare.
Now this company is one of the more infamous networking marketing companies out there, but maybe not for the reasons you’d think. They have been in a never-ending battle with the FTC for a number of years. So, currently they have made an agreement to pay out $200 million dollars to former associates and have sworn to reorganize their organization.