Pyramid schemes come in all forms. A really simple example are those chain letter things where you’d get a letter with seven names and addresses. You were supposed to send $1 to the names on the list. After you did that you were supposed to add your own name to the bottom of the list and send the letter off to at least 7 people. Supposedly you could make tens of thousands of dollars in just a few weeks doing this.
Okay, we have a return to network marketing roots (can you remember the days of Tupperware parties…no? Well I’m not sorry to tell you there’s a reason for that).  Products for your kitchen, cooking demos, and an abundance of mommy bloggers.  Well homemakers are still the key demographic for this MLM, because they are looking for flexibility.  It’s not surprising to anyone that this company has done so well, but what is notable is that even Warren Buffet saw this company and decided he wanted a piece of the pie.
The Direct Selling Association (DSA), a lobbying group for the MLM industry, reported that in 1990 only 25% of DSA members used the MLM business model. By 1999, this had grown to 77.3%.[26] By 2009, 94.2% of DSA members were using MLM, accounting for 99.6% of sellers, and 97.1% of sales.[27] Companies such as Avon, Electrolux, Tupperware,[28] and Kirby were all originally single-level marketing companies, using that traditional and uncontroversial direct selling business model (distinct from MLM) to sell their goods. However, they later introduced multi-level compensation plans, becoming MLMs.[23] The DSA has approximately 200 members[29] while it is estimated there are over 1,000 firms using multi-level marketing in the United States alone.[30]
Multi-level marketing is a legitimate business strategy, though it is controversial. One problem is pyramid schemes, which use money from new recruits to pay the people at the top, often take advantage of people by pretending to be engaged in legitimate multi-level marketing. You can spot pyramid schemes by their greater focus on recruitment than on product sales.
Another growing reality that could benefit MLM and related businesses is the increasing number of baby boomers who are disenchanted with their current careers.  They’re worn-out from years of the corporate grind and don’t feel the connection between their job and the people it impacts outside their office walls or company grounds.  They’re shifting their focus from accumulating a giant nest egg to a desire to be part of something bigger and better… to have a positive effect on others... and working in retirement.  Facets of life that can be fulfilled with specific types of products and service available through some MLM or Direct selling opportunities.
Unfortunately, many pyramid schemes attempt to present themselves as legitimate MLM businesses and, often, it can take many years for the FTC to finally step in and close down these fraudulent companies… so BEWARE! Do your due diligence and avoid any opportunity that emphasizes recruiting members and getting paid, rather earning commissions for the sale of products and services.
Melaleuca, Inc. is listed as a Direct Marketing Company. The company contracts with independent marketing executives who refer customers to Melaleuca that purchase its various lines of nutritional, pharmaceutical, personal care, household cleaning, and pet care products. They also offer travel, phone and credit card services. Customers receive discounts if they order a minimum monthly product supply, but are not required to maintain an inventory of products. The company states that it offers a “Satisfaction or Money Back Guarantee”.
Think back to when you were recruited and consider if it was primarily as a customer, with just a mention of "income opportunity," or if the primary pitch was for the business opportunity. The ethical way to build a downline is to sign up people as customers first, and then if they like the product, they'll be drawn to becoming a rep. A hard sell on signing up as a rep right at the outset should send up a red flag for you.
Even while the popular culture’s view of MLMs is shifting, FitzPatrick doesn’t think we’re yet at a tipping point where consumers reject them en masse. Trump’s election may help explain why. After the election, FitzPatrick says he sent out a newsletter to the many victims of pyramid schemes who’ve come to him for help, explaining the connections with Trump.
Some companies even let their products speak for themselves by developing excellent quality and highly effective product performance. They allow prospects to taste their products, asking for feedback, ideas, and suggestions on how to improve the products. Satisfied customers will then provide testimonials to convey the benefits and advantages of using the merchandise. These testimonials will now be used by the companies as their promotional tools.
The Direct Selling Association (DSA), a lobbying group for the MLM industry, reported that in 1990 only 25% of DSA members used the MLM business model. By 1999, this had grown to 77.3%.[26] By 2009, 94.2% of DSA members were using MLM, accounting for 99.6% of sellers, and 97.1% of sales.[27] Companies such as Avon, Electrolux, Tupperware,[28] and Kirby were all originally single-level marketing companies, using that traditional and uncontroversial direct selling business model (distinct from MLM) to sell their goods. However, they later introduced multi-level compensation plans, becoming MLMs.[23] The DSA has approximately 200 members[29] while it is estimated there are over 1,000 firms using multi-level marketing in the United States alone.[30]
Well they were hot…this company was caught in the act and had some shade thrown their way after they were found to have been over-inflating their health products for consumer purchase.  But really though?  What company do you know that doesn’t do this in the MLM health industry? It seems like a common practice, even if its “just a bit,” so they are able to pay out commissions made.  Some perspective for the shade…their fiber product was 900% more costly than “leading alternatives” and their Trioten protein blend was 600% more pricey as well when comparing their products to companies such as Herbalife and Shaklee.

As you read these disclosure statements, you need to keep in mind that the companies do what they can to paint a bright picture of your income capability. Instead of giving you straight figures, they’ll share percentages and percentages of percentages. There’s a whole lot of intentional obfuscation going on. You’ve got to bust your mathematical chops to really understand what the numbers mean. We spent hours carefully reading through the above disclosure statements and crunching the numbers ourselves in order to verify Taylor’s conclusion that 90-99% of distributors in each respective MLM were only receiving at most a few hundred dollars a year in commissions. And it’s absolutely true.
In March I joined an MLM company and I’m lost… my first reaction to network marketing was I’m not a sales person, to which I was told it’s not about sales but about building relationships. The other thing that makes me crazy is I see a lot of folks who appear so fake with their bubbly “everything is coming up roses and bubble gum” that I cringe. I’m honest to a fault and happy but not giddy. I feel like I have writers block in that I’m not sure what direction to take to get my business going, the struggle is real right now… Any thoughts or suggestions I can take away.
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Network marketing programs feature a low upfront investment--usually only a few hundred dollars for the purchase of a product sample kit--and the opportunity to sell a product line directly to friend, family and other personal contacts. Most network marketing programs also ask participants to recruit other sales representatives. The recruits constitute a rep's "downline," and their sales generate income for those above them in the program.
You are right in that most MLM have monthly dues and have high entry fees to be distributors or consultants. You are also right in that most MLM companies focus on recruitment and not product sales. I’ve been working with Arbonne now for quite a while and none of those comments apply to this company, which is why I believe they have survived and are only growing at this point, despite some people’s opinion that they will soon be relics like Mary Kay. To become a consultant is a mere $75 dollars, the kit is involved with all free samples and material. Product loading is prohibited. Each event we host regularly ends with most if not all attendees becoming a preferred client for $20 joining fee for the first year and a $15 renewal every year with no monthly expectation and a guaranteed minimum of 20% off of all stock at all times and 40% off of all packages at all times. Not only that consultants can will their business down 6 generations, and the Mercedes incentive is for a purchase, not a lease. We do look to grow our network, but we emphasize this takes hard work and is not a get rich quick scheme. While you hit the nail on the head with most MLM businesses, there are MLM businesses like Arbonne who are a cut above the rest and who are in the habit of not putting pressure on anyone attending to either purchase or join as a consultant. We only want the best in our network and we have thousands of examples of very successful men and woman to show for it. Great article!!!

Saturation is impossible because there isn't a finite number of people. Every day new people are born or turn 18, thereby adding new potential network marketers to the pool of prospects. Tim Sales, in Zig Ziglar’s book, Network Marketing for Dummies, offers the best argument against the saturation myth. He asks, “Do you know anyone who doesn’t have a refrigerator? No? That doesn’t stop GE from selling more of them.”


I initially spoke to a retired friend who said she joined a health and beauty direct selling company as a means of meeting new people. She had recently remarried and moved to a new location, so she combined the practice of meeting new people with making extra money.  After almost a decade in the business, she’s built a small niche business with family and friends despite switching to from one company to another competitor after three years.
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