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.
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* Why 10 years? Because that amount of time really seems to matter. For example, according to research, since 1956 thousands of different MLM, Multi Level, or Network Marketing companies have opened their doors; and to date only +/- 50 MLM companies have found a way to celebrate their 10th anniversary and still remain in business today. Now, to be completely fair, we should also point out that each and every company on our list was at one time a start-up company too.
MLM companies have been trying to find ways around China's prohibitions, or have been developing other methods, such as direct sales, to take their products to China through retail operations. The Direct Sales Regulations limit direct selling to cosmetics, health food, sanitary products, bodybuilding equipment and kitchen utensils. And the Regulations require Chinese or foreign companies ("FIEs") who intend to engage into direct sale business in mainland China to apply for and obtain direct selling license from the Ministry of Commerce ("MOFCOM"). In 2016, there are 73 companies, including domestic and foreign companies, that have obtained the direct selling license. Some multi-level marketing sellers have circumvented this ban by establishing addresses and bank accounts in Hong Kong, where the practice is legal, while selling and recruiting on the mainland.
Determine if the company is handling advertising and publicity on its own to help create demand for the product. Find out what restrictions are there on where and how you can promote it, such as advertising and websites. There's not a right or wrong answer to that question. A wide-open policy is more flexible for you, and for everyone else, too. If you're prepared to be highly competitive, that's fine, but if not, you may prefer to work with a company whose policy is more restrictive.
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.
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 the late 1940’s and early 1950’s (after WWII) the concept of a franchise business gained traction. In a franchise, you rent the business model that someone else (Franchisor) has perfected. One of the very first franchises was started by John Pemberton in 1886 when he created a beverage with a secret recipe and licensed bottling territories to others. This became Coca Cola. Rexall Drug Stores and even General Motors started out as Franchises. As in any new industry or business model there are abuses by unethical promoters and business persons (think of the robber barons and anti-trust regulations). By the 1960’s franchising was getting a black eye. Deceptive sales practices, double selling the same franchise territories to different persons and financial insolvency of the Franchisor were rampant. Eventually, in 1979 federal regulation came into play. The unscrupulous and under-funded Franchisors went away and the legitimate players who complied with the FTC regulations changed and became giants. (Think Subway, McDonalds and others.)
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.