We all have that One Friend. They found a product that they love and just can’t get enough of it. Whatever your problem is, their MLM has a fix for it. You have a cold? Try this essential oil. Low energy? No worries, this supplement will give you some pep in your step. Your body resembles a very happy Pooh Bear, so obviously you’ll want to change that, and guess what? There’s a workout regimen complete with personalized coaching and protein shakes that will make sure your honey pot gets filled. When that doesn’t work, just buy leggings from your PTA president who hawks them out of her trunk after monthly meetings.
Multi-level Marketing (MLM) is nothing new. It’s been around since the Avon lady darkened our grandmothers’ doorsteps. What began as a way for women to make some money on the side while raising children full time has now exploded in the internet age. Social media has pushed the MLM business model to new heights and reached its oily, patchouli-scented fingertips deep into the pockets of friends and family of those who peddle these goods and services.
I have a strong distrust of the multi-level marketing world.
I’ve seen too many people, mostly women, be exploited by MLMs. Lured by promises of nearly unlimited financial success, claims of better health and wellness, beauty and weight loss, trendy clothes and that Instagram lifestyle, I understand. And the absolute kicker for me is that nearly every woman I know who sells these products is amazing, bright, smart, and fierce. I even know a few who have reached the upper echelons of this triangle-shaped business model and make six figures. They are all deeply earnest, hardworking, believe in their product line, and are genuinely wonderful people. I’ve personally flirted with the idea of selling certain products because they fit into my lifestyle. But I always stop short of signing on the dotted line. I know me, I know the industry, and I know it will not end well.
That’s why I have such a hard time sharing my feelings and fears about the MLM world, and an even harder time shutting down these truly wonderful women when they approach me with their product du jour. What I really want to do is share the stats of people who begin this MLM endeavor and quit, the damaged and lost friendships, the financial commitment that rarely pays off, the subjective quality standards, the predatory nature of the industry, and the near cult-like mentality required to be part of the scheme. The fact that one must sell friends and family on the product to make a living makes me feel like a slimy ball of all-natural, sustainably harvested goo.
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So, over the last ten years, I’ve developed a way to cope with my friends and family who come to me with requests for parties and offer free samples of their products, and specifically the ones who just won’t quit selling even after several no-thank-yous.
Hide or unfollow MLM friends on social media.
You know those friends who start sharing about this “great product,” and suddenly all of their posts are about selling? Yep, it’s incredibly annoying, especially when cute pictures of their kids baking Christmas cookies are replaced by BOGO product memes. Statistically, most of the people who start these endeavors will give up in less than a year. Making money in this industry requires a huge commitment of time, money, and energy. You know, like starting up a business typically does. Contrary to popular marketing tactics, starting a business, achieving success, and turning an actual profit requires consistency, hours a day networking and reaching out, lots of hustle, a business plan, and passion. Few people can manage the time commitment alone, and will burn out quickly. So, ignore them. Wait until it fizzles, and then check back in a few months.
You already have a distributor.
This is true. I have been approached by so many “distributors” and “advocates” and “shop owners” that I can’t really remember who approached me first and for what or when. Courtesy rules of the industry discourage customer poaching. Telling your well-meaning friend that you already have a distributor is truthful and effective.
Wish them well.
I want all of my friends to succeed. I do. Deeply. Most women I know who sell are trying to improve their quality of life. I’ve known several who used their temporary success in the MLM as a means to become financially independent and leave abusive marriages. Others want to be able to feed their family quality food, dig their family out of debt, or need something besides being a SAHM to feel satisfied with their lives. I support their reasons for making more money, regardless of their motivation. I ask how their business is going with genuine interest in them, wish them success, and leave it at that.
Offer a firm No-Thank-You.
This is my absolute last resort, and I save it for the people who just don’t get it. These folks are rare in my world, and I’m grateful. But on a few occasions, I’ve had people who keep trying to approach me using different angles to sell. I very clearly and with as much neutrality as I can muster tell them that their product isn’t for me, and it will most likely never be for me. I will let them know if that ever changes, and then leave it at that.
Provide statistics on the widespread failure of MLMs.
If your friend continues to try to sell you on their scheme, share this with them.
Cut them out.
You'll know when to do this if the time ever comes. Do this sparingly, and as a last resort. Most of your friends and family who are caught up in the MLM lyfe are good-hearted, smart, and will be a part of your life long after their product has fallen out of fashion. Don’t burn the bridge unless you absolutely have to.
Above all, remember how you have felt when you were passionate and excited about something that didn’t pan out, or that you are not longer passionate about. Most likely, people extended you grace and tolerated that phase. You can offer the same kindness and understanding in return. Because karma is real, babes.