I wish that I didn’t have to explain why this annoys me so much, but I have recently discovered that a few of my Facebook “friends” only care about selling to me, so this has been at the forefront of my mind for a while now. But I’ll start at the beginning.
I don’t hate makeup. I never wear it, but I don’t hate it. I’m a girl, I like looking pretty. When I was a kid, I loved getting to wear makeup. In high school, concealer was an absolute necessity. My grandma bought Avon from her neighbors, and my mom used to buy Mary Kay from her neighbors, back when she could still see. I got Mary Kay as payment from babysitting for the wonderful woman next door. But wearing makeup has always been too much effort for me to ever actually USE all of what I have before it goes bad. (That’s right, ladies, makeup CAN go bad.) Even so, I’ve found myself owning a TON of makeup. Why? Because I’m a girl, so people give it to me all the time. So why buy it? Especially when I can’t afford to buy name-brand anything?
When I was a kid, this made sense to everyone. I grew up in a little township called Magna, where almost everyone was lower-middle class to mid-middle class. Most of the neighbors were making ends meet, and nothing more. My family was among that group. We were only just scraping by. Now that I’m married, my husband and I are both working, and we can’t even afford to rent an apartment. We have a bedroom in a parent’s basement.
But lately, the women of Face-space seem to feel it necessary to sell me makeup, facials, health foods, WEIGHT-LOSS PRODUCTS, super-expensive clothing that won’t even cover my underwear, SEX TOYS, candles, “essential” oils, the list goes on. This has been happening to me for A DECADE. People I haven’t spoken to for YEARS will add me on social media and then do nothing but talk up “their” product. (And those two all-caps ones have fantastic stories, which I will get to later.)
This is called multi-level marketing. The skeptics and cynics among us call them pyramid schemes. Why? Because most of them are lies and garbage. According to the Federal Trade Commission multi-level marketing is when individuals sell products to the public — often by word of mouth and direct sales. Typically, distributors earn commissions, not only for their own sales, but also for sales made by the people they recruit.
Also according to the FTC, some of these are complete scams. My brother recently shared a news article about Herbalife, who were sued for lying about how much money their customers/sales-reps could realistically make, as well as other harmful business practices. It’s the primest of prime examples on a pyramid scheme. Especially when you compare it to Mary Kay, who’s been around for decades and built up a good product for a realistic price and pays their reps primarily for their own sales. (More to say on MK later.)
Now, I don’t have any issues with you choosing to sell someone else’s product to your friends as a way to try and supplement your income. (Notice how I said “supplement.”) If you invite me to your tupperware party, and don’t push me about going if I’m not interested, you still have my respect. But if, on the other hand, you keep pestering me about it, or trying to sell me a different product when I tell you that I can’t afford that stuff, you are part of the reason for my week-long rant about MLM.
Story time! Remember those all-caps items from that list earlier? When I had been out of high school for a couple of years, a friend I had lost touch with in Jr. High found me on Facebook. Awesome! I thought. I always looked up to her, and we got along so well before we lost touch! I was excited. She started inviting me to stuff I couldn’t go to, and that was okay. Then she started inviting me to EVERYTHING SHE EVER GOT INVITED TO. Including the birthday parties of people I had never met, and events which she herself would not be attending. The best (or worst) incident was when she invited me to an mlm “party” for some sex toy line. I asked her what the line sold, as the FB event only listed the vague name of the product line and the date and address of the “party.” When she kindly explained, I replied that I was preparing to serve an LDS mission. She had always known that I am LDS, and that I was always very active in my faith. (For anyone who doesn’t know, active Mormons don’t have sex outside of marriage, so sex toys aren’t exactly what single LDS girls are looking for.) She said “oh, that’s okay, you can come anyway! It’ll be great to know for when you get married!” Now, that’s not a horrible thing to think. Unless you know that the person you’re saying it to is very vocally adamant about NOT WANTING TO KNOW. How am I supposed to know if I care about a product intended to liven up your sex life if I’ve never had sex and don’t plan to for several more years? I have now been married for almost three years, and I still do not care to know how to use sex toys, or what is available for personal pleasure. I don’t need that stuff. It’s never been my thing, and it never will be, because I like things simple and straightforward. I explained to her that I had no interest in sex toys, or anything about sex at all, until I was actually getting married. She didn’t like my answer. A few stranger’s birthday party invites later, and I very kindly asked her to stop inviting me to everything that she does (or doesn’t do, in some cases). She got very offended that I was spurning her invitations to things that she thought I would enjoy. After getting very upset with me, I snapped and retorted that going to a birthday party for someone I’ve never met is NOT my idea of fun. (I didn’t even point out that some of those had been parties she was unable to attend. Think about it for a minute. Getting invited to a stranger’s birthday when the one person you know won’t be there.) She un-friended me right there, and I did not try to get her back. After my mission and marrying my wonderful husband, she sent me a friend request. I decided to give her a second chance. She hasn’t invited me to any product or party since, because she now respects the fact that I am not interested in what she is offering. I am simply interested in her friendship.
Sadly, others have taken her place. From the overly-pushy Mary Kay mom who used to live down the street to the high school classmate insisting that I try That Crazy Wrap Thing, my web-based friend-space has been so overly saturated with “party” invites that I feel like I’m in high school swim class again, trying desperately to tread water and only just barely managing to not drown.
When I capitalized weight-loss products in my earlier list of sales categories, it was so that I could explain why it is the most ridiculously stupid thing anyone has ever tried to sell to me. Not because it doesn’t work. Oh no. I’m sure that at least some of this stuff is completely legitimate, even if it is a “get skinny” trick. What makes this so hilarious is that I am five foot three and a half, and PETITE. As in, I weigh a buck twenty after GAINING WEIGHT FOR FIVE YEARS. And that weight comes from slightly larger chest and hips, increased exercise from my job, and drinking WAY too much soda. I have trouble finding pants my size that aren’t skinny jeans, because that’s what all the under-developed high school girls are wearing, and most companies don’t make “adult” pants in my size. I can still wear my t-shirts from elementary school. In high school, my larger friends were jealous of my fast metabolism and tiny waist, but I was completely convinced that I was as much as fifteen pounds under-weight. The people trying to sell me these weight loss products knew me in high school, when I barely ate and didn’t weigh enough. According to my profile pictures, I’ve only gotten more healthy. And I finally feel like I’m at a good place. I’m still really slender. And these women KNEW THAT. And still invited me to their It Works “parties.” And when I clicked “can’t go”? They messaged me and said “that’s okay, you can come another time!” or “It’s an online all-day event! You can attend via computer!” or even “I can sell you this product directly, so please tell me when you want it!” I then had to awkwardly explain that the reason I’m not going is because I don’t need to lose weight. Ever. I even went so far as to tell one girl that if I lost weight, I would no longer be healthy. The fact that I had to explain to anyone that a tiny girl with low body fat DOESN’T need to lose weight still astounds me. If you need or want to lose weight, and it actually does work, good for you! But DO NOT try to sell me a product that you KNOW I don’t need!
And then there is the person whose posts began all of my recent fuming and complaining on this topic. A woman I was sort-of friends with in Jr. High decided that she needed to become a working woman. No problem, you think. She wants to work, and support her family and stuff. That’s great! But she doesn’t apply for a real job. Oh no. She wants to “work at home” like everyone else does! So she puts up a post about getting into MLM. She wants to know what ALL of her friends are selling, so she can pick one and make money! (You can’t see my “sarcastic Matthew Santoro” face, but I’m totally making it right now.) She keeps posting basically this same thing for OVER A WEEK, and flooding my feed with so little besides “what are you selling?” to the point that I begin replying with photos of the most niche board games my store carries. And others start posting “what are you selling?” so that I get absolutely nothing else! So I post troll-y photos on all of them. One guy, who I sadly do not know, posted a picture of his fist between two slices of bread and declared that he was selling knuckle sandwiches. Thank heavens for that guy, because I really needed the laugh by that point.
So, after much deliberation, this woman decided that she is going to become a LuLaRoe representative! Good for you, lady, you made a decision! But it gets better. To get started, she needs FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS TO BUY THE PRODUCT TO SELL! So she needs ANOTHER JOB IN ORDER TO AFFORD THIS JOB! That, my friends, is a scam. I’m sorry, you have to buy five wardrobes in order to start your “business?” No, I will NOT help you. You’ll make pennies on the dollar, and you’ll probably lose friends over how much pestering you have to do.
Keep in mind, this is perfectly legal and legitimate multi-level marketing. This is how MOST customer/sales businesses operate. I have no problem with you wanting to sell Mary Kay on the side, for example. But if you are hard pitching over-priced product at every single person you know because you have to spend every dollar you make in order to have product to sell, then you are clearly doing it wrong.
I have one friend who, when I made an angry post informing everyone that I could not afford to buy stuff from them because I would not use it anyway, told me that she fully understands and only invites because she wants me to know that she cares. And she shows me that she cares by not pestering me if I can’t go or am not interested. If I want to buy lipstick in the future, I’ll probably go to her first. When I eventually have a house and want tupperware, I’ll probably go to her. (Especially since left-overs containers are really hard to come by in the right sizes.) I know that I can trust and respect her enough to know that she will sell me a good product for a reasonable price, and she won’t try to sell me things that I don’t want.
Right under her thoughtful comment was a different friend who immediately tried to sell me a product that I hadn’t listed in my angry post about not buying things I’m never going to use. I sighed in deep frustration and showed the comment to my husband, who also sighed in frustration. And then I politely told her that I own incense and a Scentsy burner, so I don’t need a Glade rip-off. (I bought the burner when I was young and could afford to do such things. I love the burner, but I’m rarely home, so I rarely get to use it.)
So, in conclusion, I hate multi-level marketing. I love people, for the most part, and hate to think of removing people who used to be so close to me. It really sucks. If you sell Mary Kay, I probably don’t buy it simply because I know that I won’t use it. It’s not because of you or your product. It’s because I almost never wear makeup. If you sell sex toys, I’m just not interested in the product because I won’t use it. If you sell oils, I wholly support you, and will even swear by some of those oils. I know that they work, because I’ve used some of them. But I can’t afford to buy brand-name. And please, for the love of sanity, DO NOT DO THIS AS YOUR ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME. THIS IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS! If you pay other people to organize the stuff you sell, you have a business. If you straight up sell me the picture you drew, or the book you wrote, or the earrings you made, then you have a business. If you sell someone else’s product and cannot possibly make ends meet by selling only that product, then you do NOT have your own business. You have been lied to. You are NOT your own boss. You are a salesperson who has to buy EVERYTHING you might sell to someone else for a marginally higher price than what you paid. You do NOT make money this way. If you do this as a hobby, or as that $5-$50 extra per month so that you can make rent, or so that you can get the product cheaper than you normally could, then good for you. Go for it. I may not buy from you, but I support you. If I tell you I’m interested in that free facial but I have no free time in the next few months, I’m not lying. I probably have a ton of things I’m currently doing, or several big events are coming up at work, or I feel like I never get any time to just sit at home and relax. If I’m not interested in your product, I’ll either ignore the invite or tell you “thanks, but this isn’t for me.”
Many thanks to those of you who do this the respectful and patient way, rather than the pushy and selfish way. Thank you for allowing me to say “no thank you” without awkward explanations or arguments. And especially thank you to those of you who value our friendship more than a sale, even if we rarely get to see each other.
If you’re looking into a multi-level marketing thing, the FTC actually has some fantastic guidelines for how to know whether your product of choice is a legitimate business or a pyramid scheme. Please check it out before you sign anything! The FTC literally exists to make sure that scumbags don’t ruin your life with bad business!