Sunday, October 31, 2021

I was in pyramid schemes for years


    ....Not too long ago I was involved in these numerous scams. I had no idea they were "pyramid schemes." I was told when being recruited for them that they were completely legitimate and I would be helping others with the "amazing opportunity." Sometimes; I was actually shamed or "disowned" by people if I did not have the funds to join their "teams," as they were often called. Let's rewind a tad...

I worked at a fitness center during high school. Little did I know many women and men joined just in hopes of finding people to recruit into their multi-level marketing companies. Majority genuinely feel these are their own businesses they own; which is very untrue. My experience will differ from every one else's; so this blog post is not to bash any company or person involved in home party plan businesses or MLM's. MLM's; meaning multi-level marketing. 

Throughout the years I worked at this particular fitness center; various women from direct sales companies would pretend to take interest in getting to know me. I was an easy target! We made minimum wage which was under six bucks per hour at the time in my area. Not only that; I lived in a town where a lot of military families were. Those spouses are easy targets since many want to meet friends. 

My shy and timid personality at the time made it very hard to say no to anything. If a consultant from a company asked me to host a party or join her team; more than likely I would absolutely try. And of course if you only hosted a party; they would pressure you into joining the team...and the guests you invited to that party. 

     I was joining because I liked that idea of having some new friends and making extra income. I put a lot of effort into anything I did; so when I would join some companies...I gave it my all! I would share the opportunity with anyone I came in contact with; as I was trained from my recruiters. 

Sadly; I would spend all my income from my normal job on gas to trainings, new products they wanted me to promote, catalogs, website fees and more. Upon joining; they would catch my attention stating these particular businesses were so low to join and run. They also loved to say how the companies were faith-based and "sisterhood" was so huge in the company. So many people would say they do not condone taking business from other consultants and how supportive they were of others. 

That never seemed true with companies I tried. There were people who seemed nice; but I was making them money and joined their downlines so that is probably why. As soon as I left those companies or stopped selling; I never heard from them again. Even if I reached out. I am self-sufficient and independent so would do the trainings the companies would send upon joining. Most were the same as the next company. 

Some top earner would get on a live video or conference call; and ask us to write down our "Why." Why did we join the business? Why did we want to become wealthy and successful? Of course women would say to provide for their families or men would provide for their families. The recruiters and training upline members would suggest buying merchandise, being a product of the product and creating a list of people to contact about the business. 

Why would I join so many different companies? Many I did not actually sell for. It was just smarter for me to buy the actual kits versus the overly-priced items one by one.  I was addicted to shopping for the latest items; they would always say some were limited edition to get us distributors even more excited.

The money and time I spent on these companies that were truly never really my own is sad. I did not even spend nearly half as much as some people who fell for these scams. Some people have lost so much. It would have been much cheaper for me to just get a license and sell items wholesale. It is not expensive in my area...and basically the same price I was paying doing direct sales companies.

Many former sales reps for these companies are bullied, stalked and sued once they leave or even speak out about their personal experiences. There are a lot of stories that are terrible I hear on podcasts and read about online. If you use the hashtag #AntiMLM there is so much information. 

I stumbled upon the #antimlm community over a year ago and it is shocking to say the least. I had no idea I was basically in cults that were scamming hundreds of thousands of people. People who were already living paycheck to paycheck were investing their final dollars into these wealthy CEO's corporations. 

In my head I thought this was my own side gig to make extra money or eventually live a comfortable life. I was sick of working multiple jobs and barely being able to make ends meet. So...someone would really keep suggesting I invest in a business I will not make the rules, policies or decisions for. A business that could easily be taken away from me at any time. At the click of a button actually. 

We were told to pay for annual memberships or websites with some of these party plan companies. Some say there are zero quotas but eventually they would have you go inactive if you are not actively selling. Some require you to sell a certain amount to maintain your paycheck and downline you have built. 

Keeping your downline is a whole other story. Many people realize quickly they will never earn a dime; so you are back at square one yet again. I honestly feel terrible for people I would invite to these recruiting events or keep following up with to "join my team." At the time I was really thinking they could make a lot of money too and I should not judge who could do awesome in the business. I was even told it was selfish to not offer others this wonderful opportunity to change their life. 

It caused some of my friends to lose some money; that is for sure. Luckily not too many but I did recruit people from online and in my immediate friend circle. Most of them I am still super cool with and they understand; we were all just more naïve at the time. One of my girl friends actually went all out with me in most of them I tried.

Some of the companies I tried included children's books, educational toys, skincare and beauty products, clothing, home decor and jewelry. I did these over a fourteen year time span. A few years here and there. You name it; I have probably even bought from them. I was obsessed with buying from only "small business owners." When in fact; their small businesses are owned by wealthy CEO's and many are not some single mom needing help paying for piano lessons.

Supporting small businesses for me now means going to my local family owned coffee shop or book store. Not a large corporation that does not need the money nearly as bad. I totally support women and anyone trying to make a honest living. This just all seems so sketchy to me now. I encourage you to do your own extensive research before joining these companies anyone with a social security number can do.

When I was in the businesses; I would also blow a lot of money on vendor events. You need business cards, there is a booth fee, usually you need to bring extra catalogs...the expenses add up fast. I would have been much better off babysitting, getting a license to sell insurance or real estate, learning a new trade, affiliate marketing or doing a cleaning business. There are so many other options to generate additional income these days. 

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