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March 27, 2013 12:12 PM   Subscribe

Income At Home, Herbalife, and the $8 billion pyramid. Exposing the iconic brand behind Scamworld’s most visible ‘biz opp’. [Previously 1, 2]
posted by Horace Rumpole (75 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Still R'ing TFA but had to mention: there was a pop-up ad on that site for a "Work At Home" service when I clicked for the article. I'd say there's a little poetry to that.
posted by pianoblack at 12:33 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Herbalife made me my first "job offer" in college. The Internet back then wasn't what it is today, and my research on Herbalife didn't turn up anything really bad. I was called for an interview at a five star hotel. I took a cab rather than public transport because I didn't want to ruin my only set of formal clothes in the Mumbai Local Trains (look them up) and because it was my first time at a five star hotel and I thought the doorman might just not allow me to enter.

I went to the hall indicated to me, and it turned out to be some sort of sales convention. The pre-convention drinks were on, and there were hundreds of Herbalife people milling around. After talking to a few people about what's going on, I managed to find the person who had written to me (a middle-aged American dude), and he gave me a sales pitch about becoming a distributor and invited me to stay for the convention/conference. All I needed was some startup capital. By this time, all my internal scam alarms were ringing and I got out as soon as I managed to eat and drink enough to at least cover a couple of meals, though sadly, not the cab fare.
posted by vidur at 12:34 PM on March 27, 2013 [25 favorites]


there was a pop-up ad on that site for a "Work At Home" service

Best I could tell, that's a thing The Verge did as a joke. It just goes away when you click it.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:36 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Best I could tell, that's a thing The Verge did as a joke. It just goes away when you click it.

Welp, guess I'm just charging up my gullibility in time for next Monday.
posted by pianoblack at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2013


And gosh this pings my internet memory..Rob Cockerham covered the low-tech version of this a while back.. (all those signs on telephone poles about work from home .. )
posted by k5.user at 12:40 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is absolutely sickening.

The worst is that these people are literally preying on the American Dream - that you can work hard and get rich. They're stealing from tens of thousands of honest, hard-working, not-too-bright people who in many cases just want to make ends meet.

When I was small, my father told me, "You can't cheat an honest man," (though to be fair I objected to it, and we discussed what "cheat" meant in the sentence...)

I used to believe it - so many scams, like 419 scams, involve people being enticed by getting part of the profits from terrible crimes! - but now I'm realizing that you can cheat anyone who's desperate enough.

Please note how little interest the Feds appear to have given this huge company, a multi-billion dollar organization that appears to be a pyramid scheme from top to bottom.

There appear to be infinite resources for prosecuting a Swartz or a Manning who haven't injured even one person, but nothing at all for something like this that must have caused terrible problems for tens of thousands of American families by, basically, taking their money under false pretenses.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:42 PM on March 27, 2013 [26 favorites]


Pyramid marketing people should burn in hell forever, as far as I'm concerned. A few of them, from different operations, had no moral issue in ripping my father from a huge chunk of his savings (and most of his self-esteem) while he had a couple of miserable years of unemployment and coping with my mother's death. I'm a peaceful and physically timid guy, but I think if one of these characters ever pitches me his shit in person, there's a good chance that I will end up in jail for maiming or worse. I might not even regret it, even.
posted by Iosephus at 12:55 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


This one time a friend of mine invited me to a "business meeting". I was out of a job at the time.

FRIEND: "You should come, we discuss business and you might be able to find a job."
ME: "What is it? I've never even heard of this company [some name I cannot remember]."
FRIEND: "Just trust me and show up. You won't regret it."
ME: "I'm pretty busy trying to find a job and gas is expensive."
FRIEND: "You won't regret it."
ME: *sigh "Ok."

I showed up and there were about 20-30 people in an empty office complex with chairs and a stage set up. Right I way I knew something was off. Ten minutes later when the presentation started, it was confirmed.

PRESENTER: "HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO MAKE YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE!! I CAN SHOW YOU HOW TO TAP INTO THE POTENTIAL THAT IS WITHIN YOU....."

I walked out. I'm no longer friends with that guy.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you feel awkward or you sense that something isn't quite right, trust your gut and just walk away.
posted by Fizz at 12:55 PM on March 27, 2013 [21 favorites]


One day I was sitting in a starbucks and I was overhearing someone pitch an Amway-esque scheme to some guy. The guy found his mark via mutual friends on facebook, and during the pitch he kept saying "I know this sounds too good to be true...but it isnt!"
posted by hellojed at 12:56 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


There was a great recent article in Vanity Fair discussing the equity fund short battle over Herbalife, as discussed in Previously #1.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:03 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh man, I got suckered into showing up for one of those pitches once. Advice for next time: if they won't tell you what it's about in advance, it's not worth attending.
posted by ceribus peribus at 1:04 PM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


A few years back, I had been having trouble finding work, so I signed up for a government-funded course that was supposed to teach job search skills and help you format your resume and handle interviews and all that jazz.

This was a week-long course, and on the third day or so, I overhear one guy talking to some of our fellow students about this great guaranteed money-making plan.

I had read the Rob Cockerham write-up not too long before that, so I chimed in with, "Is this a Herbalife thing?"

Yes, he says, though apparently he hadn't got to the part of his pitch where he said the company's name.

"Isn't that kind of pyramidy?" I ask.

"It's not a pyramid," he insists.

There were a few computers with internet we were allowed to use for job searching, so I grabbed one of them and brought up Cockeyed to show to a couple of the people listening who hadn't heard of Herbalife.

This guy didn't show up to the remainder of the class, so I figured he had only signed up to try to pitch Herbalife to the other students.
posted by RobotHero at 1:06 PM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


lupus_yonderboy: When I was small, my father told me, "You can't cheat an honest man," (though to be fair I objected to it, and we discussed what "cheat" meant in the sentence...)

I used to believe it - so many scams, like 419 scams, involve people being enticed by getting part of the profits from terrible crimes! - but now I'm realizing that you can cheat anyone who's desperate enough.


Yeah, there's a million ways to scam an honest man, and scammers mostly just do not care. False charities are one, scamming not only the honest but also the compassionate. There are people who fake injuries or accidents to attempt to force settlements. Scammers sometimes pretend to be friends or relatives in trouble in foreign countries who desperately need money sent. There are scammers who pretend to be law enforcement and try to get people to pay imaginary fines. There are the people who try to draw people into false relationships. There's phishing.

It's kind of unfortunate that people think scamming works that way, because a lot of victims are embarrassed and unwilling to come forward.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:09 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've seen several friends create secondary Facebook pages now dedicated to Herbalife and what I assume are other similar scams. They weren't close friends and obviously desperate so I never had the heart to say anything. I wonder if they'll respond now that I've posted this article to my timeline.
posted by charred husk at 1:19 PM on March 27, 2013


There's new store in our downtown, called "Healthy Living" that does nothing to advertise exactly what they do there. The blinds are always drawn and the door has an opaque film on it. Thy occasionally stick a white board in the window saying something about "health screenings" but there's nothing to recommend them. We know someone on the downtown retailer's board and she told us it's a Herbalife store. I had never heard of such a thing. I mean, I'd heard of Herbalife, sure, but I never associated it with retail. I don't know if it's a trend, but I can't imagine it will be very successful. I wonder how many of their customers get suckered into selling it too.
posted by Biblio at 1:19 PM on March 27, 2013


There's new store in our downtown, called "Healthy Living" that does nothing to advertise exactly what they do there. The blinds are always drawn and the door has an opaque film on it. Thy occasionally stick a white board in the window saying something about "health screenings" but there's nothing to recommend them.

If you see Philip Seymour Hoffman.....run.
posted by Fizz at 1:20 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


There appear to be infinite resources for prosecuting a Swartz or a Manning who haven't injured even one person, but nothing at all for something like this that must have caused terrible problems for tens of thousands of American families by, basically, taking their money under false pretenses.

Let's not get carried away. Bernie Maddoff is in jail. Lou Pearlman is jail. Oh wait they ripped off rich people....
posted by spicynuts at 1:35 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I will not tolerate such libel against an honorable business!

Ladies and gentlemen, to rebut these baseless claims I present you our distinguished ex-US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
posted by crayz at 1:40 PM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


They're stealing from tens of thousands of honest, hard-working, not-too-bright people who in many cases just want to make ends meet.

One of my mates from engineering school turned up on Facebook pitching this sort of thing, so they're conning more that just morons.
posted by kjs3 at 1:50 PM on March 27, 2013


There is no quicker way to get me to hide you on my facebook feed, if not go the distance and delete you, then to start posting something that I grok immediately is mlm. I can smell it like a bloodhound can sniff out a convict's scent.


And what really makes me mad is that otherwise lovely people who I would like to hang out with or get to know or spend time with get involved in this crap and I have to totally block them out or be borderline rude because they just turn into this walking sales pitch. It's horrifying.


(Someone should write a great American Zombie MLM novel. The movie rights would be ...killer.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:53 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


MLM name dropping to establish credibility is always good for a laugh. A guy who chatted me up in the corp cafeteria told me about his 500-person marketing organization that had IBM and Best Buy as customers. Yes, I know these huge names are just chomping at the bit to flush out customers with the help of a shady MLM army of 500.
posted by dr_dank at 2:00 PM on March 27, 2013


The storefronts are a newish thing. Here in Los Angeles their customers are mostly immigrants. The stores don't seem to fit into the MLM scam model in that they are B&M stores selling products. The Herbalife shakes, vitamins, health screenings, club memberships, they are selling are bogus and scammy so I guess in that sense they fit into the Herbalife model.
posted by rdr at 2:02 PM on March 27, 2013


lupus_yonderboy: "The worst is that these people are literally preying on the American Dream - that you can work hard and get rich."

The promise usually isn't that you can work hard and get rich... it's that you can get rich without working particularly hard. I still feel bad for the victims but I also can't ignore that greed and laziness are at least a part of what makes people buy into this crap in the first place.

This impression has been reinforced over the years as I've seen a number of people I'd consider both intelligent and educated getting suckered into MLM schemes. The promise of easy money seems to trigger something very primal that shorts out all brain circuitry involved with rational thinking. Out of curiosity I've continued to observe some of the people I know on Facebook and I've found that if you replace certain words in their posts with other words they basically sound like cult members.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:03 PM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


One of my mates from engineering school turned up on Facebook pitching this sort of thing, so they're conning more that just morons.

As with Creationism, climate change denialism, etc. I think that the majority are dupes passing along bad ideas because they don't know any better, but the movement has got to be salted with people who know exactly what they're doing. Especially (but not exclusively) at the top.
posted by BrashTech at 2:04 PM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


I know someone who has really drunk the koolaid in an MLM scam. When she first told me about it, it set off a few alarms, so I went home and googled the company. Founded by a former director of Amway and had obviously seeded the internet to disguise what it was. I worry, but am quite sure anything I say will end badly. It actually seems rather cult-like to me.
posted by annsunny at 2:09 PM on March 27, 2013


... and Hairy Lobster beat me to the cult idea by two comments!
posted by annsunny at 2:11 PM on March 27, 2013


As with any MLM thread, I can't recommend Merchants of Deception about Amway and their ilk highly enough.
posted by dr_dank at 2:13 PM on March 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


My mom and stepdad used to be involved in another MLM scheme and I to this day I vividly remember one of the speculative pieces in their monthly magazine. The story was a family sitting around the dinner table selling things to each other over a meal, presented as the ideal outcome for life.

Made a few other dystopias seem downright reasonable.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:13 PM on March 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


I worked my way through college by programming the payroll system for a pyramid selling company. Let me tell you, that was one motherfucker of a payroll system. Probably the only recursive payroll system on the planet. I was a math undergrad, which was why they chose me, because I was the only person they could find who could work out the damn algorithm.

So anyway, I was intimately familiar with the income distribution of the pyramid. And of course, it's exactly true what they say. The people at the top made OBSCENE amounts of money, the next two layers a fair amount, and after that it wasn't worth the candle.

One day I turned up to the office to find they had disappeared. They owed me a fair amount of money, too.
posted by unSane at 2:14 PM on March 27, 2013 [34 favorites]


(Also it ran on an Apple II, and it took 24 hours to run on the entire workforce, during which time I had to sit next to it to make sure it didn't crash).
posted by unSane at 2:15 PM on March 27, 2013


Incidentally, a lot of MLM isn't illegal, although it probably should be. You have to be selling a 'real' product as opposed to just paying to enter the pyramid, although it's a distinction without a difference when you look at most of the product. Another big one that a relative of mine is involved in is Arbonne. I had to block her on Facebook.
posted by unSane at 2:19 PM on March 27, 2013


Oh, man, a friend of mine, his whole family has slowly been conned into the Herbalife bullshit, where it started with one of his sisters — who has always over-estimated her competence in a way that would make her an awesome mark — then progressed to mom and dad and the other sister. I'm glad that my buddy has held out, but it's really frustrating for him to see his family throwing good money after bad…

I do remember getting recruited to a couple of these things, including once by a member of the '84 Tigers who gave me his card while I was working at Kinko's. There's been a time where I might have fallen for this shit, but luckily, no one would ever give me the stake money to get in.

Of course, in my neighborhood, there's a bunch of Scientology businesses, including Kirsty Alley's woowoo diet shop, so Herbalife seems like small potatoes next to that scam.
posted by klangklangston at 2:20 PM on March 27, 2013


More than greed and laziness, I think the lure of "get rich quick" is that -- a lot of people look around and they see people working really hard and not getting by, or barely getting by. And they see other people doing very little and getting rich. And it's hard not to think, why can't I have that? Why do I have to work so hard and get nowhere?
posted by Jeanne at 2:22 PM on March 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


"Incidentally, a lot of MLM isn't illegal, although it probably should be. You have to be selling a 'real' product as opposed to just paying to enter the pyramid, although it's a distinction without a difference when you look at most of the product. Another big one that a relative of mine is involved in is Arbonne. I had to block her on Facebook."

Yeah, Avon and Mary Kay can be like that, though they generally have decent stuff.

Another one is Amway or whatever the hell they're called now. I remembered being vaguely surprised that a pal's parents made money from Amway, but they were already wealthy and I just kind of assumed that they sold worthless shit to their wealthy pals who could burn the cash.
posted by klangklangston at 2:23 PM on March 27, 2013


I read the article and then read/clicked through several related Verge articles and a couple of the *exposed.com sites. It seems to me that there is a noticeable overlap between those who buy into these MLM scams opportunities, and those who find Beck, Hannity, and others of their ilk compelling and persuasive.
posted by I Havent Killed Anybody Since 1984 at 2:31 PM on March 27, 2013


What are the odds that the short and the article that is the subject of the post are somehow linked?
posted by mygoditsbob at 2:45 PM on March 27, 2013


A friend of mine once took a class on project management where each student designed their own project. The most interesting datum he reported to me was the teacher's survey of the students' projects: almost everybody was either trying to make more money or else lose weight. Herbalife has got the sweet spot there but they are far from alone. In my city the radio ad spots are dominated by some goofus company calling themselves Quick Weight Loss Centers. No idea what their business model is but their ad budget is huge.
posted by bukvich at 2:46 PM on March 27, 2013


I read the article and then read/clicked through several related Verge articles and a couple of the *exposed.com sites. It seems to me that there is a noticeable overlap between those who buy into these MLM scams opportunities, and those who find Beck, Hannity, and others of their ilk compelling and persuasive.

There have been multiple articles recently about how the modern 'conservative movement' has essentially become a con job dedicated to bilking senior citizens of their retirements.
posted by empath at 2:58 PM on March 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


The parents of a friend of mine got in on the ground floor of one of the berry juice drinks. Made a shit-ton of money.
posted by tippiedog at 3:00 PM on March 27, 2013


Remind me to make a sign for the next time LA Galaxy visit us here in Seattle -- "I SHORTED YOUR SPONSOR'S STOCK".
posted by Fnarf at 3:10 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ladies and gentlemen, to rebut these baseless claims I present you our distinguished ex-US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright .

Holy shit, does Leslie Knope know about this?

Also, my MLM contacts: When I was in high school and making money in the time-tested, honorable tradition of my teenage predecessors--mowing lawns--I had one guy refuse to pay me until I listened to his Amway spiel. OK, I honestly can't remember if he said that he flat-out wouldn't pay; it could have been along the lines of "gee, you could be making so much more money and not have to sweat under the summer sun", etc. I probably thought that I might also get a tip out of it. (I didn't.) Even as naive as I was then, especially about financial matters, I knew that I wasn't cut out for a job that clearly involved a) some sales skills (both in the sense of trying to push Amway products and in trying to recruit people for your own downline), which I didn't possess, and in the pursuit of same, b) a willingness to exploit anyone and everyone who was a big enough sucker.

Some years later, my sister and brother-in-law got roped in, and I got that sinking feeling again, on their behalf--particularly because they not only signed up for the basic kit but also for some of these Amway conventions which apparently serve to sell various motivational tapes and videos and things which seems to be where Amway makes its money these days, now that they've pretty much reached the peak of available suckers who don't already know what a shabby deal it is from the experience of family, friends or acquaintances. Unfortunately, I didn't have the heart to tell them what I really thought; fortunately, they came to realize that not enough of their family and friends were willing to buy big lots of household goods with inconvenient delivery options, and got out of it while they still had some money left. We don't talk about it now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:10 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


CNBC: Battle Goes Beyond Herbalife, Hedge Funds.
posted by ericb at 3:12 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


"What are the odds that the short and the article that is the subject of the post are somehow linked?"

In the first link's Verge article it says that Barron Hansen has done "freelance research" for Pershing Square Capital. So yes, sort of. The article might not be directly linked to the short, but its main subject is.

But then again, it looks like he didn't get involved with Pershing Square until after being burned by "Income At Home."
posted by Kevin Street at 3:31 PM on March 27, 2013


When I was working my way through college (early 90s), I was briefly roped into the Amway scam. I was old enough to know better, but still young enough to not have been jaded to the ubiquitous and timeless get-rich-quick schemes. The guy who roped me in was on slick puppy. I can remember him driving me out to the Cadillac dealership and us sitting in a $60,000 sedan. "Don't you want this! You can have it too, if you sell enough blah blah blah...". He roped me into buying a few months of the stupid motivational tapes. I wised up soon enough but not after spending some money on overpriced products and worthless promotional materials. I used to be embarrassed by my brief foray into MLM, but now I simply see it as one of those life lessons we all learn at one time or another. I consider myself fortunate enough to have escaped the eerie cult-like Amway with only a little money spent and a valuable life lesson.

Sometimes I consider it the best money I've ever spent, for it honed my bullshit detector to a fine edge, where it's stayed ever since. Thanks Amway!
posted by mrbarrett.com at 3:50 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Most of the people who tell you that you can't cheat an honest man are con men, so maybe it's not an entirely trustworthy saying.
posted by ckape at 3:52 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


just the other day I fell into the google wormhole, reading about MLM after MLM. it was triggered by an old HS friend whom I've always thought was super smart getting involved with Stella & Dot, one of those MLMs that targets stay-at-home-moms (like her) who want to contribute. there are SO MANY of them out there now: Jamberry, Thirtyone, Scentsy, etc., clogging up everybody's Facebook feeds. definitely would make a great FPP for another day.
posted by changeling at 3:59 PM on March 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


Harpers had an article a month or two ago (that I think is not online) about how Mary Kay works. The key is how carefully they have to phrase their scam so that they are not considered a pyramid scheme. So, for example, you don't HAVE to buy so much product to get started, but the really successful people do, and wouldn't you like to be really successful?
posted by wittgenstein at 4:16 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fnarf: "Remind me to make a sign for the next time LA Galaxy visit us here in Seattle -- "I SHORTED YOUR SPONSOR'S STOCK"."

Yeah, Galaxy fan here.
Seeing the Herbalife logo plastered all over them makes me deeply uncomfortable every time.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:04 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


A friend of a friend is trying to lure me into buying stuff from some company called Advocare. I ran screaming. I smelled just like all this crap. Are that many people that gullible??
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:05 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


All I have to say on this subject is fuck Primerica. I happened upon them cold calling at my telemarketing job, I was invited in for an "interview", by one miss Allison Bowman*, which turned out to be a sales pitch for all the money I can make, and how rich everybody was (here in this majestic still stinks of new carpet office in an office park in Southern Asshole, VA), and how great the program is, and hey do you have any friends who would be interested in this and can I have their numbers, because you get a cut of their sales, and if they get people OH SHI-- and how I just needed to fork over $200 for a "class" to get my "license" to sell financial planning or whatever to people. Oh fuck you methinks, I'm 18, I make $7 an hour and I'm in community college, thanks.

Oh then Allison Bowman gets all serious and dour like "oh, well if $200 is a lot of money to you, then you need to get in on this" and "if you walk out that door, you're NOT coming back" and it's like hey so can you tell me how to get back to 95 from here then? and then all of a sudden it's like the house lights go back on, and then Allison Bowman is all smiles and sunshine again like "come back any time if you change your mind!" Seriously? Come on, s0n.

A few years ago, a friend of mine got snared by a Primerica guy, gave him my number too. I told him that they were all wrong eels, and he should tell him to bite and smile. I remember wanting to tell Allison Bowman that if she and her pals are so galdurn rich, then why doesn't she pony up the $200, since apparently it was 'no big deal' when one of your pals shat the bed at a Vegas craps table in that story from earlier that totally happened in real life. I was gonna tell that to this guy when he called, but he ended up calling when I was at work and I was like "This is a scam, not interested."

Oh yeah and another friend of mine got Primerica'd, only they wanted $2000 for the "class" for the "license". (Allison Bowman even said that that the class was pretty much a bullshit formality with easily gamed T/F questions. WOW I feel even more confidence in this enterprise than I did before, Allison Bowman!). That's fucked up for a few reasons: 1. people will walk away from blowing $200, even not so well off folk, but someone drops 2 grand on that bullshit, they're gonna cling to that shit like it's their last hope (and it might very well be!).

The shit thing is, it almost sounds believable. I think "You can't cheat an honest man" is a good concept, but it's imprecise: you don't have to be a dishonest person to buy into something that sounds "too good to be true" (a statement *I* find flawed: plenty of things are "too good to be true": the internet, internet enabled smartphones, Community, kittycats, Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, solar power, etc, but they ARE true, they exist) Allison Bowman was very friendly and enticing, her tales of clawing up the ranks of the company sounded challenging, but doable, and untold rewards based on how hard you work; it's easy to buy into the idea that if I'm the very best salesman of financial planning (or whatever it was), that I can make more money than I did selling carpet cleaning over the phone, BUT while i was naive and underconfident, and Allison Bowman, with her sharp burgundy suit, super-professional square rimmed glasses and fancy office with lots of... important looking crap on the wall behind her was at times both convincing and intimidating, but my folks instilled a healthy sense of skepticism in me at a young age, and also I wasn't trying to drop $200 for a not!job.

But all in all, it was the biggest waste of a day off, AND on the way back, my transmission totally crapped out in goddamn SPRINGFIELD, and I had to have my dad come meet me, and so I pretty much had to drive the fucking thing home at like 10 mph with my hazards on with my dad following me, oh btw did I mention up there how much I made at the time, and how I was really itching for a new job at the time? I don't know how, but I fucking blame Allison Bowman for my transmission too.

*not exactlyher real name, but close enough.

OH YEAH THE BEST PART IS ALLISON BOWMAN TOTALLY HAD A WILL SMITH LYRIC THAT SHE PRINTED OUT AND LAMINATED AND USED AS PART OF HER PITCH HOLY SHIT SHE WAS TOTALLY SERIOUS ABOUT IT TOO
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:20 PM on March 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


Sell knives door to door. Make $35 an hour.
posted by parmanparman at 6:19 PM on March 27, 2013


Cutco? Cutco!
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:12 PM on March 27, 2013


One day Herbalife will either be put out of business by consumer-protection regulators or it won’t. If it is then Bill Ackman will make a lot of money and Carl Icahn will lose a lot of money
-Matt Levine 13 Mar 2013 at 3:53 PM, via Dealbreaker

Personally, I will not own this stock due to due diligence and observed volatility.
posted by vozworth at 8:21 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


ALLISON BOWMAN TOTALLY HAD A WILL SMITH LYRIC THAT SHE PRINTED OUT

Parents just don't understand?
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:48 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some months ago I was walking in the sleazier part of Somerville, MA and came across a Vector Marketing office. 20 years ago I answered a job ad in Chicago that wound up being that scam. Why, sure, sir, I have no reason to suspect that your knives are so awful that you have to get your salesmen to buy them first before hawking them door to door....

And the same outfit is still around today.
posted by ocschwar at 8:51 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for that CNBC article ericb... really cuts through the bullshit:

Why have regulators failed to create, and the multilevel marketing industry vigorously resisted, an environment that "outs" pyramid schemes? When will multilevel marketing companies report information to show both consumers and investors that they do not primarily rely on recruitment and on the constant churning of participants?

Until we receive answers pyramid schemes selling actual products and services will continue to operate, often creating victims on an international scale.

posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:06 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a few running buddies that are "Independent Team Beachbody Coaches." I blocked them long ago on Facebook, but went back to look at one friend's page just now. Holy mother of....
At the age of 20, I got THE BEST ADVICE from a millionaire. He said: "Find someone who has what you want & DO WHAT THEY DO. If you want to be a millionaire, you have to learn from millionaires. You can not learn from your uncle, who's a janitor, how to be a millionaire. If you want to become successful, you have to learn from people who are successful. If you want to have a great marriage, you talk to people who have a great marriage." Since then, I ALWAYS look at a person's full life BEFORE I take advice from them. ♥
It's a toxic blend of self-help / motivational poster dreck and greed.
posted by letitrain at 10:31 PM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


At the age of 20, I got THE BEST ADVICE from a millionaire. He said: "Find someone who has what you want & DO WHAT THEY DO. If you want to be a millionaire, you have to learn from millionaires.

I'll try and be born to wealthier parents next time, I guess.
posted by empath at 10:37 PM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'd like to take the opportunity to point out the rich irony that Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, now has an Amway store.

The ironic part is that the Wilpon family, owners of the Mets, were bilked almost to broke by a certain Mr. Bernard Madoff.

Some people don't learn.
posted by OHSnap at 10:47 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Christ in pajama pants, I hate these things.

I've got a girlfriend who shills for Juice Plus. Sweet woman, long-time friend, but now, OMG, she's annoying. The sad and sorry thing is that she totally seems to believe that this stuff will turn your life around, and she's continually pushing "scientific papers" and pamphlets on nutrition, and attending conferences where "doctors and scientists" lecture on the 'secret to health" which of course all boils down to Juice Plus curing everything but poor personality and indifferent dress sense.

I was in a bind and asked her a favor the other day, and--tit for tat--got coerced into attending an 'inspirational' seminar where I would hear how people had turned their lives around and gained new spirituality, better marriages, more time with their kids and the ability to travel and 'achieve their dreams.' By selling Juice Plus, of course. The head honcho and honchette were pretty creepy, (think cult charisma) and the rest of them were just sad. Some poor woman who'd been at it as her "sole source of income" for five years was so excited that she would be able to be on "company insurance" and have a week "vacation benefits" in just a 'few years more." Meanwhile she was married to a middle manager who "took care of things" while she "pursued her dream." gack! I truly was inspired to make sarcastic comments and gagging noises, but controlled myself.

This gal is pretty religious, as well as my super-Mormon bro/sis-in-law who were heavily into Amway with the same feverish and fervorous belief. I've often wondered if people accustomed to believing ''the voice of authority' and are comfortable pushing what they know to be the 'one, true way' fall into this sort of stuff more easily than the rest of us.

Bro-in-law was especially funny when deep in the passionate throes of belief in whatever particular item he was selling. Whatever he was peddling was GUARANTEED to change your life, just like it did his. Whatever, dude.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:59 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


This gal is pretty religious, as well as my super-Mormon bro/sis-in-law who were heavily into Amway with the same feverish and fervorous belief. I've often wondered if people accustomed to believing ''the voice of authority' and are comfortable pushing what they know to be the 'one, true way' fall into this sort of stuff more easily than the rest of us.

Christianity is itself kind of a pyramid scheme that can't fail, since you don't find out if all the time and money you spent on it pays off until you die.
posted by empath at 11:07 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


...DO WHAT THEY DO. If you want to be a millionaire, you have to learn from millionaires.

Unfortunately there are laws against front running.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:11 PM on March 27, 2013


The ironic part is that the Wilpon family, owners of the Mets, were bilked almost to broke by a certain Mr. Bernard Madoff.

Some people don't learn.


They do learn. They learn that there's a lot of money to be made bilking people.
posted by alexei at 12:03 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


This gal is pretty religious, as well as my super-Mormon bro/sis-in-law who were heavily into Amway with the same feverish and fervorous belief. I've often wondered if people accustomed to believing ''the voice of authority' and are comfortable pushing what they know to be the 'one, true way' fall into this sort of stuff more easily than the rest of us.

One of the theories that I've read on why Mormons do so well in sales work is the requirement for mission work, i.e. evangelization. It's training for sales.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:25 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


A guy I worked with in a phone sales boiler room told me that salesmen are the biggest mooches (suckers). They want something for nothing, so they fall hardest for sales pitches on how to sell, motivate themselves etc. It really is a lot like religion in that willful self deception plays a big part - not for all, but certainly for many. The harder you can make yourself believe, the more that comes across as sincerity to your marks. Of course there's also a lot of doublethink and a lot of sociopaths in there too.

I didn't last long in that shark tank. I didn't have the willpower to make myself believe. This could also be why I'm an atheist despite having dabbled with religion a few times.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:47 AM on March 28, 2013


I sat next to a Cutco salesman on an airplane ride home. I was 21 or 22 at the time and he was roughly the same age. He offered me a ride home from the airport. It's a 45 minute drive. The bus ride is almost 2 hours and the shuttle isn't much better. I accepted.

On the whole ride he talked about his amazing success selling Cutco knives. People were calling him up on the weekends placing $200 orders for a couple of gifts. This guy was living large. I was a broke college student but I knew he was full of shit. I nodded and said "oh wow". When he got to my house I took his card. I can't remember if I left it ambiguous or flat out said that I wouldn't be calling him.

I like to imagine that he offered ride mostly out of genuine niceness, but he probably drove away pissed that he didn't get a new mark from the deal.
posted by scose at 7:41 AM on March 28, 2013


I got partway into the Cutco culture in college, but was warned away from it by my parents, who noted a family friend who actually did it a few years before and worked the same social circles I would have tried. Just as well I guess. Any job working for someone else where one has to pay to start isn't worth taking.

Got contacted by Primerica many years later, but Google + skepticism = not much further than the recruting phone call.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:28 AM on March 28, 2013


Man, I was contacted by one of these years ago; I didn't think of it until I saw Primerica uppage. I think they found an old resume of mine on some job site or another, called me . I was in high school, or first year uni, and had literally no job experience. I accepted the interview, then looked them up online to prepare for the interview.

Yeah, I didn't wind up going to that interview. Never did find a summer job, but that was probably the better option.
posted by Canageek at 9:03 AM on March 28, 2013


I had a close friend who's brother was into a life insurance/financial services MLM called "World Financial Group." Basically WFG would recruit people to sell universal life insurance to their family members, they had a huge family, and the rest of the time they would teach the recruits to act and dress like professionals (financial advisers) while going to endless trainings and meetings where they would meet impressive speakers and learn how successful they could be. I'm sure it was attractive to those unemployed or underemployed and feeling a little hopeless.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:29 AM on March 28, 2013


Am I just really lucky in my choice of friends? My social networks are not showing any MLM activities.
posted by ocschwar at 9:39 AM on March 28, 2013


Parents just don't understand?
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:48 PM on March 27 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]

HAH If only! No, this was 1999, right after Will Smith lost his Princehood for contracting terminal whackness.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:24 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh, our neighbor, who we are also pretty close friends with, has fallen for this multiple times. First Arbonne, then some sort of vitamin shit, and then Stella and Dot. I think she broke even with the Stella and Dot, but only by busting her ass and setting up a booth at all the local wine-tasting events and festivals like that. Another neighbor tried to get her into Scentsy, and her husband finally talked her out of it - honestly I think she's just too nice of a person to say no to her friends who convince her to become their distributor.

Another acquaintance does make a large amount selling "slumber party" stuff for housewives, and had to be blocked on FB because it's nothing but posts about her amazing success, trips she's won, etc. Honestly I think it's only because she's at the top of the pyramid for our region/state and she got in very early. That, or it's the only MLM scheme where it sort-of makes sense because the target audience (middle-aged women) won't or don't order sex toys online or visit the local sleazy store, so every party results in a ton of sales for way-overpriced silicone.
posted by Mr. Big Business at 12:05 PM on March 28, 2013


And what really makes me mad is that otherwise lovely people who I would like to hang out with or get to know or spend time with get involved in this crap and I have to totally block them out or be borderline rude because they just turn into this walking sales pitch.

No kidding. I have had that problem with Stella Dot, though not in the last couple of months.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:47 PM on March 28, 2013


Wanna get some followers on Twitter? Just post something with the words "Multi Level Marketing" in it. You'll get a bunch of new followers in a matter days. I did that and then tweeted a bunch of horrible things about MLM. I don't have any more followers.
posted by charred husk at 6:05 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Herbalife stock trading halted amid allegations of insider trading at auditing firm.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:06 AM on April 9, 2013


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