You're In A Restoration Hardware Dude
April 19, 2018 10:09 AM   Subscribe

(Maybe I'm just a weirdo, but I would rather visit Reddit than have to consume text content in video form, actually.)
posted by inconstant at 10:15 AM on April 19, 2018 [80 favorites]

I'm the target audience, since I quit FB and Reddit (#tableflip) and I loved this. The voices were the best (#gildersleeves) and yes, I am interested in making money from home.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 10:30 AM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Is it the same annoying voices all the way through?
posted by AFABulous at 10:32 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

16 minutes of grating narration of text. As it turns out, I can read, and would prefer to.
posted by theora55 at 10:38 AM on April 19, 2018 [9 favorites]

MLM is an abomination. It is cruel and preys on people who often have good intentions.

Last year I delivered a sermon about entitlement, Mammon, and fear of debt. I intimated that some of us might have some "financial infidelities" in our marriages and that my door was always open. The following week I was blown away by the calls I received.

The majority were in relationships where the individual entrapped in MLM was the primary household care provider and their partner was the primary earner. Inevitably, the sickness began with a sense of despair on the part of the care provider - "they work so hard / if I earned money I would have more control or respect / I want to prove that I'm not wasting my education staying home / etc."

At every step of the con, there is a combination of carrots and sticks to draw you back into the game.

I reached out to a local credit union that I've used in the past to get people out of payday lending scams and explained the situation.

The church is now able to underwrite 0% interest loans (up to $20k) to help people unburden themselves from these MLM hucksters. It is a strict program and it begins with honesty and openness (typically a 'sit down' meeting with an otherwise oblivious partner or spouse).

MLM is a cruel trick that preys on people who are already insecure. It is another way that mammon lies to the average American, "And saith unto him, 'All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.'"

MLM is just a prettied up version of the same usury that lies at the heart of American civil religion.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:42 AM on April 19, 2018 [185 favorites]

MLM programs are just pyramid schemes. I don't understand how they are even legal.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:50 AM on April 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

I don't understand how they are even legal.

Well, Orrin Hatch (R-UT) might be able to explain, because he loves 'em (and nutritional supplements more famously, but you'll note how often nutritional supplements are the product being marketed by MLMs)! As Baby_Balrog mentions, MLMs tend to prey on stay-at-home parents by claiming they are a way of allowing them to "contribute to the family" without working outside the home. MLMs are huge in Utah because Mormons particularly tend to fetishize the stay-at-home role for wives. A lot start out in Utah (see: doTERRA, Younique, Young Living, LuLaRoe and maaany more) and they have a friend in the Senate.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:14 AM on April 19, 2018 [16 favorites]

I can't recall if someone posted this one Metafilter before, or whether I saw it in an anti-MLM Facebook group I'm in, but this is a fascinating and horrifying account of a young woman who got involved in selling Younique (shitty overpriced MLM makeup). She was a young woman who fortunately has the time and ability to recover; I can't imagine what older or middle-aged people go through with the hucksters who peddle this garbage.
posted by holborne at 11:15 AM on April 19, 2018 [10 favorites]

Slightly off topic but the "top r/whatever posts of all time!!!" category of youtube spam is both bizarre and super annoying.
posted by quaking fajita at 11:33 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Stats I've seen show there's also a heavier concentration of minorities that participate in them; but that is likely because they prey on lower income people, and because of our fucked up society, minorities are disproportionally lower class. I saw so many Herbalife stickers on cars living in Austin.

It's the ultimate sunk cost fallacy / get rich quick mentality. It's a diseased part of the American Dream. Someone is getting rich, but it sure isn't you. The It's Always Sunny episode on the topic would maybe persuade some people though, I think humor cuts through the bullshit very effectively. Are there other good takedowns? I think Last Week Tonight has a segment on it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:44 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Inevitably, the sickness began with a sense of despair on the part of the care provider - "they work so hard / if I earned money I would have more control or respect / I want to prove that I'm not wasting my education staying home / etc."

I have a special hatred for Younique because I've witnessed them promoting heavily to women with chronic illness -- with sellers using lines about how well the makeup covers the rash often associated with lupus or just "you'll feel better because you look better!" kinds of things. They tap into exactly the type of despair that Baby Balrog is talking about.
posted by camyram at 12:00 PM on April 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

I know that Herbalife in particular targets Latinx communities (former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has consulted for them). But yeah, wherever there are desperate people, or people who for whatever reason cannot participate in the job market (i.e., being of a race that gets discriminated against in hiring, being disabled, not being able to afford childcare), there you'll find these vultures.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:09 PM on April 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

They are everywhere here in Austin, and I've had more than one friend I had to grit my teeth and decide whether or not I wanted to deal with their upselling pitch over this. My partner and roommate spend a fair bit of time bonding over cheerily discouraging them from their collective Facebook networks, starting with the small business groups that my roommate's part of. They're legion infesting those places, to the point that they choke out any other entrepreneurial networking space that is easily accessible for anyone trying to create something new and figure out how to run it sustainably.

It's a desperation thing, for sure, but it's actually more obnoxious than anything else I can think of, up to and including panhandling. A panhandler I can just shake my head and say "no thank you" to--a MLM convert is a) likely to be someone who is already my friend, and b) is usually much, much more stubborn and desperate for me to buy something I have no interest in.

Plus the products are shit.
posted by sciatrix at 12:16 PM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Plus the products are shit.

Someone brought in a Herbalife granola bar box to my office last year. I just threw it out basically untouched the other day - it was completely inedible.

I had family that sold some sort of hair and soap products as part of an MLM for a while, and it almost ruined my relationships with some extended family in the process. A long time ago, when I was still a naive recent MBA grad, I ended up once at an MLM pitch party. The ad did a great job of making it sound like a legit international career opportunity, and it fooled me enough to get me there. I walked in, then walked right out as I figured out what was going on. If I had been more desperate, I can totally see falling for it.

I agree, it's insane to me that this type of pyramid scheme is perfectly legal...
posted by gemmy at 1:08 PM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was just coming in to mention Elle Beau's blog! She has created a fascinating resource on MLMs. I found it super-helpful when dealing with family who were into them.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:12 PM on April 19, 2018

She was a young woman who fortunately has the time and ability to recover; I can't imagine what older or middle-aged people go through with the hucksters who peddle this garbage.

A middle-aged person who is sucked into this lifestyle and won’t quit gets unceremoniously served divorce papers. It’s sad to watch, but inevitable. They are indeed victims, but only of their own selfishness and greed.
posted by GliblyKronor at 1:34 PM on April 19, 2018

What's the weird travel related MLM? It has some sort of tagline like "You should be here" and people hold signs on beaches. I ran into a few people online dating who were into it. Noped out very fast. Anyone got good articles about it?
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:45 PM on April 19, 2018

Pretty sure that's WorldVentures, the signs on beaches thing.

Being a Utahan, MLMs are so overwhelmingly prevalent here its sickening. So much of Mormon culture lends itself to MLM skeez. You have a ready made network at your ward who is too nice to say no to your face, yeah you're probably a stay at home mom who is looking to pitch some support to the nest without threatening the rightful place of the patriarch, and, thanks to your mission, you're used to cold calling and selling/proselytizing something to people where others might be uncomfortable doing so. Plus there's an entire layer of your faith being earned on good works that lends credence to the idea that if you just work hard enough/get enough people to sign up, you'll get rewarded. It also bleeds into securities frauds/ponzi schemes. People are trusting and easily look past the warning signs because they know so-and-so is a good guy in the ward and wouldn't screw them over.
posted by msbutah at 2:11 PM on April 19, 2018 [13 favorites]

I'm enjoying the blog posted by holborne. The writer, who was involved in an MLM selling makeup, goes through her experience in detail, and it really shows how the "upline" people are aggressively selling to the "downline" people--like, it should have been obvious (but clearly wasn't) that new recruits to the business were the actual customers. The writer can't manage to sell any makeup to actual customers, but the person above her, and the person above her, are aggressively selling her more product to her and other entry-level people, arguing that they need to do it to build their business, and saying, "Wow, this offer from the company is such a deal, you can't pass it up!" At one point, an in-demand foundation that has been out of stock for ages, and which many of the "business owners" have customers interested in, comes back into stock--but can only be bought as part of a makeup collection that cost £113. And so on.

I also like that she gets active pushback from friends, in particular her stepsister, who tells her early on, "Just do me a favor, and keep a spreadsheet of everything you spend and everything that comes in."

I once helped an acquaintance clean out her garage. It was full of the detritus of multiple get-rich-quick schemes. It was really heartbreaking. At the same time, she'd just gotten involved in another one, "investing" the money she'd saved to pay her property taxes in a vending machine scheme. She had bought the vending machines and stock outright, and "all she had to do" was convince business to let her put them on their counters--these were those countertop vending machines you see sometimes--in exchange for a cut of the take. It was such a sure thing that she had no doubt she'd make the money back to pay her property taxes in plenty of time, and before long she'd have this great income stream, and all she would have to do for it is drive around and refill the machines with candy bars.

I wondered how she could convince herself of that while looking at leftover merchandise, display stands, and so on from her previous ventures. Some people learn from their mistakes, and some don't, I guess.
posted by Orlop at 4:58 PM on April 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

I can't recall if someone posted this one Metafilter before

Someone did. I think I read that whole saga in one sitting, it's a hell of a story. She's also got a Twitter feed that's kind of a clearinghouse of anti-MLM sentiment and resources.
posted by solotoro at 7:27 PM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

A while back, after my restaurant failed and I was at loose ends, I got a message from a guy who I knew had helped finance another friend's English conversation school. He said he wanted to talk to me, and I thought, well, shit, I literally don't know what I'm going to do, maybe this guy is offering a life preserver. We met and he took me to his office, and he basically sat me down in front of a tv and played a video at me, probably that world travel one, and said it was a great opportunity. By thirty seconds in, I knew what it was, and I thought, hell, maybe I'll just gut it through this and see if he wants to talk about anything else after. Even so, about five minutes in to tons of promises about free trips overseas, and the luxury life that was just waiting for me, I told him to go ahead and stop the video, that I wasn't the kind of person he was looking for.

What I found out later was that he'd managed to get a large number of people we both had as mutual acquaintances, and that, yeah, I *was* the kind of person he was looking for. I was in financial distress, had no clear path out of the situation o was in, and was grasping at straws. And he'd done the same to others I knew who were in similar situations. Evil, evil shit. I'm glad my bullshit trigger is so refined.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:55 PM on April 19, 2018 [7 favorites]

Reading this stuff reminds me a little bit of when I was really trying to make a go as a fiction writer. All the authors on Twitter, always promoting their stories or recent sales and whatever; everyone constantly talking about how you had to be positive; endless retreads of "networking" pep talks. I'm just... I just want to write my weird little stories, you know?

It's not the same, of course; with some notable (and justly snubbed) exceptions, fiction markets tend to be actually in favor of the authors and just don't have any money to spread around rather than being some sort of secret manipulative cabal that hoards money at the top, and it really is important to network with editors if you want to succeed, even if just so that they subconsciously think positively of you when your name drifts through the slushpile on the top of a decent story. But the wearying need to be constantly "on" on social media and trying to be a "brand" was utterly not to my taste.
posted by Scattercat at 8:52 AM on April 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

My mom has been sucked into MLMs since before I was born. Amway, Melaleuca, Nikken, Norwex, Market America, doTerra...the list goes on and on. She was also a Scientologist for a very long time. I'm not sure if these two facts are related, but it definitely feels like there's some part of her that is highly susceptible to being manipulated by glossy corporate cons.

I'm deeply grateful that there's so much strong anti-MLM sentiment growing online, but what I really wish for is a way to translate all of these vicious truths into something my very kind, well-meaning, and not-particularly internet savvy mother will accept. For pretty much every new product she's hawking, there's an almost religious fervor to it, and she genuinely believes she is helping people by introducing them to this snake oil. She also works in healthcare and is a genuinely nice person, so it's especially scary to think of how many people she's been in a position to influence and unintentionally harm. She's not trying to become rich, but she has lost so much money trying to help the people around her stop hurting, and it just breaks my heart over and over again. These days she doesn't get "sick" herself; she's just "detoxing" while blithely swallowing who knows what kind of pills, powders, and poisons day after day. Particularly as she's getting older, I worry about her a lot, and it is unconscionable that these companies are permitted to prey on her good intentions and encourage her to sacrifice her health and reputation in the name of sales.
posted by Diagonalize at 9:03 AM on April 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

There was No ad before the video that was about how to get more customers. So more snake oil.

If you have a talent for sales (cause MLM is sales) go out and sell cars, business products, services and make actual money!
posted by vespabelle at 7:59 AM on April 21, 2018

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