“The subjects of our investigation are highly litigious.”
September 27, 2018 11:01 AM   Subscribe

 
Every time you favorite this comment, I will pass 1/6 of a favorite to the FPP, and they will pass 1/6 of that favorite back to you! You can’t lose!
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:56 AM on September 27, 2018 [74 favorites]


I wish I could share these two videos automatically with every poor sap suckered into one of these scams.

From Peep Show.

From the Office.

I love the latter especially because I feel like if you could just get these people to draw out their map, you could do what Jim did and make it blatantly clear for everyone what is happening.
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:57 AM on September 27, 2018 [14 favorites]


A former roommate of mine, a terrible slob who claimed to be a graduate student and a "businessman" was actually an Amway ... person. He was constantly having small groups of foreign students over to extol the virtues of Amway. I don't think I saw him sell any actual products. Amway stuff (cleaning products, diet products, personal care stuff) was all over the house. It seemed like decent stuff, but not decent enough to justify dealing with guys like my roommate.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:04 PM on September 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Is there something about Arbonne and yoga teachers? Or do yoga teachers only know other yoga teachers.
posted by Damienmce at 12:07 PM on September 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


I really enjoyed the first two episodes of the podcast. I'm looking forward to the rest.

At the same time, I have such a deep personal aversion to sales-talk that I find it hard to really sympathize. Even when my job is to buy something specific from a salesperson that I've phoned up using money that can't be spent on anything else, I find the whole experience deeply uncomfortable and will put it off for as long as possible. The idea of selling anything to my friends and family sounds unbearable. Compared to all the unpleasant things people are driven to do in order to survive, I realize that this isn't objectively the worst. But, on my personal list it's below many things that are dangerous and illegal. Which makes the idea that people who seem otherwise a lot like me are eager to sign up fascinating and worth hearing about.
posted by eotvos at 12:18 PM on September 27, 2018 [23 favorites]


BtW, offer void where prohibited by law or mod’s good sense.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:21 PM on September 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Back in the 80s, a friend proudly showed me the wad of $12,000 in cash that he had made from the Airplane Game, wrapped up neatly in a plastic bag in the freezer. A couple of years later he told me that as the pyramid started to disintegrate, he had lost the friendship of most of of the people he had brought into the game.

Of course, he went on to become a hedge fund manager.
posted by fuzz at 12:31 PM on September 27, 2018 [17 favorites]


I can't wait to listen to this. I also can't believe that after years of reading about MLMs and pyramid schemes and watching almost every episode of American Greed, I still had never heard of the Airplane Game. Guess I'm a lucky 10,000'er today.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:34 PM on September 27, 2018 [12 favorites]


It’s really hard to belive the US Economy isn’t just a combination of pyramid schemes and Est.
posted by The Whelk at 12:37 PM on September 27, 2018 [25 favorites]


Every time you favorite this comment, I will pass 1/12 of a favorite to the FPP, and they will pass 1/12 of that favorite back to you! You can’t lose!
posted by sysinfo at 12:58 PM on September 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


Massive Pyramid scams wrecked the economy and brought down the govt in mid 1990s post-communist Albania.
posted by ovvl at 1:34 PM on September 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


I have an in-law who, to be blunt, is very brazen about how she knows how everything works and why aren't you doing things her way, anyway? Because she has it All. Nailed. Down.

Somewhat undercutting her assertion is the fact that she's been selling Amway for over thirty years and, as far as I can glean, doesn't have a hell of a lot to show for it, financially.

In short: This post is relevant to my interests.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 1:51 PM on September 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


Back in the day, my wife and I were invited over to a friend’s home in the middle of the week for a “get together.” We thought it seemed odd to be throwing a party in the middle of a work week, and we put off RSVPing as long as possible. Then, my wife called up her friend and asked about the “get together.” The friend was very evasive about any details beyond “it’ll be a lot of fun” and “there will be other couples” etc. Finally, my wife straight-up asked her friend if this was Amway. After a very long silence, her friend meekly admitted that, yes, it was an Amway party.

That’s about as close as I ever got to any of this pyramid bs (unless you count the girl I dated in college whose mother sold Shaklee crap.)
posted by Thorzdad at 1:53 PM on September 27, 2018 [10 favorites]


Massive Pyramid scams wrecked the economy and brought down the govt in mid 1990s post-communist Albania.

It was quite something. Two of the schemes in motion at the time had almost two thirds of Albanians making deposits - and those weren't the only ones on the go:

Xhafferi and Populli between them attracted nearly 2 million depositors—in a country with a population of 3.5 million—within a few months.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:20 PM on September 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


It's not a pyramid scheme, it's an opportunity triangle.

The system empowers you to unlock your fullest ponzibilities: give yourself the tools to change your life -- for the better.

The products sell themselves, because they work. The products promote wellness, beauty, and purity. Those are things everybody likes. Science.

You are an ambassador to potential, helping people join the system and take control of their lives. Be your own boss. Be the boss of the other people you tell to be their own boss. Upgrade. Level up. Win awards made with real gold.

Discover your unparalleled power to alienate friends and family. Talk about the system. All topics lead to the system. The system is a way of understanding things. Any things. The system is about opportunity. Some people will disagree: neg them. Why are they afraid to succeed?

Be bold. Be brave. Buy in. Buy now. Earn a discount. It just makes sense.

You sell success. Look successful. Polish your veneer. Cultivate the image of success you project, using common household items like automobiles and households. The money will come. Invest in order to reap. Over-extend. Make others envy you. They will want a piece of the action. They will join the system. Tell them the thing about how they will have no boss.

Level up. Win fancy trips. Call yourself an entrepreneur. Win awards made of precious gems. Stacks of bossless people working under you, feeding opportunity upward to the apex. You are not a middle man. You are are middle royalty. You are on the poster. You are on the website. The opportunity will never stop flowing. Never, ever, ever.

...Ahem.

(Not that I know a thing about it.)
posted by Construction Concern at 3:26 PM on September 27, 2018 [41 favorites]


The Anti-MLM subreddit never ceases to be an amusing read on this topic.

Construction Concern: Win fancy trips.

Another great MLM scam that I continue to be in awe of: overpriced vacations that masquerade as “leadership/business conferences”. You’d better believe all those uplines are getting a piece of the action for every Independent Super Boss Entreprenur that signs up.
posted by dr_dank at 3:49 PM on September 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


I was wholly unprepared for the host to be from mid-Michigan, and I was swamped with memories of almost-all-family MLM parties (mostly Avon, if memory serves) and getting pressured by aunts and cousins to buy jewelry I didn't want*

The comment in the second episode that so many members of her family got into it just for something to do in aimless, futureless post-automotive Michigan hit really hard

*feeling like a spy at an all-woman gathering is, in retrospect, a formative AFAB trans moment
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 4:08 PM on September 27, 2018 [24 favorites]


Good podcast. Thank you.
posted by doctornemo at 4:43 PM on September 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Elle Beau is a good read in this vein. I'll be very interested to see how and why MLM has changed over the decades and how shifting economic factors influenced that.
posted by emkelley at 5:10 PM on September 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


My mom bought/sold a respectable amount of Advocare while I was a tween, though I've no idea how much money we lost on it. An unexpected downside is that I now have a deep nostalgic fondness for Advocare's chocolate meal replacement shakes and Spark energy drinks, a comfort food I can't indulge as an adult without enabling unethical MLM tactics. It feels like craving steak made from endangered baby elephants.

God, that sugary orange caffeine jolt from Spark powder. I've never felt so Extremely Awake from anything not a prescribed dextroamphetamine. I'm amazed I didn't die from sudden heart failure. Once I drank two packets of Spark on an empty stomach and my hands shaking uncontrollably.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:20 PM on September 27, 2018 [12 favorites]


A friend of mine once rose decently high in a small MLM scam that sold fire extinguishers in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and started recruiting for the company full time. She got her own tiny office, hidden somewhere in the bowels of the Monroeville mall ("That one mall where they filmed Dawn of the Dead"™), and hired me as a receptionist.

It was obvious pretty early on that we were working for a pyramid scheme, albeit one with a shallow pyramid. We "interviewed" people as fast as we could, "hired" everyone we "interviewed," and charged them a large-but-not-implausible amount of money for their starter kit of extinguishers to sell. A few of our hires went on to recruit others. I was never clear on how much of a percentage we got when that happened, but I'm sure it was nonzero.

After a while, I learned another thing. There are three classes of fire extinguisher: Class A for wood fires, Class B for grease and gas fires, and Class C for electrical fires. The extinguishers we were selling were Class B–C. Meaning, if your house was burning down, they wouldn't be any help at all — something we certainly never mentioned to anyone. What they could do real well was put out a puddle of burning lighter fluid on a metal pie plate, which coincidentally was what our "employees" did with them in their sales demonstrations.

It took me embarrassingly long to quit. I really wanted it to be not a scam — or to be only 50% scam instead of 99% or 100%. My friend was coming out of an abusive relationship and a long spell of bad mental health, and the hope that I was helping her get back on her feet was seductive enough that I ignored all the bad signs for a month or two. The whole thing gave me a lot more sympathy for people who ignore even bigger red flags than we did.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:20 PM on September 27, 2018 [20 favorites]


I still remember my first corporate job at a huge accounting firm, age nineteen, setting up conference equipment and such from 6am to 9an every weekday morning before classes or other part time jobs.

One morning a higher-up said he wanted to take me out for coffee and talk about my career at the company, and I said yes, because I couldn't figure out why someone so important would want to chat with me about anything.

It turned out to be an Amway pitch. Even as an inexperienced young man, it had red flags all over it, and I was straight-up no, although polite about it. He had never spoken to me before inviting me for the coffee chat, and he never spoke to me after.
posted by davejay at 10:44 PM on September 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


It’s really hard to belive the US Economy isn’t just a combination of pyramid schemes and Est.

Hard, and not wise. But people really work at it.
posted by bongo_x at 10:53 PM on September 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine used to be really cool and fun and interesting until...let's just say it rhymes with "Bleach Body"...got its hooks into her. Suddenly every single Facebook post was all bout her coaching, trying to rope in new "challengers" and touting the virtues of criminally expensive health shakes.

Then she had a baby. Friends, I have never in my life been happier to see someone's feed get taken over entirely by posts about baby sign language classes and poop and tiny shoes. I can only hope she finds something besides the same old pyramid scheme to occupy her time once the kid is old enough to start school. (Maybe teaching. She'll probably have finished her PhD by then...unless her thesis is all about shakes now.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:58 AM on September 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


While I was listening to the first episode I kept thinking about what shitty human beings the two new age MLM'ers were and how they seemed completely unaware of how they came across. I suppose I should feel some sympathy for them but their greed, the way they blamed the people who came into the pyramid below them for being victims, and their conviction that they deserved money for nothing kept me from actually feeling any.
posted by rdr at 6:56 AM on September 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


Ok, mind blown twice for this comment, googled to remember the Canadian supplements mlm for the glossy flyer all in spanish with a handwritten phone number and no url in a poor part of town. Found "Top 10 Canadian MLM's" (was going to link but do not want to add any references) I'm sure every link on that site had referer codes.

How does this exist???
posted by sammyo at 7:03 AM on September 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ugh - my father was a schmoozy salesman in the 70's/80's... Cars, door-to-door vacuums, and eventually... "rhymes with 'erbal-life"... Around the same time as that, he also got us roped into a crazy, cultish Pentecostal church...(Full Gospel Business Men's Association/Fellowship, IIRC).

Which, must have been a huge cognitive dissonance for him as up until then, he had professed to be an atheist - and he drank and smoked - neither of which were allowed in the church... But... there was a love interest in this narrative...

So - I am extremely wary of traditional salespeople "selling me things" (even if I went to a store to buy the things in question), always been cognizant of the under-delivering promises of MLM/pyramid schemes and have no patience for anything "religious".

Therefore... "Thanks dad!"... (And in the end, it looks like he won his lifelong battle to legalize marijuana in Canada, so... have to admire him for sticking to it)
posted by jkaczor at 7:48 AM on September 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


Isn't this also what the nice LDS boys bicycling around the neighborhood are selling?
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:44 AM on September 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


How in the heck is federal law enforcement NOT roping in the top Amway dogs? Everyone I know has known that's a pyramid scheme at least back to the 80s.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:50 AM on September 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


My take on the two in the episode was he was repentant at least and working on making up for his stupidity. The woman, on the other hand, wow - no remorse and boy would I watch my wallet around her.
posted by drewbage1847 at 9:58 AM on September 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


True story, I learned about pyramid schemes from the Money For Nothing episode of The Edison Twins
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 10:01 AM on September 28, 2018 [2 favorites]


How in the heck is federal law enforcement NOT roping in the top Amway dogs?

I have some bad news to tell you about the current Secretary of Education.
posted by sjswitzer at 11:34 AM on September 28, 2018 [9 favorites]


It’s really hard to belive the US Economy isn’t just a combination of pyramid schemes and Est.

Not when you're at the bottom of the pyramid. Then it is easier to believe.
posted by maxsparber at 1:20 PM on September 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


The ‘Airplane Game’ woman sounded like a sociopath. Her every word about the man who got his money back was absolutely dripping with contempt. I’ve got a serious interest in this subject, but I will say that Spark brought me the closest I’ve ever been to a runners high. I still have no idea what was in it.
posted by Selena777 at 6:09 PM on September 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


The "Airplane Game" woman is the mother of one of the host's best friends (roll back to the 2 minute mark). That has GOT to be an awkward situation now that the episode is out in the world.
posted by maudlin at 6:21 PM on September 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


Isn't this also what the nice LDS boys bicycling around the neighborhood are selling?

I believe, actually, those LDS boys are more likely than not peddling “Nu Skin” anti-ageing products. That particular MLM has a real cozy relationship with the church.
posted by Construction Concern at 10:22 AM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Wow, nebulawindphone. I'm a little ashamed to find the idea of MLM fire extinguishers delightful. Assuming they actually worked, that's head and shoulders above the rest. I think you've beat tupperware on the "actually useful" index. Whoever came up with the idea is brilliant.
posted by eotvos at 8:11 PM on September 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Heh. The trouble is, they specifically didn't work on ordinary house fires, which is a pretty standard reason to want a fire extinguisher around...
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:02 AM on September 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


I'm having an issue where I get invited to join in on women's small business networking groups and I can't tell if the organizing group is a pyramid scheme or will be made up of other women involved in pyramid schemes. If they don't have very explicit "no MLM" rule then I don't give it a second look. I'm also getting weirded out by "life coaches." I get the draw. I love telling people how to live their lives! But why are they everywhere all of a sudden? I have a friend who has created her own business creating events. She's promoting this weekend conference for women entrepreneurs, a spa get-away with speakers and sessions and....near as I can tell, the majority of interested participants are involved in some form of life coaching or business coaching. On the one hand, I do believe in business consultants, outside professional opinions being at times valuable and insightful. On the other hand, what is going on? I feel like there's a silo-ing of women's time and energy that is just getting sucked up by schemes.
posted by amanda at 7:54 AM on September 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


Amway was very much a Mormon thing in my part of Australia thirty-odd years ago. (Not Mormon but my mum was suckered in by parents of Mormon schoolfriends and it drove a massive destructive wedge into the family dynamic that's never gone away).
posted by andraste at 3:24 PM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I’m lead to belive MLM in general is a Mormon thing - Orrin Hatch is heavily invested in a few of them.
posted by The Whelk at 4:54 AM on October 1, 2018


I'm also getting weirded out by "life coaches." I get the draw. I love telling people how to live their lives!

There is an uncomfortable resemblance to the mentality of those get rich in real estate seminars, where the con is to sell people materials about how to get rich in real estate, but the whole thing only leads to more seminars.
posted by thelonius at 5:52 AM on October 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


There is an uncomfortable resemblance to the mentality of those get rich in real estate seminars, where the con is to sell people materials about how to get rich in real estate, but the whole thing only leads to more seminars.

The model for Trump University, as it happens!
posted by holborne at 8:55 AM on October 1, 2018 [2 favorites]


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