This is going to alienate and piss off some people. I apologise in advance. But “no, Sharon, I don’t want to buy your shitty weight management shakes!” Sorry, not sorry.
I am a weight loss and wellness expert. I know my shit. I know that miracle diet supplements don’t exist, and it pisses me off that companies think that they can get away with selling them. But one type of company makes me want to rip my face off more than any other. And this is the multi-level marketing company or MLM.
An MLM is a type of company which is close in business model to a pyramid scheme (I legally should say that they are not pyramid schemes). Members of MLM’s buy products from the company and then resell it to friends and family. They also recruit other people to join their team who can sell the product too. Commission is made for them whenever their team makes a sale too. Simple.
Most of this selling and recruiting happens on social media. I’m damn sure you’ve read those cryptic Facebook posts asking if you’d like to lose weight just by drinking coffee or some other shit. And I’ve even started to see more and more ads asking people to join a free weight loss discussion group. Fuck off Susan, when did you become a weight loss specialist, you worked in Tesco’s last week.
There are a fair few reasons why I dislike MLM’s far more than other weight loss companies like Slimfast, or Jane Plan. And because of this intense hatred I have conducted a fair amount of research into them (yep, I turn into an angry geek when things bug me). I’d like to publicly share some of the information I have discovered by completely debunking every single one of the MLM’s claims.
“I’ve found this amazing miracle weight management system, it really works!”
This is the claim which sucks most people into trying MLM supplements. I mean, their testimonials and transformation photos are insane. Why wouldn’t you try it yourself?
So, do MLM supplements really work? Well, yes. But are they magical as unicorn shit? Fuck no. Take two examples of MLM’s – Isagenix and Herbalife… they primarily sell weight management shakes. The plan is to replace one of your daily meals with a shake. Pretty much like Slimfast.
If you follow this plan, I can pretty much guarantee that you will lose weight. But is this because Isagenix has found the Holy Grail of weight loss shakes? Bollocks, it is. It’s because you have just saved yourself 600 calories by drinking a milkshake instead of your normal tuna and mayo sandwich paired with a Mars Bar. Get yourself a Frijj milkshake and save yourself £40.
I was once scammed into trying the NuSkin plan (long story, but it was a shitty business decision) and paid £100 to be told to drink aloe vera juice for two days instead of eating. Yes, I totally lost weight. But not because of the vomit inducing drink. It was because I hadn’t eaten for two days.
An MLM called Thrive sell a special patch which essentially mainlines caffeine directly into your blood stream. And guess what? With extra caffeine you’re going to have more energy and are highly likely to move around more. More movement equals more calories burned which is going to help weight loss. Save yourself the cash and pop to Starbucks instead of sticking patches to your body.
With Juice Plus you take a pill which contains 14 fruit and veg’s worth of vitamins and minerals. Shocker but when your body has the nutrients it needs, you feel healthier and more energetic and so will move more. But would you pay an extortionate MLM price when you could take a decent multi vitamin?
MLM’s use psychology to aid with weight loss too. You’re hardly going to drop £300 per month on supplements and then continue to eat like crap, are you? It’s like when you spend £150 a month to become a Crossfit member. It works well for weight loss because when you spend that much money on a membership you make damn sure you actually turn up to the gym.
I always find it interesting that the advertising posts for MLM products on Facebook never actually tell you what the product is that they’re selling. It’s always something like “want to lose weight by drinking coffee? PM me for more details”. The reason they never reveal the product name is that it’s MLM company policy that sellers are not allowed to make weight loss claims about their supplements. And this is because the company knows that the product isn’t responsible for the loss of fat. The calorie deficit is.
“Yes, the products are more expensive then the ones you find in the shops, but that’s because they are ultra-super special”
Except that they’re not. A protein shake is always a protein shake. Multi-vitamins don’t ever really change. Whilst it is normally true that the more expensive a supplement the better the quality of ingredients, this is not the case with MLM products.
Yes, they are fairly decent quality, but no more special than the stuff you can buy from your local supermarket.
So why are they so expensive? Well, a hell of a lot of people need to make commission from each sale. There are many levels of sellers above the distributer that you bought the supplement from that need to make money. Around 40% of the cost of each product goes just to pay bonuses to the people at the top.
“You can get rich by joining my team”
I love this one! It’s a real shame that most people joining MLM teams never read the company’s income disclosure statement. If they did, then they would discover – by the MLM’s own admission –99% of people who join an MLM never make any money.
The companies are pretty clever when they explain why their business model sucks for the people at the bottom. “Oh, they just joined to get a discount on the products, they never intended to sell it” but conveniently they don’t keep records of how many people have tried and failed to make a business by becoming a distributer. “They failed because they weren’t trying hard enough”. Smooth work, MLM. Blame the seller for their failure. Fuck off and get some morals. And while you’re at it start being honest and tell people that they are being set up to fail.
Part of the problem is that it’s really fucking hard to get people to buy overpriced bullshit. You tend to quickly run out of friends and family members to hawk your crap. There’s only so much protein shake that one person needs. So instead of focusing on selling the supplements, sellers are told to spend most of their time trying to convince people to sell it as well. Then you can get your commission on whatever they sell as well as your own minuscule sales figures. Passive income, baby!
But there’s a problem with this tactic. You only get commissions and bonuses if you sell a specific volume of product yourself each month. So what do you do if you don’t sell enough? Simple. You bulk up your orders by buying stuff for yourself. I highly doubt that a profit and loss sheet looks too healthy if you admit that most of your income comes from the shit you’ve had to buy yourself.
I have personally spoken to people that have lost tens of thousands of pounds by being part of an MLM. They have garages full of supplements. If you don’t believe me then look at the amount of cheap MLM supplements that are for sale on eBay. Every single person selling this stuff cheap is likely to be a person trying to clear the excess stock that they bought themselves to try and hang on to their business.
It’s only the top 5% of sellers, the ones that got into the company really early, that make any proper money. They are making commission on millions of unsuspecting people in the line below them. It’s a predatory and unfair business model.
“But all you need to do is get 5 people to join your team. Then they get 5 people and they get 5 people and soon you are making commission from hundreds of people”
Cool. Except for if you do the maths, you can only do this cycle of 5 people getting 5 people 13 times before that equals the entire world’s population. It can’t be that difficult to get the everyone on the planet to buy your weight loss shake, can it? Fucking idiots.
So what happens if 5 people do join your team? Congratulations, you have just created 5 competitors who are also trying to sell what you sell. It would be like opening a gym, and then suggesting to your clients that they all open a gym next door to yours. At least if you buy a franchise, the company will ensure that no one else can open the same franchise within a certain radius of yours. Basic business sense.
You’ll also find that these 5 people probably know the same people as you do. You are all trying to sell to the same few people. Trust me, your friends are going to lose patience with the “hey hun, buy my shit” pretty damn quick.
“Be your own boss, and live the life of your dreams just by selling with your phone”
Oh hun. Stop. I beg you. Stop telling people that you have your own business. You don’t. You need to follow the rules of the MLM corporation.
Stop telling people that your MLM is better than having a job. A job gives people security, a pension, benefits, and – more importantly – a guaranteed wage.
Refrain from posting your stupid posts showing you drinking your shakes with a million #bossbabe #entrepreneur #livingthedream hashtags. You look like a knob. Don’t forget we are not only watching you start your business, we also notice when you realise that it didn’t make you any money and you quit, or even worse when you start up with a new MLM. Someone I know has gone from Juice Plus, to Thrive to some new nutrition MLM within the space of a year. It’s sad to watch.
And most importantly, stop telling people that all you need to do is think positive thoughts and you can manifest your dreams. That’s not how it works.
To stand any chance of making money with an MLM you need to spend all day every day on your phone. Be willing to convince those dearest to you to join (even though you secretly know that you yourself aren’t making any money). And to be willing to pimp out your family and children to help you advertise. Yes, I have seen women whore out their kids with consistent Facebook photos of them drinking Beachbody shakes. Suffice it to say I’m not a fan of hers.
“it’s a legitimate business opportunity, it’s not a pyramid scheme and it’s not a cult”
The definition of a pyramid scheme is a company which promises that you will earn money by recruiting other people, who then recruit other people. They are illegal to operate as the only people that benefit from them are the people at the top. Everyone else gets proper fucked.
There’s technically not much difference between this model and that of the MLM’s, with one tiny exception which makes it legal for them to trade. And that is that they have a product to sell. Even though sellers are told that the only real way to make money is by recruiting other people, they are allowed to trade because they are selling something. Even if it’s themselves that are the only people buying it.
In fact MLM’s are so close to being illegal that Herbalife was recently fined by the American Federal Trade Commission for their dodgy business model, and settled for $200million. And whilst the FTC never officially called them a pyramid scheme, one of their representatives said “it is not not a pyramid scheme” during litigation.
And now to the cult point. Whilst I am not (for legal purposes) calling MLM schemes a cult, they are pretty fucking close to it:
- They have a charismatic leader who becomes an object of worship. Just watch some videos of MLM conventions and check out how the crowds react to the CEO’s of the company.
- The followers are brainwashed and do things against their character which not in their interest, but in the interest of their leader. I have spoken to many people who report that their friend’s character completely changed after joining an MLM.
- There is economic exploitation of their followers by the group’s leader. People are convinced to join a scheme that the company knows that they won’t make money in.
- No tolerance for questions or negative enquiries. It is common practise in MLM’s to delete FB friends who say negative things about the business or cut people out their lives if they don’t support them. I have personally been abused by MLM sellers online when I asked if they were qualified to sell weight loss products.
To be clear, I am not saying they are a cult. I’m just pointing out that they do share a few of the main characteristics.
I might seem like I’m kind of passionate about this subject. And I am. But for good reason. MLM companies sell you a dream and a lifestyle beyond simple weight loss. And all of those dreams can quickly turn into complete nightmares.
If you have any doubt in what I am saying, then either check out this video from John Oliver or watch the documentary “Betting on Zero”. Check it out on Netflix.
I was at an event where Isagenix was trying to recruit people to their MLM. At one point the guest speaker asked for the cameras (it was being Live streamed on Facebook) to be turned off. This was so that the guy could tell people that his Isagenix shakes cure cancer. I wish I was joking or overexaggerating.
I have witnessed a conversation where a supplement was recommended to someone with Lupus. The active ingredient in the recommended tea could kill someone with an autoimmune disease. If these aren’t the kind of companies that The Anti-Fitness Project should help take down, I don’t know what are.
Help me to sort out these douchebags by following my blog, sharing it with the people that need to see it, and joining in the conversation.
And I’m sorry to any of my friends in MLM’s that have been offended by anything in this article. But feel free to thank me later.
Stay weird, people!
(The Anti-Fitness Trainer)