THE CULTS LEAVING WOMEN BANKRUPT
Multi-level marketing companies are robbing women of everything they own. With all of the negative information about these corporate cults available within a few clicks, why are women still being brainwashed into bankruptcy?
Multi-level marketing companies have become cults that lure women in with promises of becoming self-made millionaires, when, in reality, they are leaving them bankrupt. They sell cheetah leggings in obscenely bright neon, they sell anti-aging, anti-everything creams and potions, they sell shampoo that makes you bald, they sell essential oils that promise world peace. They profit from selling women the false promise of being their own “boss”. In a time when sustainability is championed, excess still reigns supreme in these shadowy circles. Products must be bought in order to be inducted into the groups, and a set amount of product must be purchased each month in order to move up the ranks. A buy-in to the scheme can cost anywhere between 25 dollars to 500 dollars. To MLMs excess is success, even if it floods the markets and ends up leaving sellers with no one to sell to. The recruiters are known in the community as “Huns”, an unironic play on their introductory phrase of choice “hey, Hun”.
Over 75 percent of all people involved in MLMs are women. Not women who use their pyramid scheme accredited net worth to buy luxury penthouses in Manhattan - but women in the middle of the country who grew up surrounded by men who taught them that women are subservient and are never the breadwinners. MLMs are a way of life for Mormons, Utah being the state with the largest presence of sellers, while for one of the top MLM companies, there are only nine sellers in Manhattan, a city with over nine million people.
They will profit off anything and everything. An essential oils MLM held a 25% off sale for 9/11 selling oils with names like “Patriotic Passion” and “Forgive”, the words photoshopped with elementary skill over names on the 9/11 memorial.
The only ones who make money are the ones who get in first, who become crowned as “coaches” and make an extra profit from sharing their entire lives on social media - everything from divorce proceedings to their baby’s failed circumcision. Certain “perks”, like being pregnant, are exploited. Coaches approach women who are pregnant to start selling or encourage women to take out their IUDs in order to be able to sell more product, like some sort of suburban mom’s Handmaid's Tale.
They’re dystopian set ups that write their own demise. Sellers must abide by strict daily routines that involve using the product, promoting the product, and sending out hundreds of messages encouraging people to sign up to sell the products themselves. If you’re lucky enough you’ll be given a brand-new white E-class Mercedes, except the lease is in your name, and you must drive around with the MLM’s logo emblazoned on its side.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, coaches are lamenting about their sorrows on the internet, debating whether to go on their pre-paid vacations and risk being trapped, and potentially hospitalized alone and without insurance in foreign lands.
For MLM “huns” the pandemic has served as a profitable muse. When federal stimulus checks were sent out in April, women high-up in the companies enticed viewers, via Instagram stories (their preferred propaganda soapbox), to put a “small chunk” (direct quote) of the $1,200 check into signing up for an MLM, instead of buying groceries for their families. Like any cult, they rely on tactics of intimidation and forced guilt for control. Sellers post videos of themselves scoffing at people who had been furloughed or laid off saying that if they had worked for an MLM they would still have a job. But, in reality, it’s a trap. Many survive off company bonuses to flaunt their hollow wealth while secretly working a second job, and if the MLM goes bankrupt or is exposed as being a pyramid scheme by the federal government, they are left with nothing.
Arbonne, a vegan skincare MLM, has sellers who have been sending crumpled, unwrapped products to emergency room doctors, not with a thank you note but with a business card attached. “Hey hun” if you’re interested you can start selling cruelty free skincare after spending all day scrambling for PPE and ventilators. You can be ripped off but not only the federal government, but by a pyramid scheme as well!” Arbonne is a God amongst mortals in the MLM community - their “recruitment” song echoing the motto “we stand tall” is eerily familiar to the Scientology recruitment song with same motto, a played-off coincidence that tells you everything you need to know. Giants like Arbonne and Amway, one of America’s oldest MLMs and the business venture responsible for the majority of current Education Secretary Betsey Devos’s wealth, lobby The Federal Trade Commission to always act in their favor, and to instead tear down smaller MLMs so that they can be used as a “they do it but we don’t” example.
The women of MLMs are told that everything that happens to them is entirely in their control, creating a vicious cycle where if they fail to sell product they are too embarrassed to tell anyone about it, adding to the false illusion of success that MLMs rely on to survive.
Kimberly is a former MLM member and lawyer who has found recent success in starting a YouTube channel where she uploads informative videos about the perils and deceptions of MLMs. She tells me that membership numbers have increased due to COVID-19, and that it will likely remain that way for some time. "The popularity will die down after about 1 year of a distributor trying to make it. Most won't rank up as it shows in the most recent income disclosure statement from Monat in 2019 [that] over 93% were still at the first rank. People will give up at some point. But unfortunately chasing that dream keeps them on the hook despite evidence that the ramifications of being involved can lead to divorce, bankruptcy, debts, and even death and suicide.”
Why, with all of the information readily available on the internet and a growing anti-MLM movement, do you think women still continue to join them? A former MLM member who has requested for their identity to be kept anonymous says: “it’s the unawareness in the first place, they’re sucked in quick and fast, with no time left to think. That’s their game, they pressure you and make you act on a whim. I also think ego can play a role, they think “I can be the 1%, easy!” and that is just not the case.”
It is important to note that Rabble Rouser spoke to numerous anti-MLM activists and former MLM members as a part of the research behind this piece. All participants communicated in anonymity; with the exception of Kimberly, as she is already a public figure on YouTube. Many used false names, and some ended up dropping out of interviews as they had come to think I was an MLM member in disguise, despite proving my intent and identity. MLMs are cruel beasts and will resort to intimidation and blackmail tactics if necessary. They will do anything in order to protect their profit.
MLMS are legal in the U.S and the U.K, and they will go to any length to circumvent their pyramid-shaped edges. Their profitable muse, the pandemic, is increasing their popularity exponentially. Internal complaints are the main reason why MLMs get shut down. The sudden increase in subscriptions will, overtime, result in a sudden increase in internal complaints, once they come to see the companies for the scams that they are. They are armed with an arsenal of manipulation tactics. They are a dystopian epic of consumer culture and faulty government structures. Media channels inundated with blindingly neon legging and essential oils will not fade any time soon. But, it’s the telling of these stories and the spreading of fact, not fiction, that will chip away at their facade, revealing their illegalities and ultimately lead to their demise.