Suddenly I’m being approached by people to join, or buy into, the MLM business they’re involved in. This is a relatively new experience for me—just started a year or so ago—and I don’t really know why it’s suddenly become a thing; but I imagine these people are likely eyeballing the network I’ve built online—the thousands of Facebook friends I’ve culled, and the hundreds of people who follow my blog various pages (Rand Eastwood blog and Rolling The Bones).
That, and perhaps because the Internet and social media have made it easier than ever before to build a huge network of participants in the scheme.
I’m just speculating, of course, but I can’t imagine what else would attract these people to me, why in the world they would think I’d be the least bit interested in participating in their MLM or “network marketing” or whatever the latest euphemism is for “pyramid scheme.”
I would think anyone who knows me at all would know better. I sum up my position on this issue in this way:
“Here—let’s all agree to buy something from each other at an inflated price, then spread the artificial profits around amongst ourselves—we’ll just be sure to keep recruiting new blood at the bottom in order to fund the system.”
In discussing MLMs on social media, one proponent keyed in on the pyramid element, the hierarchy, citing other businesses such as law firms, insurance agencies, and real estate agencies in his defense. He asked:
“Law firms don’t have partners who recruit younger attorneys to do the leg work that the partners get paid on?”
Now, on the surface, this comparison seems reasonable. It’s presenting the MLM system as being no different from similar hierarchies within other businesses, in which the owners or managers recruit workers at the bottom level, and they all make more money based on the productivity of their subordinates.
So yeah, that seems reasonable. But for me, the hierarchy is not what’s at issue here.
For me, what’s at issue is the notion of creating real value vs. perceived value.
In my opinion, within these MLMs/network marketing/pyramid schemes, there’s a subtle, nearly imperceptible shift of value perception—from that of the product/service being offered, to the system itself—i.e., everyone helping everyone else make money.
And since there IS value in helping each other make money (and especially if the product is health-related, and thus perceived to also be helping, or good for, or of value to, the consumers), then it’s easy to perceive that real value is being created.
“Hey, we’re helping each other, and we’re helping our customers, there’s value in that, so we’re making honest money.”
But the way I see it, this simply isn’t the case. The value is not rooted in the product or service, which the purchasers willingly exchange for dollars; rather, it’s rooted in the system itself, and in reality, the wealth is not being created as a result of creating real value for people—it’s simply being transferred upward from the new recruits coming in at the bottom level, who are ultimately being sold a pipe dream by those at the top, who were lucky enough to get in on the ground floor.
Now that being the case, then I suppose, depending on the system, there could be a moral/immoral element as well; but that’s not the primary basis of my dissuasion, rather my preference for creating real value for people.
Oh—and my desire to be able to sleep at night…
So that’s the way I perceive MLMs, accurate or not. And I have nothing against people who enjoy participating in such systems, and are able to make money doing so—as long as they’re not outright screwing people—but I have no desire to participate in them myself.
So don’t ask.