I watched Penn and Teller on Showtime the other night, the 8th season of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Penn and Teller are notoriously outspoken comedians who crusade to expose the inherent hypocrisy of many popular beliefs and cultural institutions. In Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Season 8 Episode 5: Everyone wants to get rich quick, but are multi-level marketing schemes really the answer? Penn & Teller reveal the truth about direct-sales companies that market everything from sausages to sex toys.
I learned about network marketing in 1971 when a friend became a recruiter and distributor with Glenn Turner, his Koscot mink oil cosmetic line and his success-motivation course called Dare to Be Great. I knew 5 co-workers who were selling the same thing, so I figured out that the real product wasn’t skin softener, it was recruitment. While I agree the Dare to be Great motivation course was inspiring, the ones I knew selling Koscot only listened to the tapes and went to the meetings and paid for workshops in the hopes of networking to sell at the event. All trying to sell to each other. But they couldn’t see that. They’d been mesmerized by the pitch. It seemed like the whole “motivation course” was just to psych them up about selling the product. They didn’t see that. Ultimately, none of them recouped their investment and most spent a lot of their own money. I’m glad I got that lesson early.
I have some friends caught on the network marketing hamster wheel. They all have the face of optimism as they run themselves all around the state to the pep rally sessions. They exaggerate their profits to each other and they each pretend to believe the other; it gives them hope for themselves. They aren’t making money, it’s costing them time and money. They have the illusion of a big social network, but they are all just running from venue to venue, purposely being kept busy so they don’t have a moment to realize that nothing is really happening. And it won’t as long as they are all wrapped up in the hype and running around and trying to sell to each other. And they don’t see it.
I used to think it was sad to see them wasting their time and effort on something I knew would not pay off for them. A friend asked questions like “Have you broken even yet?” and they always look kind of dejected but try to fake optimism like “No, not yet, but it’s looking really good about 3 months from now. And from there the sky’s the limit!” Most don’t have the personality required to successfully sell, period. This type of business is not for them and their friends were not being their friends when they recruited them; they just saw them as a downline.
I don’t feel sad when I see that anymore. Now I realize that no matter what I say or don’t say, everyone has to learn for themselves. If they find some kind of fulfillment running from meeting to meeting, if that gives them hope for a better tomorrow, then it’s not for me to burst their happy bubble.
Now, when they come to me asking why things are not working out for them, that’s the time to let them know my thoughts. We’re all just looking for our niche. We want to be involved in something – anything – that holds our interest and lets us feel a sense of connection with like minded friends. There are so many ways to being doing that.
But for most, network marketing is not one of them, and all it does is become a funnel for your money as you alienate the friends and family you keep soliciting.
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