If you’ve ever heard of MLMs (multi-level marketing) also known as network marketing, you’ve undoubtedly run into people who are anti-MLM. In fact, there are over 750K people in the anti-MLM subreddit, tons of large anti-MLM groups on Facebook, and many YouTubers who discuss this subject. So why do people hate MLMs? I went through hundreds if not thousands of Facebook and Reddit comments and posts to get to the bottom of it.
Most people do not like MLMs because they consider them predatory and/or deceptive. This includes being predatory and misleading in the business model structure itself, recruiting tactics, and sales tactics.
MLMs do most of their recruiting through social media. There seems to be a focus on recruiting women. MLMers build social media followings by posting inspirational quotes, constant positivity, and showing off lifestyles their target audience would aspire to. Whether that is a trip to an exotic beach or being able to raise your kids in your own living room. They show off this beautiful life, only showing the good things. Only ever having a positive attitude. This attracts women who would like to live that same life. However, the persona for most of these women on social media is just an image. The fact remains 99% of individuals that participate in MLMs lose money. Jessie Lee/Boss Lee is no doubt very successful in Network Marketing. She is well-spoken and from what I’ve seen, she leads a very desirable life. Like the post below, where she is showing off all her success with the expensive cars she’s purchased.
Over time, MLMers can grow their audience by displaying their desirable lives, which would incentivize their followers to try to be recruited by these MLMs. By reviewing income disclosures of MLMs and this study was done and published by the FTC, it shows that 99% of people do not make any money while working in MLMs. However, those that recruit them will make a commission off the products they buy.
The other recruiting tactic that is deceptive, given that 99% of individuals in MLMs will lose money, is the idea that as long as you work hard, you will succeed. This tweet below is an example of that. They are putting out there in the world that desire and handwork will make you successful. But yet, MLMs do not apply basic business practices to their business models, such as supply and demand! In the tweet below, they also #supportsmallbusiness – which brings me to my next point.
Claiming to be Small Businesses
As shown above, there are many examples of MLM independent consultants making claims they are small businesses. But are MLMs small businesses? No, most MLM companies are making millions, and independent sales consultants do not own the business. They are independent consultants that have their compensation plan set up by the company they are working with. The consultant can walk away at any time and the business will continue. The consultant is setting up a stream of income for themselves, but they are not in fact owning a business by participating in the MLM. The MLMs themselves are also not small businesses as they usually generate annual sales of millions or billions.
Putting Down Traditional Employment
Individuals in MLMs either directly or indirectly try to make others feel like they are inferior by being in the “rat race” or by having a boss. They often make it sound like this is negative and imply there is something wrong with having traditional employment and benefits when you could be your own boss. However, in these MLMs, they have “Uplines” which are pseudo-management. They often schedule “power hours” and “training calls” with these teams in which they are coached or held accountable to do certain tasks. They may also use the phrase that you’re trading “time for money”.
For the record, for anyone reading this, there is nothing wrong with traditional employment or finding other ways to make money, both work for a lot of people. My traditional employer has provided me with a fair salary for my time, and great benefits for myself and my family. Those in MLMs, unless they are in the minority with a large downline are also trading time for potential money, but no salary is guaranteed and you can spend a whole lot of time trading time for no money.
Faking Interest in People
A lot of comments surrounded people being frustrated with an MLMer faking an interest in them just to get to a sales pitch. They thought there was a genuine connection or interest. However, ultimately it turned out they were being viewed as a number and someone to recruit or sell to. Maybe as a working mom with little kids, this bothers me the most because I know what it is like to crave adult interaction and to try to make friendships when in this stage of life. There are a few examples below I found that stuck out to me, where people expressed one of the top reasons they hated MLMs was the faking of interest
Claiming Products Can Help Those with Serious Medical Conditions
When reading through Facebook groups, Reddit posts, tweets, etc, there were a number of people who were so frustrated about MLMs trying to prey upon people with serious illnesses. They may reach out to a cancer patient to offer some additional vitamins or wellness products. Or in the example below, someone who was sufferings from hair loss from a serious medical condition was reached out to be recruited for hair products. Offering non-scientifically backed options to people who are sick and most likely in a very vulnerable condition is extremely predatory. Taking advantage of someone when they are in these kinds of positions is really unacceptable, even if the MLMer really believes they are “helping”.
Back in March I had tears in my eyes as I cut my hair in my bathroom due to it thinning because of a medical reason. Thankfully it’s not permanent. Today I get this message, and it’s not the first one I’ve gotten. I’m so angry and upset. Fuck your pyramid scheme. #monat #antimlm pic.twitter.com/hDgBrI2ZE3— Monica reporting to you live, from a highway (@JerseyGTexanH) May 29, 2021
Overcharging for Subpar Products
Last but not least, a complaint is overcharging for sometimes, subpar or controversial products. This could be an entire article in itself, and maybe someday I’ll write it. But often times MLMs are selling products that comparable products are available at a much cheaper price at brick-and-mortar stores. Also, some products are controversial, Monat products have many complaints of causing hair loss. There was also an MLM called BOO – Black Oxygen Organics, that sold dirt, and many individuals really thought consuming this dirt had health benefits.
So, in short, it seems that people dislike MLMs because they recruit individuals by presenting them with unrealistic expectations, to sell products that are often not of good quality or there are more fairly priced alternatives in traditional markets. Then once they are in the MLMs they are trained to try to sell and recruit other people in vulnerable situations. There is also a huge component that wasn’t discussed in this article…the toxic culture once recruited. There are many claims about how toxic MLMs are, which is a story for another day.
I would love to hear from you if you think I captured something wrong. Please email me or reach out to me on Instagram. I genuinely would love to hear from you.