Friend in need


Dollar bill

Take a closer look …

As an impressionable youth, I was surprised when a senior retail colleague invited me to his home.

Tim* and I had only dealt fleetingly, yet somehow he knew I was studying human resources.

He said he had something vital to impart that could galvanise my fortunes.

Though he declined to ‘ruin the surprise’ with details, I was intrigued enough to accept.

If the shoe fits

When I arrived, Tim’s smiling wife seated me with nibbles but no drink.

People mingled, dressed very much like my hosts.

After small talk (in which I became progressively anxious to learn the ‘big deal’) Tim called for silence.

He then produced a tin of black shoe polish, and began rubbing it into his carpet.

The others gasped, then looked at me.

Having seen this on TV, I showed less shock than they seemed to expect.

And when Tim reversed his ‘mad’ act with a cleaning agent, I realised I’d been sucked in to an Amway party.


As I abhor mendacity, I threw courtesy to the wind and made for the door.

Tim and two cohorts cut me off, imploring me to:

  1. Buy a bottle of cleaning agent for myself.
  2. Buy a box to sell to friends, for fun and profit.
  3. Consider my premature departure’s impact on my career.

As I saw none, I pushed past them (in a scene similar to one decades later).

Dirty talk

Researching this tricky topic, I found a plethora of terms:

I sense that new words emerge as the old ones get … polished off.


Fonnie sold Avon for a while. She had no trouble moving product, but we nearly drowned in promotional guff.

She’s bought Nutrimetics and Tupperware from friends and been happy with the experience.

I recall being impressed by the pink Mary Kay cars of super salespeople.

While these legal firms are a far cry from chain letters and airplane games, the MLM waters still seem murky.


To clarify, I’m keen for your MLM experiences.

Have you:

  • Sold?
  • Sold out?
  • Been sold out?

How is the MLM business model holding up on today’s fast-shifting retail sands?

The first five commenters will get a set of knives so crap they leave steel shards in soft cheese.

So don’t delay.

Join us



* Not his real name. Actually, it might be; I was pretty annoyed by his deceit.


| Founder & Senior Writer – The Feisty Empire

  • I’m with you on this one, Paul.

    I’ve had similar experiences with the ‘punch line’ being withheld until the end of the speil. I felt used that the friend (whom we hadn’t seen for years) kept the ‘friendship’ going only for as long as it took us to say no.

    My experience with another group that I joined because I really liked and trusted their product resulted in my not lasting long because I didn’t want to sell or recruit – I simply wanted the product. I ended up buying ‘stuff’ I didn’t want just to meet their minimum order.

    No more of those models for me!

    • Thank you for yet another generous share, Desolie! (And for your kind social media shout-outs.)

      I was beginnining to worry that all our readers were into Amway (and mighty cross at my field report)!

      This was nearly 30 years ago, so I’m hoping things have improved.

      I’ve invited some of the protagonists to comment, to ensure our debate is objective.

      I’m particularly pleased you’ve started us off so well. :)

      • M

        I was once a victim of this MLM group. It happened 3 years ago when I was looking for a part-time job. And then, a friend told me that she wanted me to be part of their team who’d be doing some networking stuff for a big company ( I asked several times what that was all about and she assured me that it’s for a recently launched company who needs to get their computer network up and running) You cannot imagine my frustration and disgust when instead of going to an office, we were in a sort of a get-together party of that MLM members and everyone she knew came to us telling us how wonderful it was to be part of their marketing team (Yup, I was not the only victim of my fraudulent friend, atleast I wasn’t the only, :D) They could have recruited me to their team successfully if only they gave me the right expectations.

      • Welcome to you, M! Sounds like you got out of there before the going got bad.

        I recall looking for work. As the weeks passed, I went for ever crappier jobs. There’s a feeling of desperation as your funds shrink and your rejections pile up.

        Reading your words, it looks like the unemployed could be a happy hunting ground for unscrupulous MLM types.

        Revelations like yours are the life-blood of this blog, so thanks very much for sharing. :)

  • I was in Amway some years ago, but I hated the ‘don’t tell them’ routine (and didn’t do it. In fact, we were told not to do it in my group.) I got in with some friends and loved the support structure and relationship building that was encouraged – I think I learned a lot so I have no regrets. Selling a scheme to lots of people wasn’t me – being a writer suits me much better, lol! So I left after a while.

    MLM can work but not for everyone and it earned itself such a bad reputation that is starting from behind in every instance – not where I’d want my business to be really.

    Party plan I’d never do and don’t really like being invited to them. Some I’ve attended have been all sell – admittedly some have been fun and the soft sales approach is nicer.

    I don’t know about Desolie, but I’ll happily leave my ‘prize’ for the next five commenters…

    • You’re such a font of experience, Tash. Yet again you fill our trough!

      It’s interesting to see this topic through your eyes from both sides of the fence.

      I’ve not been to a party plan, but I imagine I’d feel bad if I scoffed the Cheezels and buggered off without buying anything. Do you (or others) think you’d feel the same way?

      Best regards and thanks! P. :)

      • It’s been a-g-e-s since I attended a ‘party’ – yes, they were fun, but I usually came away with something(s) I didn’t really need. I think I must be a soft target :-)

        Although a Tupperware orange peeler was pretty good, and I’ve not been able to find another one.

        You’re right, Tash, steak knives – blunt or sharp – can be shuffled down the line.

      • You certainly are a kind soul, Desolie. It’s hard to imagine you devouring the snacks and leaving empty handed. :)

      • I think that’s what a lot of party planners count on and that guilt is horrible. I try and remind myself that my friend is supplying the food, not the party planner, so the party planner has only given her time (which of course has value to her!) as marketing – bit less pressure that way :)

      • That’s a great point, Tash! I always saw the nibbles as sunk costs incurred by the party planner, which the guests had a ‘moral’ resonsiblity to cover.

        While I get that Fonnie has made the occasional ‘guilt’ purchase, I find myself wishing she’d stick to eBay.

        But then, she’s a much kinder soul than I, so who am I to pooh-pooh her decency? Or is it precisely this trait that sees her played like a zither?!

        No wonder I prefer to stay at home …

  • I appreciate enthusiasts, in fact at a young age I too sold soap. Indeed, so many seasoned, successful business men built their empire selling soap. And some still sell soap; or a book on how to make soap suds.

    I’m happy to ‘mercy buy’ from a friend, but after a while it wears thin.

    In a previous post, I commented past experiences slowly eroded my trust in entrepreneurs. Realising so many are exceptional at selling their vision, and their hope for success when you hitch your star to their wagon.

    My shell has become a bit crusty, so I’m not shy when it comes to saying, thanks but I already have a vacuum cleaner.

    My buying habits have changed, and as a result my previous intolerance to a sales pitch has softened. I’m not merely blowing bubbles when I say, thanks but no thanks.

    Cheers Paul

    • I feel like I ordered a Desolie and got a Catherine FREE! Suddenly, the exorbitant price makes perfect sense.

      Thank you for joining us yet again. I’m starting to look forward to your appearances, which could lead to heartbreak if I hit a bum note.

      But by golly, it’s worth the risk!

      Fortune favours the brave. 😛

      • That’s funny, but it’s because of Desolie I came across. She has to be one of the most sincere, loyal people I know. I trust her.

        I was delighted to discover a story teller on a humble MYOB blog. I enjoy the way you take simple life experiences to examine human behaviour. You’re quite the story teller.

        I remain your humble reader.


      • Dear Catherine, I agree there’s something about Desolie.

        Some say that when you give with one hand, god fills the other. With Desolie, it’s like meeting an octopus under a xmas tree! :)

        Your comment has brightened my day no end. At parties, I can take 40 minutes answer the question, ‘How are you?’ This is tres unfun for most.

        It’s so nice to know that a trait which people to death in person has merit in this space.

        I’m humbled by your commment.

        And inspired to keep narrating!

        Thank you so much. :)

      • Sorry, it’s a bit early and my coffee hasn’t cut in.


        ‘ … 40 minutes TO answer … ‘
        ‘ … a trait which BORES people to death … ‘

      • I’m lost for words!

        Thank you, Paul and Catherine, for your kind words. You make it easy for me to be ‘me’.

  • Ahhhh the meeting you have without knowing you’re being invited to a meeting!
    I cannot bear this type of subterfuge and I worked in mlm for 10 years – here and in the U.S. Make no mistake this type of inane, secretive hoodwinking was never part of my armoury. If you work from the premise that in sales (no matter what you sell) the first thing people buy is “you” – then how can this possibly work? It may work for a short time because you’ve guilted people into buying your product or your system – but longterm its doomed. And the reason is easy to see. It was started on a porky pie, a tarry diddler, a lie.
    When times toughen – jobs being lost, redundancies, not a lot of jobs out of there – people turn to an alternate source of income – and often that is direct sales, multi level marketing (you pick the term). Understandable. The dinosaurs of the world still believe that once you’ve attended one of these home meetings or a major presentation you’ll be so enraptured that you just have to sign up! I beg to differ.
    The interesting thing is what’s happening now – I watch how the direct sales, multi levellers are promoting themselves in social media. I wonder how many of us were absolutely fed up with the Trump evangelists that chocked up our twitter feeds; or how many of us snarl ferociously every time a brand new multi leveller feels they have THE product that they just HAVE to share onto our facebook timelines…
    Same story, different tools.
    And the sad thing is they burn their friends, friends of friends, associates and networks without recognising they’re isolating themselves into a group of ‘same thinkers’ who, in the longterm won’t be around…
    And, now, I’m fully expecting the roars of outrage, the we’re different, not us – no sirree – if only you’d look at …. *pffffft* Begone – go peddle your wares elsewhere, Sunshine!

    • Dear Debra, I so love it when we garner the views of someone who’s lived the topic to the degree you have.

      I thought we were on the same page. I now realise I’m on YOUR page! :)

      I like accumulating Twitter followers, but I can’t bring myself to follow back anyone with MLM in their profile.

      And when I did follow a couple back after tweeting this post in the hope of getting their views, they immediately set to work trying to flog me stuff via DMs!

      Looks like they can’t help themselves.

      I’m always keen for a fair, balanced debate. I therefore warmly invite those across the table from you to respond.

      Thank you for your generous reply. I’m sorry you had some techno drama with your first attempt and am very grateful you gave it another shot.

      I’m also very pleased that you managed to tie our topic to a broader economic theme.

      So, a BIG thanks across the board for another wonderful share! 😛

  • Oh look this looks like a gallery of my favourite peeps! MLM is a funny thing. I had a tilt at this at one stage that was a bit of a personal challenge for me initially it was a test for me to see if my thinking could be as flexible as I like to think.

    It happens that I liked the products quite well and I liked the energy and vision of the founders. Ultimately the company failed and probably in part because they tried to open up overseas in markets they were not equipped to deal with. This expansion was also part of what interested me so it was disappointing when it folded. Another reason I was involved was that it suited me from a ‘social lubrication’ point of view in my work at the time.

    I learned some things from the exercise. Chief among the lessons was that being in a church community is a good way to peddle memberships (I am not in a church community).

    I learned that if you want to recruit others then it is a really bad look if you are all over them until they sign up and then disappear. I saw quite a bit of this.

    I learned that people often get their first exposure to personal development from being involved with MLM. Many stay for that reason. This is weird but understandable in some ways. The MLM gives a structure and money to create the infrastructure to make this available I guess. Paying for this privately would be a better approach for anyone who likes the thinking part and personal growth but not so keen on selling soap powder.

    I learned that most people have no idea what a pyramid scheme is although they are quite to deride them and are appalled by them.

    And I learned that there are many business people who are quite intelligent and hard working who are willing to put effort into a second ‘business opportunity’ instead of looking at their primary business and bringing a new level of energy, new ideas and fresh ways of connecting with customers and the marketplace for a more easily achieved profitable outcome.

    • Well, Lindy, you just adeed a fine set of uplights to our gallery, and they’re highly illuminating! :)

      Thank you for your potent combination of experinece and analysis. Comments like yours make for a very good day in the blogosphere.

      With kind regards, P. :)

  • G’Day Paul,
    I’ve never been over-excited by MLM in any of it’s forms. Although I’ve bought the odd product at various times. But I’m mightily impressed by “abhor mendacity!” For a start, it means that you don’t have to accuse people of being “bloody liars.” And it sounds so couth and cultured too.

    I’m so tempted to steal it. I’d just love to know what you’d call me rather than a “bloody plagiarist.”



    • Welcome to our little gathering, Leon. Luckily for you, today only, ‘abhor mendacity’ is our FREE gift with puchase!

      You need only spend $50 or more on the items displayed on Enid’s lovely Formica bench and you’re a winner!!! 😀

      • Desolie

        Can’t help myself – do you usually expect people to pay for the gifts you give them?!

      • Well, we can’t just GIVE them away, can we?! Where would be the profit in that? 😉

  • Years ago I used Mary Kay and the woman I bought if from was a “red jacket multi pin type” who had her very own Pink Car – no subterfuge there you couldn’t miss the bloody thing. I always felt a little queasy if she was delivering my order during the daylight – thinking the neighbours would stop speaking to me for fear of being “roped into” a “party”.! Then there was the time a note was left on her windscreen in a major shopping centre car park from a woman who had just moved to Brisbane and wanted a new Mary Kay rep! But the burning question for me always was – who bought the great big pink things once the manager upgraded to the new model – and did they collect good money for hastily re-labelled Ponds Cold Cream !

    • Welcome, Angela! (And thank you for your patience.)

      I was hoping to get a pink-car story, so I’m very happy to see you.

      I imagine they have a polarsing effect, as you amply illustrate.

      You raise a great point: where did those jolly cars end up? I like to think they were chopped down, souped up and run into bits at demolition derbies. Can you imagine how much the other racers would NOT want to be beaten by a Mary Kay car?!

      Perhaps there are others even closer to the action who can set us straight.

      Meanwile, thank YOU for join us. :)

  • At the risk of inciting a flurry of MLM’ers, I haven’t come across one scheme that doesn’t strike me as being economically and/or intellectually dishonest. That is my opinion. The credibility destroying subterfuges many MLM adherents use is just the final straw for me.

  • Hi, Stephen. I’d love to incite (or at least attract) a flurry of MLMers to ensure we get their views.

    I’ve put the call out far and loud, but received little response. I live in hope and am grateful for your opinion meantime.

    BTW, I wonder if ‘gaggle’ would be better than ‘flurry’. Or perhaps ‘murder’. A murder of MLMers. With luck we shall find the right collective term to boot! 😉