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3 Times I Was Pitched to Join An MLM

February 18, 2020 in Rant - 8 min read

It’s become a coming of age moment, that part of your life when you get pitched to join an MLM. Think of any time that an old high school friend slid into your DM’s with an emoji-ridden message like:

Hey, hun! I hope it isn’t weird to message you out of nowhere but I have an opening in my business that I think you would be AMAZING at! Be your own #bossbabe, work from home and get paid up to $4000 a month! Message me any time if you’re interested!

MLM pitches of this ilk have ravaged the internet in recent years. They also take the form of “product tester/model” pitches, raffle pitches or “I’ve got X number of spots left this month!” pitches. Regardless, they’re all the same. MLM pitches seek to make a sale, or better yet, a recruitment.

So, in the interest of delving into what I hope will be a small series of blog posts on MLM’s, allow me to share the 3 times that I was pitched to join an MLM in real life.


The Houndstooth Coat Lady

Back in 2009, I struggled to get a hold of adult life. Sure, I lived in a townhouse with my boyfriend and another roommate. I managed to settle into my retail job for 4+ years. My anxiety, however, prevented me from ever feeling confident and secure. Self-confidence always plagued me, though I vowed that I’d figure it out eventually.

Well, one night I worked a late shift at my retail job and I noticed this pretty woman in an amazing houndstooth coat. So chic! So Gossip Girl! She carried that air of confidence that I desired, and lo and behold, she caught sight of me.

The MLM Pitch

She wanted to buy a piece of wall art and I offered to carry it to the front for her, but she stopped me before I could leave.

“I just wanted to say how pretty you are!”

“Oh, thanks,” I said, shocked that she would ever think so.

“If you ever wanted to try working for this skincare company I joined, I think you’d do well.” She slipped me her business card. “Give me a call sometime!”

I slipped the card into my apron pocket and carried the piece of wall art to the front for her. At the end of my shift, I walked home and checked out the website. The company? Arbonne. Back in 2009, Arbonne focused more on skincare than the weight loss supplements they do now. I browsed the website, intrigued.

The MLM Business

The bottles carried a minimalist look, featuring that mint green / bamboo combination that was so hot at the time. This woman thought I could sell these high products? Surprise struck me. I browsed further into the business pages, realizing that “working” for Arbonne involved selling these expensive products to friends and family. But who, out of my friends and family, would purchase a skin rejuvenation kit for over $100?

No one. Which meant that running my Arbonne “business” would require approaching strangers and asking if they would like to purchase a skin rejuvenation kit for over $100?

I seized up. The thought of working for a company so luxe, of working with a woman so chic, was so enticing, but my anxiety prevented me from doing so.

I never called the woman.

Later, I candidly mentioned the business proposition to my coworker, Laura. “She thought I’d be good it!” I said, trying to boast confidence.

“Oh God,” Laura said, upon mention of Arbonne. “They do that shit all the time. They try to recruit anyone.”

Admittedly, I was miffed, but in the progressing weeks the woman would return in her houndstooth coat. So chic. So alluring. I avoided her, refused to make eye contact. Eventually, I realized that she wasn’t going to mention Arbonne to me again.

Why? Because I shunned her. Later I’d realize how good that would feel.


The Free Makeover Lady

A few years after the Houndstooth Coat MLM Pitch, I helped a middle-aged woman at work with some bedding. In the middle of my rambling about the sheet set she considered buying, she stared me right in the eye. I stopped talking.

“You are very beautiful. You have a beautiful face, you know that?”

“Uh, thanks?” I said, unsure as to where she saw this alleged “beauty”. Self-confidence still hadn’t found me. I did my makeup but struggled to get it right.

The (AwKwArD) MLM Pitch

“Say,” the woman said, “if you and bunch of friends want to come have a party at my place, I would love to give you all makeovers!”

First off, why would you say I was beautiful and then offer me a makeover? Secondly, why would I visit your house not knowing you at all?

“I work for a company and we have so many great products. These parties are a ton of fun.”

“I…its really hard to get all my friends together because we work,” I tried. An excuse, yes, but I attempted to feign politeness.

“Does this not sound like something you’d be interested in?”

“Uh, no,” I said. “Not really. No.”

“Oh, okay then.”

The MLM Business

This woman didn’t seem too phased. I sold her on the sheets and she went about her way. I failed to discover which MLM she worked for, though it was makeup-related so I assumed it was Mary Kay.


The Weird AF Manic Pixie Dream MLM Lady

Flash forward to December of 2019. Six months pregnant with my son, things were getting tough, and I struggled through my work shifts with the sole intention of getting the hell home. One late shift, I overheard a young blonde-haired woman sporting a pixie cut calking to my co-worker, Sarah.

“Oh, you look really cute!”

Sarah thanked her, but continued with her work.

Eventually, the pixie-woman found her way to me, where I was rearranging clearance artwork on one of the shelves.

“Oh, I love your outfit!” she exclaimed.

Being pregnant and also self-absorbed (and now possessing the self-confidence I spent a decade craving), I thanked her for the compliment. She picked through the wall art and considered a few pieces, but once she finished browsing, she stuck around. This proved awkward, as I despise doing manual labour in front of watching eyes. Not to mention, my pregnancy also made tasking awkward AF.

To make matters even more awkward, pixie-woman started down a weird line of conversation.

“It must be so cool to work here!” she said.

“Yeah, I’ve worked her for 13 years.”

“Oh, my God, that’s crazy!”

“Yeah, I said, “but I also write part time.”

“Oh, my God, really?!”

I then made the mistake of venturing down the writer wormhole. I told her about my book, which she went on to ask me about. Really, I shouldn’t blame my nature. All a writer ever really wants is a chance to talk about their work, but this line of conversation went south rather quick.

The Insanely Awkward and Vague MLM Pitch

“So, would you say that you’re a person who likes flexibity?” she asked.

Oh fuck, I thought.

“Uh, kind of,” I said.

“Would you be interested in trying new things?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “This job works for me.”

“Because I have some friends who used to be private detectives and they both LOVED their job, but then they tried this new business opportunity and now they make like hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, good for them!”

“Well, we can totally set up a time to meet for coffee together.”

WTF?!

“It’s totally no pressure,” she said. “They’ll tell you everything that they do and we’ll talk about working this business together. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?”

“No,” I finally said.

She looked deflated. “You’d rather just work here?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I work here and I do my writing at home. This works for me.”

FINALLY, she left me the hell alone.

The MLM Business?

Now, I’m really unsure as to what kind of business she was promoting here, but I can on only guess it’s one of those new scam companies that buy domain names and optimize their SEO scores to rank on Google only to resell those domain names to real business wanting to get hits. Lately I’ve been plagued with ads for these sort of “businesses” on Facebook. I can’t tell if they’re MLM’s or not.

This woman was so damn vague about that she was recruiting me for, though. I remain stunned at her pitch.

Furthermore, WHY THE HELL DO I KEEP GETTING PITCHES AT MY JOB?!


My MLM Rant

Look, I get it. I realize that mY cOrPoRaTe jOb iS aLsO a PyRaMiD, but don’t pretend that your MLM “business” isn’t. (I would rather combine forces and blame late stage capitalism for all of our working class woes, but that’s another blog post altogether.) But if you INSIST on telling me that my job sucks, then I’ll retaliate. Fine.

My job pays me a wage for my labour. That’s what a job is. A company hires you to work for them. You don’t buy a starter pack. You don’t invest before working. They interview you, make sure you’re qualified. They give you the things needed to work the job, like an apron, and a box cutter, maybe a pair of steel-toed shoes. The company INVESTS in your labour, and every two weeks they pay you a wage. (This is without mentioning vacation time, bereavement leave, medical benefits, etc.)

At an MLM “job”, you don’t get paid for your labour. As easy as it is to make fun of all the re-posted inspirational quote graphics, all the selfies of Hunbots drinking nutritional shakes, the cold messages and the emoji-infested robotic Facebook posts, that stuff does take a LOT of time. And, much of what #bossbabes get for that time (LABOUR!) is a bunch of angry and alienated friends and family and MAYBE a sale or two, which pays a measly commission rate. How much product do you need to buy to get that commission, to maintain your rank, to keep your upline (ahem, boss) happy? Working in an MLM (for most participants) is time-consuming and grating, and and I honestly don’t think the payoff is worth the emotional toll.

But I digress.

The World of MLM’s

Long story short, I’ve recently done a deep dive into the world of MLM’s (otherwise known as “network marketing”). Firstly, my obsession stemmed from the obscure posts appearing in my Facebook timeline, some of them from friends and some longtime acquaintances.

Secondly, I’m doing research. For what, you ask? Maybe it’s a short story. Maybe, just maybe, it’s something else. You’ll have to join my Patreon to get the details. And yes, it’s funny that I’m whoring out my side-venture in an MLM post. I’m okay with that. I’m not gonna slide into your DM’s with my exclusive short stories.

Tell me Your MLM Pitch Stories

Have you been pitched? If so, was the pitch made in real life or online? Was the pitch made by a friend or a stranger? How awkward was it? Lastly, have you ever joined an MLM?

Do share in the comments below!

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Rebecca

Rebecca is a neo-noir author from Kamloops, British Columbia. Her first collection of gritty short fiction, Vile Men was published by Dark House Press in 2015. She also writes about her writer lifestyle on her blog at rebeccajoneshowe.com.

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  • Rachael February 18, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    As you probably know, my Mary Kay saga began when I went to a “makeover party event” which included dinner, a self-makeover (we were taught how to do it to ourselves) and listen to both the story of Mary Kay as well as that of the high-ranking consultant that officiated the evening. Mary Kay’s story was empowering, as was the consultants. Themes of overcoming poverty and domestic abuse and of faith in God. I was hooked. My time with Mary Kay gave me a confidence boost, but I spent a lot of money and didn’t make much at all even though I went FAR BEYOND my comfort zone to find potential clients. Luckily, I can use the things I purchased on myself. I sold some on eBay and still have a box of samples that I’m going to post for free on marketplace.

    • Rebecca February 19, 2020 at 9:39 am

      Did you just message people online or did you try to recruit in person?

      I’ve noticed that a lot of MLM communities grow in churches (probably because of the community aspect of it) but it’s gets really icky to me, the idea of a predatory scheme building inside of a church. I’ve heard plenty of stories of churches adopting the MLM, pastors swindling out the product and holding favour over people in the church congregation who join while scorning those who don’t. It’s really gross.

  • Hayley February 19, 2020 at 9:20 am

    I had to chime in because MLMs are the bane of my existence. I was “recruited” twice at Winners. Once when I was pregnant, and once when I had a newborn. It may have even been the same lady both times. She asked a lot of pointed questions about how I intend on being there for my child as he grows up. If I’m really happy with going to work. The conversations became so involved it was hard to find an exit. She never told me what the MLM was and she only backed off when I told her I asked if she could offer comparable pension and benefits packages. It’s a real sleaze tactic to prey on vulnerable people (pregnant / new moms) and to try and make them feel bad about having a “regular” job that doesn’t send them on “free” trips to the Bahamas to get brainwashed.

    Someone I was once close with is an MLM “success story” and I feel she has lost all authenticity and morsel of her real self. Her Instagram is staged, every post screams how happy and healthy and successful and social she is and there is always an subliminal dig about how stupid I am for not being able to sleep in or go to work in sweat pants. But the person she is in real life is not the person on instagram. She never accepts event invitations and she has replaced her real friends and relationships with superficial MLM relationships.

    In my unqualified opinion, these schemes are super detrimental to people’s mental health (both those involved and those who see the instagram version). All financial gains are at the expense of people who probably can’t afford it, and I guarantee they aren’t filing honest tax returns… “writing off” lunches and trips to winners so they can recruit more people.

    • Rebecca February 19, 2020 at 9:34 am

      MLM’s definitely prey on stay at home moms, often guilt-tripping them if they have intention to go back to work. “Don’t you want to watch your kids grow up?!” Good call on countering with benefits and pension. The most frustrating thing for me is when consultants claim to run their own “business” while also working for this “great company”. Which is it? What they fail to realize is that they’re just independent consultants peddling out products. The company just sells them products that they then attempt to resell.

      So sorry to hear about your “success story” friend. It’s unfortunate to see one’s personality disappear under the guise of a “community” when they really just adopt the mentality of the with the hope that they’ll become successful. MLM’s do reframe your mind, using tactics similar to cults, what with expensive buy-ins, ranks, high praise when you do well and blaming the person when they do not. Once you’re in it’s really difficult to get out.

    I'm Rebecca Jones-Howe, a neo-noir writer and author of the short story collection, VILE MEN. My work has been featured in [PANK], Pulp Modern and Punchnel's, among other magazines. This site houses my writing profile and my blog, which features posts on writing, fashion, lifestyle + more. Want more?

    - RJH

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