How Multi-Level Marketing Schemes are Exploiting The Working Class

She invested all her savings into a scam. She will now use every opportunity she has to try to sell you snake oil.

Being able to work at home while caring for children is the new American dream. Who wouldn’t want the freedom to create your own schedule and work at your own pace without toxic coworkers and the looming fear of getting fired? Imagine being able to spend as much time with your children as possible while making enough money to live comfortably. This is the life that multi-level marketing schemes are promising, entrapping the most vulnerable of the working class. Those who take the bait drown in massive debt that will take years, maybe even decades to pay off.

Multilevel marketing (MLM for short) is a $36 billion industry, a scourge of late-stage capitalism. More than 20 million Americans participate or have participated in MLM organizations, 90 percent say they got involved to make money. However, nearly half (47 percent) lose money and a quarter (27 percent) make no money, according to a 2018 study released by AARP Foundation.

Recently, I’ve noticed my facebook feed flooded, absolutely oversaturated with posts encouraging members of the community to join their “business.” These posts promise the reader prosperity if they take advantage of the “exciting opportunity” to work at home by selling products.

When I first read a post from an MLM “consultant,” I was intrigued. I’m a stay at home mom, not by choice but because of necessity. I live hundreds of miles away from any family. All of my close friends are busy with their own families. I’m lucky if I can meet up with them once a month due to our hectic schedules.

A typical Facebook recruitment post. This victim has fallen to multiple schemes as seen in the picture. The comments are full of victims who are also trapped in the same schemes.

Although I love staying at home with my adorable son I hate being unable to contribute much to our monthly expenses. There are many other women who are in the exact same situation. Our lives are afflicted by a dark cloud of financial misery. Our husbands work long, tiresome hours so we can barely survive. We’re just getting by on scraps living frugally paycheck to paycheck. We must figure out a way to improve our situation because an unexpected emergency can ruin us financially.

Multi-level marketing schemes entrap their victims by promising that you will become the boss of your own little business. But, are you really a “boss” if you’re part of a larger company? You will be selling products but you did not register the trademark or create them yourself. You’re not the founder/CEO of the company, essentially you just jumped on board. A while ago, another person approached the person who recruited you with the same sales pitch promising the exact same opportunity.

To join you will be required to purchase a starter kit with products for you to sell. It’s likely you will also be required to purchase expensive “training seminars” from the same company.

This is multi-level marketing (MLM for short). Those who are involved are encouraged to recruit others because they get money every time the person they recruit sells something. This makes it a classic pyramid scheme. Aren’t pyramid schemes illegal? Yes, but MLMs get around the law by also offering a product to sell.

MLM products are often targetted at women and are advertised to cure some agonizing physical condition. They prey on typical female insecurities about weight and appearance. The most popular MLM product appears to be Essential Oils, which are advertised to cure every illness including cancer. They’re literally the modern manifestation of “snake oil.”

Although plant oils are all natural that doesn’t mean they are completely risk-free. Essential oils can cause chemical burns, severe allergic reactions, and breathing issues. If your pregnant being exposed to these oils on your skin can cross the placental barrier and affect your unborn child.

A nasty burn caused by topical essential oil usage.

The MLM schemes that sell essential oils have quite a dark past. Most notably the massive scheme, “Young Living.” The founder of this scam is extremely evil. Donald Gary Young drowned his newborn daughter right after his wife gave birth to her in a tub. Stupidly, he believed the girl could breathe underwater through the umbilical cord. He was arrested for practicing medicine without a license but only spent 60 days in prison with a year probation. If it was up to me I would have charged him with first-degree murder and locked him up for life.

He founded the Young Living scheme after his daughter's death. He claimed the essential oils cured him from being paralyzed from a logging accident (that he has no proof ever occurred in the first place).

Eventually, the police caught him practicing medicine again without a license and he went batshit crazy. He was fired from his own scam company, tried to enter the locked office by hitting the door with an ax. Afterward, he pushed his wife down the stairs and threatened his own son and an employee with the same ax. The police escorted him out before he could satisfy his bloodlust by killing everyone in sight. All of the victims got restraining orders against him.

How Donald Gary Young looked rampaging through the Young Living HQ with an ax assaulting people.

In court, his living children revealed that he was physically abusive to them. His own mother said he had not only abused his own children but emotionally and mentally abused her as well. This man is the definition of evil and he made large amounts of money throughout his entire life scamming people. Those who bought into the young living scam essentially funded a misogynist child abusing murderer.

Today Young living has 1.5 million distributors and revenue of 1.52 billion. Young Living products are just as toxic as the founder’s soul since it’s well-known knowledge that the oils contain lead. Exposure to lead can cause stillbirths, miscarriages, hearing loss, seizures, lower IQ, learning disabilities, mood disorders, sterility, and more nasty effects.

Young living isn’t the only scheme with hazardous products. The popular haircare MLM “Monat” advertised to heal dry and oily hair caused a woman to lose her hair.

A before and after picture of a victim who used “Monat” hair products.

Notorious morbidly obese YouTuber Amberlynn Reid recently got sucked into a weight loss MLM called “Optavia.” She was convinced to jump on board by a “consultant” claiming to be a “health coach.” Anybody can buy the distributor starter pack so, I guarantee most of Optavia’s “health coaches” have no formal education on nutrition or fitness.

Optavia costs $350–400 a month. It offers it’s gullible, insecure victims an alternative diet where you snack all day on prepackaged powdered brownies, powdered smoothies, granola bars and cookies from Optavia. You also have to eat one meal of your own that consists of only one protein and one vegetable carefully selected from their list of allowed foods.

The uneducated “health coaches” claim the powdered, processed Optavia foods are just as healthy as fresh meats and vegetables because it’s fortified with vitamins. Any nutritionist would tell you that’s a big fat lie since the Optavia “meals” consist mainly of soy and evaporated cane juice. There’s no amazing fat-burning science in any of these scam products. If you lower your calorie intake you can lose weight on any diet.

The Optavia diet. $400 of processed junk food.

If you follow Optavia’s diet strictly you would only consume 900 calories a day so you are essentially starving yourself on processed junk food. Diet programs are just a bandaid they don’t fix the emotional issues that cause someone to binge on food. Amberlynn Reid quit Optavia in less than a week because the processed junk didn’t taste good. She doesn’t know what to do with all the food she wasted her money on.

There are two types of people who get sucked into MLMs. The desperate poor people who are enticed by the idea that they can actually pay their bills on time and the arrogant elitist that thinks they understand how it works and is going to be the top 1% because of “confidence and drive”. The elitist is likely to fall deep down the rabbit hole, invest in multiple MLMs, and end up in crippling debt.

Popular skincare MLM “Rodan and Fields” encourages its members to recruit everybody they know from furniture salesmen to fire chiefs but not dermatologists. Why? Well, it’s obvious, a dermatologist would point out the harmful ingredients and call it out for what it truly is. A waste of money that is damaging your skin.

The poor souls sucked deep into the MLM scam have to reach out to literally everybody they know to make sales and recruit. They bother close friends and family in hopes that they can make them pay monthly for the overpriced garbage products. Either they successfully manipulate their closest allies into joining the MLM or they annoy everyone close to them which often leads to losing friendships. Who wants to hang out with Karen when all she does is talk about her MLM so-called “business” and tries to sell us crap? Let’s not invite Karen over to the next girls night out.

Once they’re done with their closest friends and family they reach out to acquaintances, then they reach out to ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, ex-friends, old friends from school and childhood, coworkers, distant family etc… On anti-MLM forums members talk about being excited to reconnect with an old friend who messaged them only to find out that friend didn’t really care about them, they just wanted to sell their MLM. The victim's personality is consumed with the obsession of making back all the money they invested. All of their social interactions are centered around selling and recruiting.

Eventually, they join facebook groups where they skim through posts waiting for the right situation to advertise their product. In a Facebook mom’s group I’m a part of, a young lady made a post about how she just found out she had a miscarriage and is devastated. An MLM victim commented quickly like a vulture, “I’m so sorry for your loss I heard thieves essential oil from Young Living was good for grief! Add me and I’ll give you a sample.” They add random people on facebook so they can message them their sales pitch and hopefully manipulate them into joining the MLM. They prey on the desperate and vulnerable to try to succeed, like vultures.

All of their sane friends will distance themselves from the MLM victim isolating him/her. In the facebook groups, they will run into other MLM victims trying to advertise products so they may talk to them, befriend them, and comment under their posts helping them peer pressure unsuspecting prey into “giving the MLM a chance.”

For example, some lady may make a post in a parenting group about their baby crying for 5 hours straight. MLM victim #1 would say “diffuse thieves oil from Young Living to soothe that baby, everything else failed so why not give it a chance message me for a sample!” MLM victim #2 will shortly comment after saying “Yes, thieves oil is the best! I highly recommend I use it all the time with my fussy babies!” The tired, frustrated mom may be more likely to ask for the oil sample with more people recommending it. Thanks to the MLM, instead of women supporting each other in a parenting group and being genuinely helpful they are just trying to sell each other stuff. All fruitful social interactions are poisoned by the scheme.

In time, the only friends that the MLM victim will have are those who are also involved in the MLM. This makes the MLM cult-like and even more difficult to leave. To keep their new community of friends they have to keep paying for products to distribute and spending hours of their time attempting to sell the garbage MLM products to make a profit and depending on the MLM may be required to pay for expensive tickets to participate in “training seminars” to be indoctrinated further.

Every year more gullible victims are getting involved in these scams. Most victims happen to be families who are struggling financially, desperate for any way to help make ends meet. Ultimately the children of these families suffer the most. Their parents invest their hard earned money in the scam instead of in a savings account for their future. If their parents fall too deep into the MLM rabbit hole they may lose their housing and most certainly be way worse off financially than they were before. When parents are stressed out, children are too.

If you are involved in an MLM run.

Drop everything and get out while you can. The only people benefiting financially from the MLM are the people at the top. It’s a pyramid scheme. Accept your losses and move on before you fall deeper down the rabbit hole of debt and misery. If you really want to work from home there are many legitimate opportunities that don’t require an investment. Such as:

  • Transcription — I recommend the company Rev. The beginning test is pretty easy to pass if you can find the test audio on Youtube.
  • Survey sites — you won’t make a career out of surveys but they are a quick way to earn an extra $20–50 a month with very little effort. The best sites are Swagbucks, Prolific, and Crowdtap.
  • Closed captioning — You can also do closed captioning with Rev.
  • Customer Support — Companies like Apple hire people to work their phones at home!
  • Selling unique handmade crafts on Etsy — This may require a small investment if you don’t already have a hobby.
  • Amazon MTurk
  • Amazon’s Affiliate program — Every time you link an Amazon product on the internet and someone clicks that link and buys something you get a percentage of the profit. The percentage varies based on what type of item it is.
  • Renting your spare bedroom out on Airbnb — Just tidy up that spare room, get a cheap bedframe, mattress, and nightstand and you’re ready to go!
  • Blogging/Youtube Channel — You will not make money off of ads on Youtube. To make money promote a Patreon account, your Etsy shop, or Amazon affiliate links. Toy unboxing, Parenting, Product reviews, Political themes, are all popular video topics that have a lot of money-making potentials.
  • Petsitting — promote your services in local Facebook groups, Facebook marketplace and craigslist.
  • Babysit — care.com is a good place to advertise
  • Fiverr — Get paid by people to do simple tasks you’re good at such as photo editing, video editing, etc…
  • Proofreading — You can get paid to proof-read essays.
  • Teaching English Online — I believe you need some education for this just research it.

There are probably even more opportunities I’m not aware of. There are subreddits dedicated to finding work at home opportunities.