A couple weeks ago I was contacted via Facebook by someone I had recently became friends with. The message started with, "Bethany, I've been thinking about you...". That's all I could see of it, so I clicked on it excitedly. Someone had been thinking about me!
After I opened the message, however, I saw that it was just a lady trying to sell a dietary supplement. I was disappointed. What made this otherwise rational and nice person randomly try to sell me something I didn't want? What made her "think of me"? I'm not sick, fat, or dissatisfied with life... the only thing that would make me a potential customer is that I'm a Christian homemaker, and we are incredible suckers for these products sold by our Christian homemaker friends.
Are MLM Products Worth Buying?
Before I tell you how I said "no" to my friend, let me tell you why I always say no to MLM products. Some of them are definitely good products, but they are almost always overpriced. This is because so much of the profit goes toward marketing costs and recruiter incentives- for example, the pink Cadillac.
Oftentimes, you can find a similar or identical product somewhere else for a better price. If I see a MLM product that strikes my fancy, I look up the main ingredients (if it is a dietary supplement) and find something with similar online or at Walmart. For a prime example of overpriced MLM products, see my price comparison for MLM and non-MLM essential oils.
Are You Helping Your Friend?
If you aren't doing yourself a favor by purchasing MLM products, at least you are doing your friend a favor by buying her jewelry/tupperware/bags/cleaners/pots/supplements, right? 95% of the time, you are NOT doing her a favor. 95% of the time, your friend is working for far less than minimum wage. You can find out exactly how much MLM members make by looking at the company's income disclosure statement. I have gone ahead and done the math for some of the most popular companies to give you an example.
Thirty-One Gifts- 91% of all members are consultants (lowest tier). On average, they work 7 hours per week and earn $598 per year. This works out to be $1.64 per hour. Senior Consultants (6.4% of all members) work 8 hours per week on average and earn $1876 per year. This would be $4.51 per hour.
Melaleuca- 63% of customers don't start Melaleuca businesses and earn on average less than $100 per year. 11% of customers do start businesses, and most of these earn an average of $2123.00 per year.
Plexus- 83% earn $446 per year on average. 6% earn $2094 per year, and 7% earn $5065 per year.
Young Living- 92% of members don't make any money- they just "enjoy member pricing". 8% do sell products and make an average of $312 per year.
Keep in mind that the above figures are GROSS income, not net. Expenses- driving to meetings, hosting parties, buying inventory that doesn't sell, advertising, etc.- are not included in these numbers. For comparison, my net profit was only 42% of my gross profit at the farmers market this summer. So you can see that the companies' numbers can be deceiving, as dismal as they already are.
How To Respond To MLM Friends
If you have a friend selling MLM products that you don't want, it can be awkward. Hopefully this phase of their life will be over soon so you can be friends again without talking about XYZ product or how amazing their life is/will be because of XYZ product. In order to not be targeted as a potential customer, you must just give a plain and simple "no". Not a "maybe later". Don't sign up for their class or go to the party just to be nice. Here is what I replied to the Facebook lady:
Thank you for thinking of me. I am not interested in [your product], but if I meet someone who is I will give them your name. Thanks, Bethany.
That is all. When I see this lady at a social function, it won't be awkward or weird. She will not try to sell me again, but she won't feel rejected because I am still willing to help her. Is there any likelihood that someone would come to me wanting to buy a dietary supplement? Probably not, but at least I offered.
I remember when I was 13 or 14, a lady from church was going to have a jewelry party. It would be held at the church- all of my church friends and their moms would be there, and they would have snacks and fellowship. It sounded like a fun thing. "You can go if you want to," my mom told me, "but everyone there will be buying jewelry. If you don't want to buy jewelry, you probably shouldn't go." Wise words. I didn't go, and sure enough everyone showed up Sunday morning with their new jewelry. It was pretty, but still just expensive costume jewelry. Later in the week I was able to see my friends without buying anything.
Better Ways to Make Money
For those of you who have thought about trying MLM because of the money or value promised, don't. There are plenty of ways to make FAR more than minimum wage without guilting people into buying product or ripping them off. Below are some alternatives to buying and/or selling network marketing products.
1. Handmade items. This summer I bought a beautiful hand-carved spoon at the farmers market. It was $15- more than I would normally pay, but it was one-of-a-kind and I wanted to use it for food photos. The spoon-carving guy got all 15 of the dollars and I was satisfied with the value I received for my money.
2. Used items. A couple months ago Hubs and I were at a friend's house playing a board game that we really liked. Unfortunately the game was too old to be available in stores. I don't regret paying $30.00 for the game on Ebay, even if the guy selling it only paid a dollar for it at a garage sale. It was a fair $29 that he earned without having to "sell" me on the purchase.
3. Services. On my birthday, Hubs took me to a spa and bought me a massage. It was very expensive, but worth every dollar. Every person who provides real value can be proud of what they sell, not just massage therapists. Music and art teachers, house cleaners, gardeners, seamstresses and hairstylists can all make money without ripping off their customers.
Thank you for reading.