Behind the headlines- analysis of a pro-MLM news article

I have become aware of a newspaper article that detailed how a woman had risen from being a desperate, poor single mum to a successful, rich business woman thanks to her involvement in a Multi Level Marketing (MLM) scheme. Regular readers of this blog will be aware of how unsuccessful most people are in this type of scheme. Was this woman one of the few real life success stories or was the article just regurgitating the MLM fairy story that is so often fed to new recruits?

Let’s have a closer look at the article. The link to the Daily Mail article is here. One of the principles of this website is to not make personal attacks so I won’t be identifying the woman involved by name, and I won’t make any disparaging personal comments about her. This article will just analyse the truth behind the claims that are presented in the newspaper.

cash strapped

The above snippet is at the very beginning of the article and, already, the inconsistencies are there. It starts by saying she is ‘turning over £1 million’ and also ‘on track to make £1 million a year’. These statements have quite different meanings. How long has it taken her to ‘turnover £1 million’? What does ‘on track’ mean? We have seen MLMers make ‘on track’ claims before. It just means it is what they are aiming for, what they hope to achieve. It is this hope that keeps them clinging to their MLM long after everyone else can see it isn’t working.

This exact same story has been repeated in The Sun and this is their headline-

sun

How successful is she really and what is the truth behind the claims?

She doesn’t have ‘a staff of 400’ for a start. The 400 reps are tied to The Body Shop At Home to sell their products and are reliant on the company for brochures, advertising, products etc. They are sales reps with no employment rights. Officially they are considered self employed contractors for the company. They do not work for the rep in the story at all.

Something that jumps out at me, and also to other readers (see the comments at the end of the article) are the inconsistencies. She claims to be nearly a millionaire, or at least owning a million pound business, or maybe just being in charge of some people who have sold £1 million worth of product, either way, she is claiming to have a ‘rags-to-riches’ story. She is boasting about being really rich. If she is so rich, why is she hoping to get on the property ladder? And why is she planning on getting married in 2 years time? If she is so rich and successful, why doesn’t she just buy a house and get married whenever she likes? She sounds like she is still financially behaving like a non-rich person.

Perhaps houses are really expensive in Aghalee and it is impossible to get a deposit for such an expensive are? A quick search on Rightmove, however, will show you that you can buy a 4 bedroomed house for £125,00 or £220,000.

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If she had a million pounds, she could buy that house outright. Obviously she doesn’t have even £220,000, so she would need a mortgage. A mortgage could be obtained for this house with a £20,000 deposit. The thing with mortgages though is that you need to be able to prove a steady income, and MLM schemes would not count. The woman in this article seems to have been given a paid position in the company- managing the reps in the Northern Ireland division. Perhaps she is waiting until she has 6 months of payslips to prove her income?

If my theory is correct, the woman hasn’t accrued a fortune and anything she is able to afford now will be due to her paid employment, nothing to do with being a success in the MLM business.

The reality is more likely this-

Woman finds herself struggling for money, and out of desperation joins an MLM.

She finds it hard to make any money but realises her chances are better if she can recruit a lot of people. These people then spend money on products and starter kits, making profit for the MLM and raising the profile of the woman.

She qualifies for numerous incentive holidays with the company. I have tried to find out how much product people have to buy/sell to get this incentive but there are no details available anywhere. It is impossible to access any terms and conditions for the company. You have to express an interest on the website for a rep to contact you and then you can start finding out more.

She was successful in recruiting a lot of people.

Her recruiting got the attention of the MLM bosses who offered her a paid position.

Now, with a steady income, she is able to start saving for a mortgage deposit and then apply for one.

She can now start saving for a wedding.

 

My version of the woman’s story isn’t so exciting. Why would a misleading article like this be written in two different newspapers? The cynical part of me thinks that the ‘story’ was provided by the rep to the papers in an attempt to recruit more reps. One of the papers even has a video embedded of the rep explaining how great her ‘opportunity’ is.

In conclusion, this rep’s story is a non story and could result in more people joining an MLM scheme where 99.7% of people lose money.

If anyone wants to refute what I have said here, please comment below. Perhaps there is proof that the rep is actually very successful and has earned £1 million. If so, I would be very happy to look at it and issue a correction here.

 

Further Reading

Timeless Vie article on a real life experience of a Body Shop At Home rep.

Anti-MLM Coalition have a real life story of an ex-rep.

Bot Watch article on why conventional companies turn to the MLM model. Mentions Body Shop At Home.

A Reddit post on someone’s bad experience with Body Shop At Home.

 

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All you need to know about Inteletravel

Update- March 20th 2019 InteleTravel UK have been granted ABTA membership and are now pursuing ATOL membership. This Travel website has more information. Botwatch is glad that any customers of these reps will be properly protected now if their holiday goes wrong.

Update- since writing this article, Inteletravel have gained membership of IATA. I have left the old information in to illustrate what the situation was at the time of writing. This membership will have no bearing on U.K. reps.

 

We have been contacted by some very concerned people who have been involved in Inteletravel. Let’s call them Ian Cognito and Ivor Fakename. They joined Inteletravel because it looked like a great MLM to join.

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That sounds good. Anyone can join, pay their fee and do a few hours of reading at home. They watch a little video, get given a website and call themselves independent travel agents.

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Looks good doesn’t it? You don’t often come across an MLM that is risk free.

Let’s have a look at the Trust Guarantee.

guarantee

I guess that’s quite a lot of small print, but would be necessary to ensure that people really were putting in enough effort. It wouldn’t be fair if people joined up and didn’t try, just to get their money back would it? Except the guarantee isn’t fair because it is impossible for members to achieve these criteria.

Ian tried to complete point 3. He had to register with a preferred partner and sell one of their packages. Except that there is only a little booking platform and you cannot join it without being a member of ABTA. Ian wasn’t even allowed to register with them. Point 7 isn’t possible either because you can’t register with them without having ABTA membership.   Ian says that when he phoned up Inteletravel to complain about this, they didn’t even know what he was talking about.

Here is an official facebook post on Inteletravel’s Facebook page in February explaining that people can’t book, or even contact the ‘preferred partners’ until they have ABTA membership.

tara1

 

They shouldn’t really be promising holidays like this then,

hot deals

 

ABTA, IATA and ATOL

ABTA are a travel association that have a code of conduct and protection for people who book holidays through ABTA members. If a person buys a holiday through an ABTA member and then, if when they are on holiday, the company shuts down, there is a process whereby the holiday maker will be brought home or their holiday can continue. Most holiday providers in the UK will only sell their packages through agents that have this membership. This ensures that the holidaying population are protected from being sold holidays by amateurs and scammers.

Inteletravel have been promising ABTA membership is coming soon. They have been promising this since 2015. See this email sent in early 2017. Their website still says they will be getting ABTA approval in 30-45 days.

abta

 

ATOL are the organisation that offer travellers financial protection for air travel. Recently, people who were customers of Monarch received help when they were abroad during its demise. Inteletravel are not ATOL protected.

 

Perhaps reps shouldn’t be posting adverts like this then

intellies

IATA protected? IATA stands for International Air Transport Association. See here for what membership gets you if you are a travel agent. You don’t have to have it to be a travel agent but it has benefits around offers and payment. It lends credibility to a company to have this membership. I searched their website and found Inteletravel are not members.

Which makes me wonder why Inteletravel have the logo on their slides.

join

And in this communication to reps

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In this group chat where reps are concerned about the IATA status not being true, the company explains it to them.

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If IATA are ineffective and not needed, why are Inteletravel acting as though they are members? I would not be concerned about the IATA status affecting sales in the UK, but rather, why is there the deception around whether they are members or not? For a contemporary discussion of the issues, check out this forum for work at home travel agents.

Inteletravel used to be members of IATA but their membership was cancelled by IATA in 2007. I have asked IATA for a comment on why this was and what their status is now.

I am glad to see that members of this scheme are asking questions of Inteletravel and trying to ensure they are not being scammed. So many people were asking Inteletravel about ABTA membership that they issued this warning.

warning

That’s not very nice! Ivor decided he wasn’t going to be fobbed off and became suspicious of this warning. He told Bot Watch that Inteletravel informed their reps that ABTA wrote to them asking them to tell the reps to stop calling them. Ivor rang ABTA to check and was told that no such letter was written. Ivor found out that ABTA are having a committee meeting on April 13th 2018 to decide whether to allow Inteletravel membership. I have asked ABTA to clarify the situation. Watch this space.

However, Inteletravel are now telling people (before the committee meeting) that they have been given an ABTA number, they just don’t want to go public yet. The ABTA website shows that they do not have a number. This message is from one of the ‘directors’ (what they call the people high up in the pyramid) this April.

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Reps/ Agents/ Scheme members

What should we call people in this scheme? They call themselves Travel Agents, the MLM world calls them reps or Independent Business Owners. What do Inteletravel call their members? Have a read of this exchange between a disgruntled ex-rep and the company.

stumped

Customers. I can’t say I’m surprised. People who join up spend £526 in their first year.


Dishonest advertising

Because reps have a limited source of holidays they can offer and they are desperate to try and sell some to make some commission, many of them are tempted to lie in their adverts. Ivor explains how these reps/customers bend the truth to make their deals look good.

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Here is a price comparison for two room bookings, the top one with Inteletravel and the bottom one with Trivgo.

 

The room options for the Trivago option has been cut off. The Trivago option is for a more expensive room. This is not a fair comparison.

 

On this comparison, they have chosen a deluxe room for the online booking site. The Inteletravel price is not a fair comparison because this this could be for a basic single room.

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This comparison is unfair because the rep has put up the price before the price has even been finalised. A room hasn’t been chosen. This will put the price up. Probably to more than £381.13.


PlanNet Marketing

If £142 and then £32 a month seems pricey for an MLM, don’t worry. You can join a different company that has ‘partnered’ with Inteletravel. PlanNet Marketing. With PlanNet Marketing, you can join for £16 and pay £16 monthly. You do not need to sell any holidays. You can just sell memberships in a ‘society’ made up of people who want to be travel agents. Payments are based solely on the people you recruit. Here is their compensation plan.

pyramid

Readers at this stage might be interested to read up on what makes a pyramid scheme an illegal scheme in the UK. Here’s a snippet. (Fair Trading Act 1973)

fair

This is a bit wordy but what it means is this- People are not allowed to recruit you and charge a fee with the promise that you can just recruit others and earn money from it. Anyone that does this is running an illegal pyramid scheme.

Have a look at their Income disclosure statement.

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97.65% of their reps earn, on average, $69.95 a year. Considering that it costs $239.40 a year to be a member, this doesn’t look like such a great deal. 23.07% of reps earned nothing at all.


What to do now?

If you have read the evidence and decided you still want to join, then go ahead. If you are already a member and you are happy, great. If you are currently a member or you have left and you feel you want to take action, there are things you can do.

If you were deceived into joining the scheme and found you couldn’t make money, complain in the UK to

safer jobs

 

This is a company set up by the police to investigate scams and job fraud.

 

action fraud

 

Action Fraud is a branch of the police that investigates fraud like illegal pyramid schemes.

 

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Trading Standards can be contacted if you think a company has broken the law or acted unfairly.

 

 

 

001If you see a misleading advert you could complain to the Advertising Standards Authority who will investigate and have the ad removed if necessary.

 

You could tell your story by commenting below, to warn other people that may be looking at this company.


The continuing saga of ABTA membership

On Friday 13th April 2018, there was a meeting at ABTA about whether Inteletravel should be licenced with them. The reps have been told before this date that they have their membership and will be announcing it on Super Saturday on April 14th.

They really believe it and have been telling everyone that they will officially be announcing their membership. There are posts on Facebook like this-

On Thursday 12th April-

sup

On Friday 13th April-

super sat

Does anyone really believe that Inteletravel will get their ABTA number? I have no doubt that all their reps thinks they will. What will happen if/when they don’t get it? How are they going to explain it to everyone? I for one will be keeping a very close eye on things on Saturday and will report back here. Watch this space.


Super Saturday

Here is a Facebook conversation with someone who was at the Super Saturday event on 14th April.

It starts with an optimistic picture.

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Followed by an excited conversation. Red is at the event and her fellow reps are waiting to hear about it.

sad

They never got to hear about ABTA granting Inteletravel their certification. Because they didn’t get it. The meeting was held at ABTA yesterday and their application was denied.

What was Inteletravel’s excuse?

They are now saying their membership is ‘pending’ while their new UK manager ‘gets set up’. They are putting their faith in this one person to get them their membership. And they are saying they don’t need ABTA anyway.

They do need ABTA if they want to be travel agents in the UK. Come on Inteletravel agents, stop and think.

 

Crimes against science

Here at Botwatch we respect science. We understand how important it is to look for evidence, evaluate it properly, and change your ideas according to what the research shows.

To be fully immersed in a Multi Level Marketing (MLM) scheme people need to be able to have a healthy disregard for science. They need to be able to ignore the cold, hard facts about their chances of success and to ignore any objectivity. They are encouraged to embrace a different way of thinking and to just ‘believe’ and ‘hope’ and ‘ask the universe’ for success.

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An intelligent person will look for evidence and listen to objective criticism. A person in the MLM mindset will be taught to shut down any criticism and shun people who try to provide evidence that goes against their beliefs. Lazyman and Money investigated why MLM reps think their products work.

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As discussed in previous posts, MLMs have overpriced products to enable the money to flow up the pyramid. This poses a challenge to the people trying to sell the products. They can only buy so much and stockpile a certain amount before they start to realise that they are wasting their money. They have to try and sell some product at some stage, or convince themselves their products are special.

In order to sell their opportunity or products, MLMs and the people in these schemes will revert to pseudoscience in order to back up their ridiculous claims. Here are some of the common scientific errors that people make.

Detox

The liver, skin and lungs remove toxins from our bodies. No amount of supplements will help this process. We do not need to detoxify ourselves. MLMs will have you believe otherwise. For further information read these articles from the Skeptoid, Guardian or just Google ‘detox myth’.

Here are some MLMs displaying their ignorance on ‘detoxing’.

aloe

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Monat here are explaining that when people’s hair falls out and  they get an itchy, flaky scalp, that is ok. It is just their hair ‘detoxing’. They say things like ‘as your pH balances equalize’- what does this even mean? Does any of this sound plausible to you?

 

Natural is good

Of course, natural is not good. Cyanide is natural. So is Ebola, volcanoes, scorpions, sharks, poison ivy. The list could go on and on. Just because something has come from a natural source (hasn’t everything?), does not mean it is safe. Take essential oils as an example. This is a substance that plants make to act as an irritant to put off creatures eating it. Essential oils are toxic and should not be consumes internally. But you will find people selling DoTerra and Young Living essential oils, saying you can drink it. It’s ok, they say. It’s natural.

doterra

Here is a statement from the organisation that advises and tries to regulate the use of aromatherapy.

AIA does not endorse internal therapeutic use (oral, vaginal or rectal) of essential oils unless recommended by a health care practitioner trained at an appropriate clinical level. An appropriate level of training must include chemistry, anatomy, diagnostics, physiology, formulation guidelines and safety issues regarding each specific internal route (oral, vaginal or rectal).

For more information, please visit the AIA site.

Science Based Medicine have looked at DoTERRA a few times. Have a look at these articles here, here and here.

This quote is from a Young Living seller

“Young Living oils are therapeutic grade A oils and are produced so that they are pure. Although applying oils to the skin and inhaling them can be beneficial, sometimes ingesting the oils is even more effective. The Vitality line of Young Living oil labels say that they can be taken internally.

People can put a drop or two of essential oils into milk to drink or drop into empty gel capsules and swallow. Empty gel capsules can be purchased from Young Living; 250 capsules for $9.87 retail.”

Chemical free

This Arbonne advert says the product is chemical free. How can anything be chemical free? Gasses are chemicals, so are rocks and metals. We are made of chemicals, and so is water. There isn’t a substance on this planet that isn’t made of chemicals.

How would you like a chemical free toothpaste? What on earth could it be made of I ask myself?

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monatchemfree

I’ll stop now because this could go on for ever.

Anecdotes are not proof

When there is no scientific evidence that a product can do what the seller claims, they often resort to anecdotes. They might have been told they are not allowed to make health claims as this would break the law. So they resort to saying that the product cured them of something. Or they share other ‘testimonials’ and, once a database is built up of these testimonials, it can look like there is lots of evidence for the claimed effect. Of course, these claims have not been researched properly and many are complete fabrications. I think this type of product promotion preys on people’s scientific ignorance and people’s general trust of what their peers tell them.

If someone tells you a product worked for them, question their motives. Are they trying to sell it? Are they allowed to make health claims? If health claims are not allowed, why?

JuicePlus+ reps have set up a testimonial facebook page where they can all share their stories, thinking they are getting around the law. This is very deceptive. The range of claims is astounding.

Juice Plus and its effects on #fibromyalgia #juiceplus www.facebook.com/ahappyhealthieryou

 

In the UK testimonials are not allowed to be used when selling a product unless very strict criteria apply. Check out CAP for the guidelines.

 

Interpreting scientific data

Sometimes you hear of an MLM company claiming there is proper scientific evidence for their claims. When you actually look at their claims though, they often fall far short of the evidence required to back up what is being claimed. The first company that jumps to mind is JuicePlus. They go on about the ’30 gold standard studies’ that prove their vitamin supplements can do the amazing things they claim. Have a look at the studies. They no way prove any of the claims made. In fact, the small improvements in any factors can be explained by the existence of the vitamins. In the EU it is illegal to claim that the results are as a result of anything other than the expected results of the individual vitamins. Have a look at the disclaimer they have to display on their website in the EU-

Disclaimer

* * Current EU legislation necessitates that health-promoting effects may not be attributed to the product as such (in this case Juice Plus+), but only to the specific ingredients.
** Mandatory information in accordance with Article 10 (2) of REGULATION (EC) No 1924/2006: As a general rule, you should aim for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. The indicated health-promoting effects can be achieved by taking the recommended daily amount of Juice Plus+ capsules.

For more information on the interpretation of the research, read this very good blog of someone who painstakingly analyses the research.

I had a look at the research behind one of Ariix’s products and found it did not stand up to the hype its reps were creating.

Of course, to be able to understand the research, you first need to have access to it. Some companies claim to have evidence but won’t show you the evidence. They won’t even elaborate on where the research might be found. Many Monat reps, for example, claim that their products were tested at Princeton University for three years (or variations) and they concluded it was safe.

monat

 

This blogger  investigated where the claims might have stemmed from. There has been no official statement from the company clearing up the issue. I have found the ‘research’ on this website. All it shows are the results and methodology of the testing of some individual ingredients. They don’t test the products in their sold form. They don’t show where the research was published, who wrote it, any conflicts of interests or any evidence of peer review. In this form, the research is useless.

Fearmongering

Some MLMs provide scary ‘facts’ that, whilst true, do not support their conclusion that you need to buy their products. Take Ariix as an example. They make and sell some products like air and water filters. They explain how contaminated water can be really bad for you.

DRINKING CONTAMINATED WATER CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH

Of course it is bad. They then go to great lengths to explain how their filters can filter out these harmful things. They conclude that you should buy these expensive products for your health. What they fail to explain is that in the developed world our water supply is already free of these contaminants.

Our indoor environments are not as bad as the global picture because modern houses have ventilation, do not have indoor fires and people are generally not living in close proximity to other people and sewerage. The people living in conditions who would benefit from these filters have other things on their mind, like survival. They certainly won’t be in a position to invest in these filters.

Isagenix try to scare us into thinking some really strange things about cows and the milk that they use for their whey powder.

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Dodgy ‘science’ experiments

Some Forever Living reps ‘prove’ how pure their product is compared to other aloe vera juices. They do this by mixing it with iodine. They claim that the iodine represents the impurities in our body. They add some of their aloe drink to the iodine and it goes clear. Wow! It doesn’t go clear with other brands. The reps say this proves their product is more pure and better at eliminating these dreaded ‘toxins’.

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There are many of these ‘experiments’ on YouTube. Here is one, here is another. And another.

The reality is the colour change is just a chemical reaction due to one of the ingredients in Forever Living’s product. The chemical that is reacting is the ascorbic acid (vitamin C) that is used as a preservative in Forever Living’s liquid, but not present in the other brands. This chemistry page explains the reaction.

Young Living

Some people in Young Living have been doing ‘experiments’ to ‘prove’ that their household cleaning products are better at killing germs than bleach. They put some germs on agar in a petri dish and put in squares of paper soaked in various substances, including bleach, nothing, Thieves essential oil and other cleaning products. The experiment is described here. This is the type of photo people are sharing-

 

Their conclusion may not be all it seems. The essential oil that is used in these experiments is a pure essential oil and is therefore not a fair test. People do not clean their bathrooms with pure essential oils. That would get very smelly and very expensive. Someone questioned this in the comments on one of the blog pages where this experiment was published. They wanted to see what would happen if they used the actual Thieves cleaning solution. This is the conversation that ensued.

thieves

 

‘Healthy pH’

The human body is very good at maintaining its pH level. pH is how acidic or alkaline your body is and it regulates itself with the kidneys and lungs. In real life I have a very good understanding of pH and have personally measured, cared for and seen the effects of a pH that is outside of the normal range. Blood has to be between 7.35 and 7.45 and anything outside of this makes you very sick. You cannot adjust this number by taking any supplement or by altering your diet. It just isn’t possible. And even if you could adjust it, you wouldn’t want to because it would make you ill.

These basic biological and easily verifiable facts do not stop MLMs from spreading misinformation to sell their products. Here are some offenders-

Ariix

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Cleanshield

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A human body with ‘a pH near 7.0’ is a near dead human body.

Thrive from Le-vel

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Complete disregard for biology

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This is not how under eye puffiness is formed. Here is an article on the reasons scientists think eye bags are formed. There is no mention of tear ducts pooling.

 

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That pseudoscience has it all- biological nonsense, pH levels, health claims, and a claim that they use ‘evidence based documented evidence.’

Law of Attraction

This belief is rooted in the thought that bad/ negative thoughts will bring bad consequences. Likewise, good and positive thoughts will bring good consequences. The evidence that is presented for this pseudo theory is that ill people can often be heard complaining about their condition. It is therefore thought that it is this negative thinking that must have brought on the illness. Not only is this the fallacy of correlation and causation, it is beggars belief that anyone would make that conclusion.

Lacking in any proof or scientific evidence for this shaky belief has prompted some to look for a good meme or quote to back them up. This is what believers have come up with.

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It goes without saying that Einstein never said such rubbish. The actual quote came from someone who thought he was channelling an alien. Just in case you would like to check the authenticity of this quote, the people at Quote Investigator have looked into it for you.

Conclusion

People in MLMs will say any old rubbish to sell their products. Often the false information comes from the company themselves. The reps pretend to be knowledgeable in areas they have no understanding of. They are taught and encouraged to just believe in their company and their product and try to get others to believe in it. Pesky science and facts will not get in their way of trying to make a sale.

Why MLM will never work

The Anti-MLM Coalition

Network Marketing/ social selling/ Multi Level Marketing, whatever you want to call it will never work.  What I mean by ‘will never work’, is that MLMs will always cause people who join up to lose money, cause social isolation and will lose people their relationships. They will never be acceptable business models where people can earn an actual income.

MLM critics have often been accused of tarring MLMs with the same brush.

“They’re not all bad”. 

“My MLM isn’t like the others”. How often has this been said?

“You haven’t studied every single company, so you don’t know that mine is bad”. 

“I make a lot of money so I know mine isn’t a scam”.

Some people think that with a few improvements, MLM could be a good business model. It is tempting to think that for a little effort, you could earn a lot of money by earning off…

View original post 2,724 more words

Vida Divina in trouble again.

I have written about Vida Divina before. Have a read of this post on their illegal selling of Melatonin, a prescription only drug.

Many people were concerned about Vida selling Melatonin in the UK as it is a prescription only drug. Complaints were made to the MHRA (The official body that regulates medicines and medical equipment in the UK) and most of the reps stopped selling it. The MHRA informed me that these sales should end once the current reps had offloaded them.

The MHRA did not stop at the Melatonin investigation. They looked at their other products and found that many of them breached UK medicines or food law. The US company were contacted by the MHRA and told that their reps were breaking the law and they must stop. Vida responded, saying that they would stop supplying the UK distributors until it could make their products compliant.

To make the products compliant, some of them would need to be relabelled and have the health claims restricted to legal ones. According to the MHRA, the US company have not reported back on any changes made. It seems they are still supplying the UK reps with non compliant products, opening them up to legal action and a visit from Trading Standards, as per what happened to Valentus reps.

It is not just non compliant labelling and health claims that we need to be concerned about. One of the products contains DHEA which is a class C drug in the UK.

DHEA

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an adrenal steroid that is made in the body and is turned into male or female hormones. It can be synthetically made from plants. Read WebMD for information on what it is used for. It is a potent substance and is banned in atheletes as it can affect their performance. No wonder Vida would want to put this product in their coffee. I expect it would make the drinker feel revitalised. However, as with any effective drug, there are many side effects.

Among these are-

It is harmful in pregnancy;

affects diabetes;

affects conditions that are sensitive to hormones;

cholesterol problems;

liver problems and

psychiatric side effects.

Class C drugs

DHEA is considered a class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. You are not allowed to possess, sell or give away class C drugs. You could be arrested and punished if you do. The punishment for possession is up to 2 years in prison. If you are caught selling it, the punishment is much worse. You could go to prison for up to 14 years

14 years!

and have an unlimited fine. In practice though, you are more likely to be dealt with in the magistrate’s court where you can go to prison for 6 months and/or a £5000 fine.

The product in question is a supplement called ‘Ripped’.

 

Let’s hope no reps have stockpiled this product. The more product someone has in their possession, the higher the potential prison sentence.

Vida Divina have previously said that their products are not for resale in the UK, but are ok for personal use.

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This raises two concerns-

1. If you join a direct selling scheme but have no products to directly sell, it could be an illegal pyramid scheme.

2. You could go to prison just for possessing ‘Ripped’. If you try and sell it, you are officially a drug dealer.

What to do if you are in Vida Divina

The MHRA say that Vida Divina’s products should not be sold, supplied or advertised in the U.K. You should not be telling people to buy it from your website. You cannot be giving free samples.

If you decide to persevere and continue ordering products for personal consumption, consider this. These products have not been tested properly and the MHRA are concerned that they do not know if they are safe.

If you want to use supplements, buy them from a proper retailer that has the relevant legal paperwork and that you know is safe.

Is it worth the risk to your health and criminal record to get involved with Vida Divina?

 

Source of information

Here is the email that was sent to a concerned observer from the MHRA.

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If anyone sees Vida Divina reps saying their products are legal to sell in the U.K., please send a screenshot or link to Botwatch and we will pass it onto the MHRA to help their investigations.

Xerveo bites the dust in the UK.

For a while now, there have been troubles and uncertainty within Xerveo. See previous posts on them here and here. More recently there has been widespread panic and rumour spreading from the reps. A lot of infighting has been going on and many reps are jumping ship to other MLMs.

It has been hard to find anything official on the matter though so I have not said anything up until now.

On the 5th of November 2017, Paul Holtham put this document on his Facebook page without comment or explanation.

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Paul Holtham is registered at Companies house as the director of Xerveo in the U.K.

 

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The Trading Standards letter says that Paul is no longer the representative of Xerveo in the UK and all the reps are essentially out on their own now. This letter was dated 31st October and he must have been fired a while before that for it to be mentioned in a letter from the authorities.

Paul explains what happened here in a Facebook post without actually explaining anything.

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It looks like he was fired. What for or why remains a mystery.  If you were a rep with him when it collapsed, please let me know what you were told about the reason behind all this.

If anyone has any  information on the rumours about Xerveo being merged with another MLM, I would love to see some evidence please.

Advice to Xerveo reps

If you intend to remain with the company, please read the Trading Standards letter and consider if you are willing to take on that level of responsibility.

If you are owed money for products you paid for and never got, consider talking to your bank/credit card company. A few reps have had their money refunded to them when they havenmt had their goods within 14 days.

If you are a rep who has decided to join another MLM, please be very careful in your choice. I have written an article aimed at helping you avoid the worst MLMs. Please have a look for some tips. Do not blindly follow your team. Consider your options carefully and independently of others.

 

Network Marketing is a cult.

This article is a collaboration between Bot Watch and John Evans. John runs Juice Plus Lies Exposed on Facebook.

 

Let’s not tiptoe around the subject. Many people are afraid to stand up and say MLMs are cults because they are concerned they will be labelled ridiculous or over reacting and not be taken seriously. I will say it. MLMs are cults. Here is why.

Many observers have commented on how MLMs seem cultish. They notice how their friends seem to change their personalities and their lives are consumed by spreading their opportunity. Their social network feeds are full of inanely smiling people, untruths and details of conferences that look very culty. But what do the experts say on the subject? Is there any truth in the theory?

Steve Hassan is a cult expert. He was once in a cult called the Moonies and he now counsels people and families affected by cults. He has written books on the subject and runs a website that educates and supports people affected by cults. He calls Network Marketing a ‘commercial cult’.  His website is a mine of information. Here is an article from it that discusses Herbalife and the concept of the commercial cult.

Psychologist and author Michael Langone, created a 12 point checklist of what makes something a cult.

Here it is below with some observations under each point.

The Cult Checklist.

 

1) The group is focused on a living leader to whom members display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.

 

In every MLM there are those shill adherents who apparently earned millions in that particular MLM. Every MLM has at least one without exception.

They started the business just like any adherent at the bottom and worked their way up to superstardom. They move from company to company, taking their followers with them.

These guys are the role models for all the others and stand up on stage at the conferences and show pictures of their cars, houses and general lifestyle. Everyone worships these guys and come away thinking it’s possible for them too.

The overall leader of the company is often worshipped too. If they ever make an appearance or are mentioned somewhere, they are treated like royalty. There is often an amazing story behind them. They discovered a product that is so wonderful and will help humanity. The leader cares about all the adherents and wants them all to do well and they are very generous and kind.

Much is made of rewards like holidays that the wonderful leader bestows on them. The fact that they are often billionaires, made off the backs of hardworking people who are losing money is glossed over. It doesn’t matter that the ‘holidays’ are really just a work trip that they have to work incredibly hard to get sent on.

 

2) The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members and/or making money.

 

Adherents who are deep in MLM mindset will be obsessed with growing their ‘business’, often to the point when it overshadows every other aspect of their lives. MLM is not just a job, MLM is a mindset, a way of life.

The most committed MLM adherents do not switch off from their MLM, ever.

It’s all about the constant recruitment and money making. The only way they can make money is if they recruit people and if those people recruit. So, not only do they need to recruit, they need to make them recruit others and ‘train’ them. They then need to make those people sell products or buy stuff themselves. The money has to keep coming in and flowing up the pyramid.  Every waking minute is taken up with the obsession of recruiting more people. Talking to everyone about ‘the opportunity’, posting daily pictures and updates to try and entice people to ask about joining.

MLM adherents think nothing of posting their cheques or posing with piles of money to show everyone how much they are making. This seems quite tacky, greedy and outrageous to the casual observer but MLM adherents have no concept of how abnormally they are behaving.

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3) Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged.

 

You’re not allowed to be doubtful or be negative in MLM because it will put people off joining the business or buying the product (see point 2).

This is true of all MLMs.

Adherents are told that having a doubting mindset will attract failure. They are forced to be positive all the time, so it attracts success. It’s the good old law of attraction.

Some MLMS take this way too far. Like Valentus who are currently trying to convince people that all their new reps are earning 4 figures a week and choosing new company cars and being promoted to diamond status, after only being in the business for a very short time.

But imagine if one of them spoke out, and was negative about the MLM in some way…imagine how she would be treated by the upline and other adherents.

I’ve heard stories from people within MLMs about what happens if you question things too much or come across too negative. Bullying is rife, contrary to the happy family image they put out.

Point 3 on the cult scale is absolutely true for MLM.

Some Law of Attraction memes that illustrate the kinds of things adherents are encouraged to believe.

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Much is made of people’s ‘why’. They are initially targeted by the group based on their ‘hot button’ such as the desire to make a future for their child, spend more time with family, earn money to support their family. They are reminded of this by their upline, their company and continuously at conferences and meetings. People are led to believe that their deepest desires and wishes are dependent on their success in the group. If they drop out, they are giving up on their ‘why’. This ensures a deep emotional link between the MLM and the person’s needs. This would be vey hard to break.

If you really believed in the Law of attraction you might think that you must not question what you are doing. As soon as you express doubt, your business will fail. If you can really believe it will do well, you will try harder and harder to make it work. You will make yourself believe and block out all reasoned arguments and stop listening to your concerned friends. You lie to yourself as much as you lie to everyone else.


4) Mind-numbing techniques (for example: meditation, chanting, denunciation sessions, or debilitating work routines) are used to suppress members’ doubts.

 

Now, I want you to look in your mirror every morning, and say to yourself “I WILL BE A PMD” – “I WILL BE A PMD”, say that 100 times each morning.

Techniques like this would only ever be dished out in MLM.

Go to You Tube and type in an MLM’s name and ‘rally’ or ‘conference’. Most of them have rallies/ success days/ conferences. Watch one of them and see if you think it looks a bit like a cult. There are bright lights, music, chanting, repetitive stories. They wave flags and hear from their leaders with loud, exciting entrances. People come away enthused and ready to put more effort into their ‘business’.

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Adherents are encouraged to ‘work on themselves’. If they aren’t making loads of money, it is through their own fault. They have to change the way they think and just trust their uplines. They are actively encouraged to stop questioning themselves and do what their uplines and the company tells them to do.

After a long, hard day of cold calling, trying to infiltrate groups, driving for hours and lying on social media they are tired and quite possibly missing their young children that they have had to put in childcare for the day. At the end of the day they may have to speak to their upline and do some training or work on themselves. Right at the end of the day, when they are exhausted, they are encouraged to list the things they are thankful for.  They call this doing their ‘gratitudes’. This is to shut down any concerns they may have about what they are doing and to divert any critical thought.

Have a look at one of the company’s training manuals if you can. See what sort of behaviours they are advocating. Forever Living’s manual is full of lists to complete, reminders of the success you can achieve. People are advised to contact 5-10 people a day, write lists of everyone they ever knew, plan what they would do with more money. They are encouraged to ‘touch the business every day’.

 

5) The group’s leadership dictates how members should think, act, and feel

 

One of the first things you are told when joining an MLM company is this,

“You’re going to get negativity, people telling you it’s a pyramid scheme and that you’re wasting your time. But these people are just those idiots who want to live normal lives working for someone else. These people are not interested in fulfilling their dreams. They don’t understand things like we do. Don’t listen to them. JUST. GET. RID. OF. THEM”

MLM adherents spend an awful lot of their time getting rid of people from
their life, just because their MLM told them to.

So yeah. MLM qualifies for point 5 on the cult scale.

Some memes spotted on adherents’ social media are shown below. Shutting out people from their lives and embracing the group serves to isolate the adherent and further entrench them in the group. They lose perspective and support, becoming dependent on the group for everything. this is very dangerous.

Adherents have to think ‘positively’, follow the plan provided by the company (uplines and manuals), block out anyone who doesn’t support the business, spend their money on the company, turn their life over to the company and be grateful for the opportunity.

Pretty soon, the adherent finds themselves losing control of the situation and either need to immerse themselves in their new ‘family’ or risk ostracism from the group and the embarrassment of returning to their rejected friends with their dreams in tatters. People end up lying to themselves to protect themselves from the reality they find themselves in. It is a desperate situation.

 

6) The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members to save humanity.

 

MLM reps really do think they’re the shizz. Everyone else just doesn’t understand what they’re missing. In the worst cases of MLM-fever, normal people are looked down upon and the MLM rep will try to save them from their normal life.

The rep will never EVER admit anything negative about their MLM. They are 100% totally committed to the company and give it total admiration at all times.

So yeah, MLM can definitely make people elitist.

What’s funny is when people move from one MLM to another and their loyalty shifts from one company to another SO quickly. Suddenly they’re just as passionate about coffee as they were about skin cream.

The whole belief in the Law of Attraction has a part to play here. People are taught that they bring bad or good things upon themselves with their thoughts. If they are negative, they will fail. If they are positive, they will succeed. MLM adherents really seem to believe this and are afraid of bringing bad vibrations upon themselves. If they shut out any negative influences from their lives, they stand a better chance of succeeding. This is pretty close to religious belief and it really drives people. Imagine believing that being negative could cause cancer, floods, plane crashes, obesity, illness, business failure. I can see why this idea is so rife and popular. It also means that any failure is down to failed adherent’s negative vibrations. They just didn’t believe enough or try hard enough. This is often enough for the escapee to keep quiet about it all and want to slink away in shame. This is why people are loathe to go to the authorities or the press. They think it is all their fault.

 

7) The group has a polarized we-they mentality that causes conflict with the wider society.

 

MLMs quite often go on about how dreadful the commute to work is, they call normal jobs J.O.B.s (Just Over Broke), they maintain that normal jobs are taken by people who are conned into spending their time for little reward. Normal jobs are worthless and cannot earn as much as their MLM. They cannot see that it is not this simple. That a lot of people love their jobs and have rewarding careers. They don’t believe that their earning potential is actually really low. They just think their way is better than the traditional way. They think that everyone should be in MLM and anyone who isn’t is a fool.

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“GET. RID. OF. THEM.”

The words from a mindset coach recently. But it sums up MLM mentality pretty well. What a destructive message. It’s simply toxic.

I’m imaging how I would feel if my daughter started a job and I didn’t agree with it (for valid reasons) and I tried to discuss it with her, but she was told by one of her advisors to GET. RID. OF. ME.

It really is WE-THEY. If people don’t like the adherent’s MLM life then they can fuck off. Simple as that.

MLM often causes intense conflict and has been known to destroy families when one person in the family throws themselves deep into MLM and it begins consuming their life. Here at Botwatch we have heard time and again about people who have lost contact with their loved ones because of the MLM they joined. It is very sad hearing these stories and we try to support them as best as we can. We are hoping to educate people to help prevent people in the future being lost.

Most adherents will admit that they’ve had to shut people out of their life after getting involved with MLM. Some are proud about it and post about it.

“Another snake gone from my life!”

Why is shutting people out your life so common in MLM?

It’s not normal to shut someone out of your life because they don’t like your job.

7 on the cult scale is another hit for MLM.

 

8) The group’s leader is not accountable to any authorities

 

This is another hit for MLM. Sadly. I trust point 8 will only be true for a little while longer until advertising authorities can introduce proper regulation.

At the moment MLMs can make claim after claim and are not accountable to any authorities.

Hundreds or even thousands of false medical claims, earning claims, lifestyle claims and product claims are posted daily and the worst that happens is the individual post gets removed.

All the blame and risk is taken by the individual adherents and they are dropped as soon as they break any rules. Even if these rules are broken with the knowledge of the company and its leader. The leader is able to get away with anything if they shift the blame onto their rogue members.

 

9) The group teaches or implies that its “superior” ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group.

 

I saw an MLM adherent recently who left one MLM company to join another. In the first company she didn’t really make ‘too’ many crazy claims. She seemed really quite genuine and down to earth.

It was interesting to see her suddenly change when she started the new MLM. MASSIVE earnings claims started almost immediately. After only a few weeks she was making “4 figures a week”. Her team were smashing the promotions, crying with happiness etc.

Before being part of this MLM she would not consider behaviour like this to be moral or good.

“Fake it till you make it” is basically lying yet most MLM reps do it, yet they know lying to be wrong. People pretend they live in huge houses that they are really renting. They pretend their new car is a result of MLM, not their proper job’s wages. They pretend their illnesses have been cured by the wampum they are selling. They pretend they have/ had illnesses to push their products or get into groups. They pretend they are getting large paycheques and will be millionaires soon.  They have to pretend to be achieving all this so that people will join them, hoping for the same. They tell themselves that soon, they really will be earning all that money and then it won’t be a lie anymore. This is the means to an end.

MLM mindset definitely makes people do things they wouldn’t normally do.

 

10) The group’s leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them

 

MLMS will often accidently or deliberately use guilt to keep people from quitting and to influence people to join the company.

This guilt can be from either the upline to the downline, or the downline to the customer.

“Do you want to give your kids the best life?”

“Do you want to stay stuck with no money for the rest of your life?”

“Do you want to give up after all the time I’ve spent training you?”

“Do you want to give up and waste all the time you’ve put into this business?”

“Giving up is a sign of failure”

“Wanting to give up is just a sign that success is right around the corner, you can’t quit now”

Stuff like this.

Making someone feel shit about wanting to leave is about the best method MLM has in keeping people from quitting.

Another hit for the cult scale.

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11) Members’ subservience to the group causes them to give up previous personal goals and interests while devoting inordinate amounts of time to the groups.

 

MLM hammers the point home that the harder you work, the more you will earn. Often this causes adherents to go MLM crazy. It consumes their life and becomes part of their life-blood. At conferences they are told that to be successful they have to literally live and breathe the product.

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Uplines are trained to put pressure on their downline to put as much time as possible into the business in order to maximise on success.

I’ve seen adherents give up their full-time job under the guidance of their upline, only to be forgotten about and left on the scrap heap and slowly descend into failure.

Adherents are unable to enjoy their previous activities because every single social activity, every outing to the shops, every meeting of other people is just a recruiting exercise.  They are unable to shut off. People try to recruit their hairdresser, bank clerk, supermarket cashier, fellow mothers at soft play. One of the things that escapees say is that they are able to once again enjoy meeting people and having normal interactions once they have left. They didn’t realise how they had been behaving until they left.

People have left their university courses, believing MLM would be more lucrative.

‘Inordinate amounts of time’ are indeed spent by adherents. They are encouraged to wake really early every day and work as much as possible. They often have late night conference calls and training events and have to go miles away for ‘success days’ and company events. They were initially drawn into the company on the promise of ‘part time work for full time wages’ or being able to work and be with their children. Pretty soon every minute of every day is spent working for the MLM.

Point 11 is spot on for MLM.

 

12) Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

 

I think being in MLM eventually goes this way. Especially when adherents are told to get rid of people so spontaneously.

After really getting into MLM, normal people aren’t going to understand their world-view anymore.

Adherents will be mostly be friends with others in MLMs. They treat these friendships as just as important as the friends they leave behind. They call them their family or sisters. They are working towards common goals and are in contact with each other constantly. They rely on each other for encouragement and validation. They want to please their leaders and are happy to receive recognition from them.

They even have ‘recognition’ events where adherents leave their children behind, drive for miles, pay for tickets and get to stand up in front of people in their group to receive a pat on their back. They have to pay for their own food and drink and possibly a hotel stay. They then drive home and post pictures of the event saying how great their group are for recognising them. They assert that this is better than a traditional job where they got no recognition.

 

It’s ridiculous. Every point on the 12 point cult scale is relatable to MLM mindset and behaviour.

For anyone wondering if MLMs are cults, here’s your answer.

 

What to do if you or someone you know is in a group like this.

Steve Hassan, a cult counsellor, says that everyone can be helped. No one is in so deep that they can’t be helped. His website called ‘Freedom of Mind’ has information you might find helpful.

His books are very informative.

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I have written some guidance on  how to help someone in an MLM.  There is a lot of information and some practical suggestions in that post.

TINA have written an article and guide on what to do if you are the parent of a college student who has been sucked into an MLM. The advice is relevant to anyone concerned about a family member.

Remember that the person you are worried about is the victim of a complex and well designed cult and they are being influenced without their knowledge. They are not themselves. Their personality is still there, it is just being supressed.