How to help someone in an MLM

I have complied this factsheet in an attempt to help you understand what your friend or relative is going through and how you can best help them out of this situation. I have gleaned this information from reading books on the subject and background research on MLMs and cults.

A word of warning. This is a very difficult subject and people can be emotionally and financially tied up in these schemes and can be very vulnerable. If you attempt to help them and you feel you may be making it worse, back off. They will be vulnerable and you don’t want to make things worse. Just remember, you are on their side and want to help them.

Notes on this article

I will refer to the person in the MLM from now on as ‘your friend’ to avoid repeatedly having to say ‘friend/relative/colleague/person you care about.’

Some other sources of help.

Ethan Vanderbuilt has made this useful YouTube video of advice for people who have a friend or loved one in an MLM.

This article- “Emergency Handbook, what to do when a friend loves woo”  is very enlightening. It covers MLMs as well as pseudoscientific products. It is from the Skeptoid website.

Your overall aims and objectives

You should not be aiming at ‘getting them out of the MLM’. Instead, you should be trying to empower them to understand their situation and to allow them to autonomously decide for themselves that they want to leave. They should not be emotionally blackmailed or forced to leave. You should be trying to give them back their lost powers of critical thinking.

Accept that this may take time and cannot be achieved with one quick meeting and a handover of facts.

Do not go in with the attitude that you know best and they are stupid. You could make them dig their heels in further and upset your relationship. Your friend has been subjected to some very clever techniques and we need to tread very carefully.

 

  • Take the time to educate yourself about what MLMs are and how they operate.

You need to understand what you are up against and to understand their responses when you talk to them.

Here is a good simple video called ‘How to spot a pyramid scheme.’ It describes how MLMs work.

Here is a video showing people’s experiences in Herbalife. Their experiences are relevant to all MLMs.

Some blog posts I have written explain the realities of MLM- Expectation versus reality. An analysis of the payment structure in one of the schemes here. A page on the things people in MLMs say and the truth behind them. This last one will be particularly useful to read before having a discussion about MLMs. Visit Bot watch on Facebook for links/ articles/ facts.

Have a look at Timeless Vie on Facebook and their blog and read about the bullying that goes on and some of the uncomfortable facts about MLMs. Here you will read about how vulnerable people are targeted, bullied and lied to. You will learn about some of the people behind the companies.

Visit Lazyman and Money for well researched articles on specific MLMs and more general themes that will give you some facts.

For a more detailed analysis of the workings of MLMs you could visit MLM expert David Brear’s website MLM The American Dream Made Nightmare.

Also, you might want to join in conversations or ask questions of people who can help you with answers. Send a message to Bot Watch, Timeless Vie or the anti-MLM coalition (of which I am a part of) who can advise or send you links that will help. Or join in the discussion on Mumsnet and jump right in. Go to the Money section there and select the discussion starting with the words ‘MLM chat’.

 

  • Look after yourself

It can be very distressing having discussions with people about their MLM. They will feel very loyal to their company and could get very defensive towards you. You will need to assess how much effort you are willing to put in.  If you have been contacted by an old school friend and asked to join their team, just say ‘no thanks’ and then leave a link for them that explains your position. ‘People who care about you are worried‘ is a good one that lays out some facts explaining why MLMs are a bad idea. Whether you take it any further is up to you.

If you are trying to help a close family member or partner, you will need to be a lot more involved and seek support. You will need to involve other family members and good friends. Make sure they realise what the person is involved in. You will need a united front and you will need to help each other. It will be very stressful for you if you are so closely involved and you feel you are on your own. It may take time and some people may not see MLM as a real problem. It will be worth the effort though if you can all work together.

  • Be aware that your friend is not who they used to be.

Your friend will have been changed by subtle but clever techniques from the MLM. You may notice personality changes and strange behaviours that are out of character for them. This is what has prompted observers to call them ‘bots’. This refers to their robotic behaviours and scripted-style responses. They may start posting inspirational memes, being overly happy and optimistic, posting pictures on social media constantly saying how amazing their life is. They may be lying about things that you know just aren’t true.  They are literally trying to change who they are and emulate the people higher up than them in the pyramid. They will have been subjected to ‘mindset training’ that tells them how to think and act.

Elements of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) are used to change the way a person perceives the world and interacts within it. They are trained to see the outside world as hostile and desperate, their MLM as amazing and a perfect opportunity. They think their MLM is benevolent and the products desirable. They become unable to perceive things from multiple points of view and can only see things as presented by their MLM.

They sometimes become addicted to working on their ‘business’ and gain warm feelings and reinforcement from any sign of success. See this person’s experiences on Timeless Vie.

To borrow Steve Hassan’s concept from  his book ‘Combating Mind Control,’  the person changes from Mary-Mary to Bot-Mary. Mary has been partially taken over by Bot (Robotic) personality but it is still attached to the original Mary. She is still in there somewhere.

 

  • Do not criticise the company.

Your friend will take any criticism personally. They will see it as an attack on them and their dreams. They have had it drummed into them that their hopes and dreams can be achieved by this amazing company. People who stand in their way are just haters and do not understand how wonderful this opportunity is. By disagreeing with it you are criticising their choice and jeopardising their dreams. They genuinely won’t understand why you are trying to destroy their dreams.

The biggest danger of criticising the MLM is that you will be considered a threat to their success and could bring them failure. There are many, many instances of friends and family being cut off because of that. There have been divorces, lost friendships and family splits. This is a real threat, even if you had a very good relationship before.

 

  • Don’t buy the products and don’t join their team.

If you do, you will be giving your friend false hope and making them feel their MLM is legitimate. It might make them continue in it for longer. You may feel guilty and made to feel you are not being supportive but you are helping them really.

If you find yourself at a ‘party’ where products and the ‘opportunity’ are being sold, do not feel pressured to buy anything. Do not feel you need to give an excuse because they will just find a reason around that. Say something like ‘No thanks, I won’t be buying anything’ or ‘no thanks, it’s not for me’. Don’t feel guilty for being impolite, that is just a social norm that is being exploited by the methods used in MLMs. The system is banking on you making a pity purchase. Do not support this system.

If you are invited to one of these parties make sure you don’t take any money with you. Then you won’t be able to crumble and buy anything. You can confidently tell the person that you have no money on you. There’s not much they can do about that.

  • The stages people go through on their MLM journey

Understanding what phase they are in will determine what your approach will be. Also woven into this will be how close you are to them, so you will have to tailor your approach to your circumstances. This following bit is based purely on my observations, readings and speaking to people who have left MLMs.

  1. Interested about the opportunity. Might ask for ideas/ advice at this stage. Tell them everything. Maybe show them something like Timeless Vie or the reality vs expectation information.
  2. Invested in joining up and assigned an upline. First party booked. At this point they will be very excited and have spent money on the scheme. They are full of hope but will not have been changed too much. You might still have a chance here, but tread carefully and don’t criticise MLMs just in case they are deeper than you think and they cut you off. You could try some gentle questioning (see later point) here and react accordingly. Often at this point, they will be closely supervised by their upline so it could be difficult to have an opportunity to talk to them about it.
  3. They will have invested a lot more time and money and not making much back. They probably will be being pressured by their upline to work harder and will be starting to blame themselves for their perceived failure. At this point they will be very vulnerable. They will be tired, stressed and financially stretched.  Concern and support are the best things you can offer at this point. Be there for them and show you care for them. Do not be tempted to buy anything.
  4. By now it will be painfully obvious to your friend that they are not going to make it in this MLM. They could well find that a piece of information at this time could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Tailor the piece of information you share with them to their own personal ethics or knowledge. Essentially here you are finding their ‘hot button’, the trigger that will get to them. Just like how they were targeted when they joined the company. There is plenty of information out there to chose from- facts about the top bosses, conduct of experts, targeting of vulnerable people, using sick children, illnesses and charities to sell products.

 

Presenting information to your friend.

 

Moments of doubt.

Your friend may express doubts about what they are doing. Don’t jump on this this and tell them you are glad they have found the truth and then proceed to tell them how dreadful you know the whole scam to be.  It is very common for people to have moments of doubt but then return to what they were doing. You will then be seen as a threat and will be avoided. Their defences will be up when they are around you. See it as a kind of bad relationship and they told you they have split up. Then they get back together again. Your relationship with your friend would be seriously damaged.

Instead, be supportive and gently questioning. Ask them why they are having a wobble. Help them explore their feelings. Help them navigate around the issues but don’t tell them what to do or think. If they ask for your opinion, say you are not sure and look for the answers together.

Having discussions with your friend.

 

Connecting with the non-bot part of your friend.

Your friend may be thinking and acting as Bot-Mary as discussed previously and your aim is to connect with the old Mary-Mary. Try to steer conversation to interests you used to share. Invite them to a film you know they would have liked before. Talk about shared memories. Ask them about something you once did together. Don’t let the old ‘Mary’ disappear and be taken over by ‘Bot’ where everything is all about the MLM. You could use this technique to steer conversation away from recruitment attempts or sales pitches. Show your friend that you still value them and want to connect with them.

Helping your friend see things from multiple perspectives.

This can be difficult but if it can be achieved, can be quite effective. They have been trained to see things from just one perspective- that of the MLM. They have lost the ability to see things critically anymore. If you can get them to see their situation from a different perspective, they may be able to start making connections and think their way out of their situation. You could ask them how their old selves might have perceived something. E.g.

Time- “Wow, Mary! What would your old self have said if she knew you would be up at 3am posting comments on social media trying to sell a face cream?”

Person- “How is your partner coping with all this working that you are doing?” Don’t get judgemental, just help your friend explore how their actions might be impacting on others. Has anyone said anything to them about how their MLM activity is negatively impacting on them? “Have you had much negativity?” Maybe explore what negative comments they have had and where these might have stemmed from. Try to leave your friend with something to think about.

Non threatening but relevant topics.

Your friend may have been programmed to shut down and stop listening when their MLM is being criticised. You may be able to discuss other relevant issues though that they do not see as threatening to their ideals. Typically people will be able to see flaws in other MLMs. They feel able to criticise and listen to criticism of other MLMs because theirs is not being targeted. You could try to present information about other MLMs and get their take on it. Show them an income disclosure for another MLM and see what their thoughts are on it. They might agree that the MLM in question does indeed have a dreadful pay structure. They may well be left wondering what their own income disclosure looks like. Plant that seed. Pursue it as far as you feel able. It doesn’t have to be an income disclosure, it could be an issue you have seen on Bot Watch or Timeless Vie.

 

Conclusions

I apologise for not being able to give you a simple, step-by-step account of how to help someone in an MLM. Instead, all I have been able to do is give you some understanding and principles to work with. I hope that some of these tactics can be used to help your friend. Remember, your aim is to support your friend and gently try to guide them towards being able to make decisions for themselves.

I wish you luck in supporting your friend.

If you have lost someone to an MLM and you are concerned about them and have been unable to help them, would you consider talking to us to add your voice to the growing number of people who are telling their stories? You will be treated in confidence and your concerns taken seriously.

Please feel free to comment below with any insights you have on how to talk to people in these situations. What have your experiences been? Have you come out of an MLM? What was it that made you see the truth? There are so many people out there looking for ways to help their loved ones, any insights would be useful, thank you.

 

 

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In need of an alternative/ extra income?

This post explores help available for people needing a bit of extra money or an alternative income. I have not received any payments from any of these companies for promoting them, neither have I personally tried all these methods of earning money. I have just trawled the internet for ideas and put them together here. Hopefully they might serve as a starting point for you to search more thoroughly and come to your own conclusions on what is best for your circumstances. If you would like to see something here that I have missed, please drop me a message. If you think any of these links are not what they seem or might be dodgy, please let me know so I can delete the link. I don’t want people being scammed.

We advise you to avoid any companies that are Multi Level Marketing (MLM) schemes. 99% of people in these schemes lose money. 90% leave within a year. They seem legitimate but are not. If a company seems to be offering a nice way of earning money from home, google the name of it, followed by ‘MLM’. If you get lots of results, stop searching and try another company. Seriously, don’t even be tempted. If you see people saying ‘It’s legal, it’s not a pyramid scheme’, it will be a pyramid scheme or as close to it that the definition doesn’t matter. If you are considering joining an MLM, have a look here first and assess the scheme.

 

Help with debt/ making ends meet.

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Money saving Expert offer hints, tips, tools and a forum to help you make ends meet. Try some of their calculators, read a forum, join a forum and get into some good habits. With support of the people on the forums, you can be supported in reducing debts.

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Debtline can help with advice and they have some factsheets on how to get help with debt.

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Step Change are a debt charity that can help. They have a calculator that helps you plan what you can do.

 

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Are you receiving any benefits you might be entitled to? Have a look at this handy calculator from Entitled To just to check.

 

 

Legitimate work from home opportunities.

 

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Check out the CAB’s checklist of what to consider before setting up as self employed.

Customer service phone operator at home. If you love customer services and can navigate yourself around a computer program whilst talking to people, you could set yourself up as a customer services operator. This website takes on people as independent contractors that do just that.

Freelance IT work. If you’re good with computers you could help people create websites, assist with their content, check for mistakes. This website has examples of some opportunities and gives the hourly rate. There is an advert for AVON in there though, so beware. Just apply for the positions that give actual hourly rates! You could sign up with Clickworker and perform tasks that companies need doing, such as data entry, form filling, website checking. You get paid for each task, just do the bits that you can do, when you’ve got a bit of spare time.

Website designer. You can work online during hours that suit. If you are not great at that sort of thing but are interested, you can learn skills online.  Like at this website or this one.

Website testing. Visit websites and test them out, reporting back on your findings. User Testing is one site that does this. You visit a website, complete a set of tasks and verbally record what you are thinking. Whatusersdo are a panel of testers that you can join. This blog post gives details of 11 sites that pay for this sort of service.

Home typist. You are sent a recording of someone talking and you type it up. One company that does this is called Take-Note. This page tells you how you could work for them.

Bookkeeping. Train at home online for a bookkeeping qualification and then set up as a bookkeeper at home. The Institute of certified bookkeepers has more information.

Virtual Assistant. Work as a virtual assistant if you have experience of being a secretary or admin assistant. You could work freelance for a company or set yourself up in business when you have some experience. Time etc is one company that offers these work from home positions.

Courier. Work as a self employed or employed driver in your local area. Pick up parcels and deliver them. From just a few to a lot, depending on what you can do. Yodel offer this model of courier service. I had a look at one of their many job adverts and it was for £30-£70 a day. You pick up the bagged parcels, plan your route and then deliver them. You need to have a car and be a driver for this job.

Exam marking. Have a look here and here for more information.

 

Businesses you can set up yourself and run.

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The Talented Ladies Club have written a blog post on how to start a  business with no money. Have a look at their website for ideas and support.

Dog walking. It might take up a bit of time to build up but you could do this for a bit of extra money and get some exercise at the same time. Maybe extend it to dog sitting as an alternative to people putting their pets in kennels? Here, the Pet Owners’ Association explains how to set up a do walking business.

Swimming teacher. You can complete a teaching course locally to you and obtain funding to help with costs of the course. Check out the ASA website that has details of where courses are held and what funding there is.  Set up your own group of students around your commitments.

Childminding. There are some hoops to jump through and some paperwork to sort through but this could be an option if you want to work from home and have small children of your own keeping you at home. For some thorough information and links to other pages of interest, check out the careers service website. Perhaps you wouldn’t want to commit to actually having children round your house all the time. You could set yourself up as a babysitter. Get yourself trained as a childminder and then offer your services around your schedule. Have a look at Childcare.co.uk for the types of positions available. Register here to offer your services. After (considerable) expenses, taxes etc, earning potential is roughly £400 a month. This will depend hugely on the number of children and their ages.

Cleaner. If you don’t have a young child with you during the day, you could try offering your services as a cleaner during the hours that suit you. A start up website explains in 8 steps how to set up a cleaning business.

Beauty Business. Set up your own beauty business at home. If you have a spare room, an interest in beauty and treatments, look into this option. Or be a mobile beautician and visit people in their homes. The National Hairdressers Federation give ten tips on how to do this.  Twenty two tips here from the Beauty Biz. If you don’t know much about actually doing treatments, you can do online courses from home, such as these ones.

Not sure what to do and need ideas. Have a look at this website that goes through some ideas to think about. There are 6 areas of home business that you might like to consider.

Flexible jobs on an employed basis.

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Caring roles. These often require minimal initial training and are not too difficult to come by. You could look at local hospitals or agencies for a bank or agency position where you choose which shifts you would like to do. You get paid for the work you do, are given free training and usually uniforms. You would also accrue holiday pay. Some positions would be in a hospital, others involve visiting the elderly and offering companionship or help with their shopping. Here is a checklist from an agency on whether caring is for you. And some information from the careers service.

Adult educator. Do you have any skills or specialist knowledge? Could you pass on your knowledge in night classes? Contact a college  or library local to you and ask if they offer informal classes in a subject you are good at. Perhaps you could teach woodworking/ flower pressing/ family history tracing/ cake decorating. If you are knowledgable and confident it could be a great opportunity, with not poor pay rates. Enquire informally in the first instance and ask to observe a lesson/workshop for an idea on what would be expected.

There are part time evening courses that you can do to become a qualified adult educator that can be done around a family. If you have a degree you could do the adult educator qualification and you can then teach that subject formally. The Department for Education has some information on the qualification.

English teacher. This website tells you about the different types of qualifications available for teaching English as a second or foreign language. You can do these courses on a part time basis and you could then teach TEFL or TESL either abroad or in a college. Especially useful if you live in an area where there are many non-English speakers.

Other ideas.

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Night shifts. Could you work a few nights a week? If you have children and have someone to look after them at night, you could work overnight and then stay awake in the day. You would only be able to work two or three nights a week doing this, ensuring you don’t work two nights in a row. All the better if you can have a couple of hours’ nap in the day.  Places that offer night shifts are hotels, warehouses, nursing homes, hospitals, bars, factories, shops (shelf stackers).

 

 

 

Screenshot 2016-05-20 21.57.11Magazines. Write funny letters, short articles, send in cute child or pet pictures, write up holiday reviews, jokes, quizes. Get some magazines like Take A Break, Bella, Woman, Chat (You know the type) and have a look at their content. Email them your letters, articles etc and you might earn a little bit of money. Take A break tell you how to sell your story by filling in a form. If it’s a good one, you could get upto £2000. Maybe you’ve got a good MLM story to tell?

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Etsy. Are you an artist or good at making things? You could set up an online shop on Etsy. The quicker it is to make the item, the better. You can sell things virtually there, such as patterns for clothes/ toys, colouring in pictures, templates, signs, prints. You just need to upload these once, and then get sent payment when someone buys one.

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Rent a room out. Do you have a spare room? Could you rent it out to a lodger? What about turning your house into a temporary Bed and Breakfast? Have a look at Airbnb for how to do that.

Selling your artistic talents. Can you draw cartoons? Consider putting some work on Cartoonstock and earning money when someone pays for it. Have you got any photos that you could sell? See here on ideas how to do that. This blog tells you how you can sell traditional art, prints, photos and other types of art.

Write a book. This option isn’t as difficult as it used to be. Now you can publish a book to Kindle and start selling it straight away. Writing a book can take a lot of effort and the potential rewards could be very small. However, if you have a flair for writing, then why not? Read this free edition of ‘How to write a nonfiction book in 21 days- that readers love.’

Enter competitions. Someone’s got to win. Some determined people make a living out of it! Look for websites that advertise competitions. Like this onethis one and this one.

People who care about you are worried

Someone is worried for you and wants you to understand why this is so.  They are not negative haters. They want you to do well, they really do. They are afraid of offending you or upsetting you or are afraid you will distance yourself from them.  Therefore, I am attempting to put forward some of their concerns. They may be worried about some, or all, of these factors.  Please read them all and take your friend/ family member’s concerns seriously.  They probably agonised for ages over whether to send you this link.

 

You have joined, or are thinking of joining a Multi Level Marketing (MLM) scheme. There are some concerns about this type of scheme that you may not be aware of. Here are some of them.

 

Negativity

A very common theme in MLMs is to ignore any criticism of MLM/ the product/ the specific company.  You will have been taught that these people are negative and don’t understand the business.  They are jealous. You may have been taught about The Law of Attraction where negativity attracts further negativity so you need to cut negative people out of your life.

Please remember that people do have differences of opinion, even friends and family members. Please don’t let this come between you. True friends will tell you the truth, even if it means it is painful to you. These are good friends.

 

Closed/ Open minds

You may have been told that people who criticise your business have closed minds and that you have an open one.  Please keep yours open. Don’t shut down people without listening to them because you think they have a closed mind. Do not be afraid of differing opinions.

 

Making money

Statistically speaking, you are very unlikely to make any money in an MLM scheme unless you set it up yourself. Some experts have calculated that 99.9% of people will not make any money in these schemes.

The World Federation of Direct Sellers Association (WFDSA) oversees MLMs over the world and produces reports on them. They are pro-MLM. They produced a report recently showing the sales made by MLMs. The report can be read here. Their facts show that in 2014 there were 99,724,641 sellers worldwide who made $182,823 million (6 zeros) in sales. This works out to be $1,833 on average per person.  This isn’t profit, this is sales. The sellers will only have made a small percentage of that in commission.

Let’s say the average commission for sellers is 40% of the purchase price, each person in these schemes will have earned $733.20. A YEAR. And if some people earned more than that, it means others earned less because that is just the average figure. These numbers aren’t from an anti-MLM source, it is from your own industry.

Some companies produce reports of their own financial statistics. Find out if yours does, and have a look. If yours doesn’t, why doesn’t it?

Here is the one for It Worksitworks

Please note the above information shows that people in this scheme earn on average $189 a month GROSS. This is excluding expenses which  “can be several hundred or thousands of dollars annually”.

Here is the statement and link for World Ventures.

world-ventures-income-disclosure-2012

YEARLY average commission was $190.15. The median earned was just $40 A YEAR.

Please search for your MLM for their statement. Google your MLM, followed by the words ‘Annual Income Disclosure Statement’. If your MLM does not make this public, the amount earned by sellers must be very little indeed.

 

Here is a video where people who were in an MLM (in this instance, Herbalife) tell of how they lost money in the scheme. It is very sad viewing but worth it if you can watch it.

 

Expenses

Please keep a record of your expenses. Each spend may not seem much, but could all add up over time.  This is how people end up making a loss in MLM. They spend much more on their scheme than they make in profits. Have you taken into consideration the costs of-

Success days- travel, accommodation, childcare, food.

Holding information evenings/ product launches/ parties.

Postage and packaging.

Leaflets/ stickers/ bags/ business cards etc.

Samples.

Website costs.

Facebook advertising.

Cost of prizes given out as incentives/ raffles.

Training events.

Mindset training events/ books/DVDs/CDs.

Products that you buy to try out yourself so you can recommend them.

There are probably more items that could go on this list, please work out how much this is costing you.

 

Fake it until you make it.

Have you heard of this phrase? Do you see people in your scheme who seem to be doing really well financially? Do you think it is because of their MLM earnings? Or could they be pretending? You may have been told to pretend you are doing better than you really are doing, so that people think you are doing well and want to join you. After all, if you seem to be doing well, people will join up under you. Be aware of these claims and observe others. Is that house bought or rented? Do they have another income that could be financing their lifestyle? It is common for people in these schemes to be told to sell their lifestyle, make their life seem amazing on Facebook, and completely positive. It is hard to keep this up, it is draining and false. Look out for it in your team.  Are you happy with this?

 

The Law

Have you been given proper training so that you can operate within the law?  Are you confident you are not opening yourself up for a whole load of trouble? Your MLM may be telling you about the product and telling you how to market it, but are you being told about-

Tax liabilities

Data Protection Act

Advertising Standards Authority rules

Laws relating to selling products with heath claims

Insurance liabilities

Consumer laws.

You need to know about all of these so that you do not break the law.  Often, some of this is covered in your policy documents but not really backed up in any training. The law and your company will expect you to be following all of these rules so will not back you up if you break them.

 

All of the above are serious concerns, and we haven’t even touched on the obvious concern of MLMs being pyramid schemes.

You will have been told it is not a pyramid scheme. In fact, I bet someone has gone to great lengths to convince you it is not a pyramid scheme. This argument is too big for me to deal with in a few bullet points. Instead, I will leave you with this link to a short video that explains why some MLMs are considered to be pyramid schemes.

 

Do you feel that you need more information or support?

Please visit these sites-

Bot Watch on Face Book This Facebook page has links to useful sources of information. It also flags up where people have been breaking the law with their health claims and asks that they be removed.

Timeless Vie Blog and Facebook page These sites offer information and support through real life stories of people in MLMs and has articles and threads that use satire to illuminate the issues that may be affecting you.

A more in depth analysis of the issues can be found here in MLM The American Dream Made Nightmare.

 

If you are reeling from all this information or you need more help or information, drop in on the Mumsnet forum that is very active and join in the chat. Go to Mumsnet Money Matters page here. Look for the most recent thread with MLM in the title. The threads are numbered and usually have the phrase Bot Watch in them (hence the title of this blog).

 

 

 

Making False Health Claims. Part 2

Part 1 explained why people must not make health claims for products that have not been licenced, tested or shown to work. It looked at the law, agencies involved and showed examples of bad practice.

How do you know if a product has the correct licence to be sold as a health product or medicine (enabling you to make health claims)?

To sell or supply a medicine in the UK a company must hold a wholesale dealer’s licence (WDA) from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).  Click here  for the register of licenced wholesale distribution companies.

JuicePlus, Forever Living, Ariix and ItWorks do not appear on this list. I have contacted the MHRA to ask if they hold any licence enabling them to make health claims on their products. They do not.

 

Herbal remedy?

If you find yourself selling a product that you believe to have a positive health benefit and you have discovered it does not have the correct licencing to be considered a medicine, maybe it could be classed as a herbal remedy? Luckily for the consumer, this area is heavily regulated too. Since May 2014 it has been the law that herbal remedies have to be licenced by the MHRA as a Traditional Herbal Remedy (THR).  Such products will have this symbol on them-

200x200_new_herbal_remedies_registration
This means that the product has been tested for-

  • Quality
  • Contamination
  • Contents of product
  • Information provided on side effects
  • Information on contra-indications with other drugs
  • Information for pregnant women
  • Information for people with certain medical conditions

This mark does not show that the herbal remedy works, just that it is what it says it is and it has been traditionally used as a herbal remedy for certain conditions for more than 30 years. More information can be found at WebMD.

You can look on the packaging for the THR mark. If you want to order a product and don’t have the packaging to hand, you can search the database here on the MHRA’s website for the company and product. This list shows the name of the product, which herbal ingredients it contains and what these ingredients have traditionally been used for. I have asked Forever Living if any of their products have the THR mark. They said that they do not.

 

If you are selling products within an MLM company in the health and wellness sector, you may now be concerned about how you can sell these products.

You will probably have been told in trainings that your products are fantastic at curing all sorts of things.  You have probably heard testimonials about how the products have helped people that you know, or heard of them at group meetings. This is an extract taken from a training manual from Forever Living in November 2013, encouraging their distributors to make health claims when prospecting for customers-

photo 2

You can access the whole manual here. I believe there is a more upto date manual but this has to be paid for and as a non-member of FLP, I am not going to buy one.

BUT

You have already found out the product does not have the correct legal approval. You are not allowed to

  • say your product cures anything
  • show any evidence from studies/books showing it is effective if you are also selling the product
  • give any first or second hand testimonials
  • verbally recommend a product for a specific condition
  • say the product enhances natural performance e.g metabolism, energy levels.

Here is a Forever Living manual that sets how not to make health claims. The last two pages set out the law and what is and isn’t allowed and would be useful to anyone selling ‘wellness’ products in an MLM.
How can you sell products without breaking the rules?

You have to resist the urge to make any health claims or imply them.  You don’t want to break the law or get in trouble with the ASA, MHRA or your MLM.

You would have to just concentrate on other qualities of the product, such as how great it tastes or what a lovely colour it is. Try selling the product on how lovely the packaging is and what it could be used for when it is empty. A nice rocket or a vase maybe? I am obviously joking here because it is clear that the products are meant to be sold as health products and encouragement will be given for you to sell it as such.

One woman in an MLM noticed the contradictions between what she was being told to do in official trainings and what she was allowed to do. She became concerned that there was no legal way to sell the products. She complained to the company. They said there was no problem. She complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and the Direct Selling Association (DSA) who found in her favour. She details the complaints she made and the outcomes very clearly in this damning complaint. She was fired.

What can consumers or concerned people do if they discover blatant examples of health claims being made for a product that is not correctly licenced?

I would not bother with a complaint to the MLM itself.  My personal experience is that they acknowledge it is non-compliant but nothing is done.

  • You could complain to the ASA for a breach of advertising rules.  They cover online promoting, not just printed and televised adverts. You can make an online complaint on their website.
  • You could complain to the MHRA. They say “Our experts in the Inspection, Enforcement and Standards division can help assist investigating claims being made on the products and you are welcome to provide this information and the websites of the distributors to the following email address below and our experts who action as necessary.Email: borderline_medicine@mhra.gsi.gov.uk”
  • You could contact the offender and tell them they are breaking the rules and they could get into trouble. Give them the link to this blog or cut and paste this warning-

You have been making health claims for a product that does not have the correct legal paperwork. By making these claims you are breaking the law and the policies of your company.  You could get yourself into serious trouble with the authorities if reported.  Or worse, someone could be harmed if they follow your advice.  Please amend the wording or delete this claim.

  • You could give the person a link to the following sites for them to research for themselves the dangers of MLMs and some shocking stories from people who used to be involved in MLMs. A lot of the areas covered involve false advertising. Hopefully they might think twice about what they are doing.

facebook.com/timelessvie – a parody of a made up MLM to highlight the practices used by real MLMs.

facebook.com/liestopper – the Bot Watch Facebook page which contains useful facts for MLM people on how not to break rules. Also Bot Watch warns people about their false claims and seeks to have them removed.

timelessvie.wordpress.com – a blog linked to the Timeless Vie Facebook page.  Interesting articles from ex MLM people and insightful posts on how MLMs operate.

@Timeless Vie – the Twitter account for Timeless Vie.

The Mumsnet Discussion on MLMs- http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/legal_money_matters/2578946-Cant-Stop-Wont-Stop-MLM-Botwatch-10-Now-Featuring-MLMers-who-dont-answer-questions-jokes-posts-by-eyes-questions-about-Forever-Living-Ariix-Younique-Jamberry-etc-as-scambralamas?pg=21

blogwatchblog.blogspot.com – this blog

 

Good luck.

Making False Health Claims. Part 1

 

If you are in a Multi Level Marketing (MLM) company in the ‘health and wellness sector’ you may be promoting and selling products that you believe can help people with their health problems or that promote wellness.

YOU MUST BE VERY VERY CAREFUL WHEN DOING THIS!!!

Some typical social media material promoting these products have made some pretty bold claims…

healthclaim

 natasha

 

health2

 photo 4

stupid

 stupid2

These products have been made to sound wonderful and can cure nearly anything! The thing is though, in Britain, you can only make a health claim about a product if it has actually been shown to help with a condition.  And if you are advertising anything, the adverts have to be truthful.  These rules are serious and are designed to protect the public from quacks selling snake oil and taking advantage of people. People who are often vulnerable or desperate, or both.

 

Reasons why you cannot make false health claims-

  1. You need to know a few things when taking a medicine. You need to know it will do what it says it will, what the side effects are, and that the benefits will outweigh the possible risks. This information can only be gained through proper clinical trials conducted by professionals and the product monitored by official channels. If a product has not been through the proper testing methods, you do not know that it will help any condition. You will be lying if you say it can help when you don’t know that.
  2. The Advertising Standards Authority take a dim view of false advertising. They do not just cover TV and print adverts, but also cover promoting online. This includes claims made on Facebook. If a health claim is investigated by them and it is found to be non-compliant, they will ask for it to be removed. If it is not removed, it can be referred to trading standards.
  3. It is illegal to make health claims without the right licence. This is overseen by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
  4. It is illegal to make claims that an unregulated and unlicenced product can cure cancer or assist in the treatment of it. The Cancer Act 1939 makes this an offence, punishable by a fine or imprisonment for upto three months.
  5. Your MLM will probably state in their policies that you are not allowed to make these claims and they will not back you up if you break their rules.

Here is Forever Living’s policy on it

fl policy

6. If you lied about a product being helpful to someone and they took it, believing it would help, and it didn’t, that is very very wrong.  You would be giving false hope and could be causing serious damage. You may think you are not harming people and you really believe in the product but even benign sounding products can cause real harm-

In 1995 The Independent published a story about how bee products had seriously hurt some people and killed an 11 year old. This was due to allergies.

     “The most serious case was that reported in Australia of an 11-year-old girl who died of what       was diagnosed as an asthma attack. When she took a double dose of royal jelly she developed a wheeze and severe diarrhoea, started having bronchial spasms, and was taken to hospital.

She failed to respond to treatment “The death of the 11-year-old urgently re-emphasises the fact that royal jelly constitutes a major and life-threatening risk to patients with a known history of asthma or related allergies,” said Alain Rohan, a drug reaction specialist, in a letter to the Medical Journal of Australia. “Natural substances such as royal jelly, in which the protein content is very high, appear to pose the greatest antigenic threat of all such compounds.”

People with asthma and hay fever will often have allergies to pollen and bee products. But some companies are saying bee products can help with these conditions!

 

Part 2 coming soon, to include-

How do you know if your products have the correct licence to make health claims?

How can you sell products without breaking rules?

What to do if you see someone flouting these rules and you are concerned.

 

Are you or someone you know in an MLM? Having doubts?

dreams-reality

 

Is your business not going as well as you hoped it would? It is ok to wonder why this might be. It is ok to assess what you are doing and what is best for you. It is not ‘negative thinking’ to evaluate what is happening and move forward.

Successful people like Alan Sugar, Richard Branson etc do not just go with one idea and persevere. They have advisors and seek others’ opinions and adapt their strategies according to the evidence around them. Here are some things for you to think about, and links for further information, should you wish to find out more.

1. You may have been told that you can work your business around your family, using spare time or just working a few hours a week to earn great money. Pretty quickly you will find out that to get anywhere, you need to spend a vast amount of time tending to the business. It is not part time at all.

(Here is a short video highlighting the differences between what you are promised and reality-     )  Unfortunately this video was taken down by YouTube after Forever Living complained it breached copyright rules. The video was of Emma Cooper promising how easy it was to achieve an amazing income. In another video she was saying how hard it was. The two videos demonstrated how Emma was lying to everyone. Forever Living didn’t like that.

2. Even if you are spending a lot of time and effort on the business, you will still not be making money. This is for two reasons,

a)the odds are against you and the maths really doesn’t stack up at all. Statistically, MLMs never make the sellers any money. The maths is explained here.

 

b) Your expenses will be very high. Do you have to pay for samples, website, postage and packaging, event equipment (tablecloth, leaflets, posters), answering services, training days, mileage, babysitters, hotel costs, training manuals, stickers, bags, books etc etc? Have you been factoring in these costs when working out your earnings? Other industries would provide these sorts of things as expenses and you would certainly not pay for them yourself. You even have to pay for your own coffee at training events.

3. What’s with all the ‘mindset training”? People involved in many MLMs are sent on seminars, webinars and told to read books to help them achieve success. These trainings pretty much all say the same thing- keep on going. If it isn’t working, it’s because you aren’t trying hard enough or you don’t believe in yourself enough. It’s a form of victim blaming. It sells books and keeps people bringing in money to the MLMs a little bit longer. These courses and books cost money and you are just paying to be told it is all your fault. It is not your fault, you are not being lazy or not believing enough. The odds are just stacked against you, you will never make any money in an MLM.

Here is a snippet from

‘Become a Network Marketing Superstar’ by Mary Christensen.

book quote

 

4. This leads on nicely to the concept of The Law of Attraction.  Have you been told about this?  The idea is that if you think positively and visualise good things, then good things will happen to you and you can achieve anything.  Seems harmless enough doesn’t it? This is why people go virtual house hunting and are encouraged to visualise their dreams. This is also why negative thoughts and people are discouraged, in case they bring on negativity and failure.

People who believe in The Law of Attraction believe that good things happen to positive people and bad things happen to negative people, because of the ‘frequency’ of these thoughts.  This is why people get caught up in wars, car accidents, illness, plane crashes.  They have brought it upon themselves, even if they don’t realise it. Does this really sound plausible?  Could it be a concept that just makes people keep their business going a bit longer, blaming their nagging doubts for lack of success?  Could it be making people lose contact with friends and family who are warning them against MLMs?  Could it be preventing people from voicing their concerns to other business owners or admitting them to themselves?  Could it be the case that going to all the mindset training where these ideas are encouraged is making some people a lot of money?

 

5. You may be finding that your friends and family are at best neutral, but more likely to be ‘negative’ towards you and the business. They are not being closed minded or jealous, they are concerned for you. You may be encouraged to remove these people from your life and surround yourself by like-minded people. This is not ok. Losing friends and family and becoming isolated is what happens to people in abusive relationships. Please do not write off people who you see as doubters, they care about you and will be happy to reconnect with you. They are not the evil, negative haters that you have been led to believe, they care about you.

6. Is the product you sell really that great? Is it a little overpriced? Are you encouraged to buy a lot of it yourself? Are you encouraged to get your downlines to buy it? Are you the real customer? Here is an interesting clip about the theory of ‘redirecting your spending’. https://youtu.be/T022sL3Negg

Without a product, the MLM would be a pyramid scheme. You buy the product, voila, the whole thing is legal.

7. But there are many successful people out there, claiming to be millionaires. They can retire after a few years and keep on being paid. Really? Have you met any people who have retired from an MLM? Have you seen ANY evidence of this? Have you heard of ‘fake it til you make it? People buy the person, not the product etc’. You may have been told to bend the truth about your own success to encourage others to join you. 

They are ALL doing that. Fake holiday pictures, covering up bonus cheque amounts, renting expensive houses, pretending they bought them. Here is a tongue in cheek parody about MLMs and a post on faking it until you make it.

8.  But I’ve seen people at the global rally and the massive cheques! Yes, but how many people get those cheques? What have they sacrificed to get there? How much have they spent of their own money to get those cheques? Where are the people who were brandishing those cheques 20-30 years ago?

 

I hope that reading this document has given you something to think about. If you are worried about something that you are doing, or been asked to do and feel you are in too deep, speak to someone. There is support out there. Friends, family, other people who escaped MLMs. You will not be treated like you were stupid or you are a failure. Your friends and family will be glad to have you back.

 

If you want to chat to people who are concerned about MLMs and will welcome your thoughts, join us on Mumsnet where there is a series of lengthy ongoing discussions about it all. You can be anonymous and you will receive a supportive ear. Just jump in at the most recent thread, you don’t have to read it all, that would take weeks. There are a few ex MLM people on here and they discuss why they left and why there is concern for people who are still involved.

Mumsnet thread