The stages of leaving

From helping many people through their journey away from Multi Level Marketing, I have noticed common themes. I have attempted to describe them here. Have you been through these stages? Would you add any others?

Trigger

There is often a single event that unsettles people. This trigger goes against their personal ethics or crosses a line that is important to the person. For example, someone finds out that Younique is not as animal friendly as they were led to believe or they witness an upline encourage lying. Perhaps they find out the CEO is a homophobic tax evader or the charity the company supports is a sham.

Whatever the trigger is, it is enough to upset the person on a level where they cannot deny the wrongness of it.

Dawning realisation

Once someone has been awoken to the trigger they are more easily able to see other troubling things around them. They start questioning like never before. Niggling doubts become real concerns. The nagging upline can now be seen as the bully they are. The little lies they have been encouraged to make are now seen for the deceptive recruiting tactics that they are.  The rep becomes more and more horrified at what they have become involved in.

Fear

The fear at this stage is real. Timeless Vie looked into the fear that is instilled into MLM members. The fear is probably worse the longer someone has been involved in the company. They will have been faking it to make it. This would have involved presenting the image of success to their friends and family, telling them they are making money. They will have had conversations with friends and tried to persuade them to join them in this successful venture.  If they then decide to leave, they will lose face.

The worst fear will come from the realisation that friends will have been lost due to the MLM. Often people are encouraged to ditch their friends and family if they are less than totally supportive. They could have unfriended people and upset long standing friendships. Slowly their friend groups will have been replaced with their MLM family, their Senesisters, Y-sisters, other family/group name of belonging.

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It’s a bit culty actually. People spend a lot of time with their MLM ‘family’ and feel a real connection with them due to the immense amount of time they spend with them. The slow backing away from friends and the encroaching influence of the MLM group creeps up on people and they can feel quite isolated when they realise how alone they really are.

This isolation can be worsened when people left their normal jobs (‘sacked the boss’) or if they have mental health issues.

There will also be fear from the thought of how the upline and team will react. They will have seen people leave the team before and heard how they were treated. They may have witnessed the blocking, isolation and character assassination that often occurs to the traitors that leave. They are blamed for their failure and lack of commitment to the group. Again, the cult vibes surface here. The excommunication and vilifying of outsiders is a feature of cults and MLMs.

Action

In this stage, the person decides that they can no longer continue in the MLM and they have to do something. They know it will be hard to take action but they know that they must. The question here is what they need to do. Do they stay members and let it fizzle out? Do they have a raging argument with their upline? Do they just delete and block everything and pretend it never happened? Do they tell an old friend and seek some perspective? Do they contact Bot Watch, Elle Beau or Timeless Vie for support and advice?

There is no simple answer here as each person’s situation will be different and their ability to cope will vary. I would strongly advise, whichever tactic people use, that they stop spending money on the products/ training/ any MLM activity. Take time to decide what to do, but stop trying to make it work. Once you have gone this far down the decision making process, you will not be happy in MLM any more. The visor has been lifted and you can no longer pretend it might be ok. The person will be OK, but not if they stay in MLM.  It can be harmful to keep trying to lie to yourself and knowingly lie to others to recruit.

 

Consequences

This is the part where people have to deal with the upline, contact head office, admit to friends what happened. Sometimes people need to admit to partners about the money that they borrowed or face their downline and try to make amends. They need to deal with friends who can no longer quite trust them due to previous attempts to recruit them and the perception from friends that they were seen as a way to make money. There must be the problem of coming across people who are thinking ‘I told you so’.

This part can be very isolating and can be difficult when you have been told repeatedly to just follow the plan and to reject the ‘normal’ way of working by having a J.O.B. So much hope and energy and money will have been invested in the dream of succeeding in the MLM. The actual process of leaving will be unchartered waters and can be very scary.

Healing

This is a very important part.  People need to be able to sit back and lick their wounds. Often a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression could be worsened. Previously strong people might be feeling fragile. Their belief systems have essentially been shaken to the core and everything they were working for has come crashing down.  Sometimes a reaction can be to start blogging and becoming an active voice against the MLM can become all-consuming. The anger and distress can be overwhelming and people seek to channel it.

If you have been through anything like this, it is very important that you slow down and take time to process what has happened. Please realise that you have been subjected to many techniques designed to keep you in the company, spending your money and working every spare minute to send money up the pyramid to the owner. You have been manipulated and it will take a lot of healing to overcome the damage.

If you have a friend who has been through this process, be gentle with them and allow them to talk about their feelings. You may have to occasionally step in and offer  a different perspective when their faulty logic shines through. They may blame themselves for things that happened that wasn’t their fault. They may have a negative view of themselves and their abilities. Be gentle with them and be patient.

Please contact Bot Watch if you need help, support or advice.

Some other articles you might find useful on this site are

How to help someone in an MLM,

How to leave an MLM,

How to be a Bot Watcher,

Why do people join MLMs?

Network Marketing is a cult.

MLM Expectation vs Reality

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Quick and simple guide to why network marketing is a bad thing.

This blog post has been written at the request of a follower who wants to present information about MLMs in a simple format that can be printed onto a sheet of paper that she can distribute to some people to explain why MLMs are a bad thing. Anyone is welcome to copy and paste this into a word document. It will all fit onto one page if you make the font size 10. Make your own title as you think is appropriate.  The information may seem simplistic but it is this way on purpose.

Earning money

Most people do not earn money. The only people that do earn money are the people at the top who have recruited thousands of people under them. A lot of people lose money.  You will be told about many people who are earning money and that you can too. You can’t unless you already have a team of hundreds that all join at the same time as you. People often lie about the money they make because they want you to join and to think it is a good business opportunity. Do not believe anyone who says they earn a lot and want to recruit you.

Products

The products are very expensive and people don’t want to buy them. This is because some of the money goes up the pyramid to pay all the levels above. No one wants to pay the expensive price. You will end up buying it or friends will buy it because they feel sorry for you. People can buy products for cheaper in a shop.

Your friends

Your friends will get annoyed if you keep trying to sell to them and they will be even more annoyed if you try and recruit them. Do not use your friends and family to make money from them, it is not kind or friendly. If you lie to them to trick them into joining you, they will never trust you again. Friendships and family relationships can be ruined.

Control

Often, people in these schemes are told to do things that they feel uncomfortable doing. They are told to follow instructions and do things that don’t feel right, like lie about the products, buy a lot of stock for themselves, lie about how much money they are making, trick people into going to meetings. People start off doing some of these things and feeling bad, until soon they are doing lots of these things and it feels normal. Right and wrong start getting confused and the person changes into someone they don’t like anymore.

Hope

People realise they will not make money. They are told they are not working hard enough. They are told they are not being positive enough and if they spend more time and money they will start earning money. They are told to stop talking to friends and family who have been saying these schemes don’t work because their negative talk will make them fail.

The reason people do not make money is because only very very few can make any money and most lose money. It is not the person’s fault, but it is the way the company is set up. If you keep trying and keep spending money and keep hoping, you will still lose. But you will lose even more. And you will lose friends, time and more money.

Your own business

You are told you are an independent business person and you are in charge of what you do. You are not a boss. You do not own anything. You are just a salesperson who only gets paid commission. You do all the advertising, recruiting, training, selling and buying and take all the risks. You can be fired for many reasons and companies like these often fire people just for asking questions or saying they won’t do something.  You are responsible for following advertising laws, paying your taxes, registering your business properly, following the correct legal procedures for selling, storing and distributing products. There are a lot of rules to follow that you might not know about and you can get in trouble for. The company won’t get in trouble if you break the laws, you will.

 

This article has been translated into West Africanised French. Thanks to the Bot Watcher that did this for me.

 

Gagner de l’argent

La plupart des gens ne gagnent pas d’argent. Les seules personnes qui gagnent de l’argent sont les personnes qui ont recruté des milliers de personnes sous leurs ordres. Beaucoup de gens perdent de l’argent. On va te parler de nombreuses personnes qui gagnent de l’argent et on te dira que toi aussi tu peux gagner une fortune. Tu ne peux pas gagner une fortune sauf si tu as une équipe de centaines de personnes qui rejoignent l’affaire en même temps que toi. Les gens mentent souvent sur l’argent qu’ils font parce qu’ils veulent que tu les rejoignes et que te convaincre que c’est une bonne opportunité. Ne croit pas quiconque qui dit qu’il gagne beaucoup et veut te recruter.

Les Produits

Les produits sont très chers et les gens ne veulent pas les acheter. C’est parce qu’une partie de l’argent monte la pyramide des gens pour payer tous les gens qui sont arrivés avant toi. Personne ne veut payer le prix fort pour des produits chers. Tu finiras par acheter les produits ou tes amis vont les acheter parce qu’ils ont pitié de toi. N’oublie pas que les gens peuvent acheter des produits moins chers.

Tes Amis

Tes amis vont s’ennuyer si tu continues à essayer de leur vendre des choses et ils seront encore plus agacés tu essayes de les recruter. Utilise pas tes amis et ta famille pour faire de l’argent sur leur dos , ce n’est pas gentil ou amical. Si tu leur ment pour les inciter à te rejoindre, ils ne te feront plus jamais confiance. Les amitiés et les relations familiales peuvent être ruinées !
Le Contrôle de sa vie
Souvent, les gens dans ces affaires sont invités à faire des choses qui les mettent mal à l’aise. On leur dit de suivre les instructions et de faire des choses qui ne leur conviennent pas, de mentir sur les produits, d’acheter beaucoup de produits pour eux-mêmes, de mentir sur le montant d’argent qu’ils gagnent, d’amener les gens à se rendre aux réunions. Les gens commencent à faire certaines de ces choses et se sentent mal, jusqu’à ce que bientôt ils font beaucoup de ces choses et ça devient normal pour eux de mentir a leurs amis et leur familles par exemple. Le bien et le mal commencent à devenir confus et la personne se transforme en quelqu’un qu’elle n’aime plus.

 

L’Espoir

Les gens se rendent compte qu’ils ne feront pas d’argent. On leur dit qu’ils ne travaillent pas assez dur. On leur dit qu’ils ne sont pas assez positifs et s’ils dépensent plus de temps et d’argent, ils commenceront à gagner de l’argent. On leur dit d’arrêter de parler à leurs amis et à leur famille qui ont dit que ces programmes ne fonctionnent pas parce que leur conversation négative va les faire échouer. La raison pour laquelle les gens ne gagnent pas d’argent est que très peu peuvent faire de l’argent et la plupart perdent de l’argent. Ce la faute de la personne, mais c’est la façon dont l’entreprise est mise en place. Si vous continuez à essayer et continuez à dépenser de l’argent et continuez à espérer, vous perdrez toujours. Mais vous allez perdre encore plus. Et vous allez perdre des amis, du temps et plus d’argent.

Avoir Sa Propre Affaire

On te dit que tu es un homme d’affaires indépendant et que tu es responsable de ce que tu fais. Mais n’oublie pas tu n’es pas un patron.Tu ne possede rien. Tu es juste un vendeur qui ne reçoit que des commissions payées. Tu fais toute la publicité, le recrutement, la formation, la vente et l’achat et tu prends tous les risques. Tu peux être viré pour de nombreuses raisons et les entreprises comme celles-ci virent souvent des gens simplement parce qu’elles posent des questions ou en disant qu’ils ne travaillent pas bien. Tu es responsable pour payer tes impôts, pour enregistrer ton entreprise correctement, en suivant les procédures légales correctes pour vendre, stocker et distribuer les produits. Il y a beaucoup de règles à suivre que tu ne connais peut-être pas et tu peut avoir des ennuis a cause de ça. La compagnie n’aura pas de problèmes si tu enfreins les lois, mais toi si.

 

 

 

 

How to choose a Network Marketing company to work with

This is a serious article and is not a spoof or a trick. It is not an attempt to get you to sign up to anything.

This article gives pointers to people who are in Network Marketing and are looking for a new company. I am not against the individuals who are in these schemes. This site is aimed at facts and exposing the realities of Multi Level Marketing.

I am forever seeing people go from one company to another and making dreadful mistakes along the way. Some of you have been led into illegal schemes or tricked into doing illegal things yourself. Many of you will have had your reputation affected and gone through a lot of trauma.

A bit of research before joining a company could save you a lot of trouble.

 

Products

What are the products? Don’t be swayed by the level of commission or an assurance that the products will ‘sell themselves’. Products do not sell themselves, you have to sell them. If you don’t wear make up, don’t sell make up. If you aren’t into sports, don’t sell sports products. You will have no credibility if you try and pretend you know about these things.

You could run the risk of looking like an idiot if you are selling something you know nothing about. It is not enough that the company provides training in the products. People will see through you. People with a real interest in the market will spot you a mile off.

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Is there a market for the product?

Will people actually buy the product for what it is? Is the price reasonable? Do you know of people that will buy it because they want it? If they saw it in a shop, would they buy it? You need real customers, do not rely on friends and family who you think will support you. They may initially order from you to be supportive, but you do not want pity purchases. Pity purchases dry up, and can cause resentment between you and people you care about. Friendships are more important than selling a lipstick. Ideally, you would want repeat customers who like the product and ask you for it, instead of you chasing them for orders.

Do you want to sell to customers or will you have to beg?

Is the company registered at Companies House?

It doesn’t take long to check a company is registered and their accounts can be looked at. Go to their website and type in the company name in the search box. You can find out when the company was incorporated, who runs it, all sorts of information. Take a bit of time to look into the details that you find out.

It isn’t enough to be told by someone you work with that a company is legitimate. Find out for yourself. It really doesn’t take long. If you are investing your time and money into a scheme, you really should be doing these background checks. Google the names you come up with. Have any of them been in trouble with the law? If there is no information on them anywhere, this might not be good. You would think that someone who has set up a business that is going to be really successful would have experience and leave a footprint all over the internet on their previous activities.

Compensation plan

Have a look at the compensation plan. Do not be distracted by people or figures that show you can earn a lot of money at the top. Have a look at what you think you are likely to earn.

If you need to host parties, how many do you realistically think you will do? It may be suggested that you do 2 parties a week to earn a certain amount of money. How realistic is this? How many people do you know that will be happy to host parties for you? How far away will you have to travel? How much time and cost will be involved? Two parties a week does not sound much, but could you keep it up for long?

Don’t get carried away with what could be possible. Work out what you can realistically achieve. Look at the details. Work out a plan properly. If someone says it is easy to set up parties, ask them for the details on how they do it. If someone tells you it is simple and no effort, they are likely not being honest with you. Especially if they are trying to persuade you to join their team.

Are there minimum amounts of money that you need to bring into the company every month? Companies have different amounts that you are expected to bring into the company in order to remain active and to earn bonuses. Find out what this is. Will you be expected to make up the amounts with your own purchases? Wold you be buying these products anyway at these prices or would you end up spending money you would otherwise have spent on bills? People think they will just make up the amounts on their own purchases for a bit, and then their businesses will take off and they won’t need to anymore. This is not a good tactic. You will be wasting your money and you could end up being your own customer.

Advertising and marketing

Check what type of product you will be selling and what the selling points are. You will need to find out what claims are allowed and which ones are illegal. When you put claims on social media, you are as responsible for the advertising as a standard company is when they advertise on the TV or in magazines. Officially in the eyes of the law, you are responsible for your claims.

If a company sells coffee and you market it as weight loss coffee, you could get into a lot of trouble if you break advertising rules. Have a look at the CAP rules for the UK. This page tells you nice and simply some of the main advertising rules you need to adhere to, like what you can and can’t say. It covers weight loss rules, before and after pictures, testimonials, health claims etc. If you are told to sell a product by claiming it can do something like increase metabolism, cure diabetes, lose weight, help with depression, you need to check this is actually allowed.

Link to weight loss rules at the Advertising Standards Association.

Have a look at this index from the ASA that covers all the advertising rules you’ll need. There’s sections on competitions, environment, customer data, health claims.

If you are satisfied that the product claims can be advertised by you legally, you will be in a good position. The last thing you want is the ASA telling you to remove content or Trading Standards turning up at your door. You will not be able to blame the company for your claims, it is you that is responsible for it.

It is not acceptable for you to say that you were told to make the claims or that you just copied an advert. Make sure you carry out your responsibilities seriously.

If a company just sells weight loss coffee but you know you cannot sell it as weight loss coffee without breaking the law, could you sell it just as coffee? If not, you might want to find another company.

The DSA

Some people will tell you their business is legitimate if it is registered with the DSA. However, this does not provide you with any protection at all. Some companies have been with the DSA and been shut down by the authorities for being a pyramid scheme. The DSA is made up of people that run Network Marketing companies. They act to protect the companies, not the individuals signing up as reps. People who have complained to the DSA have found their complaints just passed onto the company.

Beware the hype

I’ve seen the hyped up videos, you probably have too. You know, the ones where someone is screeching  about the amazing opportunity they have just stumbled upon. Join now, it’s amazing, they’ve looked into it and it’s perfect. DO NOT TAKE THEIR WORD FOR IT! You may like them and trust them and want to join their team. You may even have worked under them before.

Signing up to a new company should be a big decision and not taken lightly. Do your own research. You don’t need to tell the person you don’t trust them. Check out what they are saying, follow the points in this article and decide for yourself if it is a good opportunity for you. If you decide it is legitimate and you think it is for you, join up. If it isn’t for you, find something else instead.

If you decide not to join and you are put under pressure, remember you are in charge of what you do and which company you chose. You should not be working with someone who tries to pressure you into their team. That’s not how professional people behave, that’s what bullies do.

How will you get paid?

Being paid isn’t as simple as being paid straight into your bank account. Most MLMs pay into a third party account. You might be charged for withdrawing money or there might be minimum balances needed before you can access it. Some companies pay bonuses in the form of stock or discounts on their products. Is it important to you how you get paid?

Is it an illegal pyramid scheme?

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This can be a tricky subject and I have seen may different interpretations on what a pyramid scheme is. It is usually the people who are recruiting that give the loosest definition. You should be familiar with pyramid scheme laws so that you can avoid one. Here is an article I wrote that brings together the relevant rules for England and Wales. Have a look. There are links to the actual law so you can see with your own eyes what the law is.

In summary, the big rules (In England and Wales) are-

You cannot be your only customer

There has to be a product or service that is sold

You cannot spend more than £200 in the first month in a scheme

You have to display the statutory wealth warning on recruiting adverts

There are some irrelevant ‘facts’ that you might hear to explain pyramid schemes like- “corporations are pyramid schemes, if people can overtake you in the pyramid it is not a pyramid scheme, it is registered with the government so it must be ok, I have earned money so it must be ok…” No doubt you will hear all sorts of rubbish. Listen to what people say by all means, but check out what the actual law says. After all, it could be you that is breaking the law if you are not careful.

In the US, you need to look at the FTC’s rules. Have a look at what they said about Herbalife.

 

Extra costs

What sort of training is available? Some companies provide training manuals or online modules as part of the joining fee. Some will charge you for it. Some will charge you for training courses. Some will expect you to travel long distances at your own cost and pay for your own hotel.

Are there events that you are expected to go to? Herbalife have recently been in trouble and are being sued for their events. They told people they would make money if they attended all the events. These events turned out to be a money making exercise and did not help anyone make any money.

Have a look at postage and packaging fees. Will you have to pay for it if you order for a customer? Younique presenters and LuLaRoe end up paying a lot for postage. Is there a minimum amount per order?

Will you have to pay a fee for having a back office or for being paid? Will you have to pay a fee to your upline to be in groups ( I have heard of this happening).

If the person trying to recruit you tries to fob you off and not answer your questions properly, or tries to tell you not to be so negative, take this as a warning sign. It is perfectly acceptable to work out what your running costs are going to be before you invest your time, money and reputation in a company.

 

Look for criticisms

Other people may have been in this company and had problems. What problems did they have? It will be useful for you to know how others have done. You may be told not to look for ‘negativity’ and to stay as positive as you can. This is not helpful when you are assessing a business opportunity.

Imagine you looked up a company and found a criticism about the product availability. Maybe there is never anything in stock or there is a three week wait for stock. This would be useful to know. What if people are never paid the correct money or ex members complain about hidden costs? You need to know this.

Make your own mind up over what you are going to do with this information. You may want to dismiss it as the ramblings of a bitter ex-rep. You may decide that the problems are going to be a problem to you to.

Deciding to ignore any criticism and any problems could backfire on you. If you have a friend who has concerns about the opportunity, do not dismiss them. They may have a valid concern. Listen to what they say and then make up your own mind about it. There is no need to fall out with them or cut them out of your life. It is a very special thing to have someone looking out for you and telling you what they think.

Of course, there is a difference between someone who dislikes you and makes mean comments, and someone who is worried you will make a mistake. Please dismiss the nasty people, but listen carefully to worried people that love you. You don’t have to do what your loved one says, but it is hurtful and unnecessary to cut caring people out your life who have not done anything wrong.

 

Understand what FDA accreditation means

Quite often, you hear the claim that a product has some sort of FDA backing. Is it certified, registered, certificated? Do you know what these terms mean? Do you know which applies to the products being sold? Have a look at this website that clearly sets out what they mean and how you shouldn’t be misled by the phrases. Don’t be impressed by the claims until you know what it means.

Your attitude

I get that you need to be positive, I really do. You deserve to do well, I want people to be successful. Boosting your self esteem and believing in yourself are good things. These can give you confidence and push you to try new things. These are healthy attitudes and help in everyday life.

I do not want to knock anyone’s confidence, or belief that everything will work out OK. What I do object to though, is the attitude that you can have anything you want, just because you want it hard enough. Your desires may give you the push to be more adventurous and give you a purpose in life. This is good.

What is not so helpful are the people who persuade you to ignore your rational thinking and natural curiosity and just do what they tell you to do, based on the belief that just wanting it is good enough. You need more than that. You deserve more than that, you really do.

If you want to be taken seriously as a business person, do your research. Don’t just hope it will all work out alright because your friend said it would. Think for yourself.

 

I hope you find the above advice useful. Remember the following points

You are responsible for your actions

Don’t take people’s word, find evidence

Don’t break the law

Listen to criticism, is there any truth in it?

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.