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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Why Network Marketing is a Bad Thing.

What’s the harm of network marketing/ distance selling/ multilevel marketing? It’s just normal, everyday people making a bit of spare cash from selling things harmlessly to friends and online, right?

MLM creates victims

Victim 1- friends and family of the rep

You should see some of the heartbreaking stories I hear from people about their worries for their loved ones. It has ruined relationships. Not only can it dramatically ruin close family relationships, it can make working relationships and friendships awkward when someone tries to involve you in their scheme.

Here’s a selection of messages from Bot Watch’s Facebook inbox.

 

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Victim 2- customers

The people who buy the products are most likely only buying out of pity for their friend or relative. They might be trying to support their friend but do not actually want the product. Have you seen the inflated prices? They have to be high in order to pay all the people up the pyramid.

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This is water available to purchase from Forever Living. 12 bottles for £14.76.

Here is exactly the same water from the same source, not from Forever Living.

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24 bottles for £12.72.

Forever Living sell at £1.23 a bottle, 53p from another company.

 

Victim 3- legitimate homeworkers/ small businesses

How many real small business people/ home workers and life coaches have been met with scepticism or an eye roll when they reveal what they do? People who have spent time and money and skills building up a real business are not taken seriously because MLM have sullied the reputation of genuine businesses.

Some reps describe themselves as life coaches, which must sting genuine life coaches who have had training and built up a reputation, helping people to make the best of their lives and overcome obstacles they are experiencing. Reps come along and call themselves coaches, with the express aim of recruiting people, coaching them to recruit people to coach them to recruit people to coach them to recruit….You get the idea.

 

Victim 4- The rep’s finances

It has been well established that it is impossible to earn a good wage in MLM, unless you are high up with the right connections. The people that earn money are reliant on having a large team beneath them, most of whom will lose money, before they feel a failure and slink off feeling worthless.

There have been many, many people coming forward with stories about losing money. Have a read of Elle Beau and her story of Younique. People hide their losses to themselves and family. Most do not even realise they are losing money because they do not keep a proper track of their expenses.

Victim 5- Women

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Women are targeted for this industry, often in a patronising way, using their vulnerabilities and patronising them along the way. What is this, the 1950’s? Have a look at Timeless Vie for some of their work on feminism and MLMs. This article is a particular eye opener.

Here is one example from Bot Watch’s inbox of vulnerable women being specifically targeted.

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Victim 6- free thought

It is becoming increasingly evident that MLMs are cults. People are subjected to techniques that condition people into thinking and speaking in a certain way. They are taught to ignore their inner questioning thoughts and to blindly do as they are told. They are conditioned to think all fault lies with them and anything good is down to the MLM. They speak of their team members as family and are encouraged to reject friends and family that raise concerns. This post goes into more detail about it.

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 Victim 7- People with health conditions

For some reason, many MLMs tout products with amazing properties that can cure any illness. People target sufferers with conditions and tell them their products can help. This is not only deceptive and fraudulent, but illegal and dangerous as well.

Truth In Advertising have looked at the bogus health claims made by MLMs and they came up with quite a list.

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DoTERRA got in trouble for saying their oils could cure Ebola and got in trouble with the FDA about it.

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Below is a common type of social media post. What are they trying to do? Tell you that any condition you have can be cured by their oils/ juices/ tablets/ coffee? Yes, that is exactly what they are doing. I hope that they are just deluded and really believe in their products. Because otherwise, they are deliberately getting people to spend over the odds on products that will have no effect on anyone’s health. At least it won’t improve any conditions.

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What to do about it

If you are an organiser of an event please consider banning MLMs from attending. People are becoming wise to them now and are are generally displeased when they see these stalls. People who do not know about them could be vulnerable to being recruited. This is especially bad when the event is a jobs fair, targeting a particular profession or aimed at people with health conditions or new parents. You could be enabling these companies to cause many problems for the people you are trying to serve.

If you see adverts for events that include MLMs please speak up about it. Read this article on what you can do to help.

If you have a friend or relative in an MLM and you want to help them, look here for inspiration.

If you are in an MLM yourself you might want to read ‘How to leave an MLM’ if you are at that point. If you are not sure what to do and are having a bit of a ‘moment’ and tying to work out what is going on, read this article on ‘having doubts‘. It might help clarify a few things.

 

Why do people join MLMs?

This is a question that is asked again and again. Once you can see it is a fraud, it can be difficult to understand how people can fall for it. Here, I will attempt to explain why people fall for it.

Is it a lack of intelligence or education?

No qualifications are needed and, quite often, posts are badly spelt and have poor language skills. The large number of emojis add to the effect. For example

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Many people assume that bots must be stupid because of this, but it is not necessarily true. Sometimes they copy and paste posts because they are lazy or are told to by their uplines. Sometimes they might just be trying to appear fun or they are appealing to the type of people who communicate like this. Of course, they might be stupid, but it is not a prerequisite.

Some bots are nurses, teachers, lawyers, doctors and vets. We cannot assume a lack of education is the reason for joining an MLM.

There has been some research into why intelligent people fall for scams.  It is thought that they might have a misplaced sense of confidence and, once tricked, might not question their judgement. This riskology blog post looks into some of the reasons why intelligent people get caught in scams and gives links to some interesting research.

Some are tricked

Some people could be tricked by deceiving adverts like these-

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It is made to look like a job advert. Primerica are a prime example of this tactic. They target jobseekers and offer ‘interviews’ to people so that it looks like a proper job opportunity. If you think you are applying for a job, you might not notice that you are actually being offered something else. A forensic accountant has written about how Primerica hides their recruiting as a job interview.

Fake it ’til you make it

This is one of the main reasons why people join MLMs I think. People post on their social media about their fantastic lifestyle and how it is achieved through their MLM. It looks to the casual observer that the bot is being successful and is earning money from their scheme.

People brag about how they have managed to buy the latest car, live in a big home, or just treat themselves to little things. They post pictures of nice things and imply that their MLM is the reason they can have these things.

In actuality, most of these claims are lies, designed to interest friends, family and colleagues into joining up so they can have nice things too.

 

The recruiter is often a trusted person

This is one of the main reasons for people falling into MLM I think. We automatically trust our friends and loved ones. If they tell us they are being successful we will believe them more than if a stranger told us. After all, why would someone who cares for us con us into a money losing scheme?

This begs the important question, why would our loved ones con us into a scam? It could be that they do not realise they are in a scam. It could be that they hope they will make money soon and they need you to join to help them be successful. Once you, and others, join them, they will be successful and then they will help you too so it will all be alright. I don’t think people join these schemes knowing they are scam and get their family involved in them maliciously.

I think that the fact your friend recruited you and you recruited friends will lead you to staying in the scam longer. You will feel an obligation to make it work for everyone.

 

Guilt

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Women are targeted this way. They may be feeling like they can’t afford childcare or don’t want to go back to work after maternity leave. They could be feeling desperate and willing to try anything during their maternity leave to try and earn enough money to resign. It might be worth the risk to them and might be enough for them to suspend their scepticism. They might not have fallen for it before their babies were born.

Timeless Vie wrote a good article on the phenomenon of guilting mums into MLMs.

 

False claims

False statistics are commonly bandied around that make MLMs look good, like this one-

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No one has been able to provide any proof for these statistics. John Milton Fogg, an advocate of MLM has examined the evidence for the 20% claim and says it is untrue.

It is easy to find out the truth about these facts when examined in isolation, but maybe it is more difficult if people are bombarded with ‘facts’ like these alongside other factors in this post. Maybe they would have no reason to disbelieve them due to who is telling them these ‘facts’.

Some people do earn money in MLMs, albeit a vary small number. Pictures of these people getting cheques are plastered all over the internet and prospects are told they could achieve this.

 

Prospects  might be shown earnings disclosures where it proves that some people earn good money. However, if you analyse these disclosures, you would see that statistically, you are likely to earn a tiny, tiny amount.

 

Love bombing

This is a tactic employed by cults as well as MLMs. The recruiters act as though they really care about you. They might call you and other people in their teams ‘hun’ and litter their social media with heart emojis and positive, uplifting messages aimed at raising your confidence and feeling part of a new ‘family’.

 

It is hard to dislike or mistrust someone if they seem like they like you and are helping you. This tactic especially works on lonely or vulnerable people who feel isolated. The effect is exacerbated when people ae isolated from their own friends and family. MLM people advocate unfriending and cutting out people from their lives if they question the new MLM family. A Them vs Us feeling is created. For each real life person cut off, the MLM bond is strengthened.

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The above FB post is from a ‘life coach’ that coaches MLM members.

Confusing terms

Have you ever seen an MLM compensation plan? They are really complicated and with lots of small detail and levels and hoops to jump through. I don’t think anyone really understands the complexities of the structure. As people climb the ladder, they find more obstacles and changes to the way their pay works. It is not obvious at all how it works. People are assured by their uplines when they join that it is simple really. They are persuaded to learn as they go along.

Here is a link to It Works’s compensation plan, all 20 pages of it.  Have a look and see if you think people understand what they are signing up to. It is more likely that people come away with the main message from MLMs like ‘8 ways to be paid’ or ‘paid every 3 hours’, than the actual details.

One of the things I have noticed that all MLMs have in common is their substitution of money for other terms, such as Case Credits or PV. I believe this is the same tactic used by casinos. Casinos use tokens instead of money so they forget they are gambling real money. People in MLMs might get fixated on just needing 4 more CCs, and not realise they are spending their own money. Targets given in CCs don’t look as threatening as real money would. The person becomes distanced from what they are doing.

Conclusion

There are many reasons people fall for the MLM scam, and it is not simple by any means. We should all be very careful because any of us could fall victim to one under the wrong circumstances.