Pyramid schemes are not a simply exchange of money… MLMs with products can be illegal pyramid schemes. One example of an MLM – pyramid scheme with products that got shut down by FTC is JewelWay: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/1997/11/jewel-2.shtm. The FTC says nothing about product being reasonably priced. That’s a slippery slope when people will pay thousands for a fashionable handbag.

As a last resort, you could try cold calling by phone. This is probably the most depressing and soul destroying activity on the planet. Even if you get past the usual questions such as ‘If you’re selling something – I’m not interested’ and ‘How did you get my number?’ you need a really slick and professional script and the ability to recognize and avoid lonely old ladies who just want to interact with someone, anyone, in fact.


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They have the stay-at-home-mother meets women entrepreneur mixture working for them. What does that even mean? Means they have the practicality side of the company that is off the product and they have the sales, entrepreneur people them promoting it, too. Anyone who follows MLM knows its usually too “product practical” (see: Tupperware, Cutco) or too “opportunity-centric” (see: Herbalife).
Considering their products are botanically based with an ingredient policy that prohibits many of the chemicals and fillers Mary Kay and Avon still use in their own products, I’d say they’ve established a business for men and woman who are truly serious about the health of their skin, not just the evenness of their complexion. A little research goes a long way.
Each company will have a different startup cost, which is a fee that new distributors must pay to begin distributing. Companies with high startup costs are more likely to be recruitment-centric MLMs. MLMs that focus on recruitment are generally called pyramid schemes, or schemes designed only to tie down new recruits instead of selling quality products to interested customers.

Let's face it, everyone in a home business wants high quality mlm leads. What they don't want is the high price normally associated with them. OppSeekers has developed methods to get you the quality business opportunity leads you need at the price you want. By utilizing cutting edge mlm lead generation technology, OppSeekers gathers top quality more efficiently home based business opportunity leads and then passes the savings on to you.
For more information, John Oliver did a fantastic segment about the horrors of MLMs. The 2016 documentary, Betting on Zero, investigates the allegations that MLMs are nothing but legal pyramid schemes. This article also does a wonderful job of breaking down the reasons why MLMs are doomed to failure. I encourage anyone who is thinking about signing up for an MLM to watch these.
I was at “Sweetness Bakery and Cafe” the other day to order a hot chocolate with a friend. The barista asked me if I wanted half & half, whole milk, soy, rice, or hemp milk. I had never tasted hemp milk before. And I remembered the transition soy went through when manufacturers started sweetening soy up. So, I decided to try hemp since I figured it was sweet enough or the cafe wouldn’t suggest it. And Oh My God! It was the best cup of hot chocolate EVER! And I was amazed at what can be done with hemp.
The main website a lot of people use when they are online is social media. These websites are where you can sit there and talk to anyone around the world that you know, and chances are that most people you know have an account on these kinds of things. You’ll want to make sure you do some looking into making a business account, because marketing through your personal profile may not do so well for you. Social media sites are free to use, but they also have ways you can pay for ads that go out to people.
Let's face it, everyone in a home business wants high quality mlm leads. What they don't want is the high price normally associated with them. OppSeekers has developed methods to get you the quality business opportunity leads you need at the price you want. By utilizing cutting edge mlm lead generation technology, OppSeekers gathers top quality more efficiently home based business opportunity leads and then passes the savings on to you.
It seems to me that in your assessment of the top 25 MLM that you had a preference for one essential oil company (Young Living) over the other (doTERRA) which outranked YL. You give a glowing review of YL and state that they “set the standard” & are a “solid pick”. While you seem to question why people could possibly like doTERRA with comments like “Users swear by the oils, and for whatever reason, people (and not just people in Utah) are strangely passionate about telling their friends about them.” For “whatever reason”??? “Strangely passionate”??? You come across as bias. You also incorrectly state that YL set the standard for quality, while they may have been the first legit EO Co. they didn’t set the standard. Infact their lack of wanting to find the purest most potent EO available (which comes from the country the plants are indigenous to) and having strict testing to ensure the purity and potency is why doTERRA was founded, doTERRA set the standard because YL didn’t want to. And that is why doTERRA is the #1 EO company and why Young Living is not. Not to mention how well doTERRA takes care of the suppliers through Co-Impacting and how they’re improving their lives through The Healing Hands Foundation. The foundation builds wells, schools, provides personal care products as well as many other things. doTERRA is changing lives for the better all around the world so that is one of the “reasons” we’re “strangely passionate” about spreading the good news of doTERRA essential oils. Not only are doTERRA EO more potent and purer making the the “solid pick” they are literally saving peoples lives.
A program with no or a low-quality product, or with a focus on getting paid per recruit, could be an illegal pyramid scheme. However, don't let the term pyramid throw you off. It's not the shape of the organization that makes it illegal. In fact, most companies have a pyramid structure with a CEO at the top, VPs next, mid-level managers etc. What makes an illegal pyramid scheme is the lack of a quality product, or that income is earned on recruiting, not commissions from sales. 
First of all, Avon “has” been. Second, Avon really needs to work on their appeal to a younger generation. Third, Avon makes it difficult for representatives to make any money unless you are purchasing a ton of catalogs and knocking on doors. The company really needs to allow representatives to advertise online, and I don’t mean spamming friends on a Facebook or Twitter feed.
And these sales aren’t just to customers. You see, in order to join an MLM you usually need to buy products to sell (often referred to as a starter kit, or similar). And then in order to remain a seller, stylist, supervisor, or whatever term the company uses, you often need to make a minimum number of sales in a given time period (though not always).

I found your article interesting. My wife and I have been involved with AdvoCare since November 2011. Even if I never make another dime in AdvoCare, I will continue to use the products because they have worked and continue to work for us. What I find interesting is the statistic that the majority – 99.7% in MLM actually “lose” money. What is the context of that statistic? That would mean A: the majority of MLM companies don’t have a buyback or return policy B: people that get started with MLM’s have to take on much more inventory that they are able to sell or C: this statistic is not accurate. I believe that C is the right answer. I do agree there are flaws in the MLM industry just as there are flaws in every industry. However, I believe that the MLM industry has made huge improvements in recent years and we do have a better way. People are the variable. When you have a great product, a passion and purpose that drives you everyday, are teachable and coachable, and love others as much as you love yourself, you can be successful in this business. Through the process of investing in your own personal development and learning to serve others, you are able to lead others to do the same. Thanks again. I look forward to reading more from you in the near future.
MLMs have been made illegal in some jurisdictions as a mere variation of the traditional pyramid scheme, including in mainland China.[10][11] In jurisdictions where MLMs have not been made illegal, many illegal pyramid schemes attempt to present themselves as MLM businesses.[7] Given that the overwhelming majority of MLM participants cannot realistically make a net profit, let alone a significant net profit, but instead overwhelmingly operate at net losses, some sources have defined all MLMs as a type of pyramid scheme, even if they have not been made illegal like traditional pyramid schemes through legislative statutes.[4][19][20]
I just started selling for one of the top 15 and I went in knowing that this was just supplemental cash and nothing that would support my family. I spend 15 minutes (mostly from my phone) a day on my business and am happy with what I’ve done thus far. If it covers groceries and some extras like clothes or shoes, I’m good. If I start to become even more successful, great. It’s my competitive nature to want to out rank others, so I find it to be more of a personal challenge than thinking I’m going to get rich and stay rich. I appreciate the article and the no BS attitude.
Thanks Ray for this info about the lead company. Some time ago I purchased Todd’s script book and purchased a large group of leads from another company. After over 400 calls I realized that the company had sold my ‘exclusive’ leads, muliple times. Did I consider it a waste of time and money? No, it was a very good training opportunity for me. Most people have a job and work and can’t take time off to get a ‘telemarketer’ job. But they can get a script book and get a group of inexpensive leads and use it as a form of training on the phone. After a large no. of calls the phone can become a familiar and usable tool.

Although emphasis is always made on the potential of success and the positive life change that "might" or "could" (not "will" or "can") result, it is only in otherwise difficult to find disclosure statements (or at the very least, difficult to read and interpret disclosure statements), that MLM participants are given fine print disclaimers that they as participants should not rely on the earning results of other participants in the highest levels of the MLM participant pyramid as an indication of what they should expect to earn. MLMs very rarely emphasize the extreme likelihood of failure, or the extreme likelihood of financial loss, from participation in MLM. MLMs are also seldom forthcoming about the fact that any significant success of the few individuals at the top of the MLM participant pyramid is in fact dependant on the continued financial loss and failure of all other participants below them in the MLM pyramid.


Everyday, people get sucked into the lure of MLMs (“multi-level marketing” or “network marketing”) and I can’t stress enough the need to stay far, far away from them. These include Herbalife, Arbonne, LuLaRoe, Younique, Rodan + Fields, and Amway among many others. I understand the need for flexibility, especially if you are a full-time student or are raising young children. Believe me, I also understand getting a job that allows you to create your own schedule and work remotely takes Hunger Games level competition. I am always surprised when I see college educated women sucked into these things. But it’s telling about other issues, like childcare, maternity leave and corporate culture in the US. MLMs are pyramid schemes, and are extremely predatory because the only way to make any money is to sign up more and more people under you which will just ruin your social relationships and make you a pariah where it matters most: your friends and family members.
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The Federal Trade Commission issued a decision, In re Amway Corp., in 1979 in which it indicated that multi-level marketing was not illegal per se in the United States. However, Amway was found guilty of price fixing (by effectively requiring "independent" distributors to sell at the same fixed price) and making exaggerated income claims.[47][48] The FTC advises that multi-level marketing organizations with greater incentives for recruitment than product sales are to be viewed skeptically. The FTC also warns that the practice of getting commissions from recruiting new members is outlawed in most states as "pyramiding".[49]
I used to work for a telemarketing company when I was 18 selling long distance. About 20% of the people cursed me out as they did not want a telemarketer calling their house. That job was not fun but it helped me get over my fear on the phone. I owe a lot to that job and in life we can attribute a lot of our growth to the times where things were NOT that fun.

The Federal Trade Commission warns "Not all multilevel marketing plans are legitimate. Some are pyramid schemes. It's best not to get involved in plans where the money you make is based primarily on the number of distributors you recruit and your sales to them, rather than on your sales to people outside the plan who intend to use the products."[21]

A 2018 poll of 1,049 MLM sellers across various companies found that most sellers make less than the equivalent of 70 cents an hour. Nearly 20 percent of those polled never made a sale, and nearly 60 percent earned less than $500 in sales over the past five years.[42][43] Nearly 32 percent of those polled acquired credit card debt to finance their MLM involvement.[44]


Great job on the top 25 MLMs. Really like what you’re doing for the industry as a whole. Your analysis is spot on. However, a closer look at retention rates for each company might give you another perspective on the value proposition of any given company. As a Doterra Wellness Advocate we are told by our corporate execs that we have a 65% retention rate with customers repurchasing the product within 3 months. And that if we based it on the industry standard of 12 months our retention would go up to 85%. I’m told that this is unprecedented in network marketing. So I’m believing that Doterra is succeeding because its selling a product that works and that users and word-of-mouth drive the business in the long run.
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