MonaVie: Scam or Not?

The scheme: Typical multi-level marketing company, using the guise of “direct sales” to make the business look like a legitimate retail venture. The reality is that it’s nothing more than a recruiting scheme like Usana, Mary Kay, Arbonne, PrePaid Legal, Primerica, Herbalife, United First Financial, and so many other companies that make big promises to members, but provide little actual reward to 99%.

The founder: Dallin Larsen founded MonaVie. He used to work for Usana Health Sciences, and actually helped found Usana. He helped grow the associates to 70,000 and helped make up the compensation plan. Then he ditched out and started his own company

The product: Acai berry juice plus other fruit juices. I like to call this “magic berry juice.” It supposedly cures whatever ails you and there’s never been anything quite like it on the market. If you study multi-level marketing companies, you will see that one very common characteristic is some unique/special product that is hard to find and has never been offered before. It typically has magical powers and is so powerful that it justifies a high retail price. In reality, the high prices are not because the products are so good, but because there are so many levels of the pyramid which must be paid commission.

The cost: A bottle of the berry juice runs around $40. If you drink the recommended amounts, the bottle will last you about a week, which means the cost is about $5.71 a day. That’s an expensive way to get your vitamins. Excessively so.

The compensation: Here is the detail to the MonaVie compensation plan. Like a typical MLM, it’s got a complicated points – commission – points – bonus – override – incentive system. You build two legs to your downline, and qualify for commission based on the shorter leg. That longer leg? Too bad. Bonuses stop wherever the shorter leg ends. You can usually be sure of one thing in MLMs: The more complicated the pay plan, the less it benefits the members. And oooh… you can have up to “four business centers.” That means more purchases of products by you in order to get your commissions!

The product scam: There are apparently no scientific studies that prove the alleged benefits of the MonaVie juice. There’s no denying that there is nutritional value to the juice, just like any other juice. It’s the extraordinary health benefits claimed that are suspect. (Of course, the company disclaims any knowledge of cures claimed by the “independent” distributors.)

The recruiting scam: As with other MLMs, the company’s focus appears to be on recruiting, rather than retailing the product. Of course, the product is integral to the scheme. Without it, MonaVie could easily be called a pyramid scheme. With the product, we’re not supposed to identify the company as an endless chain recruiting scheme or pyramid scheme. And until the FTC decides to enforce the laws against pyramiding, many will believe that a company like MonaVie is perfectly legal and legitimate.

The commission scam: In order to qualify for commissions, a distributor must order at least 4 bottles of juice per month, which amounts to about $130 plus shipping and taxes. This is a common part of the MLM game: You can’t get your commissions unless you buy a minimum amount of their products. MLM supporters say “Well of course you’ll be selling the products so that minimum purchase isn’t a problem.” The truth is that very little actual retailing goes on in these companies because consumers are smart. The required purchases are usually not sold to a legitimate retail customer.

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