Attempts to silence critics of multi-level marketing companies (often referred to as legalized pyramid schemes) are nothing new. I have been on the receiving end of numerous threats and one very large legal action for my criticism of MLMs. Medifast and Take Shape For Life had a huge loss in their $270 million lawsuit against me. I was also threatened by MLM Lawyer Gerry Nehra for my criticism of Shop to Earn. (Too bad Gerry Nehra is now on the receiving end of legal action for his MLM involvement!) Multi-level marketing company Mona Vie levied these threats. Then there was this whole situation.
The latest crybaby is World Ventures, a multi-level marketing company which says it is “…the world’s largest direct seller of curated group travel, with more than 120,000 Independent Representatives in over 24 countries and we are still growing…..”
Like any good MLM, WorldVentures simply cannot allow people to criticize the company. Negative opinions must be met with swift legal action!
Stephanie Yoder of Twenty Something Travel wrote an article ALMOST A YEAR AGO, entitled WorldVentures: This is NOT the way to Travel the World. In the blog post, Stephanie recounted her experience with a guy trying to recruit her into the company. She wrote:
He kept going telling us about this online travel club called WorldVentures, where users can buy discounted travel packages for super cheap if they just pay a $199 fee + $54.95 a month (what a deal!). Then he told us the real money was in becoming an associate and recruiting others to join the program.
It wasn’t until he showed us the pay structure, which looked exactly like a pyramid, that I realized what was going on. It looked like this guy was actually trying to recruit us into a pyramid scheme!
Stephanie said she did some research on WorldVentures, finding that it was a fast growing multi-million dollar company. Her friends on Facebook all seemed to know one or two people involved. She noted the promises of riches earned with only part time work done independently. Stephanie went further and said that World Ventures is NOT a pyramid scheme… the company stays on the right side of the law by selling an actual product (vacations). She noted the complicated payment structure (note: that’s common to all MLMs) and the fact that no commission is paid until someone recruits 30 customers or representatives below them.
She wasn’t the only one criticizing the company… there is plenty of criticism of World Ventures to be found on the internet:
- A former representative who says the company just sells a dream – He cites lies told, such as the idea that the company gets wholesale pricing on vacations, allowing representatives to sell discounted vacations. The “discount travel club” idea is untrue, according to the author.
- Complaints with the Better Business Bureau
- A woman who was introduced to World Ventures by an acquaintance – She immediately refers to it as a pyramid scheme, and doesn’t like the idea of trying to recruit 6 people to join.
- A consumer advocate who calls WorldVentures a get rich quick scheme
- Someone who points out that people PAY for the opportunity to recruit others to the World Ventures opportunity
- How WorldVentures goes from an MLM to a pyramid scheme
Naurally, the MLM can’t have anyone criticizing its “business,” so…. World Ventures waited nearly a year after Stephanie published her criticism of the company, and then sent a threatening letter via “attorney” Shawn Tuma. Of course, the letter has to be laughable. The letter accuses Stephanie of publishing false statements about WorldVentures, but doesn’t identify even ONE of those allegedly false statements. The letter says that Stephanie has misappropriated the company’s intellectual property. Not true…. stating the company’s name is perfectly permissible, as she is allowed to identify the company about which she is complaining. And the letter says she engaged in unfair competition. No… Stephanie was not competing with World Ventures, she was simply criticizing it.
The most laughable part of the letter is that which demands that Stephanie never again publish ANY statement or information about World Ventures. Of course, the company demands that she remove the article in question and “ensure those statements are no longer publicly accessible.” Well…. sorry Shawn…. those statements are still publicly accessible here!
This letter has all the hallmarks of a bogus legal threat aimed at silencing a person with limited legal resources. It identifies no false statements. It misstates the law and its applicability to the blogger.. All of this is done with some very serious sounding threats. Fortunately, Stephanie will soon have capable pro bono legal counsel to fight this nonsense.
Ken White at Popehat notes:
Tuma’s and WorldVenture’s claims are transparently bogus. First, Stephanie’s post is an excellent example of a protected opinion based on disclosed facts. Guess what: you’re allowed to say that you think WorldVentures is a scam and a shitty deal based on 72% of their associates not making money. Tuma’s letter does not specify any specific false statements of fact — as any competent lawyer with a genuine claim would — because there aren’t any. Second, WorldVenture’s ambiguous IP claims are bogus. To the extent that Stephanie uses WorldVenture’s name, it’s classic nominative fair use. To the extent Stephanie uses a few pictures from WorldVenture’s site to illustrate her point, it’s classic fair use, just like it was when someone used a video to question the veracity of Ergun Caner or when a business made shirts critical of DHS and NSA.
Is World Ventures a scam?I happen to think that all multi-level marketing companies are scams. They are simply endless chain recruitment schemes that use deception to recruit new marks into the schemes. Promises of financial freedom and independence are made all the time, despite the fact that more than 99% of people lose mony in MLM.
As for WorldVentures specifically… I think it is important to check out one big similarity to Your Travel Biz (YTB), which was deemed a pyramid scheme by the California Attorney General. (That case ended with a judgment prohibiting YTB from using deceptive advertising and endless chain recruitment.) One simple comparison of World Ventures and YTB goes like this: In 2009, 59% of all YTB representatives received NO INCOME. In 2009, 72% of World Ventures representatives received NO INCOME. That speaks volumes about this “business opportunity.”