I’ve been telling you for years that multi-level marketing is NOT about selling products. It’s about recruiting people into a fake opportunity. The products are the “front,” meant to make MLM look like a legitimate business. In reality, very little product is retailed to actual consumers. Instead, it’s sold to new recruits into the scheme, who have little chance of ever retailing those products for a profit.
Look no further than the case of Herbalife to prove my point. (This point is usually difficult to prove, as MLMs do their best to hide the numbers so we never see the truth behind the scam.) This month Herbalife entered into a settlement agreement with the FTC that has them paying $200 million and substantially changing how the company does business.
Herbalife falsely claimed: “Settlement Does Not Change Herbalife’s Business Model as a Direct Selling Company.”
The FTC clearly disagrees, and said in its press release about the settlement (emphasis mine): Continue reading
Multi-level marketing is not a business. I’ve written numerous times about the fact that more than 99% of participants in multi-level marketing (MLM) lose money. Companies like Mary Kay Cosmetics promote the “income opportunity,” but when the vast majority of MLM distributors say they lost money, the story changes to “they didn’t really want to make money,” or “they just did it for fun,” or “they didn’t try hard enough.”
The truth is that MLM is not a “business opportunity.” Almost everyone who participates is guaranteed to lose money. You can follow all the instructions, talk to everyone you know, invest money in the scam, and you will still lose money. Why? Because MLM is nothing but a pyramid scheme in which all the people at the bottom of the pyramid will lose money.
Check out this new video featuring victims of the Herbalife “business opportunity.” They put lots of money, time, and effort into their “businesses” and ended up losers. Continue reading
Last week a video was posted to YouTube showing Herbalife CEO Michael Johnson talking about recruiting. Herbalife had the video pulled from YouTube on the basis of copyright infringement. That is most certainly a bogus claim. I’m not an attorney, but I’m smart enough to understand the concept of fair use:
In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In other words, fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. If your use qualifies as a fair use, then it would not be considered an illegal infringement.
The clip was a part of a longer video (about 71 minutes long) was first reported on in June 2015 by Michelle Celarier at the NY Post. The video clip posted last week was about a minute and a half long, and it was posted in order for people to comment upon it. No one was trying to steal some copyrighted materials from Herbalife and infringe on that copyright. Instead, the whole point was to expose what Michael Johnson said about Herbalife’s recruiting.
So why would Herbalife want to make a bogus copyright claim? Because the clip of CEO Michael Johnson put the company in a really bad light. And we can’t have that! Continue reading
This week New York State Senator Jeff Klein and Public Advocate Letitia James issued a scathing report on multi-level marketing company Herbalife (NYSE: HLF). The report, The Amercian Scheme: Herbalife’s Pyramid ‘Shake’down, is based on complaints filed by 56 Herbalife victims. It definitively calls the company a pyramid scheme and highlights the company’s deceptive practices.
The key findings include:
- Since 2004, only 56 Herbalife victims in New York have been brave enough to file complaints against the company. Most victims are afraid of betraying family, friends, and neighbors.
- The 56 victims that have filed complaints reported nearly $1 million in financial losses ranging from $90 to $100,000. The average amount loss was approximately $20,000.
- Over 60 percent of new members make initial investments larger than the required $60 to $100 for the new member kit. The average initial investment is $1,800, but some are as high as $10,000.
- Herbalife distributors purport that supervisors can make as much as $20,000 in monthly income.
- Of 56 complaints analyzed, only eight victims received a check directly from Herbalife for their royalty claims. The average amount was $100.
In light of the recent shutdown of multi-level marketing company Vemma (following allegations that it is a pyramid scheme),there has been much discussion of Herbalife. Is it a more legitimate MLM, or is it a pyramid scheme like Vemma and others that have been shut down before it (BurnLounge, Fortune Hi Tech Marketing, etc.)???
“Analyst” Tim Ramey, longtime Herbalife cheerleader, contends that Herbalife is not like Vemma:
Our opinion has always been that Vemma was likely an illegal structure – it has that endless chain feature where “Affiliates” are incentivized to buy a high-priced starter kit with minimal real value, only to turn around and very quickly find two, three or four others to do the same so that they can reap a quick profit and recoup their initial “investment,” said Ramey.
This is a familiar argument. MLMs left standing after one is shut down claim that THEIR company doesn’t pay for recruiting. And technically it appears that they don’t. Except they do. They may not have a “high priced starter kit” or may not pay a “commission” on the starter kit. Instead, they encourage distributors to buy a bunch of products up front and commission is paid on those. Since those products could theoretically be sold, I suppose that’s not paying for recruiting so much it is paying for getting the recruit to buy some overpriced, hard-to-sell products. MLM attorneys will tell you that you have to make it look like you’re not paying for recruiting or the kit. Continue reading
In a video released this week, Pershing Square (the hedge fund that exposed the Herbalife fraud) contrasts Herbalife’s public statements about the “business opportunity” with the statements made behind closed doors.
Herbalife claims to offer “the best business opportunity on the face of the earth.” But the reality is that it is an opportunity in which you are almost guaranteed to fail, with 96% of distributors making less than half of what is earned by employees making minimum wage (per the video). Despite Herbalife executives and high level distributors publicly repeating how lots of money can be made, the numbers really look like this (according to the video): Continue reading
Multi-level marketing companies that advertise shakes and potions designed to help you lose weight and get healthier are generally all guilty of the same offense: Distributors making false health claims. The products are generally terrible for losing weight and maintaining the weight loss. And the health benefits are nothing more than one could get from eating well and taking a simple multivitamin.
Nonetheless, people involved in MLMs routinely claim these potions cure things like ADHD, arthritis, high cholesterol, lupus, asthma, migraines, cancer, fibromyalgia, and more. The most disturbing part of this is when the distributors encourage people to stop taking medications that are critical to their health. This advice is simply dangerous.
Today Bill Ackman released a video demonstrating that Herbalife distributors are violating U.S. law by making false and deceptive claims about the Herbalife products. How do they get away with this? The company likely would contend that there is nothing illegal about distributors giving personal testimonials about the results they received from the products. Good luck with that defense. Continue reading
I have researched multi-level marketing companies for nearly a decade. During that time, I came to the conclusion that the vast majority of participants fail. What does that mean? 99% or more lose money. Since the participants are largely getting in because of the “business opportunity” to “earn unlimited income” and find “financial freedom,” failing to turn a profit is indeed a failure.
A few weeks ago, a wonderful article on Herbalife was published on Seeking Alpha. It started out by discussing hedge fund manager John Hempton’s blind (and incorrect) defense of the Herbalife business model. In essence, he claims that since meal replacement shakes are sold, this is a legitimate business opportunity.
This is the defense that every MLM company uses. “We have a product. People buy it. Therefore we are not a pyramid scheme.” Continue reading
I talk frequently about how almost everyone loses money in multi-level marketing schemes. Companies like Mary Kay, Herbalife, Amway, and Avon want you to believe that money is being made from retailing the products. They say they are not pyramid schemes because they have legitimate products that can be sold for a profit.
Unfortunately, almost no one profits from MLMs, and certainly not from the sale of MLM products. Why? Because there is only a tiny market for bona fide retail sales. Very little actual retailing of products occurs. The vast majority of the “product sales” are from the MLMs to their distributors, rather than third-party consumers.
But the companies have a vested interest in getting consumers to believe their lies. If consumers didn’t believe the products were being retailed, they’d never sign up as distributors. Oh sure, some retailing goes on. But it is a very small amount, and is usually not at full retail price. Mary Kay says it’s simple: Buy a product for $1 and sell it for $2. You’ve doubled your money! But it’s nearly impossible to sell at full retail pricing, especially when tens of thousands of products are being dumped on eBay at or below wholesale pricing. Continue reading
Several months ago I wrote an article on the Xyngular weight loss program being pimped by Jennifer McKinney (aka mommy blogger MckMama). The bottom line for me was that these programs do not work because:
- They create short-term weight loss through a dizzying cycle of starvation, unhealthy meal replacement shakes, and questionable drug-like “supplements” that are supposed to get you high and suppress your appetite
- The representatives make repeated health claims are strictly prohibited by the federal government. The distributors claim that the products cure anything and everything from joint pain, to autism, to diabetes, and more.
- Xyngular (and Herbalife, Medifast, Take Shape For Life, Visalus, Isagenix, and the rest of them) have poor long-term results because they are fad diets that rely on starvation and potentially unsafe substances. The vast majority who lose weight with these programs gain it all back. Continue reading