Why Products Offered by Multi-Level Marketing Companies Are So Expensive

usana-health-sciences-chinaMulti-level marketing companies (MLMs) are nothing but legalized scams. Make no mistake… they are pyramid schemes, but the government allows them to operate. Why are these obvious Ponzi schemes (which, by the way, the MLMs will swear up and down they are not… thou doth protest too much) allowed to operate? Who knows why the government will not crack down on this massive consumer fraud. The best thing we can do is educate consumers about the evils of multi-level marketing so they can avoid these companies… that means NOT becoming a distributor and NOT buying any of their products.

MLMs use products to make their companies look legitimate. They can’t be a scam if they are selling an actual product, right? WRONG. They absolutely can be a scam, because the product is simply a “front” for the scheme they are running. The product is meant to make the company look legitimate and hide the fraud.

The products from nearly every MLM are overpriced. That is, they cost more than comparable products available through legitimate channels (i.e. real retailers). The distributors will tell you it is because the products are very high quality!!! The magic juice has vitamins that are more bio-available! The make-up has better ingredients! The clothes are made better! The pills have super secret magical powers that cure all illnesses! These are all lies. The products are not better.

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Proof that Herbalife Sucks

mlm-scheme-pyramidI 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.”

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World Ventures Called A Scam by Blogger and Others

worldventuresAttempts 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!

Read moreWorld Ventures Called A Scam by Blogger and Others

Article on NuSkin Fraud in China

Today Citron Research released a report on the fraud being committed in China by Nu Skin Enterprises. NuSkin is a multi-level marketing company based in Utah, and it trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol NUS. This report is a follow-up to an August 2012 report in which Citron revealed its basis for alleging that Nu Skin was perpetrating fraud in China.

Citron first points out how dependent on China Nu Skin is.  In the second quarter of 2012, revenues from China were $57 million. In the second quarter of 2013, Nu Skin’s China revenue grew to $197 million. That’s a 245% increase. Without the China revenue, NuSkin’s year-over-year growth would be negative.

An expose was published in China on NuSkin. A translation of the page can be found here. The article accuses Nu Skin of running a pyramid scheme, using endless chain recruitment to bring new marks into the fraudulent business opportunity. Distributors are encouraged to buy inventory in quantities they will never sell, all to move up in the pyramid and qualify for commissions. (Incidentally, this is the same way that Mary Kay Cosmetics has been successful.)

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Xyngular: Starve, Binge, Purge, Repeat!

direct-selling-pyramid-schemeMulti-level marketing companies are getting lots of attention lately thanks to the Bill Ackman smackdown of Herbalife in December. MLMs offering “nutrition products” are of special interest to consumers, and with good reason. Companies like Isagenix, MonaVie , Usana, Mannatech, and Shaklee all offer magic potions that claim to help you lose weight, absorb more vitamins and minerals, and cure all diseases.

Of course, many of these health claims are strictly prohibited. Nutrition MLMs generally have disclaimers stating that their health claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and that the products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. But that doesn’t stop the distributors for making such claims, and the company management turns a blind eye to it.

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Herbalife Under FTC Investigation? Or Not?

ftc-bureau-of-consumer-protectionToday the New York Post reported that Herbalife (HLF) is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and that has sent the stock price down more than 10%. The newspaper bases this story on a Freedom of Information request done by the newspaper. It says, regarding consumer complaints received by the FTC:

The FTC redacted some sections, saying it didn’t have to divulge “information obtained by the commission in a law enforcement investigation, whether through compulsory process, or voluntarily …”

And The Post says that other complaints by consumers had notes referring to a “pending law enforcement action.”

Read moreHerbalife Under FTC Investigation? Or Not?

More on Herbalife, Bill Ackman, and Law Enforcement

As we patiently wait for Herbalife’s “analyst and investor meeting” on January 10 to address the pyramid scheme allegations made by short seller Bill Ackman, there is plenty of good discussion of HLF around the world wide web.

Kid Dynamite said Bill Ackman is wrong about Herbalife, citing that:

  • HLF  is not a pyramid scheme because commissions are paid based on sales of products, not recruitment (Wrong. Commissions are paid largely based on required minimum purchases of products by recruits.)
  • Herbalife has not committed accounting fraud in reporting their product sales. (I’m not so sure about that. The numbers as reported are deliberately and materially misleading.)

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If Herbalife Was a Pyramid Scheme, It Would Have Collapsed By Now

herbalifeOne of the most common arguments used against those who deem multi-level marketing companies pyramid schemes, is that pyramid schemes collapse. Because Herbalife hasn’t collapsed, it must not be a pyramid scheme. Because the company has avoided total collapse for more than 30 years, it can’t possibly be a pyramid scheme. That is false, and I will demonstrate the falsity with the help of Bill Ackman.

Recruiting is the Name of the Game

A pyramid scheme has been defined as a scheme in which the participants obtain their monetary benefits primarily from recruitment rather than the sale of goods and services to consumers.

Read moreIf Herbalife Was a Pyramid Scheme, It Would Have Collapsed By Now

Multi-Level Marketing or Pyramid Scheme?

Recently Bruce Craig, a retired lawyer from the Wisconsin Department of Justice in the area of consumer protection, published an interesting article on multilevel marketing: An Investor’s Guide To Identifying Pyramid Schemes. The controversy surrounding Herbalife (NYSE: HLF), and initiated simply because David Einhorn asked a few questions about the company, was the impetus for Bruce’s comments.

I believe that most mulit-level marketing companies (MLM, for short) are pyramid schemes that are allowed to operate in the United States. They are very careful in their efforts to avoid the label of “illegal pyramid scheme,” but that doesn’t mean they’re not pyramid scheme in substance.

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Internet Marketing and Multi-Level Marketing: Same Scam, Different Name

Recently I have been digging into the Salty Droid (you can’t make money online) archives. Salty Droid is an attorney in Chicago who writes about scammers who pitch their wares on the internet. I’ve been aware of the site for a while. But little did I know that Salty Droid has been covering a number of scammers that I’ve had my eye on for a while: Chris Brogan, Kevin Trudeau, Alexis Neely, Sean Stephenson, Mindy Kniss, Darren Rowse, Stephen Pierce, and Yanik Silver. We also have a mutual interest in assholes like Mark Shurtleff and  Crystal Cox.

But what struck me today as I was perusing the archives of Salty Droid is how similar “internet marketing” and “multi-level marketing” are. They take a product which is either non-existent or has very little interest to actual consumers (i.e. third party purchasers, rather than the pushers/distributors themselves) and build a “business” around convincing others to push the same “product.”

Read moreInternet Marketing and Multi-Level Marketing: Same Scam, Different Name