Written by Nicole J.
On my Facebook timeline, every so often I’ll see some clueless victim hawking tragic, poor quality makeup/skincare, the latest get-thin-quick shake, pill, tea or supplement, invites me to some lame party, in person or online, or is selling some overpriced bag or clothes with patters so ugly it looks like it was designed in the dark. Thankfully, the number of black women in my circle falling for these scams is small, but as I have this platform, I wanted to say this as succinctly as possible to make sure the message is loud and clear:
YOUR MULTI LEVEL MARKETING GIG IS NOT A SIDE HUSTLE. IT IS A SCAM.
Since “pyramid scheme” is a less favorable designation, clever marketers have come up with the term “multi-level marketing” to hide the sinister way they conduct business. Sure, there’s a slight difference between the two, but neither of them will earn you any money. For those who don’t know, an MLM is “a marketing strategy for the sale of products or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce selling the company’s services/products, while the earnings of the participants are derived from a pyramid-shaped commission system. For a handy list of MLMs, check out this list on the subreddit r/antiMLM.
While my target audience for this piece is college-aged students, this is valuable for anyone, really. Recruiters for these less-than-reputable organizations tend to target specific audiences, one of them being minority women. MLMs also tend to try and recruit on college campuses (since the population there is young, unaware, and usually in need of extra cash), therefore, I’m gearing it towards prospective Pink Pill for College Girls.
Some red flags of an MLM include (but certainly not limited to):
If this so-called job opportunity charges you a fee to join, that’s a red flag. The goal of securing employment is for you to get paid, not for you to pay them. This could take the form of purchasing some sort of start up kit, training, or whatever items you’re meant to be selling, in outrageous quantities.
This one happened to me. A former coworker I got along with really well reached out to catch up, after like five years of radio silence (we both had since left the job and went our separate ways). She wanted to catch up over lunch, and thinking nothing of it, I obliged. When we ordered our food, she laid her sales pitch on me. I immediately said no, not because I knew it was a scheme (I didn’t), but because I’ve never been a good saleswoman. If Karen from 8th grade contacts you out of the clear blue sky, she might want to genuinely catch up, or, slightly more likely, she may want the next sucker to add to her downline.
Another trait of these schemes is that the product being sold is kind of…lame. It might be gaudy jewelry, ugly yet customizable bags, makeup the consistency of spackle, or hair care supplies with Better Business Bureau complaints against it. It could also be something less obvious, like life insurance, but if you’re gullible to buy a policy from some girl you barely talked to in high school without doing at least a cursory Google…well then, that’s on you. If the product just doesn’t match with the asking price, or you could find similar or better in the clearance section of your local TJ Maxx, don’t buy into it, and certainly don’t sell it!
Say you get that random social media message, but you’re not sure what the end goal is. Immediately ask who they work for. We have the world at our fingertips via a Wi-Fi enabled smart phone. It only takes a couple seconds to type in what they say and if it comes up with a bunch of scathing reviews, avoid whatever is being peddled.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. These sorts of taglines can be anywhere, from Instagram posts to even reputable job search boards like Indeed. There are definitely jobs that offer the above mentioned perks, but they are almost never entry level positions, rather, for people who have advanced degrees or have been working in their field for a while. Be aware of the tactics and phrases these companies will use to lure you in by appropriately checking names of companies and seeing what type of information comes up in a search.
This is especially common on or near college campuses, where flyers boasting all those perks above, and more, getting posted in dorms and lecture halls. For example:
(photo credit: Reddit user u/jish_werbles)
It’s a lie. Continue your college education and get to do all those things upon completion of your degree, not selling essential oils and shampoo (emphasis on sham) to your friends and family.
I’m not saying that there are no legitimate entrepreneurs out there. Many self-made millionaires are just that, without a college degree or other fancy qualifications. However, if a guy you are interested in brands himself as an “entrepreneur” and you don’t see much evidence of such (like a website advertising his services, marketable skills, etc.) beware, as that might just be code for pyramid scheme victim.
In this age of minimum wage and side hustles and rising costs of living not lining up with wages, it is easy to get beguiled by promises of good money working from home with minimal effort. Sad to say though, that’s almost never the case. Whether you are just entering college, or are hitting your 30-year reunion soon, the message is the same:
NEVER FALL FOR THE TRAP THAT IS A MULTI-LEVEL MARKETING SCHEME!
Have you been approached for one of these scams? Have any tips to avoid them? Let’s hear it in the comments below.
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