People love to shop. Many go to malls regularly because it is fun for them. Others hit the grand shopping areas such as Chicago's Michigan Avenue or downtown Beverly Hills. Others may not enjoy the grand shopping areas but find their own special shopping places. A fisherman may enjoy, for example, spending time looking over new flies at a bait and tackle shop. A baseball card collector may enjoy going to baseball card shows packed with baseball card vendors.
I've been thinking about this since my interview with Doug Wead and our discussion about the multi-level marketing program he is involved with, Isagenix.
There's something that has always bothered me about MLM programs, but until now I just haven't been able to pin it down. They aren't Ponzi schemes. That's when you take someone's money and pay off a third person with it, while promising to invest the money. That's not what MLM does. But there is something odd about MLMs as compared to other business. I think part of the difficulty in pinning down the true nature of MLM results from the fact that those involved at a high level are very smooth communicators and thus great obfuscaters about what is really going down.
For example, at one point during my interview with Doug, he said that his doctor was "amazed" about his losing weight and his cholesterol going down. But what exactly could the doctor have been amazed about? It's a known fact that cholesterol goes down when you lose weight. The doctor couldn't have been amazed by this. What Doug is subtly hinting at is that the Isagenix milkshakes somehow caused the change in a near miraculous way. His wording is clever, so you can't really pin him down, but bottom line that's the implication of his doctor's "amazement."
But think about it. Losing weight is about cutting back on calories. There are many people who have lost weight by going on a Weight Watchers diet. Lew Rockwell has lost weight on a paleo-diet. There is nothing amazing about Doug's milkshakes and losing weight. Cut your calories and your weight and cholesterol will go down. Take away the Isagenix hocus pocus and it is all about losing weight and there are many, many ways to do that.
I was thinking about this on my way to breakfast this morning. It was a beautiful morning in San Francisco and it was a pleasant walk. Until a very aggressive beggar approached me. He wasn't the quiet type sitting on a the sidewalk holding a sign. He was in my face and very obnoxious. I finally had to tell him gruffly, in my best Goodfellas imitation, to get lost. And then, it struck me. We have all been there. A call comes in from an acquaintance, who says he would like to meet with us. He tells us it is something he can't discuss over the phone. And, of course, we get to the acquaintance's house and it turns out he is hustling some kind of MLM scheme. It's an uncomfortable experience, not much different from that of an obnoxious beggar
This isn't the pleasant kind of shopping we like to do. It is an in your face one product offer. Yes, you need this, sign up! But, more than your needing the product, your acquaintance needs the sale to advance in his MLM network. Once we all go through this once or twice, we recognize these type calls and avoid the the invitations.
Now, to go back to Doug's Isagenix product. It's a lose weight, nutrition product. If we really wanted this, we could walk into a GNC store, a Whole Foods store and probably any other major supermarket and pick up this type product. The difference between what Doug is hustling and pleasant super-market shopping is the obnoxious pressure that comes when you are being pushed to sign up when the product is being offered through MLM. It's sophisticated begging, with the product and all its supposed "amazing" qualities the cover.
What's really going on is the MLM networker is obnoxiously pushing you, begging you to sign up, with the idea that you will then obnoxiously beg and push others to go out and obnoxiously beg and push even others. To put it mildly, this isn't a pleasant shopping mall experience. There's nothing illegal with verbally pounding a person, until they sign up, if the person is willing to sit there and take it, but it is beggar obnoxious.
If you get your jollies off this way, then MLM is the way to go. If, however, you want to just lose weight, go to Weight Watchers, or better yet adopt the paleo-diet. If you want to make money in sales without having to use a beggar approach, get a job and sell a product where people come to you, or reach out to make direct sales of products, without having to push an entire chain of people to do sophisticated begging for you.