One thing that gets me riled up is how brands/businesses conduct themselves online. Behaving poorly on social media; whether by insulting customers who ask questions, lying about the security certificates on their website, or trying to avoid PR nightmares by deleting comments calling them out; these are more than enough to put me off buying from that business/brand. Another level of evil is the multi-level marketing brands, because there is no social media team behind their online presence; the annoying ones, or even the honest ones.
AVON. YOUNIQUE. LIPSENSE. RODAN + FIELDS. NUTRIMETICS. JAMBERRY. ARBONNE. DOTERRA. IT WORKS. You're probably familiar with these brands. I don't care if they're cruelty free, they're still not getting my support.
Grab your tea, but I'll do the spilling.
What is an MLM business?
Multi-Level Marketing. You've heard of a pyramid scheme, right? It's an unstable business model where you make money by recruiting people rather than selling products. The people at the top of the pyramid make the most money, while the the people at the bottom wind up losing a lot from the false prospect of making a bit of cash on the side.
MLMs are direct selling businesses that are not interested in retail distribution. Direct selling isn't a bad thing, I know of plenty of wonderful brands that direct sell their products, but they don't recruit people to recruit people. No matter where you go on social media, you will find them. Even on LinkedIn.
I was recently sent an email from one of the brands representatives (which is usually just an offer to trial products) but instead they were trying to recruit me, and was given this unusual definition of what the business model is. I blanked out the company's name to spare them the embarrassment, but it's easy to tell who I am talking about.
|Clever wording suggesting the pyramid scheme is beneficial to new recruits by promoting each representative as a small business.|
|Unless you recruit more people, you're probably out of pocket. The numbers grow exponentially as there are more recruits, and more money siphoned from the bottom to the top. It won't be long before you won't be able to recruit anybody.|
Sure, they can try to sugarcoat it all they want to make vulnerable people believe that they're offering legitimate business opportunities. They're really just trying to find another sucker to line their pockets for them. Sadly, I wind up banning the people who sell this stuff because I do not want anything to do with the brand or 'individual businesses' that stem from it.
What's wrong with people wanting to make a dollar?
It's not that there's anything wrong with a little extra money on the side, it's just how they go about it. I'm sure some of the products are okay, but when every other rep is annoying you on social media by liking and commenting on your photos, sending DMs about opportunities, offering the same products as others in the same pushy way, you get sick of it - and a lot of bloggers feel the same way. I don't believe in supporting this kind of business.
Avon recently said goodbye to commerce in Australia, and not being cruelty free anyway, I don't care for the brand. I'm more concerned about how they did it - via social media. They didn't contact their representatives directly. No warning, just gone. All these people who were relying on selling these products for extra income have just lost out big time.
A lot of the time, relationships are broken because not wanting to be bombarded with advertising is somehow seen as not wanting to support a person you care about. Maybe tighter laws need to be introduced?
Are consumers getting ripped off?
Look, it's not always the case that the product is bad; some are, some aren't, but the focus isn't about the product in question. In essence, yes, consumers could be getting ripped off by false advertising.
There is very little regulation on what a representative can do to make a sale, and head office doesn't always reprimand them for doing the wrong thing. There have been legitimate cases of completely fraudulent products having no substantiation for their claims (mostly from wellness brands that sell unregulated supplements, weight loss aids, and essential oils*) and being caught out by regulatory authorities, but in the beauty industry, it's a little more benign than what is claiming to offer medicinal benefit. The one thing some reps seem to think is okay is that they can use images by MUAs and other professionals they stole from Instagram or Pintrest to sell their products, especially if the artist didn't even use their products. This is something I feel very strongly about, and usually they'll get called out.
*The tip of the iceberg is this horrid story about this parent who went into MLM sales because of essential oils that "cured" their Autistic kid. This makes me incredibly angry as an Autistic person, and as a scientist who knows that this is no more than an anecdote.
This is probably one of the biggest reasons I boycott them, but the fact that they're annoying is another issue.
A lot of beauty communities on Facebook have banned MLM reps from even so much as mentioning their products. I belong to a couple of groups on Facebook and I fully believe that they are doing the right thing because members get annoyed when their threads hijacked by an overzealous rep. Sure, you can talk about the products with other consumers to get opinions from those who have used the product, but reps cannot join in the conversations because of seller bias.
Should you buy from a rep?
It's up to you. If you have a product that works from an MLM, go for it. I would advise caution for joining to sell the products.
Consider this: there are loopholes in place for businesses to operate in this manner, but it would otherwise be very illegal. These representatives are not people working for themselves in a small business they created, they are working for a big business that I personally am sick of having to be hounded by all the bloody time.
EDITED TO ADD
Just a few comments from readers with some great points.
+ MOST people who are signing up to sell products are not trained professionals. They are regular people who do not have a qualification in beauty therapy or makeup artistry. They have not invested the time or money to train in a professional field, work in the field, nor have they any experience outside of reading what is written on the box. They cannot make a diagnosis of skin conditions and may harm others by recommending formulas that are not suitable. This is a very important point because a lot of industry professionals aren't interested in these brands.
+ Added to the last point. Would people who join to sell ever be offered jobs at branded makeup counters in retail? Would they be qualified to work in a spa or clinic where they can recommend products? (Not saying that ALL of them are unqualified, just MOST.)
+ Some reps crawl through hashtags referring to medical conditions of the skin with hopes of selling users a product, only matched by the worst who use those peoples' images in their advertising; not only shaming the person for their skin condition, but also propagating ableism (discrimination against people with disabilities). The wonderful Carly Findlay explains in this Instagram post.
+ The loophole in place that allows such a business to exist is the fact that there products changing hands. Remove the products and you have a pyramid investment scheme. If you need a little quirky insight into this world, I recommend watching The Polka King (starring Jack Black) on Netflix; a funny, light hearted movie based on a true story. Or you can watch the documentary.
What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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