“I felt it was so taboo and so secret, as if anyone found out we were having this conversation, hell would fall apart.”
Nicola leaned back on a sun lounger, feeling the warmth of the sun on her skin. It was September 2020 and the 27-year-old was vacationing in Rhodes with a group of her classmates. While Nikola was bathing next to her friend Tash, they discussed their jobs and the company they both work for. “I don’t think I can do that for the rest of my life,” Tash, now 24, admitted calmly. Relief flooded Nicola. She was thinking exactly the same thing. This was not how it was supposed to feel.
Women’s roles as “independent travel agencies” sold to them as their dream jobs, promising them the opportunity to run their own business, work from anywhere and travel the world. In fact, things didn’t go that way and both were ready to quit. However, the thought of doing so was daunting. It is more difficult to leave some jobs than others.
What is up to MLM?
Nikola and Tache were part of a multi-level marketing company, commonly referred to as MLMs. MLM is often associated with pyramid schemes, but – unlike pyramid schemes – MLM is legal because its business model involves selling a product. MLMs recruit recruits, who do not get paid but instead earn a commission on their sales. MLM incentivizes members to enroll other people in the business by giving them a portion of the recruiter’s commission as well. This path tends to be more profitable than actual sales.
Multinational companies, also known as “direct selling” or “network marketing” companies, have a good reputation for selling lunch boxes and makeup, but this sector is developing rapidly. Over recent years, organizations that operate in everything from Holiday bookings And broadband sale to foreign exchange.
Nicola was unhappy with her job in a call center when she was recruited into MLM in 2019. She was 25 years old at the time and noticed a new follower on Instagram commenting on her photos. The stranger quickly slipped into her DMs, telling Nicola all about what she did for a living.
“The way she sold it was amazing,” Nicola says. “You can travel, make money, and break free from the 9-5 mundane, something I desperately craved at the time. I was the perfect candidate for this scam.”
Nicolas decided to join, seeing this as an opportunity for a new side hustle. She paid an initial fee of £142, which the company told her would cover her insurance and credentials, including the travel tests she had to take. Then she had to sign up for a monthly direct deduction of £46 to keep her account active.
This is a common route in MLM. according to Direct Selling Association (DSA), there are 631,000 direct sellers in the UK, 96% of whom are women. During the pandemic, membership rose Where people grapple with job insecurity. Companies surveyed by DSA Average increase of 32% in turnover in the first quarter of 2021.
What happens when you actually join an MLM?
Unfortunately, people rarely make a living from these unsustainable schemes. Members not only earn anything if they succeed in selling products or registering new recruits, they usually have to pay to join in the first place. Initial fees can range greatly, with some companies offering welcome kits for a tiny amount £10While others – like the one Nicola joined – charge three times over.
Jen, 39, joined MLM Cosmetics and Skincare in January 2020, when she was seven months pregnant. I paid £49 for a ‘startup kit’ to sell it, which included some of the company’s most popular products like lipstick, face masks and hand cream. Between giving birth and caring for her newborn and the start of a global pandemic, Jane has devoted little time to selling products.
In April, Jane was warned that her account would be deactivated if she failed to carry out any orders. She raised £150 in sales by screwing up her friends and family. A few months later, Jane was promoted to the position of district manager. Although this was not a paid role, she was earning an additional commission from the sales of the seven team members she manages, the equivalent of an additional £200 per month. She found out after accepting the promotion that she would only receive this money if she personally sold £600 worth of products each month.
Struggling to achieve this goal, Jane began buying more and more items for herself, spending up to £300 a month. After 15 months, Jane calculated that she had already lost £1,500, despite the extra income from her team. She looked at the cosmetics that piled up around her house, and realized where that money had gone.
A 2011 study concluded that 99% MLM members lose money. Find later In the USA, MLM respondents found that 74% failed to make any profit. But losing money isn’t always enough to convince people to leave.
As they sat on my sun beds, Tash and Nicholas felt guilty even discussing the possibility. They looked around at the colleagues who had come with them for vacation, and were ashamed of the frustration of those people they had become friends with. They thought of teams of about 80 people recruited among them to earn extra money. Can they abandon the same women they persuaded to join?
Shame on him wanting to leave
MLM members often feel shy at the thought of leaving. “I felt like I was letting people down, and that was a horrible feeling,” Tash says. “It’s really hard to leave these companies because they depend on so many people to be in them in order to make a profit [for the company]. You often hear things like: The only way to fail in network marketing is to leave. “
Jess, 28, is an anti-marine concession activist and podcast host HUNcovered. She says Tash and Nikola’s experience is common. “It’s hard for people in MLM to find anyone to talk to about wanting to leave, because [members] They can be obsessed with surrounding themselves with positive people. In their minds are the positive people in MLM.”
Jess became an anti-MLM campaigner after her unsettling experience. When she joined a skin care company, she was instantly added to a WhatsApp group with other members. Jess has been explicitly asked not to say anything negative about the company or its products. “There’s nowhere you can go to raise any concerns,” she says.
Most MLMs associate their members in the same way, adding them to WhatsApp and Facebook groups, and encouraging them to attend weekly, or even daily, calls. Some become close friends like Tash and Nicholas. And leaving can mean risking new and old friendships. Jane recruited one of her close friends into the company she worked for. Although they’ve known each other for over 20 years, when Jane quits, her friend turns against her, unhappy that Jane has left. They haven’t spoken since.
Members can also count on new friendships, as being a part of MLM can isolate them from their true friends and family. Although Jess knew the company she was joining was MLM, she was unaware of the sector’s reputation and saw this as an opportunity to be her own boss. However, her partner was skeptical and warned her against joining. When Jess voiced these concerns, the woman who recruited her called him unsupportive and said he wanted her to fail. “They plant that seed in your head,” says Jess. She believes the company was deliberately turning it against anyone who expressed doubts about what she was going to get into.
As awareness grows of the problematic nature of MLM franchises, Jess warns that companies are inventing new methods to mask their business models, such as inventing new names for them. Influencer marketing is one of the methods that have emerged recently. Tash was never told that the company was part of MLM and she believes this is due to the “negative connotations” associated with the mark.
Jess warns that a major red flag is more profitable by recruiting others than by selling products. The hiring side of the business is often kept silent until new members actually join, at which point they are told that this is how they can earn “real money”. To avoid signing up for MLMs in the first place, Jess advises caution when it comes to spam on social media, especially if it includes invasive questions about your income.
When Nicholas and Tash returned from Rhodes, they finally worked up the courage to tell their mentors (the senior members of the company) that they were leaving. Both mentors tried to convince them to stay. Tash recounts one of the messages she received that said, “I’m surprised you’re willing to leave and turn your back so easily.”
Despite this, the women emailed the organization’s head offices to terminate their memberships, canceled their direct debt, and removed themselves from various WhatsApp groups. “When I left I felt an incredible stupor, as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders,” says Nicola.
“If your gut tells you to leave, please listen to it,” Tash sympathizes.
Nicolas agrees: “Just leave.” “Don’t approach your teacher or tell anyone on your team that you are leaving because they will convince you to stay and it will be difficult for you. Reach out to your family or friends so they can help you.” Tash suggests formally canceling your membership and payments before telling your team that you left.
Tash says most of the friends she made at the company have now blocked her on social media. “It was a huge shock, but I’m afraid when the company consumes you so much, as I was, you can’t handle it when other people say something negative. I’ll always be here if they have a change in my head.”
Earlier this year, Tash and Nicholas returned to Rhodes and spent the summer there. When they sunbathed on the island again, they thought how much their lives had changed since the last time they were there. Women are now teaching English online, a job that provides a steady income and the freedom to travel they have been looking for.
“I’ve been brainwashed, so being able to think clearly again is invaluable,” Tash says. “Honestly I have never felt free since I left, which is ironic because all I wanted out of business was freedom.”