How do you handle overzealous friends involved in multi-level marketing companies? Amelia Peck, LMFT has some great ideas!
My next-door neighbor always seems to be having a trunk show for one multi-level marketing thing or another— clothes, cosmetics, skincare, jewelry— you name it, she’ll sell it! I supported the first event or two, but now I always feel pressured to go, even though I don’t want to! How do I let her know that I don’t want to buy anything else from her?
Dear Dissatisfied Customer,
Network marketing, multi-level marketing (MLM), whatever you want to call it (anything but pyramid scheme or scam, right?), these products and businesses are in full force. What was a business model targeted at stay-at-home moms is now a legit side-hustle for many. And it’s not the products people hate, it’s often the feeling of obligation to buy something. Maybe even to host a party or the recruit to sell the product yourself. No doubt, some people are making incredible money being a distributor for these products. However, there are also many who buy into the idea of growing their finances through multi-level marketing, but end up struggling to push their product.
Always. It is always ok to say no to something that you don’t want to do. It’s also always ok to say no to something that requires your finances to show your support. There are a variety of ways you can say no:
There are also ways to direct her invites to MLM parties you might be more interested in. For example, I am not going to spend $80 on a skincare product. But someone I know recently hosted a party on social media for an MLM product for nails called Color Street. This got me to the party for two reasons. First, it was online, I could participate in my pajamas. I didn't have to hear about why I needed to work for this MLM. I wasn't recruited into someone's downline (a downline is the group of distributors each distributor has under them in this non-pyramid scheme). Two, the product wasn’t expensive and I like my nails to look nice. So I was willing to see what it was all about. Turns out, I love this product! I will happily be a consumer.
So, if this friend were to invite me to something for an MLM product I’m not as interested in right now, I would probably say no and would ask me to let her know if she’s ever going to host another party for the nail products.
There is definitely a boundary issue that comes into play with MLM products and parties. In one video promoting MLM products that I saw, a salesperson said, “Anyone who you call a friend should buy this product because that shows they really care about you.” This statement really concerned me. Granted, this was a video someone made independently and was not produced by the company for which she distributed products. However, I felt like it could really tap into someone’s vulnerability if they are hoping to embark on an MLM sales journey.
Also, many people that I haven’t spoken to in years have contacted me through social media attempting to recruit me to distribute a product. The message usually beings telling me how amazing I would be selling their product. And when I say we haven't spoken in years, I mean at least ten years or so. This person doesn’t know if I’d be a good salesperson. Spoiler alert, I would be terrible.
I don't believe these products are scams. I think they are companies who have found a way to move their product without using traditional retail. It is the modern-day door-to-door sales trade, that sometimes it a bit laced with get-rich-quick language. But make no mistake, the people I know who are making serious money distributing these products, are working hard.
Remember that buying something at an MLM party is not a requirement or obligation in your life. Just like everyone else, you have to say no to some things because you have obligations in other places. Often, when we are hooked into a trunk show or MLM party, we can feel obligated to purchase something. But we aren’t. Like I said earlier, it’s ok to say no. Keep in mind, people who choose to work with MLM companies are choosing to work in direct selling. Person-to-person sales are tough. You don’t hit 100% of consumers to whom you pitch the product. They know that. If they look upset that you are choosing to pass, remember that you are not obligated to participate, and it's ok.
Also, nudge your neighbor with a reminder that you want to spend time with her but maybe not in a place where you’re being sold something. Maybe next time, instead of a trunk show, you can go out for coffee or cocktails!