Anti-MLM Zealots – Part VI
By Len Clements © 2005

        Lots of people are anti-MLM. But few deserve the title of Anti-MLM Zealot. Your average anti-MLMer usually falls into one of two camps: There are those who failed at the business and discovered that there’s scapegoats galore which to assuage their ego – my sponsor didn’t support me, the products were too expensive, the pay plan was too confusing, Mars was in retrograde (no kidding, actually heard that one once), or whatever. No one ever seems to fail at MLM because they just weren’t very good at it. Then there are those who heard that MLM is bad, and instead of forming their own opinion, based on their own evaluation, they choose to adopt the other person’s negative opinion as their own. And the other person’s opinion usually came from someone else who never formed their own opinion – the opinion is rarely passed on unsolicited. So, to answer a common question I’m getting about this series, that’s the key distinction between your run-of-the-mill MLM basher and a full blown Anti-MLM Zealot. The Zealot wants to tell you their opinion of MLM whether you want it or not. They want to warn the world, to save us all from this horrible scam. And when we won’t listen (all ten million of us), they try to save us from ourselves by getting our state and federal government to silence the siren song of MLM that is so violently smashing our dreams into the rocks. When our proverbial ship comes in, the lowly MLM basher will simply tell you not to board it. The Anti-MLM Zealot will try to sink the ship, court-martial the Captain, imprison the crew, burn down the shipyard, and level every port-of-call that allowed it to anchor.

zeal·ot n. 1. A fanatically committed person. 2. A fervent and even militant proponent or opponent of something.

       There are only four bona-fide Anti-MLM Zealots in the U.S. today (for such an allegedly vile and pervasive business you’d think there would be more). Dean Van Druff is perhaps the least zealous among them, but his disjointed, unresearched article “What’s Wrong With Multilevel Marketing” is likely the most read piece of anti-MLM propaganda ever created. That’s why I rebutted his work in part one of this series. Robert FitzPatrick’s book “False Profits” seems to be the definitive work within the anti-MLM arena which is why he has been the subject of the last three segments of this series. Jon Taylor’s anti-MLM efforts are by far the most prolific, culminating in his 40,000 word manifesto titled “Product Based Pyramid Schemes.” That’s why I’ll be focusing on his work next.

MLM Survivors

       But let’s get back to our current subject, alias Ruth Carter and her “MLM Survivors” web site. Last issue I related her experience as an Amway distributor which she portrays as a miserable, depressing, and expensive one. A fifteen year relationship culminating in her turning hostile witness and writing a book called “Amway Motivational Organizations: Behind the Smoke & Mirrors.” In her book she suggests that “mind control” techniques were used on her, and that Amway Motivational Organizations (AMOs) were cult-like. When so many people coming from the same MLM support system claim to have lost so much for so long, and just couldn’t stop doing it, I do feel there is reason for genuine concern. So when she started her on line support group in the Fall of 1997 I admit to being a reluctant fan. Reluctant only because I felt she was unfairly stirring all Amway reps (now called Quixtar) into the same pot. Many do not support an AMO, and Amway corporate has clearly declared that their tools and events are not required. And she didn’t call it, she called it But her failure to recognize the dichotomy between Amway AMOs and the rest of the MLM industry didn’t end there.
       In spite of the fact that virtually 90% of her site’s content and message board posts pertain to Amway/Quixtar, she and her co-moderators are quick to attack, viciously, any mentioned MLM company or pro-MLM participant. “Ruth” offers a pull down menu on her home page where you can look up “news” (dirt) about specific “multilevel marketing” programs. Based on a phone verified survey conducted by the Network Marketing Business Journal, there are 2,100 MLM companies operating in the United States. Carter has 21 on her little hit list. Two are Amway and Quixtar (the same company, but hey, it makes the list look longer), another is an expired Amway distributor group made up of terminated Amway Diamonds (which she ironically seems to support in spite of the fact they were terminated because they tried to multilevel market the tapes and tools – which would have violated anti-pyramid law!). Of the remaining 19 one has never operated in the U.S., and ten were blatant illegal pyramids, not MLM companies, which have all been shut down. Then there’s Equinox, of course, it’s spin-off Trek Alliance, and The Tax People – which have also all been shut down. Within the entire content of her MLM survivor web site only six existing, actual MLM companies are even mentioned besides Amway/Quixtar. And even the negative information she provides about most of these six appears to have been scraped from the bottom of the barrel. Herbalife’s listing links to only a press release about founder Mark Hughes’ death. Melaleuca’s links to a law suit filed by some ex-distributors alleging fraud – which Melaleuca won! Nu Skin links to nothing more than a petition to the FTC asking them to examine Nu Skin’s adherence to a 1993 Consent Order – authored by the afore mention Jon Taylor, which the FTC has so far completely ignored.
       Most of the action is on their Yahoo message board, which is dictated over by Ruth Carter herself, under the name “nomore_scamz”, and Lindy Mack, as “PW.” One of the most active posters goes by the screen name “freethinker4.” After the Dateline segment on Quixtar and AMOs which aired last October, PW and freethinker4 revealed themselves as the husband and wife featured most prominently on the show. Yes, they too are ex-Amway reps (Ruth was also interviewed by Dateline, but for some reason her segment hit the cutting room floor – perhaps the lady doth protest too much?). The board lists over 3,200 members, but most of the activity seems to come from the same dozen or so people, and the number of posts has been dropping steadily over the last 18 months (from over 1,300 to 337 in February).
       It’s fairly common for folks who are considering MLM to join the forum to investigate the opportunity they are considering. Without exception they are told that all MLM companies are scams and should be unilaterally avoided. If a pro-MLMer dare wander into their domain they are immediately swarmed upon like killer bees. And the venom can be disturbingly toxic. And should anyone dare post corrections to the rampant flow of misleading or outright fraudulent anti-MLM information that’s posted there, they are tolerated for only as long as Ruth and PW feel they can win the point. Once undeniable proof is offered, or you simply offer up enough logic to make them look foolish, your post is deleted and you are permanently banned from the forum. Then they gloat over how pro-MLMers never seem to be able to post proof of our claims. Trust me, I know.
       Ruth and I first got into it last year when she posted material claiming that the DSA’s anti-Pyramid bill (HR 1220 – “Act to Prohibit Pyramid Schemes”) would actually “legalize product based pyramid schemes” and would have protected companies like Equinox from prosecution. Sound familiar? The term “product based pyramid schemes” is an invention all Jon Taylor’s, and the odd idea that the bill would have protected previously closed down companies originated with Robert FitzPatrick (and was debunked in Part IV of this series). I asked Ruth at the time if she had ever developed any of her own opinions about MLM in general, or was she just parroting FitzPatrick and Taylor? She claimed to have done her own research, of course, yet when pressed to address any issue outside the scope of Amway she continues to routinely reference the work of FitzPatrick and Taylor. I provided a respectful and thorough rebuttal to her erroneous comments as to the DSA bill and to her credit she allowed the response to post (all posts are screened by her and PW). But then, she still thought she had a valid comeback, which she eventually posted several days later. Then due to a death in my immediate family I was taken away from the debate for several days, only to return and find three posts from Ruth rhetorically wondering where I had gone, and challenging me to respond. She was definitely confident in her position in spite of the fact that most of it could be easily, logically, mathematically, and verifiably proven false – and it was in my response. Her follow up was a short comment about a couple of meaningless points, followed by a curt “That’s as far as I’m going with this.” I was then notified that my posting privileges were being revoked. One of her own board members then posted the comment; “Ruth, I would have thought you would have more to say about his response, especially since you asked for it three different times. As I read his response, he appeared to make some valid points.” This poster had obviously not figured out yet that the board moderators don’t respond to “valid points” that support MLM – they censor them.
       Before I was blacklisted I was able to answer some attacks by other board members, such as freethinker4’s totally baseless, unprovoked accusation that I sell my company’s products by making wild claims. Now, I’m a pretty calm guy, but I do have my hot buttons. One is an attack on my ethics. Another is wild product claims. Accuse me of being unethical by making wild product claims and watch out! I tried to explain to her as calmly as I could my loathing for such claims, which stemmed from my Dad just dieing from Emphysema, my Mom’s chronic ulcers, my Grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, and my brother’s Crohne’s disease – and all the garbage that’s out there claiming they can all be cured (I once watched a friend die of cancer while chugging every “natural” remedy she could find – for around $40 a bottle). Or worse, the suggestion that my Dad’s death could have been prevented had he (or I) been more “open minded” to all these pseudo-science based alternative treatments. I also directed her to the several articles I’ve written on my web site blasting such practices in MLM, and to a display ad I had running that said “NO! Our products don’t cure every disease known to science!” right in the ad. She also suggested that I “make more money selling (my) success system than selling products.” This is typical “survivor” modus operandi – if someone did it to them, then we all must do it to everybody. I pointed out that I offered my system for free and directed her to the online evidence. But rather than apologizing for misjudging me and showing even a modicum of compassion or empathy for my personal situation (she’s a registered nurse – you’d think it would come naturally), her response was disturbingly vitriolic. This wasn’t someone who was just being defensive or too egotistical to admit she was wrong. This was a person who seemed to be filled with anger and hatred beyond reason. What’s more, other board members were quick to agree with her accusations and supported her horrid retort. The point behind describing the condition of my family’s health was clearly not to gain sympathy, but the fact I received none told me a lot about the type people I was dealing with.
       Ruth was never so hateful, just infuriatingly evasive. She has a keen ability to sense when an argument is about to turn against her then lead you light-years away from the point you’re trying to make. For example, I made the claim, imbedded within a much larger more poignant issue, that a high failure rate among participants does not inherently make a profession dishonest, and that the majority of people who attempt to be successful doctors, lawyers, actors, politicians, or baseball players also fail, yet no one claims these occupations are scams. Rather than address the main issue being debated, she responded with her favorite comeback: “Unsubstantiated anecdotal claims. Where’s your evidence?” Countless times Ruth has used this clever “Prove it” response to avoid having to provide a response. Even in cases like this, when asking someone to show evidence that most who attempt to become pro baseball players fail at it makes her look astoundingly foolish and desperate. She later stated that she “might” grant me actors and baseball players, but if I could not support my claim regarding successful doctors and lawyers then “it rather spoils your argument.”
       But, couldn’t I have made the same point just as effectively by leaving out doctors and lawyers and using the other three professions? And what do you suppose she did after I went through the tedious, time wasting process of digging up the data to prove my claim about doctors and lawyers? That’s right – she completely ignored my response and dropped the point. To appreciate the silliness of Ruth’s penchant for requiring proof, here are some other statements she demanded “verifiable evidence” of: “You get out of it what you put into it” (how would one even begin to “verify” this?); “so many people (on the Survivor message board) complain and moan” (she demanded a total count of people involved, and the number who were complaining); and “There are goods and bads in any business” (she actually asked for “facts” to back up that claim!). One pro-MLM poster claimed he made over $100,000 last year at age 30, and Ruth responded by demanding to see his tax return and a copy of his birth certificate! According to the forum’s co-dictator “PW,” only “documentation can serve as evidence.” Yet, when it comes to virtually all of their anti-MLM data, personal testimony and hear-say are entirely acceptable. But then, he openly admits, without the slightest reservation; “There is a double standard with regard to pro-MLMers… argumentation in favor of MLM are not permitted here.”

        “Fairness is NOT one of the foundations of the MLM Survivors Club.”
           – Lindy “PW” Mack, Message Board Moderator

        “There is no requirement of balance in this club, numbskull… Give it up, troll.”
           – Vicki “Freethinker4” Mack, Message Board participant

       Their club rules also state “Rudeness, abusiveness, name calling and the like will not be tolerated.” Guess there’s a “double standard” on that one, too.
       Ruth also states that making claims “without verifiable proof” is a violation of “club rules.” But when I ask her to provide evidence of her claims, such as “fewer than 1% of MLM participants ever make a profit,” you’ll hear only crickets chirping. Unless it involves facts that FitzPatrick or Taylor have already published, she’s lost. And often times she’ll cite claims made by these two (such as the 1% claim) which even they don’t have evidence of – they just pulled it out of thin air. A new board member once asked if anyone had any “negative information” on Usana. Ruth responded that if she hadn’t found any, “you haven’t looked very hard.” Yet, in spite of the alleged ease in finding it, Ruth was unable to identify any of it. The standard of proof she requires of pro-MLMers are so high it borders on the absurd, but if it supports her anti-MLM position there seems to be virtually no standards at all. “Unsubstantiated” and “anecdotal” would describe at least 87.364% of the anti-MLM claims made in her message board. Okay, I didn’t really compute that number out – at least not to three decimal places – but I’m sure Ruth would ask for it!
       If Ruth’s “Prove it” dodge should ever fail, her Plan B is to play dumb. While debating the requirement that MLM companies sell sales aids “at cost,” which I said was true “based on legal precedent”, she first asked for the precedent, of course (I supplied it, she ignored it) then actually said this: “… ‘at cost’ covers a pretty gray area. If I manufacture a bunch of tapes at a cost of 60 cents apiece, and sell them… for $1.00, what is ‘at cost’?” I contacted three of the top economist in the country and we researched and debated her question for several hours. The consensus was that “at cost” in her example would probably be sixty cents! The “at a cost of 60 cents” part was a big clue.

        sar·casm n. 1. A mocking or contemptuously ironic remark.

       The folly of the MLM Survivor message board is far too extensive to cover in just one segment. Next issue I’ll explain how surviving a bad MLM experience is analogous to surviving The Holocaust, according to one MLM survivor. And I’ll tell you what facts I posted that got me canned a second time from their board. I saved the best anecdotes for last. We’re going to have some fun, so stick around!

About Len Clements

Based in Las Vegas and Founder and CEO of MarketWave, Inc., Len Clements provides consulting, training & expert witness services for the network marketing industry. Since 1989, he has been a top producer, trainer, and consultant for multiple network marketing companies. As a well-respected icon in the MLM industry today, Len conducts Inside Network Marketing seminars throughout the world and is the author of several best-selling books and audio tapes including Inside Network Marketing (Random House), Case Closed, The Whole Truth About Network Marketing and The Coming Network Marketing Boom.