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

        If you’re just joining this series – too bad. You’ve missed a lot of information that could have helped you enroll that prospect who you just knew would have been fantastic at the business, but was too skeptical of it (we all have them). And you missed out on a lot of fun as well!
        Part one described all the reasons why Dean Van Druff’s utterly unresearched, illogical, ten year old article “What’s Wrong With Multilevel Marketing?” was wrong. Then we spent three parts on Robert Fitzpatrick’s two anti-MLM books. Not that it was so hard to refute them, there was just so much to refute! Part five dealt specifically with Ruth Carter’s anti-Amway book “Behind The Smoke and Mirrors” and part six introduced a discussion of her web site” That’s where the real fun began. So let’s continue.

        The message board is allegedly suppose to be a safe haven for “survivors” of MLM to congregate and commiserate. To support and console each other. In reality, it’s a forum for ex-Amway reps to get together and mutually legitimize each other’s excuses for failure – and to carpet bomb the entire MLM landscape. The members, and especially the forum dictators, “PW” and Ruth herself (they call themselves “moderators”) blindly assume that since Amway (now called Quixtar) is a multilevel marketing company, all 2,100 other multilevel marketing companies must operate the same way. The obvious fact that such logic would not even remotely hold true in virtually any other industry seems to carry no weight with them. Their experience in Amway was bad, therefore all companies within that industry must be as bad. When someone should wander into their forum to do what few of these people obviously did – some research and due-diligence into the business they are considering getting involved with – and ask about various other MLM companies, the result is always the same. They are told the company they are considering is bad and should be avoided. But rarely is any actual evidence, even anecdotal, ever provided as to why the company is bad. They think Amway is bad, Amway is an MLM company, the company in question is an MLM company as well, so it must be bad too. That’s it. Case closed.
        Should someone who is pro-MLM enter their domain and, God forbid, try to install a little reason and common sense into the discussion, the flames could melt your firewall (only us computer geeks will get that pun). Every positive portrayal of MLM is arrogantly assumed to be a “trolling” attempt to gather prospects, which the members are quick to point out is utterly ridiculous considering the venue. Indeed it is ridiculous, and rarely is the pro-MLM participant attempting to reconvert anyone. In most cases they are, as I was, simply trying to get them to understand that their personal experiences in this one, albeit largest, MLM company is not indicative of how the other 2,100 MLM companies operate (it’s been suggested more than once that the board should be renamed, but to no avail). Either that, or the pro-MLMer is trying to correct a “survivor” who has stated erroneous information pertaining to MLM data, legal precedence, history, or specific company information. The board is chocked full of such bunk.
        One regular poster once claimed that not only is there little actual retailing going on in MLM, a common discussion on the board, but many MLM companies actually “forbid retailing.” When I asked him to “name one” he gave me a short list which even included Herbalife – one of the most retail oriented MLM companies in history! I then asked for evidence of this (I would love to see the section of their distributor agreement where it says retailing is forbidden) and questioned him as to why every company on his list had a “suggested retail price” on their product price list if retailing was forbidden? He responded that he never said “retailing” was forbidden, he said “retail marketing” was forbidden (how does one perform “retailing” without “marketing”?). These are the kinds of silly games one plays when dealing with MLM “survivors.” They never admit they’re wrong, no matter how obviously they’ve been busted, and their attempts to avoid appearing so often times becomes ridiculous.
        I was kicked out of the message board last year because I dared to point out errors, and in some cases flat out lies, that were being posted on the board regarding various MLM related issues. I was in the process of debating the DSA bill (HR 1220) and Ruth’s ridiculous claim that this bill was the DSA’s attempt to legalize pyramid schemes, and how it would have protected companies that had previously been shut down by the FTC. I presented my case, she responded, I left for a few days due to a family emergency, then she posted three times gloating about how I had not responded and wondering where I went. I then returned and responded to her response with irrefutable, verifiable proof to support my case. She responded “That’s as far as I’m going with this” and terminated my posting privileges.
        About a year later a board participant posted the claim that the FTC had declared the paying of commissions on personally consumed product to be “illegal.” Since this would essentially make every MLM company an illegal operation, and it was just so easy to prove wrong, I had to try to get back in and refute this silly, but potentially damaging (if left unanswered) claim. To Ruth’s credit (or bad memory), my response was allowed to post. But rather than respond to it herself, she brought in a ringer. The mysterious “kublaikant” suddenly appeared on the board who claimed to be an attorney with extensive knowledge of the MLM industry and the laws pertaining to it. He pompously cited the FTC’s cases against Equinox and Five Star Auto Club, both of which defined legally commissionable sales as being those to non-distributors. Of course, Ruth had to get her two cents in somewhere, so she cherry picked what she must have felt was the safest point to counter. That being a comment I made about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals – the anti-MLM zealot’s best friend ever since they declared that commissions should only be paid on sales to non-distributors (Webster vs. Omnitrition, 1994). I stated that this was just dicta (legalese for “opinion”) which created no law, only overturned a previous summary judgment (in Omnitrition’s favor) and sent the case back to the lower court for trial, there were only two members of the “class action” (not hundreds like many believe), no jury ever found Omnitrition guilty of being an illegal pyramid, five states have since declared that distributor orders are legally commissionable (Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Ohio), the 9th Circuit Court was also the court that ruled the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional, and was the most overturned appears court in the land. Ruth’s response to all this? “Percentage-wise, about as many of its decisions are overturned as any of the other appeals courts.” Ruth’s only other contribution to kublaikant’s rebuttal was the remark (in response to the DSA bill’s attempt to formally define personally consumed product by distributors legally commissionable), “Yes, rendering any product-based pyramid scheme ‘legal’ – Great consumer protection legislation!” So before trouncing kublaikant’s case, I made the tactical error of once again proving the forum dictator wrong by citing that from 1992 to 2003 the 9th Circuit Court was overturned 20% more often than the average of all other appeals courts ( I then reminded her that we had already debated the DSA Bill the year before when she made the same loony claim, and that after I provided evidence that she was wrong she bowed out of the debate and stopped allowing my posts. I then responded to kublaikant by quoting from a letter straight from the FTC where they clearly and specifically state that the definition of legally commissionable sales in the Equinox and Five Star Auto club cases involved “extra” constraints that “do not apply to the general public… They do not represent the general state of the law.” The FTC letter goes on to specifically say that sales volume produced by distributors is legally commissionable (although the motive for purchasing the products must still be to resell and/or because the distributor genuinely likes the products and isn’t purchasing them just to meet a quota in the compensation plan). Their big shot hired gun, Mr. Kublaikant, was dead wrong. The verifiable proof was right there, in crystal clear unequivocal English. They were wrong, I was right, and this time there was no possible way to deny it. So Ruth and PW had absolutely no choice. There was simply no way they could allow my response to post. And this time I was not only censored, they terminated my board membership and banned me for life! “PW” got to do the honors. He sent me a private e-mail implying I was the one who “bowed out” of the debate a year earlier (he said I was now “changing the truth to suit your argument” by stating that Ruth was the one who quit) but then attached excerpts from my final posts back then that essentially proved my claim! He then called my post a “personal attack on the forum owner” in spite of the fact my two comments to Ruth made up about 5% of my response to kublaikant, and contained nothing that could have been even remotely construed as a “personal attack”! Of course, none of this had anything to do with why I was banned, and had everything to do with the FTC allegedly disallowing commissions on internal consumption being the backbone of their “product based pyramid scheme” scheme. There primary legal argument against the industry as a whole was a house of cards built on quicksand, and there was no way they could allow proof of that to be revealed to their followers.
        So Kublaikant’s rebuttal was left unchallenged. “PW” did post to the board members that I had been banned but I could still read their comments. One of the reasons he gave was that I had broken the board policy of not providing evidence to support my claims! He also openly declared that “argumentation in favor of MLM” is a violation of board rules. Later Ruth posted her own version, saying “All we were doing was asking for verifiable evidence, but apparently he thought he didn’t need to provide it.” In case you missed it, Ruth, here it is again: Fortunately, Rod Cook ( reproduced the discussion thread on his board and allowed my rebuttal to Kubliakant to post there. A survivor board member managed to cut and paste my response into his post on the survivor board, and asked for a rebuttal. There was none. Kubliakant never posted in the MLM Survivor message board again.
        The anecdotes are endless, and unfortunately I’m not allowed this whole publication to site them (although – wouldn’t this series make a great book? Hmmm). But here’s one I can’t leave out. Remember how Ruth rationalized why she spent 15 years in a business that was so depressing and harmful? Mind control. Brainwashing. We (not just Amway Motivational Organizations, but all of us) are masters of mental manipulation. We make it so you just can’t stop, no matter how abused you are. And those who “survive” the experience can even require counseling, or at the very least, an online support group. Yet, when asked on her message board why the government doesn’t shut us all down if we’re all so bad and illegal, and why some of the companies she and her cohorts claimed were among the “most offending” companies all seem to be in good standing with the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, her response was shocking in it’s illogic and hypocrisy. First, she described how we teach our distributors that if your business is not successful, you’re not doing it right, therefore people don’t complain because they are brainwashed into believing their failure was their own fault. Can you imagine? If people try to perform a task and fail at it, we actually suggest that they may be performing the task incorrectly. What logical, rational, common-sense practicing scumbags we are! And, of course, the reality is very few failed MLMers take personal responsibility for their failure. In my 14 years of experience, I’d estimate maybe 5% of them felt they just weren’t good at it. The rest always had an excuse (bad sponsor, bad products, bad weather…). Oh, but there’s more. She went on to explain that after the “brainwashing” wears off “years” later, “most people simply want to move on with their lives.” Most people. Then there are those who spend years writing anti-MLM books and operating anti-MLM web sites. She also explained that the government doesn’t take action because MLM is a “billion dollar industry” (thank you very much), and won’t pursue a case against particular companies unless they “have an ironclad case against them.” It was actually fascinating to watch her try to rationalize how the fact that most MLM companies have clean BBB and Chamber of Commerce records, we’re a huge billion dollar industry, that most failed reps don’t need online support groups (they just got over it and moved on), and the government doesn’t have a very strong case against the industry, are all negative aspects of MLM.
        Most of the anecdotes I collected are silly little examples of “survivor” ignorance of the MLM subjects they expound upon, and the folly of their efforts to avoid looking that way. But some are not funny. They are disturbing. For example, during one of my many attempts to nail Jello to the wall (which is what it’s like when trying to get Ruth to focus on a point she knows she can’t win), she tried to explain to me why my attempts to defend MLM were so inappropriate. She actually said the following:
        “Would you go into a rape survivors group and start touting the use of the date rape pill? Would you go into an AA meeting with a bottle of whisky and start offering drinks? Would you go into a support group for holocaust survivors and try to convince them that the Nazis really didn’t make war on Jews, and the holocaust is an invention of anti-German historians? I don’t think so… So why do you come into an MLM Survivor group and start telling them that MLM is a good thing?”
        To stay with Ruth’s absurd and profoundly insensitive analogy for a moment (just a moment), what I would do is defend against the equally absurd suggestion that all men are rapists, all drinkers of whisky are alcoholics, and all Germans are Nazis! But let’s not stay with this analogy. Having a bad MLM business experience hardly falls within the same universe as being raped, alcoholic, or a holocaust victim. To even make such an analogy is shameful. What’s more, these are actual victims! No one made voluntarily, conscious decisions to be raped or be Jewish in Nazi Germany. Ruth, and other “MLM Survivors” (which now seems ridiculously petty in light of her analogy) made choices that put them in the positions they were in. No one held a gun to their heads, or drugged them, and forced them to buy a garage full of unwanted products, spend thousands of dollars on tapes and tools they didn’t need, join the very first company they were pitched or believe their upline’s claims of quick and easy riches. There is not one single thing any of them can point to regarding their MLM experience that could not have been easily avoided with one simple word – No!
        I once considered myself a “victim” of MLM. Until I realized the truth. I was naive, gullible, and just didn’t do my homework. I made decisions that, looking back, were just dumb. All because someone told me to. But rather than defend my victimhood, I took responsibility for my own actions and set out to thoroughly research this industry and find a company and upline that was operated ethically. I used the power of knowledge against the scam artists that pervert this industry. I didn’t walk away wounded and vindictive towards anything remotely resembling MLM.
        I totally understand their motives for banning me from their message board. What I present ruins their victimhood. They prefer to believe, and mutually reassure each other, that their failure was forced upon them, and their poor and costly business decisions were not made of free will. They don’t like people coming in and killing their scapegoat.
        Next month: Dr. Jon Taylor and his 40,000 word manifesto titled “Product Based Pyramid Schemes.” He can’t seem to get the FTC to pay any attention to it (sure not for lack of trying), but your prospects might be. So read on, and be ready!

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.