Does MLM Make Us GOOFY?

By Len Clements (c) 1995

My nine-plus years as one of the MLM industry “watchdogs” has involved several hundred hours of reading various MLM related books, newsletters, and magazines and conversations with literally thousands of MLM participants, vendors, trainers and owners. Over this period of time, I have come to the conclusion that something about the MLM (Multilevel Marketing) industry is making quite a few of us really goofy. Perhaps our “herbal formulas” contain more herbs than we know about. Or, maybe it’s the radiation we’ve absorbed from watching all those videos. It could be that pressing a phone against your head six to eight hours a day is cutting off blood vessels to our brains. All I know is, something is going on here.A classic example would be a conversation I had about two years ago with a local print shop owner. A print shop, by the way, that claimed to have several MLM clients.

I called this printer to get a quote on what it would cost to reprint a limited number of back issues. She said they had a special deal where all double sided 11×17 pages would be 15¢ per sheet. I then asked (remember this is the owner I’m talking to) what would be the fewest number they could print. She replied that they could print whatever amount I needed. Okay, what about ten? Well, she said, they really couldn’t print that few. She then explained to me about set up costs, labor and various other fixed costs. Fair enough. So exactly what is the least number you could print, I asked. She again replied, “As I said sir, we can print any amount you wish.”

Uh oh.

“How about twenty?,” I ventured. Nope. Couldn’t print that few either. It just wouldn’t be cost effective, you see, because of those fixed costs, which she began to list again.

Now, I had already tried “fewest” and “least.” I wouldn’t dare try “minimum.” That’s another whole syllable. Ah, what the heck, I thought, let’s give it a try.

“All right. So exactly what is the minimum number of sheets that you can print?”

“Sir,” she responded, obviously getting annoyed, “like I said, we can print whatever number you like, we just can’t print that few.”

Believe it or not, we went through this loop about three more times, each time with me raising the requested number by ten, followed by her desperately trying to get though my thick skull that they could print whatever amount I needed — except for every amount I requested.

The call ended with me (who my little league team used to call “Spock” due to my inability to get riled) yelling into the phone “51, 52, 53, 54… STOP ME WHEN I HIT A NUMBER YOU CAN PRINT!”

She hung up on me.

To this day, I still don’t know what the least, fewest, minimum number of pages is she could print for me. And I never will. She went out of business — just like the MLM company she was a distributor for (Consumer’s Buyline).

The logic portion of the brain seems to be most affected by MLM exposure. More evidence of this can be found in the ads we place. Just recently I saw one with the headline “Little Known Secrets…” What other kind of secrets are there? Well known secrets?

Or how about this one: “Brand New MLM Now Launching!” Have you ever seen an old company launch?

Or how about this logic buster: “Earn income through the retail sale of our FREE reports!”

In the August, 1993 issue of my MarketWave newsletter I listed some of the best (worst) ad headlines I’ve seen. Here are some of my favorites.

How To Get 1,000,000 People To Mail You $3.00. For Info, Please Send $3.00 To…

Earn Big Money Working At Home, In Your Mailbox.

You Can Make A Fortune — By Passing Out, Or Mailing Tapes I Will Give You.

Don’t Think Your Thoughts. New Thoughts!!!

Join Bodywide Today!

History Making MLM Just Lunched!

I’m not making these up, folks. In fact, here’s another headline I just saw you can add to your list: “The MLM Learing Group.”

I mean, how does this happen? I liken these types of mega-typos to a pedestrian being accidently hit by a train in broad daylight. I occasionally hear about this happening, and as morbid as it is, I almost want to be there to see exactly how such an event could occur. When a typesetter keys in a headline of “Credit Problems, Money Troubles, Down On Your Lick?” (actual copy), does he not look up and read what he just typed at least once?

Here are a few more true stories from the annals of my MLM career.

I got a call about two months ago from a distraught gentleman who was incensed that I did not have a system in place to provide him with a sample copy of my MarketWave Newsletter. He and his wife were roaming the country in his motor home. And yes, he was quite serious.

Another gentleman called recently to order a subscription and a back issue. When I explained that there was a $1.00 shipping and handling charge on the back issue, he protested that since I had to send the first issue of his subscription anyway, why was he being charged for the shipping on the back issue? (An argument that has come up more than once, by the way). I explained that there was additional postage, and back issues were all hand folded and collated, and were more expensive to produce since they are reprinted in limited quantity. He wasn’t buying it. Literally. He bluntly stated that he would cancel his order if I charged him the extra buck.

I later discovered that this guy earns in excess of $13,000 per month in a well known MLM program. That’s thirteen thousanddollars — one of which he got to keep that day.

Just recently a new MLMer, who sounded way too young to have already been so affected, called our voice mail and requested a sample copy of MarketWave. His message was as follows: “Yes, this is John Smith from Tampa, Florida and I just read your book. I would like to get a sample copy of your newsletter as soon as possible and I will send you the dollar you requested. Thank you.” Click.

The real frustrating part is that Mr. Smith (not his real name) is thethird person to leave such a message so far this year! And that’s not counting the two by Mr. Smith himself, who’s still wondering where his sample is and whose address we still don’t know.

I can’t count the number of times, especially in the early years of MarketWave, that I would fax information requests or a series of questions regarding the company I was reviewing in the newsletter, only to be completely ignored. Or, made numerous calls to the corporate office to talk to the President of VP regarding questions or concerns that I didn’t feel comfortable asking distributors, and never have a single call returned. And then, after the review is published, I get a call or letter from the President chastising me for not getting my facts straight.

Actually, that’s not a good example of being goofy, that’s just me venting. Thanks for indulging me.

Goofy? How about the infamous MetChem scandal? This is the bogus review I did in April of 1993 for a scheme where you could get paid $6.00 for every tin can you sent in (because MetChem found a way to convert tin into platinum, you see). Honestly, it’s not the fact that sixteen of my subscribers called in to get the address for MetChem (after all, the information was supposed to be coming from a reputable source — me!). It’s the fact that the instructions to order the information clearly stated “Go sit in the corner. Haven’t we taught you anything?,” then asked that you spell out the first letters of each sentence of the first paragraph — which spelled APRIL FOOLS. Fortunately, twelve subscribers called back to sheepishly ask that I ignore your previous request. Good for them. The other four claimed they followed the instructions perfectly — and still wanted the address!

So far, I’ve received four death threats. One was just a prank (I’m pretty sure), but the other seemed quite serious. This angry, anonymous caller was upset that I had “trashed” her opportunity in my newsletter and that my review was “sinful.” That review resulted in the third highest rated opportunity ever featured in MarketWave, and the highest of all for the year in which the call was made.

Last month I had a discussion with a man who was dissatisfied with the performance of his current company’s compensation plan (we’ll call his company Generic International). He called to ask me about the plan I was working. I told him the type, and he replied, “Eh, I was hoping to stay with a plan like Generic’s.” I then explained the pay out. “Hmmm. Actually, I kind of like a compressed pay out — like Generic’s.” I forged on. After explaining the qualifications, he responded by explaining to me why he liked the way “Generic was doing it.” The conversation eventually went beyond comp plans to products. After telling him about mine, sure enough, he was hoping to stay with products “like Generic has.”

I then explained to him that the clinical definition of insanity (which means you’re really goofy) is the process of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

He stayed with Generic International.

I recently came across a distributor produced full page ad for an MLM opportunity within which the distributor described his company’s great new support tool — an automated downline and sales volume tracking system. Nothing wrong with that, except that when describing how simple the steps were to use the system he used his actual ID number and password! Yes, of course I called and accessed the system (I’m not nosey, I’m inquisitive). This guy, who was claiming to have achieved great success with this opportunity, had 115 people on his first level alone, but his total commissions earned for the past month was $26.00! The headline of his ad read: “My 10 years of MLM frustration.” I have a theory about that.

Another MLM company I was preparing to review sent out an open letter to all of its distributors chastising them for accepting returns of their weight loss product. It seems many of them were returning the 30 day supply of product with only a few of the capsules consumed. The author of this letter, their National Marketing Director, claimed that customers must use all 30 days worth of product to get any results. Therefor, in spite of their “100% money back guarantee” on retail customer returns, the company would no longer provide refunds on unfinished product returned by its distributors — unless the bottle was returned empty! Hmmm. There’s got to be a way around this policy. Let’s think hard.

A discussion of goofiness in network marketing cannot end without at least a mention of those folks who claimed to have depleted their life savings to purchase huge inventory loads upon joining an MLM opportunity (the highest I’ve heard of is $120,000). Or those who leave high paying, secure jobs to work an MLM opportunity full time after only a few weeks or months of success. I just read about a Long Island man who left a $192,000 a year job to work FundAmerica back in early 1990. Bad timing. Bad.

NGS (Networking Goofiness Syndrome) seems to be spreading in epidemic proportions. This dreaded malady must be stopped before the end of the 90’s when 65% of all goods and services will be moved by way of network marketing.* Unknowing college and university professors all over the country are now teaching people how to inflict themselves with NGS.* Even Donald Trump claimed he would risk exposure to NGS by pursuing network marketing should he ever loose his fortune again.*

(*All of the above statements are common MLM myths. They are completely untrue. Don’t repeat them, please.)

Fortunately, despite all of the massive exposure I’ve had to network marketing over a prolonged period of time, I personally seem to have been completely unaffected. I have experienced no symptoms of Networking Goofiness Syndrome of any kind.

By the way, not to change the subject, but I want all of my readers to be aware that I no longer wish to be referred to by my given name, but rather by this unpronounceable symbol:


Thank you for your cooperation.

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.