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I Still Possess a Fraction of My Morality (Or: That Time Someone Wanted Me to Join a Pyramid Scheme)

I feel like this is a story worth telling, and considering A, I maintain most of my anonymity on this site, and B, no where else would be a good fit, this is where it shall be told.

A few days ago, I was contacted on Facebook (forgive my still using it) by someone who I have not spoken to in several years. We were never close, necessarily, but I worked under him for a play he directed for a class at the university we attended so we knew each other fairly well. He asked if I was interested in a "side job", a five-to-fifteen hour a week bit of something that he wasn't in the mood to say. He would only say that the thought me to be a "good fit" for the position, and that he'd give me a phone call to tell me more details the next day.

I should pause here to say that in some sense of the word, I was a good fit for a very different reason: I'm pretty gullible. If you say something to me, especially through a medium like text where emotions are harder to determine, chances are I will take it at face value. Granted, the gap in time between points of contact was enough to make me a little wary, but I still thought it was at least worth hearing him out to see if this was just me overthinking things.

We agree on a time for a phone call, and during it he informs me that it's something not dissimilar to sales. It's very vague information, to the point that he won't even say the name of the organization (the Zoom meeting set up afterward was even labeled "Business Information") or what's being done; he insists that another meeting would have to be made to delve deeper into things. Since practically nothing was actually gained from that conversation, I figured I'd take another step to see, if nothing else, who I would actually be representing.

Another day passes, and the Zoom meeting starts. The job is spelled out: I wouldn't be selling products, but guiding people towards buying certain products. Not an affiliate link or a sponsorship, more just "hey, you're buying X, right? If you buy X from Y, it would help support me financially". The provider? Amway.

Chances are you're familiar with the name Amway, either from their recent good deeds during the pandemic or the more damning accusations of their being a pyramid scheme. In short, as a representative of an organization working directly under Amway, I'd be at the tippy-top of a pyramid, making "two to three thousand dollars" (according to the meeting) while the higher-ups make quintuple that hand over fist. If I keep my nose to the grindstone, I dig deeper into the pyramid, make a lot more money, and feel a lot worse.

That said, I wasn't aware, because I am shockingly naive for a twenty-something in the age of the Internet. But a Google search led me to the truth of the matter, and after maintaining politeness during the meeting, I said I would respond with whether or not I would move on with the "hiring process" in a few hours. Looking for a second opinion, I asked my parents about their knowledge of Amway, which only certified my instinct that calling it off before I was in too deep was my safest option.

I said as much, I was given the text message equivalent of an "are you sure you want to quit?" message from an old computer game, and I replied with the text message equivalent of clicking "yes". I had heard and seen enough.

There's a part of me that thinks I would've done well had I agreed to being dragged into that mess. I have a minor in advertising, I know people who would make use of the products being offered, and Lord knows I'm in need of some money. Ultimately, I know that I made the right decision. I kept my integrity (or what little left of it I have) for another day; I just hope that the next person trying to sucker me in to something like this isn't more effective in their sales pitch.

(Listening to: "Pyramid Scheme", Mad Caddies)

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Kiki Erzebet

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It was 100% the right decision not to join Amway. The majority of people who join any direct sales or multi-level marketing business LOSE money. To quote their own income disclosure statement:

The average monthly Gross Income for “active” IBOs was $207.
Approximately 48% of all IBOs were “active.”

U.S. IBOs were considered “active” in months in 2016 when they attempted to make a retail sale, or presented the Amway IBO Compensation Plan, or received bonus money, or attended an Amway or IBO meeting. If someone sustained that level of activity every month for a whole year, their annualized income would be $2,484. Of course, not every IBO chooses to be active every month. “Gross Income” means the amount received from retail sales, minus the cost of goods sold, plus monthly bonuses and cash incentives. It excludes all annual bonuses and cash incentives and all non-cash awards, which may be significant. There may also be significant business expenses, mostly discretionary, that may be greater in relation to income in the first years of operation.

So, of the 48% of folks who are making enough sales or purchasing enough required volume to qualify to even make money, they are making an average of $207 a month. This number is sadly probably a bit inflated as the top earners make MUCH more than those who got into the business later. So you would make very little money in Amway, or any similar business sadly. These business structures are built to elevate only the early adopters and the executives.

I am no business expert, but I have done a lot of research on this subject. So take it with a grain of salt :)

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