John Doe And The Amway Scam
The following is a guest post by John Doe from themlmsyndrome.blogspot.com.
Last year I graduated college, was engaged (just got married), and had to try and find a job. My father-in-law wanted me to have sales experience before hiring me, so I jumped on Craig’s list to find sales positions near my house (didn’t want to spend extra time commuting if I could help it).
Within a day I found a job at a call center (telemarketing, and I was terrible because I’m far too honest), and worked at the job for 2 months. While I was working there, I met a guy, we can call him John, who was extremely nice. We ate lunch together a lot, and even met after work a few times to hang out. Oddly enough, he actually lived in my same apartment complex (it was like the world was giving me a sign).
One day he approached me with a weird analogy since we had talked about wanting better lives for our families. He asked me, “Would you be okay with shoveling shit for 2-5 years and not receiving any pay if you were able to collect $250,000 a year afterward for the rest of your life?” This was a no brainer for me, because I felt like college was the same thing and I was only hoping for $50,000 a year to start. He was very pleased with my answer and asked me to come with him to Starbucks the following night.
I went to Starbucks, and we BS’d for about 2 hours with his wife. We talked mostly about our history’s, our passions, and finally at the end he gave me a book to read. He said, “If you are truly interested in a side opportunity to make some extra money, then you need to read this book and return it to me in 3 days.” The book, “The Businesses Of The 21st Century” by Robert Kiyosaki, was a little over 100 pages so I read it that night with excitement and returned it to him the next day.
He was surprised and pleased with my enthusiasm and took me to a meeting. He didn’t have to tell me how to dress, because I enjoyed wearing a suit and tie to work, and it was no different attending the meeting. To my surprise, there were a couple hundred people at the meeting and they were all young, excited, and well dressed people. I thought I had hit a home run at this point, and knew something like this would happen eventually.
The meeting began, and the Amway Diamond Mike Carrol was our speaker. This guy was dressed well, came from a military background, had a nice wife, and had a HUGE following of people excited to be in his presence. I was getting really pumped up, and wanted to listen to everything he had to say…then he started to talk.
He talked for about an hour and a half about his life story, and how wonderful this business was for him. His talk was riddled with poor speech technique and very bad jokes. I became confused. I wanted to learn about how I could better myself, not hear about how he has a bunch of money, had his kids privately tutored, went on extravagant trips, and paid for everything in cash (important to mention that). Finally, he began to write on his white board, and explain how we were going to make money. His explanation was awful as he talked about buying from our store (Amway) instead of a grocery store, and then creating a team (drew circles on the board) that we would teach to repeat the process. He said, “It’s all about duplication!” I didn’t get it, and was extremely dissuaded after listening to him talk. In the last part of his speech he brought out a credit card (remember when I said the other part was important), he said, “Every time you guys use your Amway credit card and make a schwipee (because we were 3 years old and couldn’t pronounce swipe), I get paid.” This was a real WTF moment for me…he said he paid for everything in cash, and yet he has a credit card, and is suggesting everyone else get a credit card. Something wasn’t right.
After the meeting my friend asked me what I thought, and noticed I was not impressed. I tried to be polite and say “I don’t get it.”, but he jumped down on me and said, “That’s just the way Mike talks. You will get it when we go to the next meeting.”
At this point I probably should’ve cut my losses, but as a nice guy I obliged him with more time on this subject (I really did like the guy).
The next meeting was at his house, and I was insistent on seeing some numbers. I was not about to waste my time with any more of these speakers, unless I saw how I would make money. John, was also relatively new, and didn’t fully grasp it himself (WOW RED FLAG), but he had a more faith based approach to the business, and believed if he followed the tasks given, then he would be taken care of. However, he claimed his sponsor, we’ll call him Ryan, had all the answers (Ryan was recently turned into an Eagle, but he had a family member that was an Executive Diamond).
We started the meeting, and it was actually much more professional. He had a slide show, a well rehearsed speech, and he even had some numbers. He talked way too much about dreams, faith, and keeping the family together, but he was a very likable guy, and he had a great ability to fake interest in others (He was the IBO of nightmares that people describe in blogs). Needless to say, after his speech, I was interested again. They mentioned the biggest event of the year was the following week, and if I committed to all 3 days, then they would bring me into the business.
The following weekend I had to work Friday, and then got stuck in 2 hours of traffic to get to the event. It was massive, and made the Mike Carrol meeting look like child’s play. There were over 8,000 people in attendance from across the country, and I thought I really had it made. The function was like a concert as they brought out Diamond after Diamond showing off their amazing lifestyles, and giving roughly the same canned speeches over and over. I should’ve realized I wasn’t learning anything, but I was too fired up to care. The function didn’t end until midnight and it started again at 9 am. I lived about an hour and a half away without traffic, so the drives out there were already exhausting. I had just been awake on Friday for about 19 hours, and only got 5 hours of sleep before putting a 15 hour day at the next function.
Saturday began, and I was exhausted, but still ready to learn. The function continued exactly like the last one with more Diamonds coming out and describing their wonderful lives. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was constantly entering and leaving, and trying to figure out if I could learn anything else from the people around me. Boy did I. Most people were friendly, but when it came to learning about the business, nobody would say a word. I was told that cross-lining (talking to people of different organizational trees) was strictly forbidden, because it could screw up the teachings from your own organization. This was extremely confusing. Weren’t we all there to learn the same lessons, and weren’t these Diamonds teaching us from different organizations? What a conundrum.
Finally, we got a 3 hour lunch break (totally unnecessarily long), and then came back to a few more speeches and a new Diamond crowning. It was INTENSE…the Diamonds were walked down a giant red carpet to loud music and amazing lights. The Diamonds were a power couple with the wife in an amazing $10,000+ dress and the husband in a tux walking their two young twins (These were Trevor and Lexi Baker). After all of the nonsense from the previous speeches, I was pumped up again, and I wanted what they had, because I knew they were set for life. They gave a very emotional thank you speech, and then there was a little dance party.
After they finished, the final two acts came out, and they were clearly the main two. The first was Brad and Julie Duncan (Amway Crowns, which are the highest rank), and the crowd went nuts. This was the first guy to actually tell it like it is, and boy was it awkward for me. He started off by saying, “95% of the people in the auditorium are going to quit, and .1 of 1% or .001% were going to become Diamonds.” I was devastated, but everyone else seemed to be cheering at his gloomy prediction. What the heck was I witnessing? I asked John what he thought and he said, “Most people are quitters, and we’re going to make it because we know what we need to do to make it”. I was completely lost…I’m not a genius. He basically said 0 of us had a chance at being Diamonds, and a couple hundred out of 8,000 won’t quit (which does not insure success). There were people who were far more educated than I am there, and also people with far better networking skills. I realized that I was doomed to fail.
The next act came on and it was the people in charge of the organization, Ron and Georgia Lee Pruyear. I thought the last act came out to a crazy applause, but this was ridiculous. I haven’t seen celebrities, presidents, war heroes, or anyone else of significance get an applause like this. The stadium was shaking, and the noise was turned up to 1,000. The applause lasted for 10 minutes (and that’s not an exaggeration), but I thought it would never end. They did a speech saying their gratitude and how they believed in all of us. They were the complete opposite of Brad Duncan, and it kind of felt like a weird version of good cop bad cop. Finally, it was midnight again and I was able to retire to my home.
I was not interested in coming the next day, but for some reason I felt like I had to see this thing through. I told John that I would be late because the hours were exhausting, and I did not want to attend the weird opening religious ceremony. He gave me an ultimatum, “If you don’t attend the morning service, then you will be missing out on a very important part of the business”. Not only was this not rational, but I was not rational from sleep deprivation, and I ended up caving and attending. I actually came to the service and found it entertaining. I watched as a cult like 70+ year old preacher jumped around on stage and got everyone excited. He even got these poor people to donate to him…it was magical. I felt like I was in a dream as they asked us to raise our hands and send our energy to the front so that he could transfer it to a terminally ill cancer patient. He was mesmerizing. At this point I knew I was out, but now I was just there to enjoy the show.
The rest of the speakers that day were lower level members, and I spent most of the day lounging and tuning them out. These people were basically doing rehearsals for when they would become Diamonds, and most of them were never going to get that far.
The final day ended around 6pm, and John asked what I thought of the weekend. I tried to be nice, and I said, “I’ll have to go home and process it all”. He told me not to take too much time because they were getting ready to jump me in. One part I forgot about was an Emerald that John took me to have a one on one conversation with. He was supposed to help me with handling my interest in the business and dealing with my fiance who did not like the idea. He ended up telling me this business will only be good if we are both into it and eventually told me I may have to dump her. He tried to test my loyalty too early, and completely turned me off to the business. I was going through this hell weekend, because I wanted us to have a great life together. I didn’t need some weirdo I didn’t know to try and break us up over the business. He was a future projection of Ryan, and it became all too apparent what the final transformation into a full blown psycho IBO looked like. I fear I dragged this story on a bit long, and there are probably some parts that I left out, but that is the main gist of my story, and why I have created the MLM Syndrome blog.
The MLM Syndrome: Dr. Doe’s Investigation into MLM Conditioning
I will preface this by stating that I am not a doctor, and all of my opinions are my own. I do not have any medical degrees, include psychology, psychiatry, and counselling. I have a limited background with these fields, and use their definitions to help formulate my research.
Developing My Theories: After coming to my conclusion about the business, I was very angry with myself. I was always an introspective person, and I was not the type of person to fall head over heels for something that seemed too good to be true. So, how did this happen, and how can I better prepare myself in the future? I immediately went to the internet, and began to read as much as I could about Amway and MLM. It immediately turned into a habitual routine, until I started to notice the trends and how I was almost manipulated into giving lots of my money to this supposed business opportunity. I was between reading full conversations from delusional MLMers and my blogging teachers when my new mission became clear; I was going to dissect the cult mentality of MLM.
Translating My Experiences to Psychological Conditions: This was the easiest part. I had spent the better part of a year learning as much as I could, and practiced responding too repetitive, jargon filled, canned MLM rhetoric. I had already taken a few classes on the basics of the DSM-V and mental conditions, and knew it would be easy to find exact and accurate definitions online to make my comparisons. The journey has barely begun, but each day I learn something new about the correlation of MLM manipulation and my own journey through the process.
Goals of the Blog: First and foremost, this is not a blog for business advice, and is not designed to focus on the terrible odds of success in MLM. There are many bloggers focusing on that issue, and they have done a wonderful job explaining this conundrum. This blog is about investigating symptoms of the MLMer conditioning and then introduce medical terminology along with professional definitions to create an understandable and rational platform for identifying specific MLMer characteristics.
The MLM Syndrome: The MLM syndrome is a complex array of psychological manipulation mixed with a covet of others wealth. It is designed to exploit people with limited resources, a desire to work less hard for more, and a reduced self-esteem. The MLM leaders offer the MLMers a quick fix to the dearth of opportunities and accomplishments they currently have. This in turn leads to the growth of trust and a willingness to listen to their mentors.
MLMers are quickly taught not to question the people who showed them love and hope, rather than teach them about being successful in the business. They are taught to speak a specific rhetoric to naysayers, pessimists, and rejectionists. They watch videos and listen to tapes regularly from the leaders demonstrating their wealth and the power of the business. They are told repetitive nonsense about achieving their dreams and that faith will lead them to success. Hearsay becomes law, and the ability to think critically or do research is shunned and abandoned. This creates the perfect programmable MLMer that will continue to obey and repeat the process for upline as levels of leadership are developed. This is a psychological pyramid, which accompanies the business pyramid, and it mimics the strength of the business pyramid as it grows. As new levels of MLMers come into the fold, the pyramid becomes stronger and the edification of leaders becomes greater. They go from being teachers to idols, and idols become legends or godlike.
As the pyramid grows, the MLMer becomes smaller, less significant, and more blindly faithful. The MLMer becomes separated from the world, and the teachings they were raised with become replaced by MLM programming. They transform into a product of the MLM, a shell of their former self. They lose their self, their interests, their family, and their friends in hopes of becoming rich and successful with their new found comrades. They are left with all responsibility for their failures, and split credit with their predecessors for their successes. The MLMer becomes mindless, obedient, and a slave. MLMers are taught to rationalize the irrational, and are taught specific defense mechanisms and cognitive dissonance to bypass the critics.
The Future: Hopefully the topics and information that comes from this blog stirs some thought into the MLM automatons out there. I believe the emphasis on critical thinking and doing research in our developmental learning are lackluster at best, and I intend to bring a new perspective to the MLMer situations. This isn’t just meant for MLMers to understand their issues, but also for family members and friends to help cope and understand the symptoms MLMers are displaying. The only way to correct this behavior is to address it, talk about it, and then take action. This is my part in addressing the issues with the MLM conditioning and fostering a platform to talk about it, but ultimately it will be up to the MLMers themselves to take action. I am hoping that I can help at least one MLMer think about their situation, and if I can get them to take action, then my mission will be accomplished. I am here to be a resource for the people who need help, but aren’t sure how to look for it.
The above is a guest post by John Doe from themlmsyndrome.blogspot.com.