Network Marketing is NOT the Future

I’ve been researching and writing about MLM for over 20 years. Way back then, I was told that network marketing (another term for MLM) was “the future.” They claimed back then that business was changing, and this was where it was headed. Personal service, cut out the middle man, let the little guy make the money instead of big companies.

Here’s the truth: the little guy (MLM distributor) is the middle man, and her money is sent to the big company (Mary Kay). There is plenty of personal service available at retail stores if you want it.

MLM (or network marketing, or dual marketing, or direct sales) is exactly the same scam that it was 20 years ago when I was involved. It’s the same scam it was 57  years ago when Mary Kay Cosmetics got started.  It’s the same as it was when the first MLM was started in 1932.

This post from Sarah Marie Thomas is going around social media. I agree that MLM distributors are trying to better their lives, and that they don’t believe they are trying to scam anyone. But MLM is a scam. 99% of people lose money because it is a system that is designed for failure for almost everyone. You can’t make a living retailing products, and if you recruit, you’re just setting up these recruits to lose money too.

12 Comments

  1. Talia

    If the internet had never been invented then direct (not network) marketing *might* have been the future – a way for companies to get products into homes by way of catalogues (and therefore minimal overhead since stores aren’t needed) and one employee (note EMPLOYEE not ‘consultant’ or ‘agent’) in each territory to distribute the catalogues, take the orders and possibly distribute the goods.

    With the internet, legitimate direct sales companies have cut out the local employee and goods now go direct from warehouse to purchaser. Legitimate door to door direct marketing is dying on the vine – the only reason MLMs are doing OK is because they aren‘t trying to sell to the public – the consultant is the customer.

    If the goods sold by MLMs were as easy to sell as suggested, why on earth would HQ split the profits with hundreds of thousands of people the way they claim they do? It would only be good business to keep that money themselves.

    1. Lazy Gardens

      “a way for companies to get products into homes by way of catalogues (and therefore minimal overhead since stores aren’t needed) and one employee (note EMPLOYEE not ‘consultant’ or ‘agent’) in each territory to distribute the catalogues, take the orders and possibly distribute the goods.”

      I can think of several companies that worked this way, usually small manufacturers with agents working in territories. Watkins spices and Fuller Brush.

  2. lulutoo

    Wow, a free lipstick! Oh…with any fifty dollar purchase. Hahaha, Happy National Lipstick Day. (Or maybe that’s just a holiday in Canada or England since she writes with British spelling?)

  3. Enorth

    “she writes with British spelling”
    She didn’t write it, she just copied it.

    Sarah must believe network marketing is the future, because she is – and has been – involved with multiple MLMs. She also buys from other MLM reps. (I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine, as they say.)

    But the expenses, and all those freebies, contests and discounts! There’s no money being made by retailing. It’s an enormous drain of time, money and energy.

    So, keep dreaming, wishing, and believing. But keep your real job.

    1. BestDecision

      Agree! Post-9/11 was when we started talking heavily about working from home, online commerce, etc. That was almost 20 years ago!

      Same old, same old. The whole business model is way outdated. That’s a really long time to wait for a giant promotion, and it sucked the life out of me to see other Directors scrambling along in the same tired bar pins and titles for decades. My Senior still thinks she’s “finishing (her) National Area” like there’s massive thing happening for her, but she’s been saying that for almost 20 years.

      Guess what? I got a promotion and significant raise within a few months of returning to my original career after leaving MK. No waiting out here!

  4. Cindylu

    The fact that MK calls it dual marketing instead of mlm says it all. Faking it till you make it for 20 years shows just how make believe MK truly is. I found it incomprehensible that products constantly changed at our expense I also found it unkind that they never use any of the millions they make from the front loading of products to advertise in any real magazines etc.

  5. Destiny Angel

    I never understand why these women push the narrative of small businesses being good and then complain when I support an actual small business owner rather than them.

    I had a supplements hun all over my Fb page when I was praising a small farmer from whom I get copious amounts of fruits and vegetables each week over the summer and autumn. No, I don’t need all the lovely greens, I just need her bland powder which costs far more per week.

    I got an oilymamma bitching that I got my essential oils from the local wiccan shop, that was bad due paganism. Never mind the owner had gone out of her way to specially purchase me one oil from a competitor and deliver it to me at my home.

    It goes on and one. I know a young man who is an apprentice jeweler, I’d rather have him create a personalized piece for me rather than a mass produced product.

    But no, I should be supporting people who don’t actually give me a valuable service or the product I want simply because they believe they are women business owners and I should support them in preference to people I know and care about.

  6. Lazy Gardens

    I was told that network marketing was “the future.” when I was in high school, by a friend’s Shaklee-selling dad. That was in the 1960s. It’s still not off there in the future somewhere.

  7. Mountaineer95

    Yeah lady, if all of those people you are speaking of ONLY try to SELL their product via social media, BUT never, ever try to RECRUIT via social media, I’d be cool with it. In that case, it IS like other “companies “ who use social media to sell their product. But the second they try to recruit (and they nearly all do), they’ve outed themselves as serial recruiters who will flood everybody’s feeds on SM. And that’s where people get fed up with such posts.

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