wellness

'Stay-at-home mums are the ultimate target for MLM schemes. I know, it happened to me.'

The author of this post is known to Mamamia and has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The photograph used is a stock image.

You don’t expect to be used by someone you know and trust; someone you consider a friend. But this is exactly what happened to me.

Unfortunately, I know I’m not the last person that this sort of thing will happen to. The reality is, it is probably happening to many women right now.

My experience began this year when I went on maternity leave for my first baby. I became a full time stay-at-home mum and started to catch up with old friends who I hadn’t been as active in spending as much time with while working full time. I also started to socialise with some friends who I hadn’t seen for years, that I re-bonded with due to the shared experience of motherhood.

This was the case with *Jess. I had been friends with her since high school but other than a few social occasions since then and through social media, we hadn’t really stayed in touch.

But after some complimentary words on Facebook about each other’s babies, we reignited our friendship and began catching up once a week. 

Initially, Jess only sporadically mentioned her job as a sales consultant for a well-known skincare company. She told me her role was to sell what she described as “amazing upscale skincare.” At the time her comments were very casual, and although I am personally not a big fan of these sort of multilevel marketing companies, I didn’t really think much more about it. It was just like anyone talking about their job. 

As we saw each other more frequently though, her work came up more often. She began mentioning specific products she used herself and how much they had improved her skin. A few times she also offered me samples of the products and told me that I could buy them from her if I liked them.

After a few months Jess started to share more and more details, including about how much money she earns and the benefits of the job. 

I remember that she told me (more than once) that her income grew so much being a sales consultant for this particular company that she had quit her job as a senior government public servant to work in the role full-time. Jess also emphasised the flexibility, telling me that she could spend quality time with her children and complete her work around them.

About the same time as this particular conversation topic increased, I started noticing how many of her social media posts were also related to this company and how she seemed to really push the benefits of being a part of it.

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There were ads, or what she would say were ‘posts’ that would describe the flexible working conditions: “beneficial for stay at home mums” they would often state. There would be an emphasis on the six-figure incomes that could be earnt, that there were opportunities to travel and testimonials from women sharing how amazing it is to work for a company that empowers women.

Then one day, probably four months after we began regularly socialising, she sent me a message via Messenger.

It was a direct sales pitch to try and get me to join the company as a consultant. She told me that I would work under her and she would be my ‘upline’ who would offer me support and assistance in order to succeed as much as she had.

Within the message, Jess described being a part of the company as the best professional decision of her life – that it was so simple and it would earn me lots of money, really quickly. All I had to do was fill out an application form, purchase a ‘business kit’ for under $50 and then, if approved, I could start my “dream job.” That was how she worded it.

Skincare MLM
Luxe skincare was the focus of this particular MLM company. Image: Getty.

My role would be to sell these skincare products through parties or one-on-one with friends, colleagues or family. I would receive commissions on the products I sold, and the more I sold, the more I would earn. Then if that went well I could do what Jess did and recruit others.

This would make me more money, she remarked.

After reading Jess' message, I finally twigged to what was actually happening:  I had nearly fallen victim to this woman who didn’t genuinely care about me. She was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, preying on me as her ‘friend’, as a stay-at-home mother, to make more money for herself and advance her own career.

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Thankfully, I was lucky enough to see this because I had seen it happen before.

I witnessed a good friend of mine become a target of the cunning and predatory approach that these multilevel marketing (MLM) companies use to secure their ‘consultants.’ 

Like myself, she was a stay-at-home mum who had been targeted by an old friend; another mother who began the series of relentless yet subtle sales pitches - guarantees of money, work-life balance and an incredible lifestyle, as if it was a friend merely sharing information. 

Unfortunately, my friend eventually fell prey to their advances, investing her savings for registration, set-up fees and a specific lifestyle she was expected to project while selling these items.

With no return on her investment, and very little success, she lost not only a great deal of money, but she also became isolated from her own family and friends. In an attempt to succeed, her assertiveness and pushiness to get them involved with parties and buy the products just drove so many away.

As this all unfolded, there was absolutely no support from this MLM, the company who had always emphasised nurturing and holistic values. And there was no support from her ‘friend’ - they both just let her hang out to dry.

The devastating truth about these MLMs is that the success stories are just the five per cent of individuals at the top. They are the ones that make money and have the lifestyle that they market for everyone else, but the further you are down the line, the further that lifestyle is from your grasp. And just like my friend, I was about as far away from this as you could get.

Although I no longer speak to Jess, I don’t completely blame her for what she did or why she did it. 

This situation, like many others similar to it, is a result of the promises, the money and the lifestyle that these companies offer you for joining them. They target unsuspecting, vulnerable people, then convert the majority of them from normal, everyday individuals into desperate, greedy, selfish ‘consultants’ - something I will never be. 

*Names have been changed.

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