Wednesday, March 22, 2017

MLM and Health Claims

Today's blog post is about an article written by Truth In Advertising (TINA.org) involving illegal or false health claims from MLM supplement companies. The article states, "Calling into question the Direct Selling Association’s commitment to consumer protection, a truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) investigation has revealed that 97 percent of DSA member companies selling nutritional supplements have distributors deceptively marketing their products with unsubstantiated health claims." TINA.org's investigation is not only scary, but down right frustrating, as this industry continues to propose they have answers to major diseases through unregulated and untested products. These flim-flam companies have just as high a rate of failure as they do for their illegal health claims.

Some examples of their illegal health claims include, "
From autism, and cancer to Ebola, there is an MLM supplement that is being marketed to cure, treat, mitigate, or prevent a wide variety of diseases, the ad watchdog’s findings show. " This is just the tip of the iceberg as fellow bloggers regularly see other health claims from distributors boasting about their miracle product cures. These MLM companies have gotten too big to regulate their distributors, and probably don't want to regulate them because the distributors are the bulk of their revenue. If the regulatory agencies are ineffective in policing these companies, and the companies are unable to police their distributors (or care to), then it is up to each individual to be aware and informed for their own protection.

MLM companies have no qualification processes to join and hawk their products. They give MLM distributors free reign to promote the products, and only create limitations on how they actually distribute the products. There are consistently false or illegal testimonials, photos, research studies, and references. Youngevity claimed to be working with Clemson's research institute, and Nerium claimed to be working with Princeton, both of these claims are completely false. John Oliver's twenty minute segment on MLM also eviscerated Herbalife and showed distributors hosting a meeting and claiming to help with heart problems and pregnancy. As long as you have a pulse and a couple of dollars in your pocket, then you are allowed to start selling MLM products.

Snake-oil companies have existed for far longer than MLM, and the MLM business model is not creative or new, but rather a convoluted pyramid designed to destroy people's finances
MLMs have not grown out of necessity for their products or their business model, but rather through top dollar donations, lobbying, settlements, SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) lawsuits to stifle first amendment rights, and continuous lies about everything involving their businesses. These people are not your friends, they are not interested in making you fabulously rich, they are not interested in curing your diseases. These MLM companies are here to take your money, get you to find more friends to take their money, and ravage your local neighborhoods until everyone is stuck with worthless products and no assets.

Sources: Truth in Advertising - https://www.truthinadvertising.org/tina-org-investigation-reveals-mlm-industry-rife-with-illegal-health-claims/

John Oliver - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6MwGeOm8iI&t=749s

Friday, March 17, 2017

MLM and a "Quality" Analogy

Today's blog post is about a recent stint of analogies that have been coming up on other blogs. The idea that MLM products somehow have better quality than other products is a myth that has been going around since the beginning, but the analogies seem to change and evolve over time. MLMers can't ever point out what that special ingredient, potion, spell, voodoo, or whatever it is that makes the product better, but they have no problem espousing that it exists, and that it makes their MLM product of the highest quality unlike the generic competition found at every other brick-and-mortar or online store. The price for these top shelf, top notch, grade-a, MLM products is always far higher than their competitors (http://themlmsyndrome.blogspot.com/2016/12/mlm-and-product-value.html), and it also is much more difficult to purchase because many require a membership. You may also have to sit through a pitch about the business opportunity, and in certain cases you have to purchase monthly, which makes these products far less reasonable to purchase.

So, how do MLMers attempt to prove that their company's products are of a higher quality? Do they attempt to utilize research from clinical tests? Do they research the ingredients from the competitors and do thorough analyses of the contents in comparison to their company's products? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding no. Instead, they try to use technical jargon, mixed with circular arguments, and then transition into the bad analogies. It is important to note, none of these techniques have any veracity and are simply used to deceive and mystify.

One of the common quality analogies that continues to be used is the comparison between Mercedes and Honda. Their hypothesis is, if MLM products are more expensive than their competitors, then it is because of the quality. Similarly, Mercedes is more expensive than Honda, therefore the quality of Mercedes is better. Aside from the kindergarten logic being used, let's break down all of the flaws in this argument.

Higher price does not always mean better product. Yes, products of higher quality tend to be priced higher than those of lower quality. However, there is more than just this simple notion as the market place is more dynamic and has different tiers. You have to make sure that you are comparing two products that are in the EXACT same category, and the analogy above fails to do so. Honda does not target the same market as Mercedes (for the most part), and both have success for varying reasons.
Honda is designed to focus on an economical and simple vehicle, whereas Mercedes focuses on a luxurious and technically engineered vehicle. Mercedes and Honda both have specific regulations they must adhere to, and both must price their vehicles according to the market they are targeting. The bottom line is, BOTH have excellent quality for the markets they are targeting and they BOTH have great financial success.

A better comparison would be between Honda and Toyota or BMW and Mercedes. Not only are these comparisons involving the same target markets, but they are also involving the same countries of origin. When comparing these companies, price is usually the last thing to look at because it is more important to know which company has, more recalls, longer warranties, better safety standards, better gas mileage, better interiors, better longevity, and then somewhere down the line you can worry about the price.

Analogies like the one listed above run rampant in MLM pitches and it is important to remember that analogies are great for helping to understand, but they are not acceptable for determining facts. If an MLMer decides to answer your question with an analogy, especially if it is pertaining to something requiring data, then it is important to analyze what is actually being stated. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

MLM and Realities

Today's blog post is about taking time to reflect upon my world. The reason I call it my world is, it is inherently unique to me as everyone has their own version of reality. One of my favorite expressions is, "There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently" (Robert Evans). I'm going to switch the order around but today is about exploring my version of MLM, the MLMers side of MLM, and then the truth about MLM.

My version of MLM is very dark. I have explored MLM relentlessly and come across the same MLMers and their logic ad nauseam. They have no ability to critically think, they have become completely warped by jargon and analogies, and they have been blinded by the insatiable desire to become the person with the most stuff. MLMs have become synonymous with a virus as they spread their opportunity through the general population. MLMs are a pervasive parasitic paradigm shift in pyramidal schemery that continues to plague society.

MLMers believe MLM is the answer to the mysteries of the elite. They believe it is a golden ticket to launch them from poverty to greatness, and they also believe they will be doing a noble service at the same time. MLMers generally do not believe they are harming anyone and simply want what is best for their family and society. In general, MLMers are harmless, simple people that just want to make a great life for themselves and their families. MLMers are also very spiritual people, and believe they will be right with god as long as they pursue this venture. They believe the world is full of corruption and that MLM is their way to fight back against the evils of corporations.

The truth about MLM is found in the FTC investigations, the court cases, and the words of the MLM leaders. The FTC has found certain MLMs to have problems which have resulted in them being warned, fined, revamped, or completely shut down. They have gone after all kinds of MLMs, supplement based, juice based, clothing based, currency based, vacation based, and many others. The only thing all of these companies have in common is their MLM structure. To date, not one MLM has been exonerated in court, and have only survived because of large settlements and agreements to change their troubled ways. They continue to be sued and settle regularly until they must abandon their business and start something newDateline had a former Amway leader talk about the tools scam and how completely terrible the business actually was, and Eric Schiebeler has written a book, Merchants of Deception, about his experience in Amway and its corruption.

At the end of the day, not all MLMers are bad people, in fact most of them are probably good people. They lead very simple lives, and they just want the best for the people they love. They are victims of crime groups that utilize psychological tricks to deceive and manipulate the MLMers, and they prey on their vulnerabilities. The worst way to describe most MLMers is, they are a group of people similar to Jehovah's Witnesses that want to take a moment to talk to you about god, except they are at Starbucks instead of your house and they want to present a life changing business opportunity.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

MLM and Pluralistic Ignorance

Today's blog post is based on a recent article from Psychcentral called How to Avoid Groupthink on Your Team. This article figuratively screamed, "Read Me!" with that Orwellian title. The article talks about a particular issue within the herd or group mentality, called pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic ignorance is group silence due to fear of asking a question about a particular topic that was not understood. The fear of being judged by the group as the only person who did not understand is extremely powerful and is a regular problem within large meetings or lectures. Teachers often emphasize the importance of asking questions by suggesting if a particular point didn't make sense to you, then there are probably others that also didn't understand. This is one of the best ways to combat against pluralistic ignorance.

An example of pluralistic ignorance could be a boss addressing their sales staff about a new strategy for marketing their products. The boss may use certain types of jargon that are confusing or vague which makes the staff have questions, or worse, complete misunderstanding of the new strategy. The staff, out of fear of looking foolish in front of the boss and their peers, may elect not to ask questions about explaining the strategy and instead remain silent until the meeting is over. Afterward, they may ask each other for help explaining the strategy from the meeting, only to find out nobody else understood either. This is where pluralistic ignorance is generated and is an extreme problem when trying to go over new material in front of a group.

MLMs utilize pluralistic ignorance to their advantage and consistently utilize technical jargon that new recruits couldn't possibly understand. In fact, many of the mid level members of MLM don't understand what they are talking about, which makes the pluralistic ignorance more prevalent. They do not do a good job of explaining the business opportunity, which includes describing how new prospects generate revenue, how the bonus structures work, what commitments are needed to make the business work (time, money, education), or even the statistics for success. Unfortunately, the more technical they sound in their explanations, the less likely people are to question their validity.

MLMs also use bad analogies and dreams to fuel pluralistic ignorance. They invent their own answers to questions that either, don't actually answer the question or shame the questioner. They insist upon never directly addressing major points, and emphasize focusing on the results and dreams of others. An example of this is when people ask if MLM is a pyramid. A common response will be something obscure and technically difficult for a prospect to understand while also being unnecessarily long. A common bad analogy is the famous, corporate America is a pyramid explanation, which is not only erroneous but is also full of technical jargon that would confuse people and make them fearful to ask more questions.

It is extremely important to ask meaningful questions and phrase them in such a way that you will not feel concerned about others opinions. This is an important skill to develop and the article does a great job of explaining how to practice and grow in group settings. The worst disservice you can do to yourself, especially when investing your time and money, is to not fully understand what the opportunity actually entails. At the end of the day, the group isn't responsible for your inability to understand, therefore you cannot fear their impression of you.

Source: https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2017/03/01/how-to-avoid-groupthink-on-your-team/

Friday, February 24, 2017

MLM and Confirmation Bias

Today's blog post is about the concept of confirmation bias. This idea stems from the inappropriate or negligent strategy utilized to ascertain an answer to a question. Confirmation bias comes up frequently in science when people are attempting to find a desirable result in an experiment, and will sometimes grasp at straws or invent a conclusion. The same can also be applied to MLM as people attempt to prove the efficacy of MLM through faulty means.

Confirmation Bias: Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations). 

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

According to the Wikipedia definition, here are some of the methods MLMs use that would be considered confirmation bias:

1. If someone has a question about a particular part of MLM, for instance the expected amount of income a distributor can generate, MLMs will not talk about the income disclosure agreement. Instead, an MLMer might show pictures of flashy cars, mansions, boats, and money, which is misleading at best because only a fraction of 1% ever attain that kind of wealth. They decide to ignore the statistics, which have been designed to show the actual expectation of monthly and annual income.

2. MLMs utilize wholesome values to imply it is genuine and legitimate. MLMers will suggest the business has veracity because they are devout Christians, believe in matrimony, or they may be charitable. While these can be great qualities, they have nothing to do with a business being legitimate. It is important to look to regulatory agencies, such as the FTC and the SEC for guidelines on what makes a business legitimate.

3. MLMs utilize ambiguous evidence very frequently. They suggest there are a lot of successful people and then fail to mention anyone, or if they do, they mention only a few of the top 1%. MLMers may suggest the industry is thriving or is a multi-billion dollar industry, but fail to note that it has far more members driving that total revenue over a billion than blue chip companies that are worth far more in comparison (this is another way of saying MLMs are inefficient). Finally, they may something such as, "The people that are successful are the people who put int he effort, and the people who quit didn't try hard enough". Well, that may be true for some, but for most they do try really hard and they still fail. This is again a point they tend to leave out of the conversation.

4. Attitude Polarization is very big in MLM. I have had many debates with MLMers about their businesses and how the statistics reflect a very poor performance. The responses are routinely bizarre and suggest, the statistics came from a flawed source (often they come from their own companies), the statistics don't accurately reflect the overall business (statistics are designed to take data and make inferences about the data gathered), statistics can't quantify individuals (similar to the last one), or statistics are not real evidence (meanwhile they will call upon their own statistics as long as they suit their cause). This has become a rampant problem for people that are disillusioned by thoughtspeak (Orwell). They cannot rationally look at evidence anymore and have utilized programmed cognitive dissonance to rationalize the dissenting information.

5. Belief perseverance is also very big in MLM, especially after utilizing attitude polarization. MLMers will continue to pursue MLM even after being confronted with evidence because it feels good, or they think they are learning something useful, or they just want to do it and don't care about the results. This is often connected with denial, because no rational person would want to throw money away, especially if it was hurting others in the process.

6. The irrational primacy effect often comes into play when describing the opportunity for success in MLM. Unfortunately, as MLM grows the possibility for growth shrinks in an exponentially larger percentage. When MLMers describe the successes of their predecessors they are forgetting to mention that it was a different time, a different market condition, and a different knowledge base. All of these effect the new MLMers outcome, but they still rely on the fact that a previous person was able to be successful.

7. Illusory correlation happens the most, and often includes many of the previously stated confirmation biases. One of the most common illusory correlations is the shape of MLM and the shape of Corporate America are both pyramids, therefore they are both legitimate. Not only does this not make sense on an arbitrary level, but it doesn't make sense on a deeper level either. Yet it rolls off the tongue well, and MLMers continue to fool and deceive new prospects consistently with this terrible line.

MLMs frequently utilize confirmation bias to manipulate and deceive their distributors. They provide false analogies, unrelated information, and deceptive claims. They also go out of their way to discredit any dissenting information and opinions, and they are quick to sever ties with anyone that does not share their complete worldview.

Friday, February 17, 2017

MLM and Relationship Red Flags

Today's blog post is about a recent article I read on my favorite website, psychcentral.com, about relationships and red flags. The author goes through five major red flags and how they consistently prevent relationships from being successful. MLM is an extremely relationship based "business", and it is important to delve into some of the warning signs when someone is proposing an MLM to you.

Here are the five relationship red flags:

1. Different Values - The author describes this as CORE values and not personality types. Certain core values may be your stance on religion, work, children, and creativity. You may not have to align with everything perfectly, but it is important to have more in common than not.

MLMers cannot have different core values from their uplines. They must be conditioned until their mindset is completely identical to their predecessors. In my personal history, I had an MLMer make me go to a Christian service, try and dump my fiancee (now wife), and ignore family and friend's opinions. These core values were too different from mine, and these are a few of the various reasons for why I had to stop MLM.

2. Inability to Apologize - The author describes this as either a character flaw in an individual or a lack of respect. Either way, it is a telling sign that the relationship will not work.

MLMers cannot accept responsibility for their actions. They cannot recognize their faults, because they are conditioned to find excuses. If an MLMer is confronted with their undesirable earnings, then they will say it is because they didn't work hard enough. If an MLMer is confronted with making their downline miss important events, then they will say it was important to their future. If an MLMer is confronted with the failure of their downline, then they will say they didn't try hard enough and never acknowledge the fact that they had responsibility for that failure as well. While this may not be exactly the same as being able to apologize, the overall message is people need to be able to take responsibility for their actions.

3. A History of Failed Relationships - The author warns people of certain patterns of relationship failures with both romantic partners and platonic relationships. If a person seems to routinely have issues maintaining relationships with others, that could lead to an undesirable fate for your own relationship.

MLMers have the WORST history with failed distributors. Their churn rates are significantly higher than any other form of business, and the amount of MLMers that are receiving profits above slave wages is as high as 5% and as low as .01%. With numbers like these, it makes sense to run as far away from MLM as possible.

4. Trust Issues - The author says trust develops over the course of a relationship and if trust fails to develop then there may be a serious flaw. Envy is an immediate sign of poor boundaries as an individual may invade or ruin certain parts of their partners life.

MLMers do not trust anything outside of their own networks. They don't trust the media, they don't trust other MLMers friends or families, and they don't trust any type of business that isn't MLM. They have such a strong distrust for outside influences that they encourage people to simply leave reality and become completely enmeshed in their activities. They want you to have only MLM relationships, MLM learning materials, MLM activities, and they hate if you have anything that conflicts with their agenda.

5. Controlling, Possesive, or Abusive Actions -
  • Wants you to spend less time with your friends and family
  • Doesn’t respect your boundaries
  • Wants you to quit your job, school, or hobbies
  • Accuses you of being unfaithful or always wants to know where you are
  • Takes your money or runs up your credit card bills
  • Criticizes you excessively or says no one else would ever want you

This part of the article was literally meant for people involved in MLM. MLMers want you to get away from friends and family because they are a distraction or waste of time and they may have unpopular opinions.

They don't respect personal boundaries and attempt to invade every facet of a person's life. I even read in a blog that a person had to ask if they could get coffee in the middle of a conference for fear of falling asleep. This is a grown adult asking permission while attending a voluntary activity.

MLM wants you to "retire" from your job, thinks college is a waste of time (debatable these days, but certainly not because of MLM logic), and they want you to focus all of your time on "Running the business". There won't be time to go to the movies, go for hikes, or go to the mall, because you MLMers have to run that business, or attend conferences (I put this in italics now because it is more like a pep rally).

MLMers demand your undivided attention, and they will constantly say those that failed were not "Following the system" perfectly. This is basically the same as being unfaithful to the cult, as someone can only "Follow the system" perfectly if they are completely devoted without questions. I have also read certain MLMers have made impromptu calls or check-ins at very late and inappropriate hours.

MLMers have no problem taking all of your money through monthly auto-ships, tools, and conferences. This is what they are designed to do, while also taking control of the rest of your life. Robert Kiyosaki is a master of teaching people to extend their credit well beyond their means and place outrageous charges on credit cards with no ability to pay them back. Kiyosaki is also an important figure in MLM and has written a book for Amway that is read by every single member.

MLMers will give distributors unconditional love and support when distributors are involved in related activities, but if they attempt to deviate from the plan, then they will be attacked with passive-aggressive behaviors. They will also use scare tactics to keep an MLMer involved, such as dooming them in life if they choose to leave, or suggesting they may be missing the most important lesson that can be taught. Merchants of Deception is a great story about an Emerald being consistently attacked and conditioned by his upline to do everything he is told.

These red flags are an important reminder to those attempting anything in life, but as far as MLM is concerned, it receives a big fat fail.

Psychcentral kindly provided the inspiration for this article and the link is posted below:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2017/02/16/5-relationship-red-flags-what-you-should-know/

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

MLM and Origins of Belief and Values

Today's blog is about challenging where your beliefs and values come from. Everyone has an inherent set of beliefs and values, but most people don't understand whether these beliefs or values came from within or were established through outside stimuli. Human beings, by nature, are group oriented and thrive by belonging to communities which are developed through similarities. These similarities are usually genetic, but they do develop into social similarities over time. Eventually certain people within the community will rise due to certain inherent traits, such as the ability speak publicly, and begin to transform the community into a belief and value system that is congruent to their own. Before long, people will rely on the belief and value systems of the group and will lose their own value and belief system.

This crux between self belief and group belief has been contended with since the beginning of civilization. There is a natural hierarchy within humans and the idea of every human having perfect equality is inherently flawed. No civilization can exist properly with every human having perfect equality, yet this Utopian philosophy still exists as many people with limited control over their lives view this as the ideal situation. There will always be leaders and followers and those leaders will work to convert the followers to their sets of beliefs and values.

MLMs are no different as they work to form groupthink (Orwell) throughout their downlines. They have a specific set of leaders that teach the followers what is important, both materialistically and spiritually. MLMers show videos of mansions, cars, boats, vacations, and most importantly money which installs the materialistic part of the value system. Then MLMers support their spiritual value system by installing specific religious beliefs. MLMs are adaptable as well and utilize targeted demographics to morph their value and belief systems based on the culture they are infiltrating. Not everyone can be converted to a certain Western Style value system, which is why MLMs can become anything a certain group desires.

The important thing to note is the emphasis of the group belief system taking over the self belief system. This is very similar to the mob theory where an individual may not participate in harassing or violating another individual, however if certain people in a mob decide it is important to terrorize another person, then other individuals may drop their own self beliefs to fit in with the group. MLMs prey on individuals with low self-confidence, low self-worth, and people who are highly impressionable or vulnerable.

The first weapon against this type of manipulation is introspection. The only persons that can truly understand what is important to their well-being and happiness is themselves. By taking the time to critically think about your own values, you can start to prioritize and eliminate certain group beliefs.

The second important weapon is to understand that things are not black and white. This kindergarten philosophy does not apply to any real life situation as human beings continue to become more and more complex. There is always something of value from every group and that does not mean that the value comes from something good. A group can show you bad traits and ignorance which should be avoided, while still offering a level of camaraderie that other groups do not have. This is part of what makes MLM very tantalizing, because they introduce a certain bond that human beings desire while taking advantage of a person's vulnerability to a poor financial situation.