Friday, February 17, 2017

MLM and Relationship Red Flags

Today's blog post is about a recent article I read on my favorite website,, 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:

If you have a story involving abuses from your upline and would like me to share it on this blog as a guest post, then please e-mail me and I will be more than happy to post it! Your stories are not as unique as you may think, and your stories are some of the most impactful resources we have to fight MLMs. I will keep your anonymity upon request.


  1. Great post! You nailed it!

    A few changes here and there, and this post could have just as easily been titled "how MLM is a cult". The not trusting anyone outside the network, the us versus them mentality, and the psychological manipulation techniques that are used to get people to join and to remain members are all telltale signs of a cult. And there's also how members are encouraged to make sure every facet of their life revolves around MLM, and how ex-members are pariahs and losers, etc.

    I could go on and on, but you've covered this before. It's sad but also amusing watching some people I sort of know push their MLM scam on social media, usually with little to no success(though they claim they're making hundreds of thousands of dollars, of course!).

    Increasingly I am noticing that some MLMers on social media are pushing several different MLM schemes at the same time. Don't most MLMs forbid this? Or are they hiding that they quit their previous MLM? Of course, maybe it's the same company using a bunch of different names. Based on what little research I've done, these MLMs appear to be independent of each other.

    There's this one guy in particular who joins a new MLM scheme every month and keeps making Youtube videos to tell everyone what an amazing opportunity it is. He loves showing all these checks for thousands of dollars he receives in the mail. I think pretty much everything about this person is a lie; I feel dirty just watching his videos. I monitor his activities because I want to make sure he's not conning our mutual friends though at the rate he's going they won't be his friends for much longer.

    Anyway, I love your blog, keep doing what you're doing!


    1). Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how attempts to psychologically condition him or her are directed in a step-by-step manner.

    Potential new members are led, step by step, through a behavioral-change program without being aware of the final agenda or full content of the group. The goal may be to make them deployable agents for the leadership, to get them to buy more courses, or get them to make a deeper commitment, depending on the leader's aim and desires.

    2). Control the person's social and/or physical environment; especially control the person's time.

    Through various methods, newer members are kept busy and led to think about the group and its content during as much of their waking time as possible.

    3). Systematically create a sense of powerlessness in the person.

    This is accomplished by getting members away from their normal social support group for a period of time and into an environment where the majority of people are already group members.

    The members serve as models of the attitudes and behaviors of the group and speak an in-group language.

    Strip members of their main occupation (quit jobs, drop out of school) or source of income or have them turn over their income (or the majority of) to the group.

    Once the target is stripped of their usual support network, their confidence in their own perception erodes.

    As the target's sense of powerlessness increases, their good judgment and understanding of the world are diminished. (ordinary view of reality is destabilized)

    As the group attacks the target's previous worldview, it causes the target distress and inner confusion; yet they are not allowed to speak about this confusion or object to it - leadership suppresses questions and counters resistance.

    This process is sped up if the targeted individual or individuals are kept tired - the cult will take deliberate actions to keep the target constantly busy.


  3. 4). Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behavior that reflects the person's former social identity.

    Manipulation of experiences can be accomplished through various methods of trance induction, including leaders using such techniques as paced speaking patterns, guided imagery, chanting, long prayer sessions or lectures, and lengthy meditation sessions.

    The target's old beliefs and patterns of behavior are defined as irrelevant or evil. Leadership wants these old patterns eliminated, so the member must suppress them.

    Members get positive feedback for conforming to the group's beliefs and behaviors and negative feedback for old beliefs and behavior.

    5). The group manipulates a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors.

    Good behavior, demonstrating an understanding and acceptance of the group's beliefs, and compliance are rewarded while questioning, expressing doubts or criticizing are met with disapproval, redress and possible rejection. Anyone who asks a question is made to feel there is something inherently disordered about them to be questioning.

    The only feedback members get is from the group; they become totally dependent upon the rewards given by those who control the environment.

    Members must learn varying amounts of new information about the beliefs of the group and the behaviors expected by the group.

    The more complicated and filled with contradictions the new system is and the more difficult it is to learn, the more effective the conversion process will be.

    Esteem and affection from peers is very important to new recruits. Approval comes from having the new member's behaviors and thought patterns conform to the models (members). Members' relationship with peers is threatened whenever they fail to learn or display new behaviors. Over time, the easy solution to the insecurity generated by the difficulties of learning the new system is to inhibit any display of doubts—new recruits simply acquiesce, affirm and act as if they do understand and accept the new ideology.

    6). Put forth a closed system of logic and an authoritarian structure that permits no feedback and refuses to be modified except by leadership approval or executive order.

    The group has a top-down, pyramid structure. The leaders must have verbal ways of never losing.

    Members are not allowed to question, criticize or complain. If they do, the leaders allege the member is defective, not the organization or the beliefs.

    The targeted individual is treated as always intellectually incorrect or unjust, while conversely the system, its leaders and its beliefs are always automatically, and by default, considered as absolutely just.

    Conversion or remolding of the individual member happens in a closed system. As members learn to modify their behavior in order to be accepted in this closed system, they change—begin to speak the language—which serves to further isolate them from their prior beliefs and behaviors.

  4. Point 4 (about MLM types not trusting any business that isn't an MLM) is really telling.

    There are literally thousands of ways to make money in this world, many of them extremely lucrative. How could any sane person believe that MLM (which is just a lousy little sales-on-commission racket for selling crap that no one really wants) is the only good type of business? They must have intellectual blinders on.

    But when you continue with Point 5, about controlling and abusive patterns of behavior, the facts become clear. MLM isn't about making money, at least not primarily. It's about EXERCISING CONTROL OVER PEOPLE, and forcing them to do your will in every aspect of their lives.

    I firmly believe that there wouldn't be any anti-MLM websites at all if it hadn't been for the atmosphere of abusive control that permeates all MLM organizations. Nobody would give a damn about a nickel-and-dime recruitment racket like Amway if the stupid rubes who joined it just went around hawking their cheap cosmetics and soap suds. It's the horror stories of abuse, control, brainwashing, and financial ripoffs that have prompted courageous persons to set up websites such as this one, or Joe Cool's, or Anna Banana's, or the dozens of others that are kicking MLMs in the ass regularly.

    The vicious abuse and domineering control that mark all MLMs promote anger and reaction. Tyranny generates rebellion, and injustice generates retribution.

  5. MLM is just a front. It's a front for the real business, which is selling training to MLMers. Very few people actually make money in MLM and nobody knows for sure how much these "diamonds" actually make. Their evidence of wealth usually consists of pictures of glory and anecdotal stories of financial freedom.

    In my opinion, the reality for many diamonds is living pay check to pay check, because they are living lives of excess trying to appear wealthy.

  6. Quite correct. There isn't anything "real" about an MLM business, in the sense of an enterprise that produces goods or services.

    Yes, they sell "training." But I would say that this training itself is merely camouflage for selling hopes, dreams, fantasies, and mindless enthusiasm. That's the actual thing that new IBOs are buying.

    1. Recently, Robert FitzPatrick was quoted as describing 'Amway /MLM' as:

      "...selling a phony lifesaving raft to people who are drowning. People will pay any price for it because they are drowning, and Amway is dependent on people drowning...”

      I would go much further with this analogy and say that 'MLM' racketeers have been peddling a phoney pay-through-the-nose plan to build a life -saving raft to people who are drowning. In effectively all cases these demonstrably-suicidal craft have sunk, and anyone daring to complain has been told to piss off, because it was entirely their own fault for not exactly duplicating the plan, quitting, etc.

      This, in a nut shell, is the abusive closed-logic game of make-believe which has been run by an increasing number of copy-cat blame-the-victim 'MLM' cultic racketeers, for the last 60+ years.

  7. "People who are drowning..." Yes, that is a very apt comparison.

    Years ago, on one of these anti-MLM websites, a defender of Amway showed up in high dudgeon to scream that criticism of Amway was "taking away hope from people who have no hope!"

    I thought to myself, "How can you take away hope from people who have no hope? It's illogical."

    But after a while it occurred to me that Amway deliberately seeks out persons who are hopeless, and then pretends to offer them a chance to escape their despair Of course the only thing these people are being offered is a silly dream of financial independence, and 99% of them will simply lose money.

    But (and this is a crucial "but") when you can make the claim that you "offer people hope" you are virtue-signalling about yourself. You can feel good about your sterling character. You can see yourself as a savior. You can preen in the mirror of your righteousness.

    And when motivations of this sort are the heart of your "business," then it's not really a business. It's an ersatz religion.

    Sure, we can criticize and deconstruct MLMs in economic terms, pointing out the real flaws in their promises of wealth. We can point out the corruption of selling "tools" and forcing person to attend useless "functions." All this is fine.

    But we will never break the back of MLMs until we make it clear that they are RELIGIOUS IN NATURE, and that their control over persons is profoundly cultic and sectarian. Because, qiuite frankly, persons in the grip of cultic delusion simply do not respond to arguments about mundane questions of money, "tools," or "functions."

    Persons truly and permanently quit Amway when they finally realize "I have been brainwashed."

    1. Anonymous - I know that bang on about this, but when you factor in all the persons who have signed contracts with 'MLM' front companies since their instigation, effectively 100% of these unpaid transient contractees have been unable to generate an overall net-profit from their 'MLM'-related activity.

      'Amway' is particularly interesting in that when a complete and significant representative group of transient 'Amway' contractees had their financial records seized by the Attorney General's office in Wisconsin as long ago as the 1980s, it was discovered that all approximately 30 000 of them were insolvent. Not one had been paying State or federal income-tax on net-profits accruing from their so-called 'Amway businesses.' The top 1% (who at that time were above the rank known as 'Direct Distributor') had been making an average net-loss annually of approximately $1000, but this didn't account for their time or their loss of earnings (had they been engaged in a paid activity).

      'Amway Direct Distributors' were found to be poverty-stricken 'Prosperity Gospel' Parish Priests not only working round the clock to replace all the disillusioned parishioners who kept leaving, but also paying through the nose to live in this constantly-collapsing fantasy world.

      At the time of the Wisconsin enquiry, it was calculated that in order to achieve the highest rank known as 'Diamond Distributor' an 'Amway' recruit was required to recruit, and maintain, a flock comprising several thousands transient contractees each handing over approximately $200 monthly.

      Nothing has really changed in 'Amway' since the Wisconsin enquiry. Any modifications to the made-up names attached to the insolvent adherents are mystifying nonsense. However, the same common-sense deconstructed analysis applies to all 'Amway' copy-cat 'MLM' rackets.

      The actual percentage of persons who have generated overall net-profits out of 'MLM' rackets, is so insignificant that it can only be accurately described as being effectively-zero.

    2. Yes, David Brear, exactly... but that's the crux of the question.

      Why, by any rational measure or criterion, would "a flock of several thousands transient contractees" hand over approximately $200 monthly, on a steady basis? It makes no sense at all.

      We can go on and on about how Amway and other MLMs are ripoffs and pyramid schemes, and we can point out ad infinitum the hard figures about a near-zero level of profitability. But the brute fact is that thousands of Amway IBOs continue to shell out cash every month, for year after year, with no profit realized at all, as your Wisconsin statistics show. What the bloody hell is driving them?

      To me this demonstrates that MLMs are essentially religious and cultic, and that arguments against them based on financial facts and figures will have a very limited effect, except on those persons who joined the MLMs purely for the sake of profit-making. As has been pointed out on several anti-MLM websites, these persons are the ones who leave the racket pretty quickly, within six months to a year, as soon as they realize that no profits are forthcoming.

      Those sane and sensible persons would have left Amway with or without the analysis of the anti-MLM websites. It's the religious and cultic fanatics in MLMs that are the hardest nut to crack, because they are not operating in a rational world.

    3. Anonymous - Core-'MLM' adherents' belief is real, but what they believe in is a cruel illusion.

      The underlying (unlawful) reason why core-'MLM' adherents have kept obediently paying and slaving each month, is because they have been programmed to stop thinking critically and totally believe that by doing so and by recruiting others to do the same (ad infinitum), they can achieve 'total fiancial freedom.'

      To 'MLM' core-adherents 'total financial freedom' is the equivalent of 'paradise' in traditional religions.

      The 'MLM' paradise has been fraudulently presented as obtainable reality in countless, essentially-identical, ritual publications, recordings, meetings, etc.

      The 'MLM' paradise is a kitsch comic-book world, where no one works, but where everyone: drives luxury cars, wears a Rolex, takes exotic holidays, has no debts, spends time with their children, gives to charity, is envied, etc.

      The ritual 'MLM' paradise is real to its believers, but it is no more real than any Hollywood movie or Broadway presentation. Ironically, the 'MLM' illusion has been produced using its believers' money.

      I'm put in mind of the Mel Brooks movie, 'The Producers.'

      The actual catstrophic (effectively 100%) loss/churn rates in 'MLM' cultic rackets have been hidden not only from all new recruits, but also from all casual observers (including regulators, journalists, legislators, etc.).

      This type of cultic racketeering has been allowed to grow to such a vast scale, that the truth has long-since become almost unthinkable. Large numbers of accountants, attorneys, bankers, politicians, etc. have been feeding off the 'MLM' phenomenon, and it's not in their interests to face reality.

    4. Yes, I agree. MLM rackets provide too much profit to too many parasites in the legal professions and politics. These vermin are getting rich off MLMs while ordinary investors in MLMs are being bled dry.

      But the answer does not lie in governmental regulation of MLMs. That will get us absolutely nowhere. Consider the parallel of our horrendously useless and ineffective "Drug Wars" here in the U.S. We have spent billions trying to wipe out drug abuse by legal means. But when you have addicts who are hopelessly bound to their drug of choice, no law or regulation or governmental decree is going to stop drug dealing. It's too profitable, whether legal or illegal.

      The thing to do is to focus on the addicts themselves! They are the ones with the intractable and psychologically fixated problem. Drug dealers (like MLM promoters) are simply good businessmen who know how to exploit a demand market.

      Hard-core MLM fanatics very rarely change, and they certainly will not be stopped by any law or regulation. And those who get rich off the exploitation of these people will not be frightened either.

      The only method of truly breaking the back of the MLMs is to convince prospective recruits that MLMs are religious, cultic, sectarian mind-control systems, designed to enslave one's thinking and emotional reactions.

      The most rhetorically effective phrase even invented on the anti-MLM blogs is not "pyramid scheme," but "business cult." Arguments about the financial pitfalls of a pyramid scheme are not especially compelling to most people. But the specter of being caught up in a "cult" does scare them.

    5. Anonymous - Trade regulators (and particularly those who have failed to regulate 'MLM' rackets and who have subsequently gone to work for 'MLM' racketeers) have been a significant part of the 'MLM' problem and not the solution to it. The fact that hundreds of 'MLM' cultic rackets have been allowed to hide behind legally-registered companies (right under the noses of law enforcement agents, journalists, legislators, etc) has given this particularly pernicious form of cultic racketeering the appearance of being an entirely lawful enterprise

      Big-time drug dealers don't hide in plain sight and pretend that their enterprise is entirely-lawful, of great benefit to humanity and that they are religiously-inspired philanthropists and patriots; nor do they pretend that they act with full government/judicial approval.

      In reality, the only effective way to have stopped 'MLM' cultic racketeering would have been to have recognised the big 'Direct Selling' lie ritualised as the truth, before it grew to such a scale that no one in authority now dares to offer a serious and aggressive challenge to it.

      BTW. Legalistically, cults do not exist in the USA, but rackets do.

      Today, if a significant number of 'MLM' bosses were held to account (ie. arrested, prosecuted, jailed for the rest of their lives and stripped of all their stolen wealth under the RICO Act), then the big 'MLM Direct Selling' fairy story would become very difficult to peddle without a significant re-write.

      In an ideal world, education of the young as to how the cult/totalitarian phenomenon functions should be obligatory, but I somehow don't think that the USA's current Education Secretrary (or President for that matter) would be in favour of such a common-sense policy.

      Perhaps the greatest irony of history is that successive US governments have spent trillions of dollars, and shed the blood of many thousands citizens, opposing the deceptive totalitarian phenomenon dressed up as, 'National Socialism', 'Extreme Socialism (communism)', 'Fascism,' etc., but the USA has not only allowed essentially the same deceptive phenomenon to be spawned in the home of the brave and the land of the free, but also to be exported all around the globe, simply because it has now been dressed up as 'all-American capitalism.'

    6. Sigh...

      I don't know why you are fixated on adding a snide remark about Secretary De Vos and President Trump in nearly every post you make, but I'll let it pass a an ineradicable quirk of your temperament.

      My essential point was this: whether we are dealing with drug peddling or MLM racketeering, and regardless of whether these operations are legal or illegal, the thing that drives the success of both is addiction -- i.e. the addiction of persons to certain narcotic substances, or the addiction of foolish individuals to a get-rich-quick scheme. Break the cycle of addiction at the addict-level, and the racketeering will shrivel up.

      You can't arrest and try MLM higher-ups on a RICO charge without indulging in ex post facto prosecution, which is a serious violation not just of the American Constitution but common English law as well. Check your Blackstone. People in MLMs may be stupid, but they joined with their eyes open and and were not compelled to take part in the silliness. They did so because of deep personal inadequacies and short-sightedness. But the MLMs themselves can always be defended under the principle of "caveat emptor" -- let the buyer beware.

      MLMs are unfair in the same way that lotteries or casinos are unfair -- most persons taking part in them lose money, and only a very few make any. The persons who run the casinos and the lotteries are the real profiteers.

      But to compare MLMs to vast cultural horrors like Communism, Socialism, and Nazism is simply incommensurate. Really, I must ask you to calm down.