Body Shaming in MLMs

We recently ran a short survey to discover people’s experiences with MLM distributors using body shaming to influence people (mostly women) to buy their products or sign up*. 

So — what is body shaming? It is inappropriate and unsolicited critical and negative comments and attitudes towards someone’s weight, size, or appearance. It’s the snide comments about your choices of what to eat, what you’re wearing, or the size of your thighs. It’s deeply hurtful. Even if the people saying such things are ‘only trying to help’, it is not even slightly helpful, only damaging.

Where did the body shaming happen?

The vast majority of interactions happened on social media, at 70% (21 instances). The next most ‘popular’ avenue (19 combined responses), was in person, either around other people (8 instances, 27%), privately (7, 23%), or at a public event (4, 13%). Five approaches (17%) were by email, four (13%) were made at an MLM home party, and three (10%) were via printed material.

Which MLMs were implicated?

Beachbody was the worst offender by far, with 9 mentions out of 29 — one third. It Works! follows in second place with 6 mentions. Then Plexus with 3, Isagenix and Juice Plus+ each with 2 mentions, and single mentions for the rest: Mary Kay, SeneGence, Pampered Chef, Thrive, Cambridge Weight Plan, Nerium, LuLaRoe, Intimo, AdvoCare, Agnes & Dora, and Pure Romance. 

We asked what people had been told, and how this made them feel, and what they did as a result. Here are their responses:


Summer is coming up and while she can see the progress I’ve made myself, I could be making more with her guidance.

She made me feel awful and frustrated.


She told me she had an opportunity to help me get in shape.

I felt totally insulted. I told her no.


The MLM rep criticized my body. 

They made me feel annoyed.


The rep used my eating disorder to try to sell products. 

They made me feel horrible. I almost gave in but then had a change of heart


She asked if I wanted to be a part of a Facebook group to help lose baby weight.

I was a little taken aback. I said I would look into it.


A former blog friend in the blogging community saw some of my selfies on Instagram. She shot me a DM and suggested she had noticed I had gained some weight recently (I put on 80lbs rapidly from some meds) and that she knew her shakes could help. Without any instigation on my part. I never even mentioned I was looking to lose weight.

Honestly, it wasn’t the first or last time. I get messages a couple times a week. I run a boutique geared towards body positivity and anytime I post a photo of myself I get bombarded via private messages. Heck, sometimes right in the comments. Simply because I’m visibly overweight and it’s clear none of them take the time to read my profile or captions to see I’m a body positive advocate. That’s what made her messages more offensive though was that she KNEW this.


I got little digs about food choices, muffin top showing, that I was eating and drinking too much.

I made a point of eating and drinking more in front of this person and sending her pics of junk food.

[Coalition: WINNING!]


I was advised that a certain Beachbody program and shake would help me lose weight, when I never said anything about wanting to.

I felt awful.

[Beachbody and It Works!] 


It Works!

She said I had a pretty face but I could look 10 times better if I “lost that chubby little belly”. She then told me her body wraps would help me lose 40 pounds in a month. When I rejected the offer, she said I was unhealthy and that I needed to lose weight.

She made me feel insulted and self conscious so I blocked her.


She hinted, while I was at work, that I could drop those “few extra pounds”

I felt ashamed and angry, I was getting over an illness that left me with huge weight loss, and was trying to put weight on. I gave her my best fake smile and turned to my next customer, ignoring her.


She told me I should lose 30 lbs in 30 days. Losing 30 lbs would make me dangerously underweight.

I felt irritated that someone felt the need to imply I was fat.


The day I came home from the hospital with my newborn son, she asked if I was ready to get rid of the extra weight.

I had just had an emergency C-section. So, that in combination with all the hormones being gone, I was a wreck.


At a party, she pointed out to me areas on my body where “It Works” would be beneficial.

She made me feel awful!


And the rest

The rep “noticed” that I could lose a few lbs and offered me Plexus. I wasn’t overly offended because she wasn’t wrong and could like, see. 

What I did was dumb. I signed up for a monthly subscription to the Plexus product line.



“Hey girl! I noticed you’ve been trying to lose weight — I really think you need to try Plexus to get rid of that mommy tummy!”

This made me feel pissed off. I told her that I get she’s trying to hustle but that she just insulted me and if she EVER tries to sell me something again I’m blocking her.



He asked me if I would be interested in utilizing their “health coaching”, nutritional knowledge and supplements.

I felt like he was telling me I was fat. I was upset that he would reach out to me out of nowhere and body shame me. I told him I wasn’t interested.



Commented on one of my Instagram photos which said “#NewMum” and told me “I could EASILY drop the excess weight I’m currently carrying by signing up to their 90 day programme. Now I only gained 13lb from start to finish of pregnancy & I was 6 weeks post C Section when this happened. I was bloated, of course. Mentally, I was feeling very rubbish about my appearance but fortunately, it wasn’t my weight that was an issue. I have a chronic health condition so I have to maintain a healthy weight anyway.

I felt embarrassed and deleted the comment.

[Juice Plus+]


She messaged me and said it looked like I could do with losing some weight. It made me feel embarrassed and ashamed. 

Just fed my demons and added value to my self loathing.

[Juice Plus+]


She told me, “You need make up because your skin is bad, and it will hide your facial features. Otherwise no one will want to date you, ever.”

I was only like 14 or 15, so it really shook me significantly. I already didn’t have super high self confidence. I knew I wasn’t Hollywood pretty or whatever, but I never really thought of myself as being so ugly no one would ever find me attractive without makeup. [Because of this] I always thought in high school if boys talked to me they were just joking.

[Mary Kay]


She told me that Isagenix would fix the “gross scales” behind my ears. I have psoriasis. She was a client at work, so I couldn’t even respond the way I wanted to.

I never tried Isagenix, that’s for sure. I was super embarrassed and felt poorly about myself.



As a 15 year old, she tried to tell me the smiley face boxers would entice boys. I was chubby and awkward and went to this sex toy and lingerie party to support my friend. This woman implied I was an “ugly duckling”.

I had been to a couple of parties because friends’ mums were having them, whether they were lingerie or makeup. I vowed then and there never, ever to go to one of those stupid parties again. I never liked them and was only going to hang out with a friend but the pressure to buy stuff was horrendous.

[Pure Romance and Intimo]


She said that if I wore particular dress or shirt, it would make me look slimmer. That their clothing is aimed to help slim out “bigger girls”. 

I spent hundreds of dollars on these clothes that make me look like any other dang clothes.

[LuLaRoe and Agnes & Dora] 


I was sent the following email, with an attachment “before and after” stretchmark and post cream belly photo:

Hi ME,

I was at the park yesterday and your mom was showing us lots of baby pics…my goodness she is a lovely baby! Then today these results pictures of our body contour cream came across my desk and made me wonder if you were in need of any help in this department. 

Sure wish this was around after I had my babies. Lol

I’ve added my website if you want to take a look. 

Please call me if I can be of any assistance. 

Hope you and your sweet family are well. See you at the park. 


I was 4 months post partum, and I was feeling pretty good about myself, about my body, how I looked and how strong I felt, until I received this email. I cried, and it took weeks to recover from how badly this made me feel about myself and how I looked. It’s been 3 + years now, and I still think about this regularly.  I haven’t spoken to the woman since she emailed me this. We were not friends at the time, we play in the same baseball league and only know each other in that capacity.



“You can lose all that baby weight your carrying around.”

I laughed honestly because the person who said this is fatter than me.



“You must lose that excess weight you are carrying.”

I felt that my worth depended on my weight.

[1:1 Diet by Cambridge Weight Plan]



The women who join MLMs as distributors aren’t immune from being body shamed either:

I was encouraged to diet and exercise for an hour a day, film it and share it on social media to help me sell it. I was shown how to take the most unflattering poses for my before pictures.

It made me feel fat, ugly, like I had no choice but to lose weight super fast in order to make money.



She encouraged me to “dress the part”, lose weight, get my hair and nails done because we had to represent the company in a way that [the founder] Joni would like.

First she was giving tax advice (do all of these things and claim as business expenses) so I felt like I was being misled instantly (my grandma was a tax preparer). But I instantly felt like I wasn’t “good enough”. As a new mom this was horrible for my self esteem.



A Pampered Chef distributor was told she should lose weight to be more attractive. She came to hate her upline, and quit the company. 


First experience: The person above me in AdvoCare hinted that I weighed too much. Second experience: Someone messaged me about joining a nutrition group for Isagenix.

AdvoCare: I didn’t notice the shaming until after I wasn’t friends with her. Isagenix: I just declined.

[AdvoCare and Isagenix]


LuLaRoe is also infamous for pushing their top distributors to have weight reduction surgery.

So not only are MLMs badly affecting people’s finances and friendships, they are also damaging people’s self esteem — both that of their potential customers, and their own distributors. The pressure tactics many distributors use are turning people away from wanting to have anything to do with them. The success rate, of someone buying from them as a result of these negative messages, seems very low, from our small survey anyway. Their targets are annoyed, upset, embarrassed. We suppose the outcome of being repelled is a good thing. But at what cost?

* Our survey ran in May–June 2019, using SurveyMonkey. 30 responses were received, and 29 are included in this article. One was excluded as it was off topic. In the figures reported, totals may be more than 29, as multiple answers were permitted in all categories, and some people had more than one approach by MLMs.

All included respondents were women. 27 identified as Caucasian, 2 as African-America, 1 as Middle Eastern, and 1 as Hispanic/Latinx.

13 respondents were in the 35–44 age range, 11 were aged 25–34, 5 were aged 45–54, and 1 was aged 18–24.

Nearly half (14) were mothers at home with children. 8 were living with disability or chronic illness, 4 were military spouses, 3 were university students, 3 were unemployed, 3 were immigrants, and 1 was a single parent. Six (20%) did not fall into any of these categories.

Thank you to those who took the time to participate in our survey!

Cover photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash


Closing a Chapter, Part 3

Coalition: Here is Part 3 of Linda’s recent experience with a personal care MLM. We’re putting it up in four parts over the next week or so, but you can head over to her blog if you want to read all of it right away! To read how her story started, catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 here. And now, on with Linda’s story:

Linda: By April 2019 I was starting to have serious doubts about what I was doing, however was in conflict about not wanting to damage my relationship with Danni and my cousin and in the back of my mind engrained was the message of positivity and not quitting. I had already committed to a “Product Showcase” event at my home and after having purchased quite a lot of products to showcase (I’m sure, much to my upline, Danni’s delight, seeing as she received a commission) I went ahead with it. Some family and a few people I knew came along, again; I am sure it was out of pity. I made one sale; it was embarrassing. However; I tried to stay positive, constantly keeping my posts attractive and appealing, it was all about “attraction marketing” slightly embellishing the truth, making your life look amazing and fun. You were your own boss: you called the shots!

Ellie Flynn from the BBC documentary Secrets of the Multi-Level Millionaires

On the same day as my showcase party, after it had finished, I watched a documentary which was aired on the BBC about MLMs, and Company X was featured. Danni was still at my place; it was just her, me and my husband and she insisted on staying to watch it also (no doubt to make sure I wasn’t turned against the company). I would like to add also that when I had asked Danni about the documentary a few days before, she said that head office had advised us all not to watch it. It was just “haters” spreading negativity and it was best to be avoided. I am so glad I watched the documentary; it completely opened my eyes and throughout the whole thing I had a feeling of sickness in my stomach which I didn’t let on to Danni. I was poorly the week that followed (my body had no doubt crashed into some sort of panic!) and I spent most of the week online reading about MLM scamming website and the tricks used by reps on social media. I feel slightly sick at myself for posting so many “positivity quotes” which, again, I was posting as a form of Positive Mindset (I deleted them all). I attended a product showcase with Danni on the Wednesday that week, still feeling unwell and uneasy, and the only real reason I went in all honesty, was to hopefully shift some of the products I had from my home showcase. I didn’t sell a thing and it was a complete waste of my time. Surprise surprise …

Deep down I knew I didn’t want to collaborate with Company X anymore. It just wasn’t me. It felt so desperate, the posts I kept on seeing online from some of the girls in our never-ending groups felt so false and forced. People where discounting items and running “Payday Offers” (which I am again ashamed to say I did too — out of desperation to sell something!) on products I was led to believe were high end! I also discovered that products were being sold on Ebay and Amazon too — which I thought wasn’t allowed??! I also discovered online that there were other MLM companies were the uplines who were higher up in the pyramid were part of private social media groups where they shared (in absolute secrecy) tips and tricks on how to dupe their downlines. Honestly it makes me sick to the core how deep the deception runs. I couldn’t trust Danni anymore, I didn’t know what to think, was she part of one of these groups too?? I didn’t know what to believe or who to trust.

I took part in one final group Zoom call which was hyped up to be this amazing way to boost sales and climb the pin title (awards you receive based on sales and how many people you recruit) ladder. We were advised to bulk buy items. We were told about this “great idea” where we should buy sixteen toothpastes at approximately £8 each wholesale, keep one to use and to promote on social media, and sell the other 15… I mean, there was no way on God’s green earth that I would ever sell these, I wasn’t selling anything, let alone 15 toothpastes at over £11, this would cost me over £125! We were also advised to do the same the following month with another product and so on, and that our downlines (these are the people who are signed up under you) should do the same. I can imagine the uplines at the top of the pyramid rubbing their hands in delight. This was the absolute final straw. I had made up my mind to tell Danni the next day I wasn’t doing this anymore.

It wasn’t so much a light bulb moment, more a baseball bat across the face moment where I realised this was all just one big fat con! I had been well and truly scammed. When I broke the news to Danni that I no longer wanted to carry on with Company X and that I was terminating my account, she actually cried. I reassured her that nothing would change between us, we would still be friends (despite the fact that I was actually seething inside) and we were booked to go on another “Success Summit” to Spain in May, that I would still go, however I wouldn’t attend the summit, I would simply come away on a little holiday to keep her company, this was what I was willing to do, despite everything! I tried to be civil and friendly, despite the fact that I had been totally duped by her and everyone else, I didn’t want to cause friction in the family and cause pain to my cousin and his wife, who are nice people.

Let’s just say that Danni didn’t take my leaving Company X well, there was a monumental shift in her behaviour toward me… she told me it was never about the money and that I meant more to her than Company X however you could tell she had changed. She went from messaging me daily, without fail, asking me how I was, how my day had been etc, to not messaging me, unless I messaged her first and even then, her reply which was usually instant was delayed by hours, if not a full day. I invited her to mine for a tea and chat in order to finalise the Spain trip. She kindly arranged for my Success Summit ticket to be sold on Facebook, which I am grateful for. However eventually things got out of hand and without going into too much detail I saw her true colours, especially where money was concerned. I cancelled my trip with her completely and managed to change my holiday to go to Barcelona on my own. I have blocked her on my social media nor do I follow any of the other so-called Company X “friends”. Luckily my Success Summit ticket sold. I managed to return a large amount of the products back to Company X for a refund and I have now cancelled my wholesale account. I ran at a loss; however, I was lucky enough to claw back most of what I had spent.

Despite what people say MLM companies ruin relationships. I have read countless blogs about people who have lost friends, spilt from partners and damaged relationships with family members. Due to this, Danni and I no longer talk, and through this I haven’t spoken to my cousin or his wife. I am truly grateful that I was only part of this embarrassing episode for little over three months and that I didn’t fall out with my true friends and family. My husband stuck by my side throughout the whole thing, despite his doubts, however he knew how MLMs function in that they turn people against their partners for not being supportive and to risk not losing me, he simply supported me. However, when I told him I was stopping, even he breathed a sigh of relief. I truly believe that some sort of brainwashing is involved. You are told to surround yourself with like-minded people, get rid of anyone who isn’t supportive of what you are doing. It reaches a point, especially if you have been working for an MLM for perhaps as long as Danni has that you have pretty much crippled every relationship you have with others, to the point where your only friends are Company X people, therefore you feel that if you leave, you’ll have no one, that you have quit on your dreams. Therefore, people just keep going, they cling onto the “dream” paraded in front of them on social media. No one questions anything, no one asks questions — I think I was the only one that did and I guess I am now a “Dream Stealer” or “Negative Nancy”. You can’t simply be someone who sees it for what it is and cleverly decides to avoid it like the plague. If I had really known what MLM’s and pyramid schemes were — I too would have said no at the very beginning.

Stay tuned for Linda’s final instalment, Part 4!

Cover photo Photo by Melanie Wasser on Unsplash

Closing a Chapter, Part 2

Coalition: Here is Part 2 of Linda’s recent experience with a personal care MLM. We’re putting it up in four parts over the next week or so, but you can head over to her blog if you want to read all of it right away! To read how her story started, catch up with Part 1. And now, on with Linda’s story:

Linda: At one of our smaller, monthly group meetings, the presenter gave a little talk about how to recruit people and she spoke of people’s “weaknesses” and their “pain” which made me feel awkward, I mean, yes I want to grow my business however I do also have a moral compass — targeting people who had credit card debit or debt of any kind was so low. I remember raising my hand and actually asking “Well, surely if someone is in debt, they won’t really have the money to pay for these products?” Her response was — “Well, you’ll find that people who are in debt kind of like to spend money regardless, so, in theory we’re only encouraging them to spend with us…” I was totally and utterly uncomfortable with this. I have had debt in the past, and I know first-hand how horrible it is. The fact that I was aiming to get rich off of the shoulders of someone who was struggling didn’t sit well with me. It was then that I started to really question what I was doing. I actually thought that these meetings were a complete waste of time. They were extremely repetitive and I guess, just additional brainwashing.

No matter how much I plugged the products or talked about the business, NO. ONE. WAS. INTERESTED in signing up or buying the products. When you take into account that a toothpaste I was selling was retailing at just over £11+ postage — and you can purchase a well-known, dentist recommended brand for £3–4, you can see why I was struggling. No amount of persuasion, and I have worked in retail/sales on Bond Street and Harrods in the past, could sell the overpriced products. I manged to sign up one old friend I hadn’t spoken to in years because, and I am ashamed to admit it, she was so utterly miserable in her job I guess she was desperate for anything that would help her escape, and I convinced her this was the opportunity she was looking for! I also signed up a nail technician I got talking to, however after a face-to-face meeting with her and Danni, where she voiced her concerns about the fact that she had been advised by her family that this was a pyramid scheme, she messaged me to say she was stopping. I kept my positive vibes up, I kept telling myself it would change; however, I was now beginning to think that I was becoming a clone of Company X. I felt like I was losing my identity. Every time I spoke to someone, I saw them as a potential recruit, as a way of progressing my “business”.

I was incapable of having a conversation with anyone without trying to plug the products in one way or another. If I spoke to warm contacts (friends or family) I risked alienating them and cold contacts (strangers) are very rarely willing to trust a complete stranger. Therefore, you are trained to make cold contacts warm, however in my opinion this is a false way of building a true friendship, as your ultimate goal is to recruit. The whole process is based on making money and pushing your business forward. It reeks of desperation and falseness. I attended several Network Marketing meetings off of my own back (may I also add that MLM companies such as ours had been frozen out of several Networking events in my area, no doubt because the organisers were sick of reps recruiting) I was told it was because there was another rep from a similar company attending, however I truly believe that the organisers where just trying to be nice about the truth. MLM reps are also banned from many Mum and Baby groups, as again, the organisers think the reps simply prey on the mother’s need to find a flexible job they can work around their children.

I kept on wondering how the hell the other reps were receiving such massive product deliveries for their customers. Instagram and Facebook were often littered with people posting about orders, boxes full of products. When I started looking into MLM Scam websites, I found out that reps from other companies were told by their uplines (the people who recruit them) that they should keep any empty boxes and use these to bulk up personal orders to make it look like bigger deliveries. This goes to show just how innocent (or naïve?) I was. I would never had done this! All my posts were genuine, however no wonder my orders were of only a few items, most of which were for me. I couldn’t believe the deceit and it didn’t stop there. I also discovered and again, I laugh at myself for not knowing this — you can buy followers on social media – personally, I think this is a little bit desperate, I mean, surely, if you have followers, it should be because your posts etc. are of interest to people — the fact that you can pay as little as £10 for 1000 followers makes me balk. I then started to wonder, if this was what a lot of the Company X girls did, to perhaps show they had some sort of popular following, lots of customer and potential recruits — attraction marketing remember?

Another niggle was Danni. When we initially spoke about Company X, she told me she had left her full time job, as the money she was making as a Company X rep was now the equivalent to what her monthly salary was…I thought this was brilliant and I knew realistically this would take time. Danni had now been a Company X rep for over four years and as we grew closer, she would admit little things that raised alarm bells with me. The fact that she didn’t earn this all the time. There were quite a few months where she made very little, or that it was a struggle at times and she sometimes looked at perhaps getting another job. She would quickly then retract her statements and say she could never go back to working for someone else, not now that she was her own “boss”.

What happens next? Stay tuned for Part 3 of Linda’s tale!

Feature photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Closing a Chapter, Part 1

Coalition: Linda is kindly sharing her experience with a personal care MLM. This is a cross-post from her blog. We’re putting it up in four parts over the next week, but you can head over to her blog if you want to read all of it right away!

Linda: I would like to stress before I continue that the views expressed in this blog are that of my own. These are my opinions, feelings and my own personal experience of a Multi-Level Marketing company. I have changed my uplines name in order to protect her identity. I have also changed the company name to “Company X” so as not to disclose the company’s name. I thought long and hard about writing this blog, especially as it will be open to view on my website – however I truly believe that this is a form of closure for me. I didn’t realise just how much this had indeed affected me, writing this blog will help me close this chapter of my life once and for all. I have also written this blog in order to help people who are perhaps thinking of joining an MLM, hoping that they are thoroughly researching and reading up on people’s experiences and not just basing their decision on the people who are recruiting them, as sadly I did.

My MLM experience was, thankfully, a relatively brief one. I was unhappy in my office job of almost four years and in November 2018, I was invited to my cousin’s house, where I met for the first time his step daughter (who for the sake of this blog, I will call) Danni. We hit it off immediately and although she was ten years my junior, she was very mature in her behaviour and we seemed to like the same things.

We began to follow each other on Instagram and her posts about “living life on her terms” and working from home, based around beauty and skincare intrigued me. I too loved anything skincare based and I was interested in knowing more about what she did. I had absolutely no idea what a Multi-Level Marking company was, nor did I know about Pyramid Schemes. All I knew was that this could be a way that I could get into the skincare industry and I was open minded when I went along to a local business briefing before Christmas and then to a second, much larger “Success Summit” in January based in London.

Both business briefing and Summit were totally and utterly geared towards positivity. The company hosting the summit and the people on stage were training you to think in a positive way, attracting like-minded people and although some of it was a little over the top – lots of punching the air, whooping, motivational speakers etc. (I felt totally out of my comfort zone, as I am a little more reserved) I embraced the positive mindset and I left feeling pleased and happy that collaborating with Company X would be a good decision, after all, Danni was doing it, she was sort of family and surely, I could trust her? She initially said when we first spoke about me signing up back in December that she would never recommend this business opportunity to anyone if she thought it would be bad for them, right?

I am wholeheartedly ashamed to say, I fell for the MLM scam, hook, line and sinker. I totally signed up to the whole positive mindset attitude, The Law of Attraction theory, the “surround yourself with like-minded people”, anyone who doesn’t support you is a “Hater” or a “Dream Stealer” a “Negative Nancy” who is jealous of your success and doesn’t want you to succeed. I quit my job in January 2019 and totally threw myself into building my “business” and to be fair no one told me to do this. I was lucky enough to have savings to enable me to do so, therefore I threw myself into my Company X business 100%. I sold a few products, only to one friend and some family members who no doubt felt sorry for me. Absolutely nobody on social media was interested and the three enquires I did receive came to an abrupt halt once I sent over the price of the products to my potential customers. People were just not willing to pay the ridiculously high prices for a brand they knew nothing about, without being able to properly test the product, or receive some sort of sample. I could of course supply samples of some products, however I would need to buy the full-size bottle, then purchase little sample pots, and the whole process would come from my pocket. Company X did not provide samples and now of course, I realise why. I was also a little deflated whenever I did receive a package as despite the cost of the products the package looked really cheap. I knew I would have to pull out all the stops to sell these products.

I ploughed away relentlessly, I paid for business cards, I created leaflets, I purchased products to promote on social media, I was always positive, even if things weren’t great, we were trained to never let this show, always promote positivity. What you think, you will receive. I improved my mindset – kept my thoughts on success. I called salons, mobile make-up artists, local businesses, business in London practically every day; only to have the phone put down on me once I explained the sign-up process, no one wanted to associate themselves with a pyramid scheme. I was advised by Danni to create a list of all the people I knew. People from the past, old colleagues, family, the people I knew who worked in shops, even the Hermes Delivery guy became a target. To my immense shame, I messaged/and or called everyone. I literally cringe when I think of the people who I contacted…it was so false…I would never have spoken to them again in any other situation…but this was all in aid of building my “business”, therefore I was willing to throw my dignity in the gutter.

What happens to Linda next? Part 2 is coming later on this week!

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

My Arbonne Tale

Thank you to Trish for sharing her experience of being a senior distributor in Arbonne:

My journey with network marketing (multi-level marketing) started in 2016. The company I signed up to, Arbonne, was launching in my country. It was ‘ground floor’ and they assured me I would go straight to the top!

It sounded too good to be true, but I’d met a mum through an online mums’ group on Facebook, and her Facebook feed looked pretty real deal. She went to lots of parties, drove a white Mercedes Benz, and at only 26 yrs old she was coaching people to live the life they deserved—and this is what got me most. I am driven to help people and genuinely believe people deserve to live the life they deserve.

She had me hooked. I believed I could do it and I had just had my second baby, so I would never ever have to return to work, ever. So I jumped in, I sold my car to raise funds, and spent $2,300 on product to start my business.

Before we officially launched I spent a couple of months going through my 100 people list and offering them this ‘life changing, ground floor opportunity, and on launch day I had a couple of girls signing up with me. I was on my way to the top!

But the moment I signed up, I felt depressed and I cried, and I had this thought of ‘What the f*** have I just done?’ But that was ‘the fear talking’, you see, rather than listening to my intuition.

My upline immediately said ‘Right, let’s get you up and running by the end of the day!’ And I again thought ‘How the f*** am I supposed to do that?’ More tears—but I ignored them, put my big girl pants on, and went at it like a bull at a gate.

Within seven days I had reached the first level of management, and by the end of my first month I was in qualification for the second level of management.

Then month two—yup, just month two, I started wondering who I was going to ask to get more Pamper Parties booked, and who else could I offer the business to? ‘Just keep asking’ my upline told me, ask everyone. You liked a girl’s service at the coffee shop? Offer her a life changing business opportunity (forget that this makes you feel sick—suck it up and do it anyway). The girl at the bookstore likes make up—ask her if she would like to borrow a bag of full-sized products (that you spent hundreds of dollars on and are praying all gets returned), in the hope she will become a client and place a big order.

It was relentless. I started this online health and wellness business for more time and money, but it took over my life, constantly trying to make sales, build my team, motivate/coach/mentor my team, and be on all the coaching calls.

As I mentioned earlier, I had a young baby, and with a young baby comes a lack of sleep. My first experience of being told off/emotionally blackmailed was when I was relatively new. I messaged my upline to let her know I wouldn’t be on the coaching call that night (with time differences, calls were at late at night in my country) because I was tired and needed sleep. Her response was ‘Oh I’m sorry, do you want to fail?’ Of course, she was right, I would fail by not getting on the call, I’d better not worry about the sleep I really need.

Monkey see, monkey do—and I started talking to my team the same way. It was awful. There was a lot of training, most of it free team training, but some training cost a lot of money. Money my family didn’t have. What I was earning helped my family be able to pay bills, although it wasn’t enough to put money aside. But if I didn’t get to these trainings, I would fail.

That’s when the debt spiral started. I asked the bank to loan me money, and they did. I had to get to this training in another country. I got there. I asked my dad to fund the trip, sold my beloved wedding dress (something I never wanted to do, as I have daughters), and sold all my beautiful eyeshadow palettes (who needed them anyway—they weren’t Arbonne, cruelty free, vegan, or free of nasty chemicals—but I loved them all the same). Then I lied to one of my best friends and I missed her engagement party. It (rightly) took her two years to talk to me again after that. I also spent approx $3,000 (that we didn’t have) on all this extra mindset training that I needed so that I wouldn’t fail.

We were always told ‘You’re only a failure if you quit’. When you hear it enough, you truly begin to believe it. We heard it when we chatted to our uplines.When we saw our team members start dropping off, we’d say ‘I always knew they’d quit’ ‘I knew they weren’t cut it for it’ ‘She was a bit weird anyway’ and so on. When friends and family started turning their backs on us, well, we didn’t need them anyway, we didn’t need their negativity in our lives. It just blows my mind that we would so flippantly be told not to worry about those people who had been in our lives forever.

Things started going downhill for me when I worked my ass off helping one of my team to elevate to the same level as me in her business. It was crazy busy for both her and me. It was exciting seeing her succeed, but it was exhausting—we had to hound everyone for sales! She was then no longer in my direct business, it meant I basically had to start again, from the bottom and rebuild an entire new team.

Now there is nothing wrong with hard work, but for that time and financial freedom that we are promised we can have if we just keep going—that comes at a price. You need to constantly (I am talking multiple times daily) offer the business, share the product, build your team, clientele. This takes a lot of time. I was away from my family a lot, I was checked out from my little girls because I had this big team that needed me and now I had to start all over. I would tell myself I could do it, that I wanted to do it—but the truth is l, I didn’t, and if you don’t constantly do it, your business goes backward … fast. But all the personal development we were encouraged to do was starting to pay off. The fog was starting to lift.

That’s one cool thing I found about network marketing: I was encouraged to grow myself, and I think this was really powerful and beneficial for me. Unfortunately for my uplines, it meant my mind grew clearer. I got tired of growing myself so that I could attract better people into my business, so that I was strong enough to deal with all the hate thrown at my MLM businesses. I started loving growing myself for me. There were people I looked up to in the business like they were celebrities—but they weren’t. They were just really good at selling things and that’s OK, but it was then that I decided that it wasn’t for me.

Of all the amazing women I met and connected with in my time in Arbonne, 90% of them no longer talk to me. I thought they were my friends, but they weren’t. I have however met two amazing women who have become a special part of my life and I’m grateful for that, but finally turning my back on the business was one hell of a mental rollercoaster. It took months to actually decide I was done. Our third baby was on the way, and we could have done with the income, but I had lost all my belief and passion. I watched women throwing thousands of dollars at starting their businesses. I no longer felt excited for them, I felt sorry for them but, boy did it screw with my mind. I left what felt like an emotionally abusive relationship. My self worth was so low, I felt like such a failure and I still have $5,000 debt that I have no idea how I’ll pay back—but I knew I was doing the right thing in getting out.

On the whole, I don’t regret giving MLMs a go. It taught me some really valuable skills, and it really showed me how much I genuinely love to help other people. I still use a few of the products because I enjoy them, but for the most part, they’re just too expensive. Do I believe network marketing can sometimes work, for a small minority—and you need to be unwaveringly ruthless to succeed. A lot of money can be made, if you get in early, like I did, but it comes with huge sacrifices. I don’t believe you can achieve time freedom, because the higher you move up the ladder, the greater your responsibility and the risk. You might have greater financial freedom, but you are always on. This is what I have seen and experienced.

As you’ve probably heard a thousand times, it’s not for everybody, but is it for anybody—however, I’d never encourage someone to join an MLM business to earn money, as they’ll most likely just end up another one of the ‘failures’, in a lot of debt, with damaged relationships. It seems so appealing to earn money from your couch, in your PJs while sipping wine but, like most things, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The Anti-MLM Coalition: We at the Coalition really appreciate Trish sharing her story, however we don’t think MLM represents the best vehicle to help others. As Trish mentions, there is a need to be utterly ruthless in the way you sell the products and in order to recruit others. To be successful in MLM, you cannot also be truly benevolent to your downline or totally honest with your customers. If you really want to empower and help others, then being part of an MLM will start to sit heavily on your conscience as you watch your recruits begin to struggle, unable to sell overpriced products, paying for expensive training, and passing on the earnings and lifestyle fiction necessary to recruit yet more people.

MLMs also like to use the ‘get in early and get rich’ line to their advantage and say that their MLM is at the beginning and has momentum and now is the time to join and be a ‘founder’ and so on. But the reality is that people only make money if they have a large downline, irrespective of when they join.

Featured image by averie woodard on Unsplash