“You’re invited to a party.” At first you’re really excited. You could use a night out without the kids. Plus, it says there’s going to be wine. A night with your girlfriends and there’s free wine involved?! It seems too good to be true. It is. As you keep reading the invite, you realize it’s one of those parties — an MLM party.
You know the deal. The product is different each time — bags, skincare, cleaning products, leggings, essential oils, kitchen items, jewelry — but it’s almost always something overpriced that you don’t really need. And there’s no amount of wine and snacks that’s going to make up for the money you’re about to drop out of awkwardness and self-inflicted guilt.
I’ve experienced the above scenario far too many times, and I know I’m not the only one. Home-based party businesses (also known as multi-level marketing businesses, or MLMs) seem to be available for every product imaginable. If you’re involved in one of these companies, I know you probably really believe in the product and just want to share it with others. But on behalf of moms and women everywhere, I’m begging you to stop inviting us to your parties, Facebook groups, and events where you’re trying to sell us stuff.
If you just look at the numbers and facts, the success rate of people in MLMs is pretty dismal. This FTC report says that 99% of people who are in a MLM will lose money, and approximately 90% will quit within five years. (The title of the section in this report is “MLM’s abysmal numbers,” so that should tell you something.)
However, this isn’t about how unsuccessful MLMs are. (Though if you want to listen to an amazing podcast that covers this, check out “The Dream.” It’s fantastic!) No, this is about taking a stand against all those parties and events that make us feel obligated to buy things from our friends.
Now I know this is a touchy subject so let me state my case. I’ve been a working mom… a single mom… a barely-making-more-than childcare mom… a mom trying to save for that special family vacation… and a mom just trying to earn some much-needed extra money. I get it — legitimate side hustles are hard. Plus, when you find a product that you really like personally, it seems like an easy thing to “just tell your friends about it” and make a little extra money at the same time.
We want you to be successful. And we know deep down that you could probably use the extra money — oof, we all can!
But when you sign up to hawk products for these companies, they count on you to profit from people you know. In fact, most of them encourage you to sell, share, and recruit family, friends, and members of your social networks.
It might seem harmless — people don’t have to respond, right? But when you do this, it then puts a lot of pressure on us to buy. Of course we love you. We want you to be successful. And we know deep down that you could probably use the extra money — oof, we all can! But most of us would rather take you out to dinner or just slip you a $20 instead of dropping $75 so you can earn $15. We’re all savvy shoppers, and we see those inflated prices. We’re all secretly calculating how much cheaper a similar option would be from Amazon.
I know many of these companies will say this is a way for women to own their own business and give themselves financial freedom. Woot, woot — I’m all for that! But again, the numbers don’t lie. The pyramid model that most of these companies use make it very difficult for those on the bottom to make a profit. It’s like you’re climbing a horizontal ladder that never quite gets you to the next view. I feel like we all know this deep down, but we just pretend like we don’t.
Now I’m a big fan of buying local when possible and supporting independent artists, creators, and contractors. I just don’t believe that buying products from MLMs is the way to do this. Instead, I look for local shops and restaurants to frequent. And I check out the booths at my local farmers’ markets and art fairs. By doing this, I know that nearly all the profits are going directly to a person or family business — not to the overhead of a company with a smart logo and savvy marketing message.
So here’s my final plea: no more party invites with pressured undertones to buy stuff. Many of us are awkward or don’t like confrontation, and we don’t know how to tell you no. Instead, we’re likely to politely buy something as cheap as possible and hope that it’s enough for six months. Or worse, we’ll find ways to avoid you so we don’t have to deal with it at all — this is also where the “unfollow” button on Facebook comes in handy.
Instead, let’s just go grab a coffee. Or have a play date with the kids. Maybe we could even start a book club or game night. I think we’ll have a lot more fun, and I can promise you we’ll both save a lot more money.