While most of my posts take on the day to day of my current life, sometimes I have a funny memory of something that happened in the past (yeah, I know that was redundant). Like today, when I started thinking about the time I got sucked into a multi-level marketing scam.
The company was called Trek Alliance. Forget the fact that it was later shut down by the feds (for the full, boring story, click here), it was an awesome company. We really had the best products. Shampoo, chap stick, water purifiers (similar to Britta, only 10 times more expensive), and a whole lot more. Get this… we could drink our cleaning products. Sure, they didn’t clean, but you could drink ‘em, and you can’t beat that. Come to think of it, they tasted like sugarless Kool-Aid. And they stained like Kool-Aid. Was I selling $40 bottles of Kool-Aid? Hmmm… probably.
One day, as a fresh college drop-out, I found myself unemployed. So, I pulled out the Classifieds and saw one particular ad that caught my eye: Average $20,000 per month starting out, do almost nothing, retire in two years with millions. Sounded legit to me. So, I went in for the job interview, and came out having paid them my last $50 to “join” their company.
Now, I know you’re all thinking, what an idiot. And I was. But let me ask you this? How do you know I’m an idiot? I bet it’s because you’ve done the exact same things, only you probably did it more than once. Truth is, nobody had ever educated me about multi-level marketing. My parents had never forewarned me of the dangers (right now my mom’s probably got steam coming out of her ears and mumbling under her breath that she told me a hundred times. And she probably did. I didn’t hear anything my parents said from age nine to 29). I’d never had a friend get hosed by one (I was pretty young, by now they all have). And so, when they told me all I had to do was recruit five people, and all they had to do was recruit five people, and all they had to do was recruit five people, and all they had to do (insert the same line a few times), and then I’d be retired and rich and powerful and not fat anymore. Well, I believed them. And then when they told me that it could all be mine if I’d really invest myself with the $3,500 starter kit. Well, I believed them again.
But I didn’t have any money. And then they taught me about that magic little plastic card and said that if I was a real entrepreneur, nothing would hold me back from investing in my future. And so I did just that. I put it on my credit card. And then to really prove it, I bought a second starter kit because, let’s be honest, the product moved so fast that I’d be wishing I had more of it so I better stock up. On top of that they talked me into going into debt to travel to a huge convention where all the best of the best in the company cried as they told you how to make millions in only a few seconds a day. Man, I was really into it.
And then I tried to sell the product that I just spent my next three years of income on. And, well, it sucked. Big time. And the more I tried to sell it, the more I realized that it all sucked. Big time. And then I started to cry as I looked at my parents garage full of boxes and boxes of… crap and realized I was stuck with all of it. Actually, I wish it had been crap. At least people will buy that to use as fertilizer.
In the end though, it was a hard lesson learned that probably saved me from even worse scams over the next years of my life. Just remember people… when you hear somebody tell you that the way to get rich is to just call all of your friends and sucker five of ‘em into something… you’re about to get hosed.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing