The Dangers Of MLM's & Why We Aren't one

Picture it, little pre-teen Brandon on the kitchen floor playing with Neopets (I was not the cool kid in school) as a dozen women I've NEVER met pile into our home.

My mom's prepared appetizers, a roast, fancy drinks (we're a Bud light family, so this was weird) and cleaned the living room, spotless, leaving nothing but two presentation tables covered with table cloths. 

Red flag alert, Dad lost his job about a month ago. School season was coming up and we needed new clothes money for the golden boy (hi, it me) and to put groceries on the table. We've been pretty open with our financials through my childhood, just because we were without it didn't mean I couldn't learn about cash, how to spend it and manage it. Paying bills. The whole lot. 

So as I said, red flag, what's all this food we can't afford? Oh sweet pea, Mom's new investment. *insert confetti cannons here*

A table scattered with wax melts in little cups, bars and warmers & signage Mom got with her... "kit". This looks oddly similar to the party she let a "friend" I'd never met host here, a month ago. De ja vu. 

Munching, momming, sniffing & snacking in our living room. Some placed orders. I sat on the couch sniffing and telling my Grandma what they (didn't) smelled like (she can't smell). I specifically remember telling her "Clown feet". I clearly never changed. 

Moving on, this weird little scented company took over my Mom's life and eventually... my aunts, and cousins, neighbors, and family friends. And as fast as it came, it awkwardly puttered out. 

Did mom get a cruise? A fat check? Change her life and live in scented splendor!? 

No... Dad had to take out a loan on the house that year. 


So, what even is an MLM? Well the HuffPost says...


"A multilevel marketing or network marketing business uses its distributors ― also called representatives or recruiters ― to sell products. They use word-of-mouth to get these recruiters to bring on additional people who can then distribute to a wider audience.

Recruiters are compensated with kickbacks for the sales made by their “downline,” or the people they recruited underneath them. The idea behind this multilevel (some might say pyramid-like) structure is that in addition to selling products, each recruiter can also earn money off of every sale made by recruits below them, and earn even more as they recruit more people."

What's with the bad rap?

You'll find, or NOT find rather, that most members (A whopping 99%, according to a report by a longtime consumer advocate who studied MLMs) not only never make a dime, but leave with a fat sum of debt to the companies they loved selling for.

Wait, are they pyramid schemes!?

If you haven't imagined my eyes rolling out of my head, I want you to imagine it now. Don't know what I look like? Harry Potter with red glasses and cotton candy hair. Now go. 

Imagined it? Okay good. 

So the MLM'ers will aggressively defend MLM's differentiation from a pyramid scheme, and they do have some ground here. 

1. Pyramid schemes are illegal (so why would they ever admit to that). 

2. Regardless... the distinction is murky. It's defended heavily (and with a $34.4 BILLION dollar in retail backing it) by the Direct Selling Association, a lobbying group trying its best to keep MLM's from the same fate as Pyramid Schemes. 

3. The main difference is retailing a product. Pyramids technically won't have a physical product to hold, some say it's a scape goat. Some say it's #BossBabeLiving #LiveYourDream #HeyHun. 

Okay that was a little mean... But being from a family that suffered at our weakest moment from the MLM movement, you gotta resonate with me a bit here. 

Despite the clear difference being product, many major MLM companies make no effort to hide their recruiting efforts once you've joined (how else would they spread so fast). Recruiting first, selling product second or third or something. 

Preying on women

Fun fact, over two thirds of all direct sellers are women- and it ain't no accident. Stay at home? Military spouse? Tough spot financially? It's the perfect storm to grab onto any promise of change & freedom in your life. 

And that's no woman's fault. Women are paid less, hired less & find job protection less than men. A horrible statistic, and something we should all be fighting... Not profiting off of. 

The opportunity to take charge of your life, and the promises of support & financial freedom are often times too good to turn up in a rough patch. When you can get FREEDOM for less than $20 who's to judge?

However participants find very little support, profit or focus on products once joining. Instead finding themselves part of the loop they now in turn, are to keep spinning themselves: Recruit, recruit, recruit. 

Costs of joining often pale in comparison to the monthly minimums, ranking requirements & onslaught of pressure from your own recruiter to recruit. 

Actual start up costs, often never made back range from $600-$4,000. Losers everywhere, but at the top.  

But let's speak from experience too- my own mother lost slightly over $1,100 in her recruitment selling MLM fragrance products (o0o0o0o wonder who). 

Our promise.

At Bewilderment, or rather myself and I know my team (full of fabulous women, queers, people of color & hustlers) want nothing more than financial freedom & safety for all who seek it. 

We receive emails, daily (even today) asking about consulting opportunities, ways to host a "Bewilderment Party" and to Boss Babe themselves into the Bewilder-world. 

So here's our response, on top of this article & attached sources... 

1. Do your research. Know the dangers. Before I moved into my first apartment, I read every single bad review from every apartment I was looking into so I knew the worst of the worst I was signing up for. It's not betraying the babes, it's due diligence. 

2. Running a business is ridiculously hard, emotionally tolling & physically tiring beyond reason. Running a business on 10%, 20% hell even 50% commission IS NOT ENOUGH.

There are some months we spend up to 25% of our budget on ads alone, before labor (paying ourself/yourself), thousands in monthly overhead (even the space on your dining room table needs an overhead price), 30-40% re-investing into products and presentations (you better know they'll want you to have that new catalog every season, hun). 

Even today during our worst months, I have to skip a paycheck or two to be extra careful- and we're a 5 year old company employing over 20 people!

If you're going to buy into the dream, buy into the nightmares too (and I say that wholeheartedly). Know what you're sacrificing and what you're gaining. 

While I clearly dislike (with total reason) MLMs/Pyramids, the information provided right here is valid, sourced & helpful for anyone to make their OWN decision. 

We promise, Bewilderment will never offer Multi Level Marketing schemes. Period. Never.

Own a pre-existing business? Run a gift shop? Buying-manager for a chain? Hit us up, we've got amazing wholesale going on. Wholesale links are at the bottom of the site. 

Stay safe with your buying decisions, investments & choices. You are loved, whatever you choose to do! Just use that brain mama gave ya.


Brandon Love
Owner, Founder & Sassypants
Bewilderment the non-MLM super awesome fragrance company. 

P.s. "The Anti-MLM Candle Co" was pitched on a Reddit forum about us... we'll take it, hun.

Articles to read & resources: 

MLM Checker: Is this an MLM?

10 Reasons Why MLM's Are Bad News

Pyramid Schemes & Influencers

Why MLM's Are Being Called Cults

Why MLM's Will Ruin Your Life 

John Oliver's Take on MLM's

MLM's Are A Nightmare For Women & Everyone They Know

"It is easier to fool people then it is to convince people they have been fooled" Mark Twain

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