II. Pyramid Structure: An Organizational Problem

The Un-Pyramid

For most MLMs, the product is really a mere diversion from the real profit-making dynamic. To anyone familiar with MLMs, the previous discussion (which focused so much on the fact that MLMs are "doomed by design" to reach market saturation and thus put the people who are legitimately trying to sell the product into a difficult situation) may seem to miss the point. The product or service may well be good, and it might oversaturate at some point, but let's get serious. The product is not the incentive to join an MLM. Otherwise people might have shown an interest in selling this particular product or service before in the real world. The product is the excuse to attempt to legitimate the real money-making engine. It's "the cover."

Intuitively, we all know what is really going on with MLMs. Just don't use the word "pyramid"!

"You see, if you can convince ten people that everyone needs this product or service, even though they aren't buying similar products available in the market, and they can convince ten people, and so on, that's how you make the real money. And as long as you sell to a few people along the way, it is all legal." Maybe...

But the way to make money in all this is clearly not by only selling product, otherwise you might have shown an interest in it before, through conventional market opportunities. No, the "hook" is selling others on selling others on "the dream."

Math and Common Sense

MLMs work by geometric expansion, where you get ten to sponsor ten to sponsor ten, and so on. This is usually shown as an expanding matrix (just don't say "pyramid"!) with corresponding kick-backs at various levels.

The problem here is one of common sense. At a mere three levels deep this would be 1,000 people. There goes the neighborhood! At six levels deep, that would be 1,000,000 people believing they can make money selling. But to whom? There goes the city! And the MLM is just getting its steam going. Think of all the meetings! Think of all the "dreams" being sold! Think of the false hopes being generated. Think of the money being lost.

It Will Fail??? It Cannot Fail???

Nothing irritates a die-hard MLMer more than the preceding argument. If you point out the absurdity, for example, that if "the pitch" at an Amway meeting were even moderately accurate, in something like 18 months Amway would be larger than the GNP of the entire United States, then listen closely for a major gear-shift: "Well, that is absurd, of course. Not everyone will succeed, and so the market will never saturate."

Well, which is it? Are we recruiting "winners" to build a real business, or planning by design to profit off of "losers" who buy into our "confidence"?

During "the pitch," anyone can make it work. "It's the opportunity of a lifetime." "Just look at the math!" But mention the inevitable saturation and the losses this is going to cause for everyone, and then you'll hear, "Of course it would never really work like that." "Most will fail," you will be told, "but not you, Mr. Recruit. You are a winner. I can just see it in your eyes."

If you are a starry-eyed recruit, it will grow as presented. If you are a logical skeptic, then of course it would never really work like that.

But the dialog usually never even gets to this. The fact that MLM is in a mad dash to oversupply is largely chided as mere "stinkin' thinkin'." Expert MLMers know how to quickly deflect this issue with parable, joke, personal testimony, or some other sleight of mind.

New Solution: A Retarded MLM

Some modern incarnations of MLMs attempt to address this particular problem by limiting the number of people you can sponsor, say, to four. But the same geometric expansion problems exist; the failure mechanism has just been slowed down a bit. And now there is the added problem of even more unnecessary layers in the organization.

The claim that an MLM is merely a "common man" implementation of a normal real-world distribution channel becomes even more absurd in this case. Imagine buying a product or service in the real world and having to pay overrides and royalties to five or ten unneeded and uninvolved "distributor" layers. Would this be efficient? What value do these layers of "distributors" provide to the consumer? Is this rational? Would such a company exist long in a competitive environment?

Confidence Men and the Shadow Pyramid

The age-old technique of "con men" is to create "confidence" in some otherwise dumb idea by diversion of thought, bait, or force of personality. The victim gets confidence in a bogus plan, and, in exchange, the con man gets your money. MLMers are very high on confidence.

Since the brain inevitably intrudes itself into the delusion that an MLM could ever work, spirits drop and attitudes go sour. But this depressive state can itself be exploited. As doubts grow when the MLM does not do what recruits were first "con"fidenced to expect, then a further profit can be made keeping the confidence going against all common sense.

Thus, a parallel or "shadow" pyramid of motivational tapes, seminars, and videos emerges. These are a "must for success," and recruits are strong-armed into attending, buying, buying, and buying all the more. This motivational "shadow pyramid" further exploits the flagging recruits as they spiral inexorably into oversaturation and failure. The more they fail, the more "help" they need from those who are "successful" above them.

So, MLMs profit by conning recruits up-front with a "distributorship fee," and then make further illicit money by "confidencing" these hapless victims as they fail via the "sale" of collateral material.

Special MLM "Job" Offer: A Losing Proposition

Would a rational person, abreast of the facts, go to work selling any product or service if he or she knew that there was an open agenda to overhire sales reps for the same products in the prospective territory?

What do you think? Is this a good "opportunity" or a recipe for collective disaster?

So, as the saying goes, "Get in early!" This is a rationalization on the level of "getting in early" on the L.A. looting riots. If profit from the sale of products is fundamentally set up to fail, then the only money to be had is to "loot" others by conning them while you have the chance. Don't miss the "opportunity," indeed!

Where is the money coming from for those at the top? From the sucker at the bottom... as in every pyramid scheme. The product could be, and lately has been, anything.

The important thing is to exploit people while the exploiting is good, if you want to make quick money at MLM.