MLM – Many Lying Manipulators

Some time ago, I discovered a section of Reddit called “Anti-MLM“. I’d heard of MLM before, but all I knew about it was the meaning of the acronym: multi-level marketing. I never understood what MLM was about or why they were considered shady.

I read the thread for fun and some laughs, but I learned quickly why MLM has the reputation it does. MLM is essentially interchangeable with “pyramid scheme”, but even the ones that (supposedly) aren’t pyramid schemes are no better. The basic is: you pay for a set of start-up supplies (beauty products, clothes, etc) and try to sell them while trying to persuade other people to sign up for the same company. A lot of MLM companies have “levels”, so the more you sell and more people you convince to join, the higher your level goes.

From reading that section (subreddit), it seems many of these companies target a specific group. They aim for people – especially women, it seems – who are unemployed, recently finished college, are stay-at-home parents, or are just struggling financially in general. While it’s undoubtedly immoral to prey on those who may be vulnerable, I’m more disgusted with the attitudes of the people who fall into these scams.

To an extent, I have some sympathy. I don’t have a child, but I do know what it’s like to struggle and scramble to keep your bills paid and stay afloat. However, many of the people who sign up for MLM companies are very patronizing and outright dishonest.

For starters, a common theme seems to be that a regular job is the “real scam”. When someone dares to question why they need to pay to sign up, the usual retort is that an ordinary job makes you pay to work there as well, via requiring you to buy a uniform. This is completely ignoring many jobs provide uniforms for free or have a loose dress code where there is no specific uniform. My job falls under the latter, and my uniform was $15 to $20, an amount I make in two hours of work. If you already happen to have clothes that fit the dress code before you start working, you don’t have to pay anything. Similarly, many consider college a scam as well. I do think the system of education (higher and lower) is long overdue for an overhaul, but that doesn’t mean college itself is terrible. There seems to be a common notion everyone with a regular job is miserably working from 9am to 5pm under a cold-hearted boss, or everyone who attends college is drowning in several thousands of dollars in debt while unemployed or underemployed.

What’s more egregious is many of the supposed benefits spouted about joining a MLM companies often contradict. The biggest example of this is how they advertise you can “be your own boss” and claim they are “small business owners”. In the same breath, they scream the company they work for is not a pyramid scam. I don’t think anyone needs a business degree to figure out the obvious flaw there, but I’ll point it out anyway. You are not “your own boss” if you work for a company, let alone a business owner. People who work for MLM companies have bosses just like any person who works for genuine companies. Why would a business owner receive a paycheck from anyone? Payment from their clients for providing services, yes, but their clients aren’t their employees. Speaking of benefits, there’s usually no mention of the benefits a regular, full-time job provides like health insurance and paid time off. And of course, the people with regular jobs are the people they count on for their sales to begin with.

My favorite, however, how they claim you can “make money from your phone anywhere, any time”. On the surface, that sounds great. However, many of the people who advertise this post about “earning money” from places like the pool, the beach, or just relaxing in bed. How are you relaxing if you’re working? When I clock out at work, I am done. I don’t have to think about work any more until the next shift. I don’t want to work while I’m on vacation or just having a nice day off. Chances are if I’m at the pool, I’m with my best friend or my boyfriend. I’d rather be in the water, swimming and having the time of my life with them, not or posting ads from my phone while they have fun without me. Yet at the same time, there’s the claim that “you control your money”. In other words, you do have to work hard to profit from MLM. So, which is it? Easy money-making while having fun, or as much dedication as any other job? Also, if you have kids, how are you spending time with them while posting ads online most of the day? I supposed there’s nighttime when they’re sleeping, but doesn’t that kill the idea you do have to work hard at MLM?

However, something I happen to find infuriating is many of these consultants also advertise dangerous ideas. One I’ve seen a lot is ingesting essential oils, despite the bottles themselves having warnings that they aren’t to be ingested. I’ve also seen beauty products that notoriously caused damage instead of enhancing looks, but the consultants blamed the result on the buyers for “improper use”. That might be an excuse when it comes to a few people out of very many (and even then, you should still address those concerns), but not when it’s the majority. Apparently, there are some oils that can be ingested, but essential oils for scents aren’t those.

Perhaps the worst is that as a result of joining an MLM companies, many of these people alienate their friends and family because they eventually do almost nothing except advertise. While that subreddit is often funny, it also has a lot of sad anecdotes from users who had to cut off friends or relatives because they never contacted them except to try to sell to them or persuade them to join. In worse scenarios, attempts were made to trick or bully them into buying or selling, and they were met with belligerence when they refused. A lot of the regular users of that section refer to MLM as a cult overall. I’m not sure how accurate that really is, but with how common certain elements are (regular jobs and all colleges are scams, assuming anyone who in college or a regular job is miserable, treating all jobs as office types, willing to alienate their loved ones, refusal to admit some products are faulty, etc), it would indeed come off as a cult if it were more serious than advertising products you bought.

Something that also makes me cringe is a lot of these MLM consultants refer to themselves as “boss babes” or claim they are building an “empire”. I work at a job where we could wear rain boots and cat ears, and still be within the dress code because our bosses are light-hearted and not picky. Yet, unsurprisingly, no one does that because it looks too silly to be taken seriously in any work setting that’s not a daycare center. Five of my seven bosses (managers) are female and the moment “boss babe” came out of their mouths, I’d no longer take them seriously. That’s not to say we don’t have fun at work, but we do it off the clock and away from customers. The other annoying part of this is it calls attention to the “boss” being female. Why? Yes, I understand the need for women to be recognized in working world, especially in certain fields that are still male by majority, but if feminism is supposed to mean men and women are equal, why is there a need to remind everyone you’re a woman? Isn’t that point that gender is irrelevant and shouldn’t be paid attention to? Personally, I don’t want someone to respect me because I’m a woman. Respect me because I work hard, or I’m kind, or I’m good at whatever I do. But not because I have two X chromosomes!

I do hope there’s someday a way to shut down MLM and pyramid scheme companies. I have personally never encountered a MLM recruiter, but if they are widespread enough to have the reputation they do, the best that can be done for now is warning people of these companies, especially those who fall under the categories these companies tend to aim for. While I lose sympathy the moment the consultants of these companies begin mimicking their tactics, I still do recognize they were likely pressured and had their vulnerable spots hit. I have bent to pressure and gotten far in over my head than I realized something finally forced me out. That may be just how most of the people who fall for the empty promises these companies spout have get out of it. Hopefully, it’s before they have no one left.

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The Poison of Fandoms – Part 2

Because one reminder wasn’t enough.

Even when I try to avoid fandoms, it seems I’m not always successful.

Tonight, I was having a marathon of MLP’s second season while playing Pokemon Moon, and I was rather enjoying. While it was going on, I paused my game to post a small annoyance on Tumblr I had with one character. She’s not a bad character. Just not really to my tastes. One episode portrayed her really nicely and had me warm up to her, but a following one had me annoyed again. Keep in mind there was nothing hateful about it. Apparently, however, even minor annoyance is too much for this character’s fans. Later on, I received this message in, as well as these posts in reply to some I’d made days ago. Interestingly, this person brought up my love of another character, despite one has zero to do with the other. They also deleted one of the replies. Typical. (Edit: This message came as I was writing this post)

Note that I do not even hate this character (or, at least, I didn’t until now). I was annoyed at her portrayal is in one episode is all. One episode I watched out of twenty. The irony of a show about friendship having such an awful fandom will never escape me, but then again, that’s fandoms in general. Even if you say you do like some things of that character, it’s not enough. Any annoyance with her whatsoever is perceived by her fans as hate. Basically, if she’s not your favorite, you’re a hater.

For those curious, that episode that irritated me had to do with her trying to befriend someone who made it clear he wanted to be left alone and she was not getting the hint. The episode ended nicely, but I was irritated because she was incredibly pushy, doing things like going into his home and rummaging through his things without permission (and even damaging some!), and those actions are portrayed as okay because she wants to be his friend. That was my problem with the episode. If the message I received in my inbox is any indication of her fans’ mentality, it seems they believe invading someone’s home and possessions is “friendliness”, and respecting someone’s privacy and wishes to be left alone is a bad thing to teach children. No wonder people hate my generation. And here, my friends have never so much as touched something of mine without my permission. They must not be real friends.

Sarcasm aside, it’s a shame I’ve liked this show for a total of three months and this is my introduction to it. I have my boyfriend, thankfully, and I’m starting to understand why he did want to me enjoy this show. I have no doubt the bad reputation of “bronies” and the show itself comes from its fandom and had I tried to get into it without him, I probably would’ve been turned away very quickly by its fandom. And no, my run-in with these jerks did not taint my love of the show, but it did make me angry enough to cancel my mini-marathon earlier than intended. I’ll continue it another time. Perhaps.

The Poison of Fandoms

First off, I want to say thank you to all those who still visited my blog, in spite of zero posts last month. A life of work and sleep leaves you little time to juggle all of the other parts of your life.

My last post was about Twilight Sparkle of MLP. I’ve watched more of the show in bits, and though she is still my favorite of the main/mane cast for personality, my most favorite characters are the setting’s rulers. However, this post isn’t about that.

I’ve been a part of fandoms, starting with the Sims, for seven years. I found out later on it was a grave mistake. Every fandom I’ve joined, especially those with a large following, proved itself to be a cesspool of poison. Essentially, there were rules about what made you a “true fan”, certain opinions were not allowed, and admins of certain areas proved to be extremely biased. Knowing this, it was very much against my better judgement to join a Facebook group for MLP, but in my new love for the show and excitement for the movie, I did. Within two days, I resigned. I suppose that’s a record.

The reason I left is, apparently, a fictional movie about ponies is serious business. So serious, any posted spoilers about said movie warranted banning any member who did so, and the admins, unsurprisingly, refused to consider they could be acting unreasonably (then again, I suppose that’s to be expected from someone who considers being the admin of a Facebook group a job). Remember, we are talking about a film of animation. Not poverty, war, hunger, homelessness, crime, abuse, or any other truly serious issue. A film aimed at under-aged girls. I love cartoons, something I’ve made very evident over the years, but it is not that serious. And I say this having bought an MLP shirt from the kids section at my job because it could fit me.

While the bright side is I wasn’t alone in my opinion (other members of the group agreed and were probably shortly kicked out, and members of the Disney group I’m in agreed that was out of line as well), it saddens me how difficult it is to find a community of any fandom that is rational and tolerant. It seems the only exception to this rule are small communities, which truly is a shame. Having had my love of so many things murdered by their fandoms, one of which I ranted about for a good while, I certainly didn’t want my merely one-month-old love of MLP to fall to the same fate, especially not at the childishness of Facebook warriors in a group I was a part of for two days, and with the movie coming out so soon. I left before my love for the show could take a heavy hit. But I can’t say I’m not disappointed with how poorly things turned out. Perhaps it was deserved for allowing my excitement to cloud my better judgment against joining the group to begin with.

I realize it is the internet, and social media websites in particular are notorious for being wells of addictive, yet poisonous muck. As much as I dislike it, it makes me understand the stereotype of people in fandoms being anti-social recluses with little going on in their lives. It’s a painful thing to admit, possessing so many loves of so much light-hearted media myself, but the toxicity I’ve found across so many fandoms isn’t allowing me to deny or be confused about why the stereotype exists. After all, why would someone who is content and enjoying their life feel the need to be controlling over something so trivial? The internet permits a huge amount of imaginary power, and power is addicting.

Of course, in the end, fandoms aren’t needed to keep a love of something going. I still have every intention of seeing MLP’s film and I am still very much fawning over the show. While the show’s lessons are occasionally questionable, perhaps the admins of that group missed the second half of the title: friendship is magic. I’m sure Twilight Sparkle, the princess of friendship, would be disappointed.

Your Friends Lost You

Lately, I’ve seen a somewhat popular post from Whisper going around. I won’t post the image, but the quote is: “When I say I won’t tell anyone, my husband doesn’t count.”

I’ve always been neutral about marriage. This is one of those things that pushes me toward the more negative side of it.

My boyfriend and I are not married yet, but he does want to marry me and I’ve already agreed, so we will marry someday. However, if I ever catch myself thinking “Well, I’m getting married, so soon, my friends won’t matter anymore”, that’s when I call off the wedding. This works the other way around too. If I ever found out he was being distrustful to his friends because of me, I’d call it quits. I am not going to be someone’s reason for being a jerk.

I used to read often that newlywed couples, particularly the wives, tended to lose their friends when they got married. However, if that quote gives any suggestion to married life, it’s no wonder why. They didn’t lose their friends. They decided their friends no longer mattered and chose to permanently put them aside. Perhaps people have different ideas of what “friendship” means, but for me, if I cannot trust you, we cannot be friends.

I love my boyfriend and I am content with the idea of someday being his wife. But I also love my best friend. She is like a sister to me, and she was in my life four years before he was. She is not going on the back burner. Yes, I talk to my boyfriend about my best friend, and vice versa, and I’m hoping I’ll eventually have a chance to introduce them to each other since they are the two most important people in my life. But if she ever comes to me and says, “Please don’t tell anyone this”, he will not know. If I ever do reveal something she wanted me to keep secret, I’ll apologize.

That’s what real friends do.

Continuing to respect my friends does not make me a bad girlfriend, nor will it make me a bad wife. On the contrary, letting him be the reason I stop doing so is what would make me a bad partner.

Classism?

I had a very interesting “discussion” earlier today… if you can call someone throwing around insults like an elementary schooler because you don’t agree with them a discussion.

It seems it’s considered “classist” by some people to suggest it’s best to wait until one can afford to have a child before actually having a child.

Now, I do understand how that statement can be taken wrongly, but most people who say this are referring to being capable of, at the very least, providing for a child’s basic needs – food, clothing, and shelter – before having them.

Apparently, however, even that suggests a prejudice against poor people. Never mind I’ve most often heard that statement from people who know the hell growing up without enough food to eat really is.

Before I continue, let me say this: I am well aware situations can change over time. This statement refers to those who do not have any children, not someone who already is a parent, or whose financial circumstances crumbled after their children were born. No, this refers to someone who is currently struggling and, for whatever reason, chooses to bring a child into their struggle and, as a result, struggles to provide for that child, or ultimately cannot provide for that child, because of what their situation already was.

With that clarity out of the way, I truly fail to see how suggesting it’s best to be certain you can fulfill a child’s basic necessities before you actually have a child is “classist”. Even if you can provide nothing more than basic necessities, you are still able to provide for that child. It’s the bare minimum, but it’s still enough to keep the child alive. Somehow, no matter how many times I explained this, it was read as me saying “if you’re poor, don’t have children”. Interestingly, I never mentioned a particular social or economic class. That assumption came out of the mouth of the people arguing against it.

Let me use myself as an example. I don’t have any children and I don’t plan to. If, however, I somehow changed my mind on that and decided to have a child… that child would die. That sounds morbid, but the job I have cannot even provide me with shelter for myself. So, where would I attain shelter for my child from? Now, I could provide food and I could provide clothes… but where would I put them? I could keep the child in one outfit, so that takes care of the clothing necessity, but that child will become hungry over and over. Without shelter, where will I store the food? Or do I buy food every time the child’s hungry since I can’t store it? And where does the baby sleep? Where do I bathe this baby? Uh-oh. This is a problem. My child has no shelter!

Now, knowing full well I have no capability of providing that child with something so fundamental, why would I go on to have a child? Answer: I wouldn’t. Because I know I can’t!

Yet, that’s “classist”. Now, here’s the trick question: Did I say I wouldn’t have a child because I was poor or did I say I wouldn’t have a child because I could provide food and clothes, but not shelter?

Time’s up. The answer is: Because I couldn’t provide shelter. Everything in that paragraph refers to the child’s needs and my incapability of meeting those needs, or at least one of them.

And that is the gist of it. If anything would prevent someone from providing the basic needs that keep their child alive, no matter what that reason is, to willingly bring in a child into the world while fully aware of that knowledge is irresponsible. My belief isn’t that poor people shouldn’t have children. My belief is anyone who knows ahead of time they cannot fulfill the most basic needs of a child shouldn’t go on to have a child until that changes. Economic class be damned.

However, let’s say for a moment this is “classist”. What difference does it make? At the end of the day, there is a child whose needs cannot be met by their parent(s). Somebody must feed, clothe, and give shelter to that child. If the parent(s) cannot do it, the child will either die of neglect or be relinquished from the parent(s) for that neglect.

There is a somewhat popular meme that says when people talk about getting a pet, they are constantly reminded of the responsibilities of owning said pet, but when people talk about not having a child due not being able to provide for said child, they are told they’ll “figure things out” or “God will provide”. I have heard more times than I care to count there is no “perfect time” to have child, but the idea of hoping things will just fall into place seems like a dangerous gamble to take with a responsibility that’s obviously much larger than a pet. If that gamble falls favorably, that’s wonderful. If it doesn’t, there will be consequences and the child will undoubtedly suffer the brunt of them.

Of course, in the end, it’s not my business and the responsibility of providing for that child is not mine. However, I think about this because, despite my lack of desire for parenthood, I don’t like the idea of any child being neglected. It is in no way fair to force a child into a situation where their needs cannot be met, and “life isn’t fair” should only refer to unavoidable events. Children should and deserve to be born into homes where their needs being met isn’t a worry.

To speak specifically about poverty, if someone is poor, but can still provide their child’s basic needs, there is not a problem. That child is fed, clothed, and has shelter. There is no issue here. If they are, unfortunately, too poor to provide those needs, there is a big problem. The message is not “Poor people shouldn’t have children because they’re poor.” The message is “People who know they cannot provide for a child’s basic needs shouldn’t have children because they can’t provide for the children’s needs.”

And if that is indeed classist, so be it. I care much more that a child’s needs are met than someone pointing a finger at me and screaming I’m classist. Of course, I would not tell any person they can’t have a child in the first place, no matter what their situation currently was. As I already said, it’s not my business and it’s not as if anything would stop them anyway. I only hope, for the sake of their child, they are certain.