MLMs: Misfortune Lends (itself to) Misfortune


Alisha Bhatia, Staff Writer

Want to become absolutely enraged at how cruel and exploitative people are? Look no further than Multilevel Marketing Schemes (MLMs).

What are MLMs?

An MLM is the barely legal version of a pyramid scheme. They are characterized by a firm’s almost entire dependence on recruitment of new members for profit rather than the sale of products themselves. The good or service they sell has no real worth or relevance to the company – it’s just a front for the exploitation of unknowing and vulnerable people. What’s wrong with how MLMs recruit? These organizations promote big claims like being able to achieve your dreams of financial independence and security to recruit people who will only fund the founders and top-level employees while hurting the rest. It looks just like a pyramid: top level employees recruit other lower level employees and earn a commission from these second-tier members and everyone those members recruit. Essentially, each member is promised a portion of the salary of those they recruit, so while members are incentivized to encourage more people to join their scheme, no one ends up making a substantial earning apart from a select group at the top.

Social Media is helping MLMs

While these have always been a problem, founders of MLMs are taking advantage of social media to reach a broader audience that they can exploit. Why now? With the pandemic’s record-high unemployment rates that make working from home more attractive and a population that spends more time online, this is an MLM’s dream come true. However, the spread of these disgusting networks is not completely uncontrolled: TikTok recently explicitly banned these schemes, possibly due to their potential for greater impact with the app’s younger, more vulnerable audience[1].

A Look into an MLM: Young Living

I hoped that the days of conning masses to act against the best interest of their health for economic profit were largely over with the end of companies like Theranos.