The overwhelming majority of MLM participants (most sources estimated to be over 99.25% of all MLM distributors) participate at either an insignificant or nil net profit.[12] Indeed, the largest proportion of participants must operate at a net loss (after expenses are deducted) so that the few individuals in the uppermost level of the MLM pyramid can derive their significant earnings. Said earnings are then emphasized by the MLM company to all other participants to encourage their continued participation at a continuing financial loss.[13]

Brickey heard of Pre-Paid Legal, a network marketing company that provides affordable legal services for low- to middle-income individuals and families, while attending a job fair last October. He borrowed money from his girlfriend for the membership fees—three payments of $50—and another $300 to $400 for the starter package and other required tools, which included business cards, stationery, flyers, training materials, and handfuls of DVDs, videotapes, and books that explained the particulars of the company.
This fact is rarely mentioned in the sales pitches. Instead, they typically promote the merchandise (referred to as "lotions & potions" by MLM critics) as wonderous super products that will be in high demand. But, you should always beware of success stories coming from MLM distributors. Most MLM companies pay shills who lie about having had multimillion dollar success with the scheme. These are typically the ones who travel around giving seminars, pitching motivational materials, and putting on recruiting extravaganzas that have been criticized by the Federal Trade Commission for promoting an almost cult-like religious mania as a substitute for sound business practices.

Non-MLM real-world businesses that offer products of interest to friends, family, etc., such as insurance agents and small retail shop owners, seem to be more circumspect in dealing with personal relationships in all but a few rare (and grievous) cases. But the MLMer is recognizable by duplicity of friendship overtures, overbearing glad-handing, full-time prospecting, outrageous initial deception, and social callousness. This is no accident, but rather sheer desperation. How could it be otherwise? For the active MLMer is in a hopeless bear trap: with hubris as one steel jaw and oversaturation the other.
In an October 15, 2010 article, it was stated that documents of a MLM called Fortune reveal that 30 percent of its representatives make no money and that 54 percent of the remaining 70 percent only make $93 a month. The article also states Fortune is under investigation by the Attorneys General of Texas, Kentucky, North Dakota, and North Carolina with Missouri, South Carolina, Illinois, and Florida following up complaints against the company. In 2013, the FTC's court-appointed receiver determined that Fortune was nothing but an illegal recruitment MLM and that least 88 % of the members did not even recoup their enrollment fees and that more then 98% had lost more money then they ever made.[54][55] Refund checks mailed out totaled over $3.7 million.[56]
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