MLM companies have been trying to find ways around China's prohibitions, or have been developing other methods, such as direct sales, to take their products to China through retail operations. The Direct Sales Regulations limit direct selling to cosmetics, health food, sanitary products, bodybuilding equipment and kitchen utensils. And the Regulations require Chinese or foreign companies ("FIEs") who intend to engage into direct sale business in mainland China to apply for and obtain direct selling license from the Ministry of Commerce ("MOFCOM"). In 2016, there are 73 companies, including domestic and foreign companies, that have obtained the direct selling license. Some multi-level marketing sellers have circumvented this ban by establishing addresses and bank accounts in Hong Kong, where the practice is legal, while selling and recruiting on the mainland.
Robert Fitzpatrick is the foremost expert in the analysis of MLM’s, both from an economic perspective and from a moral perspective and this slim work is a perfect distillation of his years of research in the industry. I spent a quarter of a century working at the corporate headquarters of a nearly 50 year old MLM and I can attest that Mr. Fitzpatrick’s take on the business model is spot on. MLM, direct sales, whatever you want to call it, it’s all a recruitment-based pyramid scheme where less than 1% even make a profit, let alone a living. And all the arguments that most people only sign up to do it part-time or to get discounts on products is in direct contradiction to how MLM’s market to prospective recruits. They promote a life-changing opportunity, a chance to win a car, buy a new dream house on an island somewhere, to build an organization of salespeople below you so that you can sit back and live off “passive income” while the people below you do all the work. I think that on some level, we all feel that there is something inherently wrong with MLM, this book puts words to those feelings. For anyone interested in being in a MLM, or who is already in one, ask them to send you an income disclosure showing what the typical salesperson earns in that business. If they stonewall your attempts to get the information, that is a dead giveaway and you need to get out. On the other hand, if they give you the info but ask you, “but you don’t want to just be average, do you? You want to do better than that, right?” be aware of this because you are dealing with someone who wants you to deny simple math. What they are asking you to do is to ignore the day-to-day reality that 99% of the industry fails and the only reason to ignore it is because they want to make sure that you give them your money in order to pad their commission check. Before you take part in any direct sales opportunity, look into Mr. Fitzpatrick work, this book and on his website. False Profits should be required reading for anyone interested in signing up in a MLM because it will arm you with the knowledge you need to be able to make an informed decision.
Even if you, or your wife, aren’t bothered by the pyramidal structure of multi-level marketing companies, even if you could make a ton of money by working for one, you still shouldn’t do it for this one reason alone: you shouldn’t ever want to commodify the sacrality of your relationships; you shouldn’t trade the genuine bonds of love for the cold economics of exchange.
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