Red Flag #1: Endless chains of recruitment
- To build your business, are you required to recruit people into any kind of downline?
- Would you as a new recruit, by permitted and even encouraged to recruit other participants, who would in turn be encouraged to recruit still others, and they still more, etc. - from whom you could collect commissions and /or bonuses on what they buy or sell?
- Visualize yourself recruiting a chain of recruiters recruiting recruiters, including friends and loved ones, just to enrich yourself. Wouldn't you rather preserve and protect, rather than exploit, those relationships?
All network or multi-level marketing (MLM) programs, no-product pyramid schemes, and chain letters have this recruitment chaining characteristic in common. You would be wise to avoid any program in which you are recruited without limit into chains of participants (distributors, agents, representatives, etc.), which are organized into multiple levels, especially where the position in the chain or hierarchy of participants is determined by timing of entrance into the program and/or by success at recruiting a downline of participants. While a few earn substantial profits, the vast majority (at least 99%) of participants in such programs lose both time and money.
In at least four studies, chain selling schemes that feature unlimited recruitment in endless chains of participants have been found to be profitable only for a tiny percent (less than 1%) of participants at or near the top of their respective pyramids. Yet MLM promoters typically present their programs as outstanding business or income opportunities This fallacy is at the heart of a maze of misrepresentations used in MLM recruitment. Whether or not law enforcement interprets the endless chains of recruitment as an illegal pyramid scheme, it can be considered an unfair and deceptive trade practice – or unjust enrichment of a few at the top of a pyramid of participants at the expense a downline of misled participants, the vast majority of whom are mathematically pre-determined to lose money.
It should also be noted that quality and/or prices of products or services often becomes questionable when incentives are tied to recruitment. This would apply to such products and services as health products, investments, or internet services. But even if the products are of exceptional quality, it is the inherently fraudulent design of the chain-selling program that misleads people into participating against their own best interests. The vast majority of recruits are destined to lose both time and money.
For most chain selling programs (multi-level or network marketing, etc.), income is dependent primarily on downline recruitment of participants who will buy (or subscribe to) products to "play the game." As a general guideline in evaluating MLM programs, if you must recruit to be successful, or if the primary emphasis in the compensation plan is on building a downline, it is not a viable income opportunity except for those at or near the top of the pyramid – who are usually those who joined at the beginning of the chain of recruitment. And you must decide if your success at the expense of so many victims will leave you with a clear conscience.
In summary, MLM is dependent on unlimited recruitment of endless chains of participants as primary customers. It assumes infinite expansion in a finite market. It also assumes relatively virgin markets. As a business model, MLM is therefore inherently flawed, fraudulent, and unprofitable except for a few at or near the top of a pyramid of participants. It is also extremely viral and predatory, preying on the most vulnerable among us.
Saturation from unlimited recruitment of endless chains of participants is the fundamental flaw i MLM as a business model. For more on the following related topics, visit our Saturation page.
- What is the difference between total saturation and market saturation, and why is it crucial to differentiate between the two?
- Is market saturation inevitable for MLMs, and how quickly does it happen?
- Does unlimited recruiting doom MLM participants to failure?
Or – for the most thorough treatment available on this topic, you can download and read Chapter 3 of the ebook The Case (for and) against Multi-level Marketing.