A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies

reader comments: Amway

5 Oct 96
I was approached by a guy at a friend's house some 10 years ago, about a "business opportunity" and my wife and I agreed to make an appointment at our house to discuss it further. At this later meeting, after the usual sales pitch it was eventually revealed that the guy was an Amway distributor. Fine, we'd been seduced again. Still, there might be some worthwhile products involved. However when it was also eventually revealed that the products on sale were all manufactured in or sourced from America, I got really annoyed. If Amway were to succeed in this country (Australia) in the manner proposed I felt that it would eventually be at the expense of many thousands of Australian jobs in the manufacturing sector. Since that time, according to Bureau of Statistics figures, manufacturing employment in Victoria alone (the second largest state) has declined from 357,989 in 1984-85 to an estimated 260,000 in 1994-95. I don't know what the current extent of Amway's penetration of the Australian market is, but it sure couldn't be helping the Australian economy.

Terry Woodhouse
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

27 Sep 1996
My friend is a professional massage therapist. He gets paid $50 to rub peoples' shoulders and back etc.. There is only one problem, he has been sucked into Scamway and is now even considering quitting his massage business. You should hear him talk. All he ever talks about is how fantastic Scamway is, and how there are so many millionaires in the program. I keep reminding him that he is not one of them, and that after being in the thing for 2 years, the biggest check he has ever received is $16. But there is no telling him. He sits there, and tell me about how he is in awe of his distributors and bosses and how wealthy there are. He pays extortionate amounts of money to go to these Scamway meetings, so he can sit on a steel chair in a big room with 6000 other people, and applaud people who stand up on a podium and tell you how rich they are.

I don't know how I can get through to him. Every time I see him (3 times a week), all he does is try to get me to join up. I keep telling him that I would never join, because it is wank, but he just persists, throwing all these statistics at me, and telling me how rich he is going to be, and that I am a fool. Last month, he paid $400 to go to a three day Scamway seminar. As part of the $400 fee, he got to stay at a nice hotel, the only problem is that he lives only 5 miles away from the hotel, but couldn't go to the seminar unless he paid the full amount and stayed in the hotel. I went there to drop him off, and all of these Scamway people were there, running around with ID badges on, introducing themselves to each other. It honestly looked like something out of a movie. These people are brainwashed. I don't know what goes on at those seminars, or what these people are told, but it is worrying. Scamway is like a cult. DO NOT GET INVOLVED.


** High Priority **
I have read some of your "thoughts" and opinions in Your dictionary. I came across it by accident while searching for the truth. Indeed it was an accident, I was angry at first when I read several of your articles, but then I realized you are in California. It all fell into place.

reply: You are very lucky. Not too many non-Californians ever have it all fall into place.

I also realized that someone like yourself has too much time with that PhD. Your head must be swelling with so much useless knowledge that you feel you must share it whether or not it is the truth or NOT. I feel that Your dictionary is a disservice. While so people try to search for and find something to build up hope, their you are tearing it down.

reply: Thank you for your encouragement. I appreciate your kind comments. It is not the typical person who can appreciate the value of useless knowledge. You are very special, indeed.

Thanks for letting me share what I feel, (You already have)
Dan Dickerson
Bio: 25 yrs. old, married, white, college educated, Christian, and Stinkin' rich AMWAY Distributor. .

reply: I had a feeling you were married, Dan. That will make a lot of women unhappy, I'm sure. The adjective you chose to describe your wealth is a rich one, indeed!

"The truth will set you free..."

reply: You can't be set free if you are not in bondage. I think a better saying might be Dylan's "in order to dream you've got to be asleep."

01 May 96

I was approached by an Amway distributor a few days back. At the time I did not know that she was an Amway distributor. She mentioned that she might have some work for me, and when I asked her what line of work she was in, she said she was into computer work with film and video. As a film major, I leapt for the chance to meet her again.

We met again at a restaurant and she brought with her two other people she called her "business partners". The moment we sat down I immediately picked up on the angle of this meeting.

The man she brought with her did all of the talking. He had nice looking brochures and a pretty nice looking pair of Italian loafers. His manner, however, was the thing that got me. He was constantly lurched forward onto the table in my direction, totally hyperkinetic, and I also noticed that his eyebrows were constantly in a raised position with his "I gotta tell ya, Joel..." and his, "I don't know about you, but I'd certainly like...".

He gave me a packet full of stuff and I went on my way. After nothing more than a cursory glance through the packet, I laughed heartily, to say the least.

Nevertheless, I looked for some information on Amway on the WWW. I hit Lycos and searched. I checked out the Amway home page first. Same shtick. Then I found and entry for your Skeptic's Dictionary.

Most informative, to say the least. It finally hardened my stance on this "business opportunity" from concrete to tempered steel.

I have never felt more taken advantage of my life. I'm telling all of my friends and telling them to tell all of their friends.

Keep Spreadin' the Word,
Joel A. Roush

6 Apr 1996
I used to have respect for Amway Corporation, but it has become incredibly corrupted, consisting of primarily Hype and Hustle, selling the idea of getting something for nothing.

What really ticks me off is that, just today, I wasted 2 hours of my time, and travel, to attend an interview that turned out to be an Amway distributor trying to build downline. After having been an Amway distributor many years ago, and being aware of the "concealed" approach of most Amway marketing, I still was tricked and deceived into attending the interview.

Obviously, any group that has to conceal their identity in order to attract potential recruits. Has something to hide. The "opportunity" was presented to me as having no need to sell product, nor to have any of my downlines sell products just a group of people selling themselves products in other words, a wholesale, membership club, But with a whole bunch of middlemen taking a piece of the selling price. What an absolute crock!
Robert R. Smith

29 Feb 1996
Hi there Bob. I just wanted to let you know that it seems that you have taken the Amway thing a bit too far without actually getting into most of the people who are in it. I am a Christian and just was approached by a guy in my church here at school after asking help from him to build a resume for a job here at a local computer organization that he works for. He said he'd love to help me and that if I wanted to, I could come here him talk about a business that he owned that was making some good money. I went and I'm kinda iffy about the whole thing [an am] still trying to decide whether or not to join in. However, what appeals to me is not the huge amounts of money (but they are a cool bonus), but the Christian way in which the business is organized. At least from the way it was explained to me. It demonstrates a humbleness in that you must be willing to accept help from the upper links to start your own business; you must be willing to help other people make money and dedicate your time to them.... Amway's set up and model of charity appeal to me and I have not found anybody that has tried to force this down my throat, nor tell me that I can get rich quickly with little effort. I hope that I have cleared up a few things, and that the people out there reading your page will not be so easily persuaded either way, but that they would critically think about the matter and ask God to give them wisdom about the matter. I think that God could make a profound impact on the lives of people through sharing the Gospel in the business world, however, if the credibility of Amway goes down the tubes, many hearts will be closed to the message of Jesus Christ. That would suck more than any scandal in the history of man.

Michael Caron

reply: I am glad to hear that the people you are involved with are such good people, but I don't think you have to worry about Christianity collapsing if Amway goes down the tubes.

22 Feb 1996
Thank you Robert for your frank, witty and talented writing.

I recently read your section on Amway after being approached by their MLM distributors. It confirmed many of my feelings and I liked it so much that I gave a copy of it (with full credit to you of course), along with some of your linked material and other Web finds ,to a distributor at our next meeting. She was quite stunned and gave some very predictable responses. I told her to take it home and read it and that I would look at their PRODUCTS as I had insisted from the beginning. I just found your entire book today + homepage and look forward to more interesting reading. YOUR EFFORTS ARE APPRECIATED MORE THAN YOU PROBABLY KNOW.
Thanks Again,


22 Feb 1996
This is about the Amway skeptics.

Those are some totally unbelievable stories that people have told. Once people start lying it begins to snowball! Amway netted $6.3 billion this past fiscal year and 67% of that went out in the form of a bonus. The business has attained the credibility of Meg Ryan, Bo Jackson, Emmit Smith, Clint Eastwood, Bobby Allison, Tom Landry, and Shaquille O'Neil endorses one of our products. There's got to be something good about it.

reply: I'm sure there is something good about Amway. There is also a lot that seems bad about it. The people you mentioned may impress you, but rather than give your company credibility, I take their endorsement to lessen their own credibility. Sorry.

Dear Sir,
I admire your attempts to expose what you perceive as the pitfalls in network marketing, particularly involving the Amway Corporation. A pity that your article is such a mixture of fact, half truth and outright misinformation. I decline to debate the specific points of misinformation. I can only suggest that people looking for an alternative to the "40 hrs/week for 40 years" plan to financial mediocrity find the FACTS out for themselves. Talk to someone who has made some money. There are an endless number of people who have not - for many reasons, but mostly unwilling to do the work required. To me it is abundantly clear that this is a business of maximizing the returns on your effort - i.e. no effort = no reward.

There are some people who choose to live in an environment of fear and ignorance of the facts. I can't help you. For the few people who are willing to look at the facts and decide for themselves whether they can use this opportunity, I can.
Richard Burr

Bob, I have a couple of questions for you.
Have you been a distributor yourself? If so, are you still?

reply: No, I have never been a distributor of Amway products. And, I never plan to become one, either. Despite the fact that if only I work hard I can make millions and retire at 35 (even though I'm now 50).

I have to admit that you have pointed out that there are some similarities to a "cult." If you are as learned as you make yourself to appear then you also know that there are success principles that a person must accept for success in the world. When you understand that the difference between a millionaire and a ditch digger is the people they associate with. I look back to a quote that I was told "If you walk with cripples, you soon learn to limp." This is the same as if associate with someone and take financial advice from someone that is "broke" then you will be broke too. Now you said that only a few have a chance of ever being successful at AMWAY. What do you think is the difference between the distributor that succeeds and one the "loses their shirt?"

reply: I hate to disillusion you but when you are a ditch digger you do not usually have a choice to associate with millionaires, and when you are a millionaire you don't usually associate with ditch diggers as a matter of course. But you seem to think that if you associate with millionaires you will become one and if you associate with ditch diggers you will become one. And if you associate with people who limp you will start to limp yourself. I haven't known many millionaires but the one's I've known weren't any better than the ditch diggers I've known. And, you might actually learn something by associating with people who limp. For one thing you might learn that most of the prejudices you have about limpers are unfounded and based on ignorance. You might discover that many limpers have much more to offer than some goose-stepping millionaire you might meet.

I have dealt with a lot of people in my life...I have found that those that DECIDE to be successful will be.

reply: Well, you must live on a different planet, then. Because here on earth, it takes more than a decision to be successful to actually be successful.

The real money in anything is WORK. Amway is a company that it s headquarters are in Ada Michigan. It does not tell anyone how or how not to build an organization. It has a few rules and regulations because distributors are business owners. Amway is just a WAY to produce income. The various groups (organizations) have their own way of developing a MLM business.

As with any business I have started, I have found that if I don't commit 100% to the business then I will not succeed. That means I have to eat, live, and breathe that business to get it started. In many cases it is frustrating and lonely. If within an organization of Amway there is a support group or "leaders" that are willing to help you with developing a business then great. Especially if that person (leader) has achieved what you want to achieve.) As with any franchise model there are certain things a business owner must do so that business will be successful. If they do not comply with the business plan that is provided with let s say a franchise then the success of that business is at a higher risk. In Amway some organizations have "tools" to help them in assisting the growth of their business. If you decide to not utilize those "tools" then the success of your business is at high risk. They have proven over the years that if these steps are completed with results then success is predictable. Franchises are the same way.

reply: I think there is a big difference between buying into a franchise, say a McDonalds, and buying into an MLM scheme like Amway. I don't have to keep recruiting people to set up new franchises for mine to be successful.

It seems that you are very informed about hearsay about the Amway Corporation. If you are a true Skeptic then you should point out the good and the bad. Not what you have personal feelings about. This then tends to slant you opinion and others that are influence by what you say. Once again my quote holds true "If you walk with cripples you soon learn to limp" If people decide not to build the Amway business because of what you say then you are no better then the people in the so called "CULT" you are trying to inform them of.

Isn't a cult just a group of people influenced by a leader to believe one way or another?

reply: No. That is definitely not what a cult is. Check out my entry on cults.

I present this challenge to you

I am an Amway distributor and I challenge you to get sponsored by someone in Bill Britt s organization and build a business the way that they suggest. If you are not making money (positive cash flow) in the time frame that they have defined with the business plan then you have the right to influence people with your experiences not with hearsay.
Triegh Hubbard

reply: I am afraid that I must decline your stimulating challenge.

I loved the article on "Scamway". I have a friend of three years who has been planning to retire each one of those three years. How will he retire each year? Amway. He still hasn't retired, and he still attends his Thursday evening meetings to gain new recruits.

On one occasion I was that new recruit, you know, the person who goes to the meeting not realizing it is an Amway meeting. I graciously declined the Amway offer, and was for awhile shunned by that friend. 3 years later, when trying to buy a house from that friend, I was asked to "help him out" at one of his meetings. This time I knew what it was, and thought he simply wanted help to set the meeting up. Little did I know that an attempt would be made to recruit me again, this time to help me make my house payment.

When do the Amway Diamond Direct Gold Star Super Chief Distributors give up?

No means no. I feel like I've been raped by a pyramid. The word "duplication" now means "duped" in my book.
Bob Wood

Your story about Amway is correct almost word for word as I was confronted by a distributor who told of working 10 to 12 hours to earn a six figure income in less than 2 years. Those who have been brainwashed can't even read your article correctly (pyramids i.e. legality). I also have to mention that A.J. Snyder is right about Amway's new approach to selling their ideas. In the presentation given now, the word Amway isn't mentioned up front. They talk of wholesale/retail distribution, network sales, and with little work, how you can retire by recruiting 6-4-2. It may be legal, but that doesn't it's not deceptive.
M. Reynolds

I'm going to make this short and to the point. Amway does have a price if you join, or if one of your friends joins - friendship. Amway must be the on the top ten list for reasons a friendship dies. In a 'distributor's' desperation to succeed, (as instilled in him/her during recruitment), that person's friends are viewed only as opportunities, (whether that's opportunity to share Amway, or whatever). I know, I've lost my best friend ever to Amway.
Jens Knuefken

I enjoyed reading your article on Amway. Within the past week I was recruited into Amway through an old friend. I was hoping to find a third party opinion on the web and ran across your article. I was taking a skeptical view to the whole idea while I was reading through some information supplied by the company. I met with the representative today and questioned him about quotes from the information saying that only 2% of their distributors reach the high levels of income that are touted to attract people. He likes showing me their success book with pictures of happy couples and families who have made millions. I am still going to gather more information, but you have been the most convincing counter opinion I have heard towards Amway. Thank you for putting this page on the internet. I have just found your index and am going to look through some more topics covered by you.

Happy Holidays
Charlie [24 Dec 1995]

Hi Bob. My wife and I were Amway distributors for about 3 years, then we finally saw the light. We were gung ho all the way too. Used to spend Boo koo bucks for functions and tapes and books and gas, the whole 9 yards. I would be glad to tell you all about it sometime if you like. The whole cult idea is part of why we got out. Well....that and I guess we're just big Losers.....NOT. Holler back if you'd like to know more.

In response to your Amway section...you hit the nail on the head. I became a distributor a couple of years ago. And screw anyone who calls me quitter because I dropped out after a couple of months. I just couldn't afford this "wonderful" business opportunity after awhile. I was told to make 10 phone calls a night, every night, to recruit people. When I told my recruiter that I didn't know enough people to continue that for very long she told me to ask people that rang up my groceries for their numbers, and waitresses in restaurants. When I got the bright idea of selling the Amway cosmetics (which by the way, are very nice) to sororities on local college campuses, I was told it was a good idea, however the main idea of Amway was to make your money without working very hard, and selling cosmetics like that would be too much work. There is absolutely no regard for selling products to non- distributors. The way you make your money is to become a distributor, and buy your household products only from Amway. Then you sign up people and tell them only to buy from Amway. That's not industrious, it's pathetic!

Another interesting note. When I was involved, I asked my recruiter how much she made, I was told that it was against Amway policy to reveal what level you were at in terms of income and bonuses. So I joined not knowing the de facto amount the distributors in my group were making.

Just read the Amway section and think that it is really well done. It agrees with my observations. Unfortunately for me, a member of my family has just become a 'distributor'. She displays all of the personality characteristics acquired by one enrolled in the Amway hierarchy. It would be better if she took up something harmless like telekinesis or spoon-bending in her spare time. Keep up the great work!
Charlie Crabb

I was going to send this to you telepathically (sp?), but I kept getting a Host Not Listening message. Anyway I just wanted to say I love the inclusion of Amway in with the rest of that bunch.
Victor Biggs

Hmm, well Mr. Skeptic, you need to update your facts, Amway is 5.3 billion a year and distributors are not Agents, but independent contractors. It looks like you need to check your facts out before you slander a company that size.

reply: Thank you. The corrections have been made.

I have been involved with several MLM's and all were approved by the FTC. Why most people don't make it in an MLM is they "QUIT" after the first month if things aren't going their way, I know a few people who do Amway and they have had a lot of success because they are honest. In any MLM if you are dishonest then life is bad for you. Just remember another thing...the more successful a person is the more they will give or tithe (if they are of that morality and religion).

Well, I have probably made your day and done what you wanted me to do...reply. Don't expect me to do it again.

reply: The writer's claim that most people in pyramid scheme sales programs quit in the first month may be correct. If this is true, then the average salary for such "independent contractors" would be misleadingly low.

Let me take a minute and straighten you out. Please don't take this as an insult, but if you intend to maintain the credibility of your service you must strive to report the facts. Not some distorted view with an obvious spin on it. Let's start at the top.

Amway is NOT short for American Way. When Rich De Vos and Jay Van Andel started the company in 1959, is was called the "Ja-Ri" company. Shortly thereafter, its name was changed to Amway. Yes, the co-founders had every intention of providing an opportunity to all Americans in the tradition of free enterprise (i.e.: the American Way) but, the name was never the American Way.

The fiscal year (Sept 1 - Aug 30) has just closed with estimated sales at retail of 5.3 billion world-wide. (1995)

Participants in the Amway opportunity are called distributors, not agents.

Amway distributors market over 5000 products from over 400 different manufacturers and service providers including the likes of MCI, Coca-Cola, Northwest Airlines, etc.

There are NO Amway customers. Amway has distributors. All products are sold to distributors. Anyone else desiring the use of an Amway brand product must make this purchase through an authorized Amway distributor. If customers of distributors make their purchases out of misguided politeness, then I suggest these customers run and hide from any would-be sales person (insurance, cars, etc) because that politeness is fairly wide-spread and this customer probably would not be able to restrain themselves from purchasing anything from anyone asking.

Why not just buy it at the grocery store? How about "it's a better product" or "I like the convenience of shopping from my home", etc. I'm sure when Meg Ryan signed up as a distributor, she did it because the products and the opportunity attracted her. It's unlikely she did it for the money. (she probably has plenty). Also, a bit of economic reasoning would suggest that after 35 yrs in business and 5.3 billion in sales, the company must make some pretty good stuff.

Sucked in? OK, I was sucked in. Sucked in to something that I completely enjoy, sucked in to products that perform the way the label indicates, that have a 100% money-back warranty, that (when used properly) will save me money, sucked in to an opportunity that has provided a substantial increase in my annual income. enough?

As far as your comments about the distributor in Hungary go, understand that every distributor is independent. Free (in most countries) to make whatever comments he/she feels inclined to make. Amway corporation itself is a manufacturer of products and provider of services. There is a huge difference between the corporation and the distributors. Much the same as the difference in WalMart and Proctor and Gamble. WalMart is the outlet for Proctor and Gamble products but it is not the spokesperson.

OK. that's it. You can change your review of Amway Corp. based on my comments or you can leave the false information intact. By the way, I speak from experience. If you don't have 2-3 yrs. experience with Amway or if you haven't taken the time to interview successful Amway distributors, then I suggest that you have no foundation for your review.
Barry Hensley

reply: It is because there are no Amway "customers" that I find its peculiar way of doing business to be a type of pyramid.

Yes, one more comment, this one on pyramids. Of course, every company looks like a pyramid -- one CEO, more VPs, even more managers, and lots of workers. It's the illegal pyramid that is of concern.

I have personally met two former district attorneys who are now Amway distributors. They looked very carefully at the possibility of the business being a pyramid scheme. Legally, the pyramid schemes are characterized by two things. One is a sign up bonus; in other words, you make money by signing up a new person. In the Amway business, a distributor makes nothing from signing up a new person, and makes nothing from selling that person any of the optional business materials. The only activity that generate revenue is product flow; people buying through Amway instead of through WalMart, Win Dixie, etc. The second characteristic is inventory loading, the requirement to buy typically large amounts of inventory when you sign up. Amway distributors are not required to keep any inventory. Everything is shipped on a weekly basis. More, any inventory they did decide to keep can be returned for 100% of the cost for a year after purchase.

The clincher regarding pyramid schemes for me was the partnership with Coca-Cola, MCI, Magnavox, GM ... in fact, with over 80% of the Fortune 500 companies. I couldn't see Coca-Cola, with the biggest trademark in the world and more lawyers than I have pairs of socks, associating themselves with anything like an illegal pyramid.

Evidently the FTC agrees -- the Amway sales and marketing plan has been reviewed every year since 1975 and came through with a clean bill of health.

Being skeptical that Amway works is fine with me; for most people it doesn't. But for most people, neither does marriage, college, diets, or church.

Or probably the Internet!!
Bob Queenan

reply: Apparently, my reference to a pyramid scheme is taken by some to imply something illegal. I assume that the way Amway does business is legal. Amway is a legal pyramid scheme.

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