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

From Abracadabra to Zombies

reader comments: Amway

14 Aug 1997
I reached the DD or Direct level in 1989, but due to immaturity on the part of two people in my upline, I lost a good chunk of my organization and have not had the motivation to build it back up (we had about 150 in our group). One runs into stupidity in every industry; the difference here is that everyone is a volunteer and can simply quit when he's treated shabbily--he doesn't have to stay in to feed his family.

My major beef with doing Amway is only that the training program for prospective distributors is a crazy-quilt of stuff passed on haphazardly through the lines of sponsorship, a situation that's come to be not really by design but through a combination of inattention by the corporation and a sort of natural evolution of the distributor system. It's like going to work for IBM and having no formal training program, forcing one to learn by watching others do their jobs. Not too efficient. I believe that this glaring inadequacy is responsible for the relatively small number of successes. I believe there are 30-40,000 Direct Distributors and above, a level reached by doing about $15,000 volume wholesale a month. I believe the number of people who've become millionaires in Amway is about 150, which I guess is a fairly respectable number.

I originally took it on faith that Amway products were cheaper to use than products in stores. Recently I've seen a couple of what appear to be rather exhaustive price comparisons on the 'net, at wholesale and retail. I went to Kroger and did my own comparisons based on recommended usages for all products concerned, and found that some Amway products cost the same to use as what's in the store; some are far cheaper to use, and some cost more to use.

I've seen lots of good come from being a distributor; there really are lots of people from the professions, many very highly paid professionals, who become distributors, and some even leave their professions to go full time, making the same or more money, citing the greatly reduced time demands once they've built a good-sized group.

I firmly believe more don't succeed simply because the training system is so bad. There have been so many screwed-up "methods" put forth by distributors, you just wouldn't believe. But I've run into a couple that make tremendous sense: a Diamond named Art Leazure figured out a nice way to network with people that allowed him to go Diamond pretty quickly and employed no deception. I believe just about anyone could do it Art's way.

I went through a long "dark night of the soul" about the business for several reasons, but I don't know if I'll go for it again. As it happens, I do have 2 guys sponsored who are hard at going Direct, and if they do, I'll get about $1200 bottom per month (more as their businesses grow) as long as they're Direct. I can't complain about that.

It's a real shame the business has had to go through the slime of being done wrong by fools who thought they could shortcut or cheat, and being an advertising producer by profession, I find it a real shame that the "curiosity approach," which says don't reveal the name of the business because it will turn off a prospect before he hears the straight story, even exists. The great advertising writer Stan Freiberg saw a long time ago that when a negative perception of a product exists, one just aggressively repositions it. That can easily done in this case. In fact, some guys I know who are having great sponsoring success are telling people it's Amway up front; they evidently communicate to prospects that THEY have no problem with what it is, so why should the prospect?

Again, you have a great site. I've learned quite a lot from it. Good fortune to you and God bless!
Mike Holmes

Bob, you suffer from a common misconception shared by the many who (chose?) not to understand the Amway Sales and Marketing plan. There ARE real customers involved. True, many customers become distributors, and many customers are people who were shown the marketing plan but were not interested in becoming distributors (but liked the products)

The products are of a high quality. A customer only needs to be 'sold' to once, when they are first introduced to a product. From then on, they buy from you.

If you are looking for proof in the products, bear in mind that Amway is a multi-billion dollar company, in fact one of the top three largest independent companies in America.

Most distributors have around 10-20 customers; some buy weekly, others occasionally.

As being a skeptic is all about having an informed opinion, I hope you'll update your comments based on this information.
Best wishes, (name removed by request)

Careful what you say about a million Americans. Amway is shaped like a pyramid, yes. The difference between it and a pyramid scheme, however, is something you have either ignored or missed.

Pyramid schemes rely upon signing up new people and getting money for merely signing them up. In Amway, there is no incentive for signing people up unless they buy the products, which are high-quality, at 30% off retail, and guaranteed. So all income is based on movement of product. You've obviously been very misled or addled or something to say all of this without any real information (from what I've seen in your web page). I suggest you find some real information out about it and get with the program.

Have a great life working 40 hours a week and appeasing your boss. I'll be retired.

According to my experience just this week, compared with the information in your essay, Amway has developed a slightly new slant. They call it Interactive Marketing.

I was invited to a colleague's house to hear about a business opportunity intended as income supplementation and added security for academics in these times of lean grant money, etc. Also attending were two others, who turned out to be my host's two immediate upline distributors. I was shown a long video about trends in marketing and distribution in the U.S. that intimated through the accompanying images that perhaps the Net was involved somehow. I was expecting some kind of electronic storefront concept, maybe where you process orders and tune up your web pages in your spare time.

It took over two hours, after a long blackboard presentation and lots of talk about the drudgery and uncertainty of ordinary American lives, to reveal that this was Amway. The Amway brand products are completely de-emphasized in the presentation, in favor of products from other manufacturers that appear in Amway's catalogs. It is not suggested that anyone should sell any products, only that everybody should take advantage of the discount prices, and, if they have any gumption, recruit distributors to build their own network. Lots of examples of ordinary folk who retired at age 29, etc. Lots of talk of working 10-15 hours per week, or not working at all eventually, while making lots and lots of money. Enough to never have to worry. Enough to give some away.

I did learn one important thing last night when I returned materials to my neighbor. I mentioned that I found it somewhat dishonest that it took so long to reveal that it was Amway. He answered that the business had changed quite a bit. I said, well, they've de-emphasized the Amway branded products, but... He answered that they really hadn't, that of the 15-45 percent range of commissions, averaging the 30 percent that was used in all the examples, the highest are for the Amway products.

In your description of MLM, I think it may be useful to introduce the term sub-society. As presented to me, you're not selling anything - you're introducing people to a means of getting lots of the products they buy anyway to run their households. So in an economic analysis, you're joining a subset of society that acquires goods through this private distribution chain. Of course, you're also presented with an opportunity to get ahead, an opportunity to rub elbows with really successful people (instead of the negative caught-in-the-drudgery- of-modern-life people you've been stuck with), and learn how to think the right way about life. That's where the sub-society starts to sound like what people call a cult.

Alan J. Snyder

Bob - Regarding your Amway piece, you disappoint me that you exhibit so little of the passion for fact and discernment that one would expect of a self-declared professional skeptic.

This note is not an invitation to go toe-to-toe with you concerning your assumptions and erroneous assertions concerning this worthy business, but to remind and re-orient you to the meaning of skepticism: deferring a conclusion until the facts are in, and not merely cataloging other peoples' opinions and inferring the rest.

MY assumption, of course is that you're sincerely interested in separating fact from bunkum (as would be the likes of James Randi, in whose league you would have us believe you reside). Or perhaps, in this instance, you're more in the business of providing the obvious non-candidates with overwrought, cerebralized excuses for not critically examining the business. You know, Bob...preaching to the choir.

Granted, the road to an Amway Diamondship is no easy path, and the business may not be for everybody. But Amway has provided an arena in which the average person can compete for financial independence at less cost and risk than would accompany anything else out there. This, while avoiding the natural conflicts of interest that most other side businesses would impose. I won't elaborate, and you don't care.

Your sphere of influence is not especially large (homepage or not), and it impresses me that you would consume bandwidth promoting other peoples' sour grapes anecdotes, the lowest form of evidence. For that matter, why would the skeptic bother to insert the testimonials of responsible and profitable Amway distributors? I mean, Jeep, Bob, they just gotta be lying. Right?

David Gayness

Great website... one of the best I have seen!

The Skeptic's Guide seems to have been written for me, since by nature I am prone to doubt or, more accurately to question the logic. I don't consider myself to be a pessimist, but more a seeker of truth. Perhaps skeptic is the best description... but it seems so negative.

The other night a friend of mine dragged me to an Amway meeting. I was skeptical about Amway, but figured that I would see "what it was all about". Basically I found it to be as you described it... akin to a cult. What amazed me was that there was an audience full of people, my friend included, lapping up this pot 'o gold tripe about vast riches and independence and quitting your job and being your own boss. How could so many adults buy into a simple pyramid scheme? Again... the capacity for self deception...

Anyway, this is not to say that I am not prone to cults. Finding sites like yours is quickly making me a member of the internet cult!!!

Thanks again!!!
Thomas Sadler

Hi Bob,

I read some of your skeptic articles and am really worried about you. Do you know what a paradigm is? It's a way of thinking. Most people said that Babe Ruth giving up pitching was a big mistake. When computers were first invented, they said there was a market for about 5 computers in the world. A Nobel prize winner once said that man would never harness the power of the atom. All of these things are paradigms. You don't know what the future will bring until the future. Can you imagine if computer engineers paid attention to the people who said there isn't a market out there for computers? Amway distributors used to go door to door trying to sell soap. Today the corporation has learned and made their company better. You don't need to go door to door anymore and you can buy/sell any of 10,000 products and services. I'm not exaggerating!! 10,000 products from over 1,000 companies like Coca-Cola, MCI, Panasonic, Bell South, the list goes on.

The way these products are sold is by the distributor changing their buying habits to buy from home instead of driving in a hot car 30 miles to the store. I have met numerous people that are making 6 figures from Amway and am going to meet about 5 millionaires in an upcoming convention. Their mind set is that they can do ANYTHING they set their minds to. That is how you get ahead in the business world and that is how you get ahead in Amway. You on the other hand probably are skeptical that working hard produces results You will retire at 65 like the rest of the skeptics. Only 2% of retired people over 65 make more than 33,000/year. Since this income is residual in nature, it will still be coming in when you're 65. My sponsor's wife had a fight with her boss after he had been in this business for about a year. He was making enough money so that they could tell her boss to shove it. Wouldn't that be nice? Isn't this stuff worth a shot if the potential is there to be retired in 5 years and be living comfortably? No, probably not for you. Your time isn't worth trying to make money, you'd rather write articles downplaying great business opportunities like Amway and live on your 2/3 of 1/2 of your salary when you retire. Good luck. I hope your kids can get through college before you retire cause you'll probably make less than 20,000/yr. Take charge! Do something instead of sitting at your computer saying everything is a scam or cult or whatever else. This is NOT a get rich quick scam. You'll have to work a little bit. A lot less than if you bought a franchise license from McDonald's or opened up a retail store or whatever else. Low risk, lots of help, and hardly any money. A McDonald's franchise costs between .5 and 1 million dollars to get started. You'll have to quit your job and spend 80 hours a WEEK to make it work. Good luck rounding up a million bucks. 85% of all other businesses fail in the 1st year. In Amway, people want to see you succeed because it helps them too. They'll help you out, teach you, and introduce you to the big dogs. Do you get that anywhere else in life? Not unless you're already rich. Oh yeah, how much do you give to charity? Probably not as much as people who make 6 figures and are around charities all the time doing favors AND giving time and money.

God bless you,

Well Mr. Carroll, you have a very unique view of Amway. A bit misguided I may say, but unique. Well I'm not here to defend Amway, they speak for their self. I have been a distributor for 3 years now, and currently am at Emerald level I net last year $158,000. Net not gross, and it was from moving Amway products not Tapes books etc. In Amway groups there are several companies that move the tapes etc, but with no profit to the distributors.

I have 52 people directly under me with 5 direct distributors, now I don't know what you do for a living, but there is no better than Amway. Next year my income will raise by 50 % or higher, will yours? With little or no effort? Now I'm not trying to brag or give you a hard time, I am very humble, but you really need to take a closer look at the business before doing a commentary about it. I have never been around a better group of people in my life.

Thanks for your time.
Don Skultety

Regarding your article on Amway....

[regarding the rhetorical question] Haven't the distributors become their own middlemen?

To a degree, yes. As far as customers go, distributors do sell at higher than their own cost, although they are not required to do so. As far as other distributors go, no.

[regarding the question] Aren't the distributors selling to each other?

No. I pay my sponsor the price she has to pay for the stuff I order. She makes no profit from my buying stuff. She does make bonus money based on what I buy for myself & those I sponsor, but it is a bonus, just like in any other business that offers incentive awards.

The fact that distributors who have not "gone direct" (i.e. order directly from Amway) order through their sponsor is more the idea of "drop-shipping" or having a central distribution point.

[regarding the question] Isn't income mainly generated by recruiting new members to the organization?

Not directly. I could recruit 20 people, but if they just sit on their hands, I reap no benefit from sponsoring them. That's the distinction between multi-level marketing and "pyramid schemes." (By the way, you should be more careful in using the term "pyramid" in this context. Despite what you may say about no implications of legality, pyramid schemes are illegal by definition. Amway is not a pyramid scheme; in fact, it is the model for the legal definition of multi-level marketing.)

Honestly, the big money is in sponsoring successful distributors. The bonuses are based on sales; my bonus is based on my sales (what I buy for myself, plus anything I might merchandise) and the sales of those below me. It's still all based on sales.

Those under the Internet (not to be confused with the Internet) System (Dexter Yeager's thing) are also encouraged to buy the "Toolbox," which contains various business organization tools, tapes, and other things to help you get started. The idea here is providing the wisdom of experience. This runs under $130 (again, everything's itemized), but its price may vary depending on who your upline is (as some uplines will add their own stuff to the Toolbox). Let me emphasize, as sponsors do, that this is *not* required; however, unless you happen to have amazing business savvy in the realm of network marketing, you'll be better off with it.

The presentations do talk about 100 PV (point value), or $200 BV (Business Volume) per month. That's not a requirement, only an example (one approved & mandated by the FTC). Perhaps that's where you got the $200 figure?

[regarding the question] Isn't Amway Corporation the big winner in this scheme?

Obviously they're not going to lose money on any of this. However, consider they take 68% of their profit & send that back to the distributors in the form of various bonuses, profit-sharing awards, and what-not.

One thing I've found out about this business is that folks won't be competing against you. Rather, they'll be helping you. Even the most cynical skeptic who feels that everyone will only look out for themselves will find that this business still encourages cooperation; helping those you sponsor, directly or indirectly, only helps you.
Joe Sewell

Hi Bob,

This reply is related to the AMWAY article. At first reading, my first inclination was to try to defend AMWAY, but in reading some of the reader's comments, I believe they have done a much better job than I could have done. In all fairness, I believe you believe every word you print, otherwise you would be an unreasonable person, and unreasonable people is not worth taking time to reply to. I am so glad to be in this country that people have the right to say what they feel and that is what makes this country great.

All I really want to say is that in this world of marketing where companies and groups are all fighting for the share of the dollars, everyone wants to end up at the top. I am just glad that I am involved with a company like AMWAY, they are not perfect, because they are compose of people like you and I, that allows anyone a chance at a business that if they put is their efforts that they will be rewarded. I do not believe AMWAY guarantees success, just a chance if anyone is willing to try. Finally, the books tapes and functions that I purchase, even if I quit AMWAY today, I would have benefited from, because of the positive, caring, and success principles that those books teach. For the people who claims they wasted so much money on those things, obviously did not glean success principles that can be applied to whole of life and not just "doing AMWAY."

Anyway, thank you for your article, it is full of second hand information, but that is your take on it and I encourage you to check it out personally.
James Wu

PS. You mentioned that 1500 readers checked out your article I hope there is not one who was persuaded not to check out the AMWAY opportunity for himself as a result of reading your article, because if that is the case, then you have indirectly contributed to "stealing their dream possible future prosperity." Doing this without first hand experience is sad.

reply: Maybe James can help this next fellow.

Dear Sirs,

let us introduce ourselves. We are a wholesale company involved in trading with hunting and fishing equipment. We are authorized dealers of German company D.A.M. in the Baltic states.

Our desire is to contact Amway corporation in America in order to supply production of this company to Lithuanian market. To contact distributors of Amway in Europe there is no sense, because they have too high prices for wholesale.

Earlier we had contact with Mr.Joe Polcari, who advised us that we still cannot distribute Amway products in Lithuania, because Amway is not still in Lithuania.

Are there any possibilities to get products of Amway straightly from corporation, avoiding other European distributors?

We would be thankful for any further information. We would be very glad to distribute perfect Amway products in our country!
R.Kamantauskas firm,
Laisves al. 34, 3000 Kaunas, Lithuania
Fax 011 3707 209848, tel. 011 3707 205263
Arunas Gvazdikas,

Hmmmm.... Maybe the Comments from the businessmen in Lithuania might give the proper perspective to anyone investigating the opportunity of starting their own Distribution Company using The Amway Corporation as their Supplier. I don't know if your inclusion of this comment was meant to be cynical or not, but it does in fact illustrate the market opportunities yet to be opened for new distributorship. It is also indicative of the numerous companies that are searching out new channels of distribution, not only abroad but Nationally. Skeptical you may be, But as your Web Page indirectly seems to be proving, Marketing by word of mouth (a.k.a Network Marketing) appears to be working and the Internet is even going to make it Better ! Thanks for the Forum to Make it Better .....

For the "Lituanian businessman", International shipping of US made Amway products is illegal. Once the business is opened in your country the products and your own distributorship will be available. Until such time as the business is opened no activity in your country is possible beyond correspondence with a personal contact. If you have a friend in any country that has been opened for the Amway business you should stay in touch with them to learn about the developments concerning Lithuania and Amway. Slovania is now open for business as well as Poland, and many other European countries. The complete list is available at http://www.Amway.com

Thanks for your interest. Love this page!
Stu Maland

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