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

From Abracadabra to Zombies

reader comments: Amway

25 May 1998
It's time to update your knowledge about Amway!  At least in regards to its operation in North America, i.e. the Yager Organization (Dexter Yager).

Distributors in this organization are no longer required to purchase products from their upline.  All product orders are now placed directly to The Amway Corp. either via phone or internet connection.  Customers are also allowed to place orders directly to Amway on their own by using their Distributors ADA#.

Plans are in the works for "anyone" to place secure on-line orders via an Amway Shopping Mall environment by the end of this year.  Amway current has access to over 15,000 products and services by more than 1,000 world class companies.  We surely are no longer just a soap company and are in fact the largest distribution system world wide.

"We are no longer your Daddy's Amway!"

reply: If what you say is true, it should be the end of Amway as an MLM. However, a recent check of the Amway home page gives no indication that anything fundamental has changed about Amway.

17 Mar 1998
The section of the Skeptic's Dictionary on Amway was very informative. When I got out of the Navy I was called up one day by an old friend that I had not seen since before I enlisted. He invited me out to "meet some people about a business opportunity." Since I was delighted to see him I assumed that it was some sort of dinner party and that he was inviting me out. My first notion of uneasiness was when he insisted on picking me up in his own car, which was too small for four adults. Then as soon as we left for the function, instead of discussing old times or catching up, he prattled on and on about business and money and how to get ahead. Then when we arrived at the Holiday Inn, we were ushered into the banquet hall and issued nametags, and he and his sister (who worked with him) attempted to separate my wife and I when we sat in the front row with all of the other virgins. The main speaker and local chapter president was a lawyer, which figures. By my watch it was fifty-five minutes into his spiel and fully an hour and a half into the pitch when he drew the little umbrella on the board and finally said Amway. I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry.

Then after being given armloads of promotional and motivational materials to look at and being invited to go to Atlanta for a conference that cost $500 a head, when I was barely making ends meet, by his "jewel" or whatever in a nice suit, we were asked to wait while there was a "members only" meeting inside. I called a cab and later called him to come and get his junk. When he came to pick it up he brought his controller again, both in suits and ties even though he lived a block away. They kept asking to sit down and discuss things, even though I told them that there was nothing to discuss. I was newly married and attending school and working full time and had no time to waste on them. They kept trying to get me to let them in the house until I finally asked them to leave. I never heard another word from my "friend" again, but I'll bet he didn't retire at thirty either.
Richard Ernsberger
Huntsville, AL

17 Apr 1997
Absolutely LOVED the Amway article!

Being a quick learner, it has now been over ten years since I last fell for the, "I'd like to talk to you about a 'business opportunity,'" line. Yet they continue to arrive. I admit that I obtain real pleasure from the uncomfortable pause that invariably follows my question, "Is this about Amway?" If these people don't understand the dishonesty in their approach, then why are they always so embarrassed when they are caught in the act?

As a member of the pitiful "40 hours a week for 40 years" crowd I have always been a firm believer in getting rich slowly. I save what I should, invest in stocks, take advantage of my company's 401K and ESOP plans, and put in my hours in a job in which (while not a completely blissful experience) I find some real satisfaction and sense of contribution. I get my periodic promotion, my annual bonus, the occasional stock option, and am working my way up the corporate pyramid, even if it is with little hope (or desire) to be on the top of it. I have a lovely home, take my family on marvelous vacations, and I am valued and (dare I say) loved by my family and friends.

In this slow, careful, conservative way I will retire at about the age of 50 as a millionaire (not many millions, mind you, but more than one). It has less to do with a platitude like "hard work" than it does with thoughtful planning.

In contrast, of the friends who approached me concerning Amway that I have kept in touch with (and there are several), not one has made it rich yet, not one has retired yet, and not one lives in the lifestyle or circumstance that I've achieved slowly over time in a traditional career. All were convinced that Amway was their shot at the easy money, at getting rich quick and retiring to a life of leisure. At least two of them sacrificed decent careers in the rat race in pursuit of a get rich quick scheme which has proven neither quick nor enriching.

Don't get me wrong, I am no mindless corporate drone. But in the same way as I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, "Lotto: The State Tax on Statistical Ignorance," I am compelled to look at Amway as "An Employment Program for the Dangerously Gullible." I am grateful Amway exists to keep all these people occupied in an area where they are least likely to do real damage.
Frank Arduini

15 Mar 1997
Dear Mr. Skeptic

Congratulations on a fantastic web site. I'm having hours of fun.

I feel I must comment though on your Amway page. In short this is it. Become a member, change where you buy, save money, share the concept.

End of story. It is a proven fact that Amway distributors or in fact any person who wishes to be successful in any business or large corporation, has to have some sort of an educational system to keep expanding the barriers of our minds and educate ourselves. That's all the books, tapes and functions are designed to do, which by the way has nothing to do with the Amway Corporation.

I would just like to finish with this last thought. I work 60 hours a week at the moment for somebody else. I've worked there for 8 years and the only outlook I have is to work for them for another 8 years and the rest. There has to be more to life than this. If I don't do Amway what are my choices?? Amway is just one of many vehicles out there in which to put together another source of income. Amway has a 25 year track record in Australia and has a developed a tried and tested system over the years. What's wrong with that? If it was a cult, everyone would do as they were told and we would all be millionaires!!! It's just an opportunity that anyone can pick up on regardless of age, educational or financial background. Live and let live I say.
Warrior Princess

4 Mar 1997

I recently read your write up on Amway with great interest and found it to be a very interesting piece. I have been a distributor for a while and still find it very hard to believe half of the things that have been done but I appreciate the fact that you mention there are bad apples in every endeavor and with over 1 million people involved there are bound to be a few. I can tell you I think I am a pretty normal person and don't think that if someone would have promised me to be rich I would have joined yet the lure of making some extra money on the side and helping other people do the same was enough for me. The opportunity has also taught me a great deal that has helped me at my job and my home life. I have never been pressured to buy anything or to go anywhere. The trainings I have attended are usually very inexpensive compared to what my company pays for me to go to training and since I have my own business it is tax deductible. Have I made a fortune? No!! But I have made enough to work myself and my family out of debt and to keep my wife home with the kids. I appreciate the fact that you are at least listening to everyone and though I didn't agree with everything, feedback is good for everyone.
Sincerely, C. Russo

24 Dec 1996
I read your entry on Amway. I am a former Amway distributor and vocal opponent of "the plan". You mention that you believe the distributor is the middle man, selling down to the next distributor in his/her downline, but that distributors have said "No, we buy from Amway".

You are correct. Not only are the distributors the middle man, there is no set price for reselling the products to your downline. All price lists from Amway stated clearly that any distributor can charge whatever they want for the resale of the item, including to other distributors. Although there was an "understanding" that we wouldn't mark up the prices, there were no rules against it.

There are some distributors who receive shipments directly from Amway, and order from Amway. Their upline receives forms from Amway detailing what was purchased by their downline. I do not know exactly how this system works, but I know Amway charges an extra delivery fee to these poor distributors.

I despise Amway primarily for their motivational support groups, which make a killing by selling unnecessary books, tapes and seminars to distributors. I still could not succeed in Amway, even after realizing this, because the products are overpriced and underperforming. I cannot sell something I do not believe in.

Love the Skeptic's Dictionary! Keep up the good work!

Adam Bradley 

6 Dec 1996

I found your article and responses about Amway to be slightly different than my experiences with people in and associated with Amway.

The most common pyramid, I can think of, is the typical American company- 1 president, 2 vice-presidents, 4 regional managers, 8 managers, etc. Those few individuals who claw their way to the top tend to be paid very well, and those at the bottom are not. The amazing thing is that the more people they can put underneath them (recruit), the more they move up the pyramid. Today, however, companies are realizing that their pyramids are to large, and employees must fight harder than ever to move up the pyramid in order to avoid losing their own jobs. A very common way to move up this pyramid is to make yourself look good, and others around you look bad (corporate politics).

Amway only appears like a pyramid to those people who do not take enough time to fully research the way businesses really develop. I know a number of people in Amway that make significantly more than the people who sponsored them, and more than their sponsor's sponsor, and so on. This business rarely, if ever, gets built in a 6-4-2 fashion. It is built in a random fashion based on the amount of effort. Profitability comes from obtaining the proper mix of retail and wholesale customers; and then helping your network learn and obtain the same mix. Only people who help other people can be successful. The reason many people feel so strongly about this business is that success comes by helping others, not putting them down. This is the very reason that people in Amway spend time together. They enjoy helping others and associating with people who have similar goals and dreams.

My dream is to help others build on their positive attributes, not search out any perceived negative and make them choke on it. I am sure this is a different concept for you, Mr. Carroll, but the world would be entirely different if we all lived by it.

Jay Ford 

8 Dec 1996

Just wanted to drop this quick note regarding the page on AMWAY. I know how hard it can be trying to "understand" this business with out participating in it. I did that for a couple of years. This April will mark my 5th year as a distributor. Though I'm not making the "Big Bucks", my wife and I are clearing about $ 450 per month, after expenses. Many people reading this may ask why I am still doing it, which is a question that I have asked myself several times. The people skills, positive outlook on life, relationships, work ethic and other things too long to list are the real "riches" I have found in this business. The reason I'm not making more money through the Amway business is all in my lack of consistent effort. To be successful in anything worth anything in life, one needs only to be committed to it and give it consistent effort. Maybe if more people would apply these in life the divorce rate would be a fraction of what it is. Well I wanted this to be quick, sorry !

Anyway, keep up your work as a skeptic. Because without you, doing things in life that matter, would be too easy.
Jonathan H. 

22 Nov 1996
Hello, I am only contacting you because I disagree on all of the assumptions you make about the Amway Corporation. Have you ever been a distributor yourself? If you have you ever been to a major function in the Amway Business? If you have been involved, what organization were you in? Where did you get all of your bogus information? Have you ever watched a movie that someone else told you wasn't worth seeing?

I had heard a lot about Amway before I got involved. I am doing very well and it isn't because of any other reason other than the fact that I worked hard at it. Dealing with people, whether in a business or not, is something that takes work for a lot of us. Learning to help people accomplish their goals is work also. The Amway business, or Network Marketing is the only business that you get paid for what you do! If I never sponsored a distributor who went direct then that volume would have never happened. So, I had to conquer my fear and step out of my comfort zone to meet someone and share the concept so that their lives would be rich also (and not just in dollar signs there is a lot of personal growth that takes place when you (as a single) or you and your spouse put something together through conquering fear and doing it anyway no matter what it is!). I have never met a person who regretted getting involved with the Amway Corporation. I have heard on a regular basis that they would be happy if by some freak of nature they couldn't actually profit from the business and was left only with the personal growth and improved relationships caused by studying personalities and attitudes of people. By the way, if someone does get involved and doesn't overcome the constant negative around them (i.e. YOU) then they usually do quit or decide not to build their business. So thank you for having such a positive effect on society and among business owners in specific. But for those who 'try' the business, shouldn't even get involved because they will 'try' until they run into someone like you and not only would they quit, (depending on their personality) but you would probably make them, their spouse, kids, family, friends think of them as a quitter for the rest of their lives. Your are a reflection of America today: Bad Self Images. Try flipping your subject and spread some positive and see what happens. I doubt you'll try but positive actions are not created by negative information. At least, Amway distributors are optimistic and are willing to help others. Without those two characteristics you won't go anywhere in anything!

Write back if you want, it would be interesting to hear the answers to my questions. One last question: What would possess someone to add negative to an already negative world? Let others find things out for themselves. Critics always lack experience in the area they are critiquing.

reply: That's what I keep saying about people who oppose the death penalty.

17 Oct 1996

Regarding Amway:

Great piece. My wife and I were on the books for two years; our distributorship is expiring and we're not renewing. One, we've heard about a lawsuit involving our upline. Two, we always felt pressured to spend money to go to their "functions," buy their books and tapes and in general kowtow to their leaders.

I have decided working 37.5 hours per week as a newspaper reporter isn't so bad after all, particularly when you look at our financial situation.

Before we signed on as Amway distributors, we were doing all right; I had A-one credit and was never late on a payment. My wife wanted another way to make money, so she paid the fee (bought the kit, legally speaking) and we started looking to sell.

Oh no, we were told. Don't sell. You're working yourself back into the old week-to-week routine. You must recruit.

So I did. I built a pretty good line (about a dozen people under me), yet never made more than $37 in one month.

Meanwhile, our grocery bills, which had averaged perhaps $70 per week/$300 per month, suddenly jumped to $300 to $400 in Amway per month plus at least $100 at the store. That was to get our 100 points that they promise you can get with about $200. Our sponsor said we weren't buying the right stuff, but we were doing as we had been told at first: "Just buy what you need."

We put off paying things we should have taken care of to go to a big rally in Mobile, Ala., and to monthly meetings. You'd spend $300 per "major" and $24 for the "seminars" and "rallies" for a couple. That doesn't count gas, food or lodging.

In short, we nearly went bust. Our main leg fell out from under us, some people started questioning my integrity and I flat gave it up. We looked at filing bankruptcy but found it would give us little protection. Now we have three bad hits on our credit that might have been avoided.

The only good things I learned: Don't use credit cards. Avoid wolves dressed in sheep's clothing (our sponsor is a minister and our direct was a friend of mine from Rotary; that's why I trusted it even though I swore I would never fall victim to the Amway Corp).

Phil and Laura Alexander

p.s. The flak you have taken from Amway distributors only seems to support the questions you raise in your article. Nowhere did I see you indict the system outright, but it does offer a critical look that even active distributors should consider. The fact that some can't take a critical look at themselves and their associates indicates to me at least a mild form of brain-washing (leaders say, "Sure, it's brain-washing; your brain needs to be washed from some of the dirt you've been exposed to.").

Amway is not a bad plan; in fact, the arguments leaders make for the books, motivational meetings etc. are all valid. It makes sense to teach a mass of people (no insinuations toward cults intended by use of the word "mass") rather than one-by-one. That's sheer productivity and efficiency.

However, the pressure that is constantly held above one's head -- do this, or you will fail -- and the taunts seen in the pro-Amway letters ("go ahead and work your 40 hours a week; I'll be retired") and from upline distributors is one of the big reasons we're not renewing.

23 Feb 1997
What an interesting piece of research blended with imaginative speculation. Do you know of any research about the sub-group variations in the organization? I am speaking of major associations of high-level achievers who espouse very different philosophical approaches? These sub-cultures come in a variety of flavors ranging from evangelical Christian (small c is my deliberate connotation) fundamentalist to peaceful intellectuals who promote treating this business as a business rather than a pedagogical thunderbolt.

There is one such group, International Connection (IC), headed by a former Motorola Exec named Brian Hays. Hays developed a training concept called the"8-Step Pattern" that has been picked up broadly across the Amway landscape.

The IC group stands out in several ways. It distributes training materials and seminars at cost. It promotes the distinction between categories of participation: i.e. retail consumer, small business/wholesale consumption, and the network builder and encourages distributors to respect the individual's level of interest and commitment.

IC functions are kept small enough that contact with high-achieving leaders known as "Diamond Directs" is possible. It teaches the facts, including that only 2% of distributors seek and attain significant income levels. There is no evident deception. In fact, there is a dedication to the respect for diversity and honesty.

Do you think this is a schism?

reply: I have no idea. I have been unable to find out about IC. This 8-step pattern is related to the 4-fold path and the 8 noble truths, is it? Or is it related to the 10-step plans? A business plan with no deception would be very special.

This group is remarkably unlike the evangelistic groups that, according to rumor, have recently been chastised by the Amway Corporation for pressuring people and refusing to retail or sign up distributors unless they buy into an expensive training system.

IC is led by an informal association of high-achievers who profess to be motivated by the desire to improve the success rate of new distributors through cross-line teamwork. They profess to have become bored with seeking wealth for the sake of wealth and have decided to see if they can help more people to achieve more, just for the joy of enriching lives. These are true believers. But there's more.

As a trained skeptic and observer of human behavior, I have noticed an increasing respect for ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity in this International Connections group. When individuals do refer to their own personal religious or political preferences, they qualify their comments as personally held views. When individuals offer a benediction, a common practice among all kinds of professional and social societies, they seem to be more inclined to drop the signal words of religious affiliation such as "in Jesus' name we pray" and instead keep prayer generic.

No wonder. Many, many people in IC are from Japan and other countries where Christianity is not the predominant religion. My husband, a democratic socialist, learned about the Amway Sales & Marketing Plan in a political science class taught by an aging Marxist who described it as the only democratic form of business available.

reply: I guess you could call mass suicide a democratic way of dying, but it wouldn't make it any more praiseworthy.

Amway claims it aspires to be the best business opportunity in the world. It does so by teaching people to make other people successful first. What a concept. You voluntarily help somebody make thousands and you make hundreds. Seems to go against the grain of the all-for-one and one-for-one mentality of the 80s. Certainly not a typically western philosophy.

Well, I'll agree that multi-level marketing it goes against the grain. I think it goes against the brain, as well.

One more observation and then I head for bed. The Preferred Customer Plan (designed by Brian Hays, I believe) has become the new "Amway Connections." Customers may be registered by selling distributors who receive their sales mark-up along with their bonus checks. It virtually eliminates the need to drive all over creation to deliver a 12# box of SA8. Janet Horton Kelly - Columbia, MO J-School Grad Student ...trained in skepticism by the pros... "A point is the beginning of magnitude." - Euclid

reply: I'll bet the line is long to register as a Preferred Amway Customer, but I'll have to pass on it even if the brilliant Mr. Hays says it's brilliant.

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