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What is multi-level marketing (MLM) and why do people join?

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Even if you don’t know what the acronym MLM stands for, chances are high that you’ve stumbled across one. Maybe a friend keeps inviting you to join their makeup products group on Facebook, or an acquaintance keeps posting about their new wellness product on Instagram, or – heaven forbid – someone invites you over for a “tupperware party.” They might come in different forms and with different products, but make no mistake: MLMs are everywhere.

As such, it’s really worth understanding what an MLM is so you can make informed decisions.

First things first: MLM stands for “multi-level marketing.” Essentially, these businesses depend on a workforce paid in commissions and benefits to sell their products. In many cases, these sales people are also encouraged to invite friends and family to also start selling the products. Companies will often provide additional pay and/or perks to those with a lot of salesmen under them.

If it sounds like an MLM could be a pyramid scheme, you’re not wrong. Some MLMs are pyramid schemes and there have been plenty of companies to be shut down for that very reason. But many MLMs are sneaky; they skirt that legality by doing things like selling actual products.

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Just because an MLM is, strictly speaking, legal, doesn’t mean it’s a good investment for you. Unsuspecting individuals who join MLMs often discover things like hidden fees, poor infrastructure and a (purposeful?) lack of communication from the company. When it comes to MLMs not working out, at best you’ve just annoyed all your friends. At worst? It could leave you bankrupt.

So, why do people join MLMs? Well, it depends. Some people legitimately like the product they’re peddling. Others, like stay at home parents, are looking for a flexible way to make money, which MLMs can potentially provide. It also helps that most people are introduced to MLMs through friends or family; you’re way more likely to trust someone you know over a random online ad.

These are all perfectly fine reasons for joining, but before you join any MLM, it’s really worth doing your homework. The last thing anyone wants is to be slapped with hidden fees or saddled with expensive products that are impossible to unload. Sites like MLM Truth and LaConte Consulting are good places to start, though it’s also worth looking for reviews (both good and bad) to see what other people are saying.

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Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

5 Comments

5 Comments

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