The other day someone who I had previously unfriended on Facebook sent me a new friend request. This probably sounds mean, but I have a habit of unfriending people who annoy me, and I'm pretty easy to annoy. Don't get me wrong, I like this person, but if you post a bunch of stuff about politics, religion, your relationship or how crappy your life is you're setting yourself up for exclusion from the club. Not that they did all of this, but they did enough of it to try my patience. I post about those things on occasion, but those posts are the 15%, not the 85%.
Call me a cynic, but the minute I saw that request I knew that I was in for more aggravation; that they were working an angle. I got the friend request and thought to myself "self, why is this person, who I exiled to the desolate landscape of the Facebook wilderness, forcing them to fend for themself without the comfort of my witticism's, friending me again after such a lengthy, and no doubt painful, banishment?" Surely this banishment made them bitter and jealous of those left behind. I learned what the angle was about 15 minutes later when this was posted:
My mistake was responding with this:
I logged on to Facebook and stumbled into an infomercial.
What I really meant was "I didn't log on to Facebook to be subjected to an infomercial, take that crap somewhere else", but my comment wasn't taken that way. Instead, it empowered them to use that response as an excuse to message me and invite me to an event in Huntsville where all of the secrets of this phenomenal income opportunity would be revealed to me. I had been invited into the secret society, and this secret society would teach me how to get a BMW and vacations. (Spoiler alert: there are BMW distributors all over the country that will sell you a BMW and you can call a travel agent for the vacations, but like everything, it ain't free).
Ironically, she also posted the above image. The picture pretty much sums up, for me anyway, what all of these "exciting income opportunities" boil down to. I had to chuckle at the notion that the person who had just friended me because they saw me as a fat plum ripe for picking had posted this picture as an expression of their disdain for corporate life when in fact it is an accurate, visual representation of what these pyramid schemes are all about. Let's be real here, people don't try to get you involved in their "opportunities" because they're concerned about your financial freedom, they do it in an attempt to move up to a higher perch.
Probably all who read this have been offered at least one of these exciting opportunities before, and some of you have probably taken the sales pitch, spent $250 for a kit, and converted your homes to the products that these companies peddle, only to realize later that you were paying $20 for a pound of laundry detergent that can be picked up for $10 at Wal-Mart and not making a penny off of it.
These "opportunities" make money for the people at the top of the pyramid because, as P.T. Barnum once said, there's a sucker born every minute, and a healthy percentage of those suckers are going to be spend the $250 and buy the product, thus benefiting the top birds. Eventually, though, these suckers experience that moment of epiphany where they realize that the fruits of their labors and the profit from their purchases only benefit the upper layers. Barnum's observation is truer today than ever before, and the supply of suckers will never be exhausted because people these days want to take short cuts rather than putting in the time and toil needed to be successful, which makes these opportunities very attractive. After all this is the Occupy Wall Street generation, remember?
I've noticed one thing in common with all of these opportunities; when you ask for specifics the person recruiting you gets all cloak and dagger on you and says something like "you'll just have to come see for yourself, but I promise you won't be disappointed." If you don't know the secret handshake they won't tell you anything until you're sitting in a room with 50 other marks listening to their best salesperson giving his spiel. They say it's a great opportunity and that you will not be disappointed because they believe these things, they've already had the Kool-Aid and it tasted good. They won't detect that unpleasant after taste until later.
There are great products out there that are almost exclusively available through direct sales. Pampered Chef is a good example. I have several Pampered Chef pans and I would buy more; it's a great product, if you're willing to pay a little extra for it. However, you're not going to get rich selling Pampered Chef to your small circle of friends because eventually your friends will have all the Pampered Chef they can handle, and you'll run out of friends.
I like to consider myself a pretty good investigator, although more in the tradition of Inspector Clouseau than Sherlock Holmes, so I did some looking around and figured out the name of the company, which turned out to be FHTM, a company I had never heard of. Here's a snippet from their website:
You may have also heard the term multilevel marketing (MLM). MLM is not a type of company or industry. Rather, MLM is a type of compensation plan found in the direct selling industry. Instead of using a single-level compensation plan, FHTM utilizes a multilevel marketing compensation plan. This allows compensation to be based on a Representative’s product and service sales, as well as the sales made by a Representative’s downline. This helps FHTM to encourage Representatives to build a business, while still placing an emphasis on product and service sales.
This also encourages people to bend the fabric of reality just a bit, stretching the truth about their own success so that they can suck you in. They their dreams with you, but present it as their reality.
Here's a screen shot from a video that was labeled "Here are the people who earned their trip to Tuscon, AZ:
Do you see anyone in this clip? I don't. All of those people in these empty lounge chairs earned their way to Tucson though, which I have to admit is impressive. To be fair, here's a picture from the website that they said was taken in Tuscon as well:
Odds are that in 2 years Waldo will be easier to find at an FHTM event than the rest of this crowd; by then they will have figured it out.
Don't get me wrong here, this soon-to-be Facebook friend twice removed, person is a well-meaning soul, but since the dawn of mankind folks have lost their shorts looking for those "great income opportunities" and I'm rather fond of my shorts. They aren't pretty, but they're mine if you know what I mean.
Here are a couple of things that I've learned in my 44 years of existence:
- The saying "if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is" is incorrect. See #2.
- If it sounds too good to be true, then it absolutely is too good to be true.
- There are no short cuts.
- If this opportunity was so great, everyone would know about it.
- If this really was a phenomenal opportunity the secret society stuff would be out the window.
- Just because someone you know is doing it doesn't mean that it's good for you.
I'll leave with this, the last sentence in that initial post: "Always looking for partners". Partners are the birds sitting at the bottom of that first picture. No thanks.