At first glance, what has become commonly-referred to as ‘Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)' can appear to be a perfectly legal, economically-viable and risk-free, commercial activity - a form of innocent door-to-door, and/or party-plan, commission-based direct-selling.
However, on closer-examination, nothing could be further from the (evidence-based) truth. Indeed, at the end of April 2022, Indian financial regulators, in the form of the 'Enforcement Directorate (ED),' annonced that, to protect an increasingly-vulnerable public, they had resorted to their agency's statutory powers and seized assets totalling around $190 millions from 'Amway India Enterprises Ltd.' Hopefully, bringing a definitive end to this foreign-controlled company's long-term camouflaged criminal activities in the sub-continent. Prior to this announcement, 'Amway' had been boasting over half a million Indian citizens (misleadingly-labelled as 'Distributors/Business Owners') under contract to it, but not declaring the effectively 100% overall net-loss/churn rate of these ill-informed 'MLM' participants.
First registered in 1994, 'Amway India Enterprises Ltd.' is/was an off-shoot of a private American company, 'Amway Inc.’ - the original ‘MLM’ first instigated in 1959.
From humble origins in Michigan, 'Amway Inc.' has grown over the decades to become a vast, centrally-controlled, multi-billion dollar organization still owned by the decendants of its two instigators, Richard Marvin DeVos Snr. (1926-2018) and Jay Van Andel (1924-2004). These billionaires came from the same humble 'Dutch Pentacostalist/Dominionist' background. In the years following WWII, they both spent 10 years as proselytizers for an embryonic version of an 'MLM' racket which was hidden behind a cheaply-procured, but exorbitantly priced, quack medical product known as 'Nutrilite Double X.' The pair then acquired a fortune by pretending to have developed a new form of 'direct selling income opportunity' which could enable ordinary poor humans to transform into fabulously wealthy superhumans, and by posing as living examples of the 'American Dream,' staunch supporters of the Republican party, clean-cut patriots and 'Compassionate (Christian) Capitalists.'
Today, 'Amway' comprises an expanding-labyrinth of corporate subsidiaries boasting more than 3 millions persons (misleadingly-labelled as 'Distributors/Business Owners') under contract to it world-wide, but not declaring the effectively 100% overall net-loss/churn rate of these ill-informed 'MLM' participants. Even though 'Amway' has managed to gloss over various serious convictions, accusations and scandals over the years, and has been regularly described in limp media reports as 'an American Icon,' it stands accused in India (alone) of being the front for a insidious pyramid fraud and money-laundering scam totalling around $7 billions.
Almost 10 years ago, Indian police in two states arrested, released and then re-arrested, William Pinckney, the CEO of 'Amway India Enterprises;' eventually charging him under a blanket national law which identifies, and bans, money circulation/pyramid schemes no matter how cleverly they have been disguised. At that time, certain senior Indian police officers, advised by well-informed attorneys, had discovered 'Amway' to have been posing as a lawful 'direct selling' enterprise, whilst luring into temporary de facto servitude (and cheating) an endless-chain comprising millions of ill-informed Indian citizens. However, almost certainly due to 'Amway's bosses' wealth and resulting high-level political influence, this case mysteriously vanished, but suddenly it has reappeared in a far more powerful form. Furthermore, Indian financial regulators have also identified other (apparently independent) corporate structures that have been used to lure (and cheat) enormous numbers of Indian 'Amway/MLM' victims by peddling them effectively-valueless materials (including expensive tickets to glitzy meetings held in exotic locations) on the pretext that these are part of 'a proven step-by-step plan to achieve success in Amway'
Now one would assume that the above news would have immediately made headlines in the USA, if not in all the other countries where 'Amway' still operates in plain sight apparently under the radar of local law enforcement. However, to date, zero coverage has appeared in the American press, or in the European press for that matter. Indeed, this mysterious lack of critical media interest internationally, is itself a significant aspect of the big 'MLM' lie. To many people, it does not seem possible that such a vast and damaging (some would say 'bloody obvious') racket could not only have been allowed to continue for more than 60 years in the USA, but also to have been allowed gradually to spread throughout the world whilst spawning hundreds of copy-cats. Part of the answer to this enigma is that even critical observers have tended to be distracted by the various absurdly-kitsch ('American Dream') fake exteriors of individual 'MLMs,' rather than examine the actual nightmare interior of the overall phenomenon. Indeed, in many respects, the ridiculous façades of 'MLM' rackets have helped their bosses to hide the ugly truth about them.
Looking beyond their paid celebrity associations and endorsements, as well as beyond the various banal (but over-priced) products/services which they have attempted to focus our attention on, no 'MLM' racket can be original or unique. Therefore, no such racket can be fully-understood in isolation. This is because, since this devious form of human exploitation first appeared in the USA in the late 1950s, all 'MLM' front-companies have been (more-or-less) copy-cats of the 'Amway' original. Indeed, despite their protective echelons of expensive attorneys and well-rehearsed idignant protestations of innocence, 'MLM' bosses have been peddling the same pernicious economic pseudo-science to the constantly-churning pool of vulnerable, and ill-informed, persons who always need to believe that 'MLM' will work for them and set them free. The guiding crack-pot theory for this self-perpetuating game of commercial make-believe can be set down in brief as: endless-chain recruitment + endless purchases by the recruits = endless profits for the recruits. Indeed, 'MLM' bosses and their associates have all sought to maintain a monoply of information regarding the actual source of their revenue, whilst endlessly-broadcasting essentially the same Utopian controlling-narrative, written in essentially the same technical-sounding jargon and shielded by essentially the same wall of structural/mathematical mystification.
Bearing the above in mind, I have again been asked to post an analysis of the British copy-cat 'Amway/MLM' known as 'Tropic Skincare.'
The question everyone seems to ask about 'Tropic Skincare' is whether this so-called 'MLM' is different to all the others?
My initial answer to this question is:
What exactly does one mean by 'a different MLM' : different externally or different internally?
Several years ago, I wrote:
"Behind its absurdly-kitsch commercial exterior, 'Tropic Skincare' exhibits many of the identifying characteristics of a corporate-front for yet another 'Amway' copy-cat 'MLM Income Opportunity/Prosperity Gospel' cultic racket."
Since that time, the ostensible instigator/boss of 'Tropic Skincare,' Susan Ma, has voluntarily made contact with certain online British critics of 'MLM,' but she has never tried to make contact with me.
How much can you earn with Tropic Skincare? - Talented Ladies Club
Ms. Ma (of whom it must be said, is an exceptionally disarming, confident and polished public-performer, and who aparently once briefly-worked in London as a foreign exchange trader) has even managed to appear in videos playing the ambiguous role of concerned 'MLM' skeptic whilst being interviewed by at least one 'MLM' critic, Hannah Martin. However, at this time, Ms. Ma was not asked key (common-sense) questions - truthful answers to which would have revealed her company's real internal function - questions which all pedlars of the ('Be Your Own Boss/MLM') narrative will predictably attempt to deflect. These questions concern the actual quantifiable results of participation in any so-called 'MLM Income opportunity' (i.e. the total number of persons overall who have signed contracts with a so-called 'MLM' front-company since it was first intigated, and the % of these transient participants who have managed to remain under contract for more than: one year, two years, three years, four years, etc.). Instead, Ms. Ma was allowed to recite some classic elements of the 'MLM' controlling narrative. She also introduced her own folksy personal success story, and even quoted effectively-meaningless statistics which she claimed were based on answers to a survey (which she had commissioned) of (current) 'Tropic Skincare' contractors known as, 'Ambassadors'.
However, during the course of her interview with Hannah Martin, Ms. Ma demonstrated that she has a suspiciously-intimate knowledge of the universal identifying characteristic of all pyramid scams and Ponzi schemes. In fact, Ms. Ma used a term, 'closed loop,' thereby implying that other 'MLMs' have been commercially-unviable frauds disguised as commercially-viable 'direct selling schemes.' In other words, Ms. Ma. evidently understands (and would accept) my own unchallenged analysis that 'MLMs' have been cunningly-concealed rigged-market swindles (a.k.a. pyramid scams), maliciously constructed so that secretly they will mainly-derive their revenue from internal sales of effectively-unsaleable products/services to their own never-ending chains of losing participants (based on the false-expectation of future reward). Thus, Ms. Ma must also understand how (just as has recently been discovered hiding behind 'Amway' in India) 'MLM' bosses have, for decades, been laundering a veritable mountain of unlawful losing investment payments. This vastly-profitable trick has been pulled by withholding, and/or claiming not to have gathered, key-data, whilst endlessly-repeating deliberately-vague terms (like 'customers' and 'end-users') to make it appear to casual observers that 'MLM' revenue derives mainly from vast numbers of authentic external retail sales to the general public (based on value and demand), and by giving their victims effectively-unsaleable products/services in return for what have actually been losing investment payments. Tellingly, Ms. Ma didn't use accurate terms (e.g. fraud, pyramid scam, money laundering), to describe what she evidently-recognises all these other 'MLM' front companies to have been hiding. Instead she was very careful to employ the trivializing-term, 'unsustainable business.'
Thus, in her interview with Hannah Martin, it should come as no surprise that Ms. Ma implied, without independent evidence, that since 'Tropic Skincare' products are such high quality, 'cruelty-free' and appropriately-priced: to anyone prepared to put in some time and effort, they can be easily sold on regularly for a profit to 'customers' via expanding networks of 'Ambassadors'.
More-recently, Ms. Ma has claimed (in a suspiciously non-critical article written by Lydia Hawken and published by 'The Sun') that her company generated '£10.7 millions profits from £51 millions annual turnover produced by just 450 paid employees, but with 20 000 Ambassadors who have sold to 2.5 millions customers in the UK.' Predictably, Ms. Ma did not explain exactly how she obtained this remarkably-detailed data regarding the ultimate source of her company's revenue. Nor has her company declared its overall net-loss/churn rate for its contractors, or what % of these persons have generated an overall net-profit (after deducting all their inevitable operating expenses). Whilst interestingly, Ms. Ma stated that, at first, her fledgling business was losing money, but that the concept of reorganizing and expanding 'Tropic Skincare' using a 'direct selling model (i.e. MLM)' rather than distributing its products via other traditional retail outlets, was suggested to her by a group of (unnamed) women who had 'worked for 'Virgin Vie Cosmetics,' before being developed and introduced in consultation with her financial backer/partner, Lord Sugar.
However, on closer-examination, 'Tropic Skincare's' internal recruitment/compensation structure has been like that of all other 'MLM' groups (i.e. mind-numbingly complex and ultimately laughable). Once signed up, recruits are supposed to be non-salaried sales agents/business owners, who have been obliged in their take-it-or-leave-it 'Ambassador' contracts to pay an initial entrance fee + all their inevitable operating-expenses. Supposedly, with just a few hours work per week, any new 'Tropic' recruit can obtain rapid promotion in a hierarchy comprising 8 main 'Ambassador' levels (bearing increasingly-impressive, and rewarding, titles culminating in 'Diamond Executive Manager'). In her interview with Hannah Martin, Ms. Ma insisted that her company's 'MLM Income Opportunity' is different to other 'MLMs,' because it hasn't forced its 'Ambassadors to buy large stocks of inventory' or offered 'payment to infinite levels.'
Yet, in reality, 'Tropic Skincare' has offered an 'Amway'-style incomprehensible 'Success Plan' in which promotion and increasing commission payments have supposedly been based not on recruitment, but on the volume of regular 'sales' maintained by the individual recruit annually, and those of the recruit's own recruits, etc. ad infinitum. Indeed, despite what she has claimed, Ms. Ma (apparently in consultation with Lord Sugar) has not set common-sense limits on the number of persons being recruited, let alone limits on the number of recruits operating in given areas of population. Indeed, just as in the 'Amway' original, this theoretically-unlimited sales-force, would quite evidently be crazy and counter-productive if the goal was just to sell products to the public. To illustrate the commercial-folly lurking behind this classic 'MLM' mystification, imagine if a company like McDonalds set no limits on the number of restaurant franchises it sold or on where these identical businesses were located. How on Earth could all the multiplying-thousands of cheek-by-jowl restaurant owners be expected to attract enough customers to cover their inevitable operating expenses, get their investment back and break even, let alone make an overall net-profit? However, this unworkable-saturation is essentially what all 'MLMs' have created and sought to conceal.
Again just as in the 'Amway' original, unknown to all new 'Tropic Skincare' recruits, in order for them to achieve and remain at the highest (winning) 'Diamond' level, they would have to find and maintain thousands of further ill-informed recruits to occupy the (losing) lower levels.
It is public knowledge that, since 2011, the celebrity billionaire British businessman and member of the House of Lords, Baron Alan Sugar, has been the part (50%) owner, and has been involved in the public promotion, of 'Tropic Skin Care Ltd.' As already explained, his partner in this activity has been Susan Ma, whom he evidently first encountered when (aged 21 in 2011) she took part in the British version of the (originally-American) television show, 'The Apprentice,' which Lord Sugar starred in and presented.
Perhaps it's just an unfortunate coincidence, but in the early 2000s, ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ was used in the USA as a vehicle to promote another 'Amway' copy-cat ‘MLM’ front company known as ‘ACN.’ Donald Trump, and members of his family, are still facing a class-action lawsuit in the USA filed by chronic victims of ‘ACN’ who claim that they only signed up, and lost many thousands of dollars, as a result of Donald Trump’s glowing public endorsement. The evidence in this particular case demonstrates that Donald Trump and his family never revealed that they had, in fact, received millions of dollars from the bosses of ‘ACN’ in return for this highly-effective promotion. Indeed, for several years they steadfastly pretended (in video recordings and public appearances) that they were offering their independent expert opinon of the company and its ‘MLM Income Opportunity’ and that they were genuinely interested in helping ordinary ‘MLM’ participants to succeed.
Due to its public association with a billionaire celebrity and his family, to the average victim of ‘ACN’ it appeared to be inconceivable that the company could be the front for a fraud. However, Donald Trump has also been widely-touted by the promoters of other ‘MLM’ front companies as a major supporter of this form of business. For years, Donald Trump's name and image have appeared on countless books and recordings, along with that of a certain Robert Kiyosaki; all of which have been peddled to the never-ending chains of temporary de facto slaves of various 'MLM' rackets. In these materials, and no doubt whilst laughing on their way to the bank, Trump and Kiyosaki have pretended to have access to secret knowledge which has enabled them to transform from ordinary humans into fabulously wealthy super-humans. They have further pretended that they are prepared to share this secret knowledge with anyone.
|The Family That Gives Together – Mother Jones
Interestingly, despite her having no relevant qualifications for the post, when elected US president, Donald Trump appointed Betsy DeVos (the billionaire daughter-in-law of one of the billionaire instigators of the 'Amway' racket), as US. Education Secretary.
Thus, if challenged, I will predict that Lord Sugar will respond by accepting that I am correct, in that certain ‘MLM’ companies have been proved to be the fronts for pyramid frauds, but he will then say essentially what Susan Ma has said: that ‘Tropic Skincare,’ has instigated specific ‘rules’ to protect its 'Ambassadors' from any risk of pyramid fraud, and is, therefore, completely different. However, as I pointed out in my introduction to this article, ‘Tropic Skincare’ is neither original nor unique and, consequently, it cannot be fully-understood in isolation. Indeed, the claim that specific ‘rules’ have been instigated to protect ‘MLM’ contractors from pyramid fraud, is itself, neither original nor unique, because, starting with 'Amway,' when challenged, all 'MLM' bosses have made this claim.
In reality, more than half a century of quantifiable evidence proves beyond all reasonable doubt that:
- the widely-misunderstood phenomenon that has become popularly-known as 'Multi-Level Marketing' (a.k.a. 'Network Marketing') is nothing more than an absurd, non-rational, economic pseudo-science maliciously-designed to lure unwary persons into de facto servitude, dissociate them from external reality and not only steal their money, but also deceive them into unconsciously acting the role of bait to lure other unwary persons (particularly their friends and family members) into the same trap.
- the technical-sounding made-up jargon term, 'MLM,' is therefore, the misleading title for an enticing structured-scenario of control which has been developed, and constantly acted out as reality, by the instigators, and associates, of various copy-cat, major and minor, ongoing organised crime groups (hiding behind labyrinths of legally-registered corporate structures) to shut-down the critical, and evaluative, faculties of victims, and of casual observers, in order to perpetrate, and dissimulate, a series of blame-the-victim 'Long Cons' - comprising self-perpetuating rigged-market swindles, a.k.a. pyramid scams (dressed up as 'legitimate direct selling income opportunites') and related advance-fee frauds (dressed up as 'legitimate: training and motivation, self-betterment, programs, recruitment leads, lead generation systems,' etc.).
- apart from an insignificant minority of shills (whose leading-role in the 'Long Con' has been to pretend that anyone can achieve financial freedom simply by following their unquestioning example and exactly-duplicating a step-by-step-plan of recruitment and self-consumption), the hidden overall net-loss/churn rate for participation in so-called 'MLM income opportunities,' has always been effectively 100%.
The enticing structured-scenario of control fundamental to all 'rigged-market swindles' is that people can earn income by first contributing their own money to participate in a profitable commercial opportunity, but which is secretly an economically-unviable fake due to the fact that the (alleged) opportunity has been rigged so that it generates no significant, or sustainable, revenue other than that deriving from its own ill-informed participants. For more than 60 years, 'Multi-Level Marketing' racketeers have been allowed to dissimulate rigged-market swindles by offering endless-chains of victims various banal, but over-priced, products, and/or services, in exchange for unlawful losing-investment payments, on the pretext that 'MLM' products/services can then be regularly re-sold for a profit in significant quantities via expanding networks of distributors. However, since 'MLM' products/services cannot be regularly re-sold to the general public for a profit in significant quantities (based on value and demand), 'MLM' participants have, in fact, been peddled infinite shares of their own finite money (in the false expectation of future reward).
Thus, in 'MLM' rackets, the innocent looking products/sevices' function has been to hide what is really occurring. i.e The operation of an unlawful, intrinsically fraudulent, rigged-market where effectively no non-salaried (transient) participant can generate an overall net-profit, because, unknown to the non-salaried (transient) participants, the market is in a permanent state of collapse and requires its non-salaried (transient) participants to keep finding further (temporary) de facto slaves to sustain the enticing illusion of stability and viability.
Meanwhile an insignificant (permanent) minority direct the 'Long Con' - raking in vast profits by selling into the rigged-market and by controlling/withholding all key-information concerning the rigged-market's actual catastrophic, ever-shifting results from its never-ending chain of (temporary) de facto slaves.
Although cure-all pills potions and vitamin/dietary supplements, household and beauty, products have been most-prevalent, it is possible to use any product, and/or service, to dissimulate a rigged-market swindle. There are even some 'MLM' rackets that have been hidden behind well-known traditional brands (albeit offered at fixed high prices). Some 'MLM' rackets have included 'cash-back/discount shopping cards, travel products, insurance, energy/communications services' and 'crypto-currencies' in their controlling scenarios.
No matter what bedazzling product/service has been dangled as bait, in 'MLM' rackets, there has been no significant or sustainable source of revenue other than never-ending chains of persons under contract to the 'MLM' front companies. These front-companies always pretend that their products/services are high quality and reasonably-priced and that for anyone prepared to put in some effort, the products/services can be easily sold on for a profit via expanding networks of distributors (based on value and demand). In reality, the underlying reason why it has mainly only been (transient) 'MLM' contractors who have bought the various products /services (and not the general public) is because they have been tricked into unconsciously playing along with the controlling scenario which constantly says that via regular self-consumption and the recruitment of others to do the same, etc. ad infinitum, anyone can receive a future (unlimited) reward.
I've been examining the 'MLM' phenomenon for around 25 years. During this time, I've yet to find one so-called 'MLM' front-company that has voluntarily made key-information available to the public concerning the quantifiable results of its so-called 'income opportunity' in an easy-to-understand format.
Part of the key-information that all 'MLM' bosses seek to hide concerns the overall number of persons who have signed contracts since the front companies were instigated and the retention rates of these persons.
When rigorously investigated, the overall hidden net-loss churn rates for so-called 'MLM income opportunites' has turned out to have been effectively 100%. Thus, anyone claiming (or implying) that it is possible for the average participant to make a penny of net-profit, let alone a living, in an 'MLM,' cannot be telling the truth and will not provide quantifiable evidence to back up his/her anecdotal claims.
Although a significant number of 'MLM' front-companies (like 'Vemma', 'Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing', 'Wake Up Now') have been shut-down by commercial regulators in the USA, some of the biggest 'MLM' rackets (like 'Amway' ,'Herbalife', Forever Living Products' ) have continued to hide in plain sight whilst secretly churning tens of millions of losing participants over decades
The quantifiable results of the self-perpetuating global 'Long Con' known as 'Multi Level Marketing,' have been fiendishly hidden by convincing victims that they are 'Independent Business Owners' and that any losses they incurred, must have been entirely their own fault for not working hard enough.
Chronic victims of 'MLM' cults are invariably incapable of describing what they were subjected to in accurate terms. Even though they are no longer physically playing along with the 'Long Con's' controlling-scenario, they unconsciously continue to think, and speak, using the jargon-laced 'MLM' script – illogically describing themselves as 'Distributors, Ambassadors, Business Owners’ etc.'
Chronic victims of blame-the-victim rackets who have managed to escape and confront the ego-destroying reality that they’ve been systematically deceived and exploited, are invariably destitute and dissociated from all their previous social contacts. For years afterwards, recovering victims can suffer from psychological problems (which are also generally indicative of the victims of abuse): depression; overwhelming feelings (guilt, grief, shame, fear, anger, embarrassment, etc.); dependency/ inability to make decisions; retarded psychological/ intellectual development; suicidal thoughts; panic/ anxiety attacks; extreme identity confusion; Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; insomnia/ nightmares; eating disorders; psychosomatic illness, fear of forming intimate relationships; inability to trust; etc.
In respect of the above analysis, I am interested to know how Lord Sugar’s public, and financial, association with the demonstrably-criminogenic ‘MLM’ phenomenon (undoubtedly a form of latter-day slavery by deception preying mainly on women in the UK), ties in with the ‘Modern Slavery Statement’ published by the UK Parliament (in which Alan Sugar has had the unelected right to sit).