So this morning my boyfriend texts me that he’s going to a “multi-level marketing event related to coffee” and I’m like “a what??” but his friend has one entrance ticket and it’s at a fancy hotel, so he’s going. Francisco then clarifies it’ll be motivational speakers trying to get you to do sales for this coffee brand that his grandma loves.
I’m immediately turned off, thinking at best some sort of legit business like Avon where you just have to constantly pester your friends family and coworkers to buy skin cream or at worst a ponzi scheme where you have to constantly pester your friends, family and coworkers to get duped like you were so you can at least get part of your money back.
Either way, I have no interest in selling coffee.
But yet somehow I find myself meeting up with Francisco and his friend/recent acquaintance who is quite stylishly dressed in pumpkin colored skinny jeans a black dress shirt and slim black leather jacket. He users us in and we get VIP tickets and special VIP wrist bands, and I have to admit for a moment I’m slightly impressed. Maybe this won’t be as ridiculous as I thought.
It takes a while for things to get started (we are on Ecua-time after all) so were sitting at our table and so I chat a bit with the friend/acquaintance in orange pants who’s telling us a bit more about the ‘company’. This is a place to dream he tells me.
He’s telling us about each of the smiling people featured in the photo on our VIP ticket, how long they’ve been in the business and how much they are now making monthly. One was supposedly making $100k after 8 months. Our friend/acquaintance has been in for 4 months. So I commented he should be around the $50k point then, right? But then I felt bad, and said, but no the important thing is that he’s doing well and its going well for him.
I’m starting to feel a growing sense of dread, and general need to escape. And suddenly I have thought that this must be what it feels like when your friend invites you to some event and it turns out to be a church thing. That everyone else in in this crazy club, and they are trying to convert you, and you think they are just nuts and duped, they’re all talking the same language and you just really want to get out of there, but aren’t sure how without making a big scene.
So the night finally starts, and there are big entrances of all the special featured top people, who are big earners. They walk in and everyone’s taking pictures of them like they are celebrities and clapping for them like they’re big stars. Then there are a variety of different speakers, but they just keep referring to the different featured stars, and how much they’re making. It’s an hour or so in and We’ve now clapped for the same people like 3 or 4 times and I know that they all drive luxury cars, but I don’t know anything about this coffee which is supposedly being sold.
One guy, I kid you not, walks in carrying a sword. One of the images projected onto the big screen is of some other event in which they are ‘knighting’ someone. And if you get to a $100,000 it turns out they give you a big ring, like you won the super bowl or something.
All the men have very nicely tailored suits on. The main guy’s is very shiny. “Why is his suit inside out” Francisco asks?
I wonder what I would do if I made a million dollars like they are telling me that these people do. The next woman to walk in with her husband has huge boobs. I know what she’s done with some of her million dollars. Maybe I could buy myself fake boobs too.
In fact, really the only mention of coffee up to this point is that it doesn’t even matter if you like coffee. You can still make tons of money in the company.
Did I mention that we are talking about instant coffee? This isn’t even real coffee we’re selling.
So the little packets have been sitting my table the whole time and I have a coffee mug and saucer ready to go. But they’re holding out on us on the hot water! Finally they come around and I’m like finally, the pay off for sitting through all this. I get to have some nice coffee. And then, my water is lukewarm, tepid actually.
And for me, that’s the last straw. A real coffee company would at least make sure to give you hot water for your instant coffee.
The most enjoyable part of the night was a classical violinist who performed a song at the start of the program. I wondered if anyone else in the room caught the irony (or more likely planned subconscious implanting) when his anchor song was an arrangement from Fiddler on the roof, or really the theme song and “if I was a rich man”.
The whole thing was about getting other people to sign up, under you. But they didn’t say that out right. Orange pants was too new to the deal, because he told us that much too clearly right at the beginning. He said he hardly even sells any coffee, its all about getting people under you, in your organization.
I’m sitting there my table as one of the main guys roams around the room talking on his headset mic about his friend who has two masters degrees and is broke, and his other friend who has a 4th grade education and is a millionaire because he joined the company and under the table I’m googling on my phone “Organo Gold + scam”. Lots of hits on that topic. I’m sort of scared he’ll see me.
And all I could was Ponzi scheme, Ponzi scheme. When I got home later that night I looked up the Wikipedia article, and turns out not a Ponzi scheme, but rather a pyramid scheme. Subtle differences.
My mom sold Mary Kay for years. The business was pretty much a failure. Except that I got lots of free make-up, and much better quality than the cheap stuff I would have bought as a 10th grader. So that was nice. The nail polish on my fingers as I type these words right now are actually a remnant from her attempt into small business. She probably lost several hundred dollars in buying product she never was able to sell, but at least there really is a product, and the company is based on selling a product.
My boyfriend in college bought into a pyramid scheme his junior year. For $400 you could sell phone/internet cable packages, supposedly at a great rate and especially when you got other people to sign up under you. So he borrowed some money from people, and bought in. never made back that money. And I was so mad at him at the time. We were supposed to go to florida for spring break with some friends, and then he couldn’t go because he didn’t have the money. Later he made me feel bad for not being more supportive of his business ideas. That relationship was clearly doomed to go nowhere.
The whole thing is just based on greed. Playing on people’s desires for money.
They even used religious sorts of language, talking a lot about believing and choosing the path of faith. Then they told a story about some people last year who choose to join and now are doing great, while other who choose not to join were still stuck in there same dead end lives. But do you believe that 2013 can be your year?
Eventually we decide we cant take any more and sneak out. I’m sort of afraid they’ve have locked the doors or wont let us leave.
The sound technician is screwing up a lot, lots of feed-back and sound issues and its causing a lot of disruptions in the talking. I say out loud to Francisco, that guys definitely fired. But I’m thinking to myself, hope this isn’t like the mafia and he’s fish food next week.
I recently listened to a NPR podcast of “this american life” (very well produced show, I would highly recommend it) about ‘deception’ and they talk about one of the types of deception being self-deception. I wonder about the people at the top, the ones who are making the millions out of everyone else’s pockets. What do they think? Do they realize it’s all just a scam and are ok with that, because well, now they drive a Mercedes and take trips to Paris? Or have they somehow convinced themselves that they really are changing the world for people, like they were talking about? Don’t they say that the best salesmen have to believe what they are selling? I think that they really must have bought into it all. Although there has to be small spot in the back of their mind, one that they force back down, that realizes its all a lie.