Trapped in the Pyramid - A Thriller
I'm grateful for the experience of going through the MLM presentation. I learned a lot about
1. How to recognize something as a MLM
2. The appealing aspects of MLM
3. How to recognize when you are being manipulated
Today I'm going to focus on number 3.
I had never seen such a concerted effort to influence by using peer pressure. The sheer amount of scripting and manipulation tactics shook me to the core. Of the 40 people in the room, only 8 were being "interviewed". All of the other humans were there simply to smile, look attractive, and build up the interviewee's confidence by listening to them talk about themselves. In other words, they were there to sell. In--still--other words, they were there to create mob mentality.
Of the 8, I believe I was the only one who did not pay them $150 on the spot and sit down to call at least 4 family members or friends. Isn't that crazy? I mean who wouldn't? After you made each call they rang a bell. When you made all 4 of your calls, they gave you FREE Pizza!!!
Why was I immune to their expert tactics? I wasn't. I was swept up in the idea that we were all working together to become financially independent. I believed that this system had huge potential to make money. I saw just how easily the other 7 were influenced. I saw my own opportunity. When my team of two couldn't get me to give them a credit card, they brought over the head honcho to answer many of my questions. I asked how I could play his role in selling the program to newcomers. He assured me that was completely an option. As long as I signed up and bought the vitamins just like everyone else. They catered to my every need. Everything was fine until I told them that I needed to talk to my wife.
Then they turned on me. I saw it in their faces. I could barley believe these blank expressions. I mean, after everyone had been so kind and pleasant and smiley all night, that to suddenly have a blank look was, frankly, scary.
First they tried to "empower" me in my own decision-making ability by trying to puff up my bravado and make me defensive. "What, you need to ask your wife's permission?" The questioner furrowed his brow, then asked, "You are a man, aren't you?"
When I told them that I strongly value my wife as a partner, they switched tactics. "I respect that," he claims. "It's just that most men don't. Here let me tell you what I can do..."
Too late, friends. I'm done listening to you.
You've showed your true colors. You threatened my identity.
You've belittled my wife.
How dare you?!
They went on to try to bribe me with "special" limited time (like, sing-up in the next 15-seconds) bonus offers. But while they were talking I was trying to plot my escape. I hadn't noticed until then that I was in the corner of the room farthest from the door. Yeah, they had me pegged (I was the only applicant in a suit, after all). Back to the wall. 3 men in front of me. The big man and his minions.
I'll tell you the rest of the story, but first let's talk about why this was one of the scariest moment of my life--and why no one should ever do business like this. (as if it isn't obvious, right?)
Why would they offer me all these discounts and free promotional products on the condition that I don't call my wife? Does that sound shady to you? Like maybe they don't want something brought into the light? Well, you're right. But, what are they hiding?
- They weren't hiding the Product.
It was a liquid vitamin supplement that gave mega doses of vitamins and enzymes that are found in red wine. Their product was linked to research.
- They weren't hiding the Market for the product.
They were going after the health trend of the new millennium--specifically, the seller's friends and family.
- They weren't hiding why they were selling the product.
The goal for sellers was to capitalize on a current trend and personal relationships in order to get rich.
- They were hiding behind the product
These people were not marketing a product they believed in. No one believed that the vitamin was worth $1,800/year. They were really marketing a system that coerced people into giving them $150 per month in order to feed that money back through all of the members on the way to the top.
See, it comes back to value. These people did not value the vitamins. They valued the hope for an easy living, once they got high enough on the pyramid. That desire motivated them to value other things like
- Forcing people to commit immediately.
- Forbidding people leave the room.
- Drawing your attention with short-term positive stimuli
(bells, pizza, feel of community, movies, images of success, discounts)
- Establishing authority
(Uniform suits, polished presentation including lots of statistics and research)
- Keeping control of all outside influence.
The opportunity was based on "Bait & Switch". Come for a job interview and receive an invitation to buy into a high stakes game. They flatter you with direct, focused attention. They celebrate you "joining the team". They reassure all of your concerns to any questions. But if you say, "No," these magical new friends turn on you.
They bully you.
They cut you down.
They use everything they've learned about you throughout the evening to attack your self-confidence and make you doubt.
The will do anything to keep you in that room until you sign up.
So how did I get out?
I kept asking questions. I kept them talking. I got them to make promises and claims that were not true. That were obviously not true. The more they talked, the more crazy it seemed.
For instance, he asked me if I took vitamins. I did. "What brand?" I told him. He said that most over the counter vitamins don't dissolve well in the digestive tract. He told me that the brand of vitamin that I took had actually been found in port-a-potties on multiple occasions. The pill was so undigested that the brand name printed on it was still visible. That's how inferior those vitamins are to ones the company was selling.
Well, I still wasn't ready to sign up.
Eventually, they switched tactics to ease the pressure. To win my trust, they removed two of the bullies. When I was one-on-one, the guy tried to help me relax. He came clean,
"Look, I know it's been a hard night. We're being hard on you, I admit it."
His posture had totally changed at this point, his face had lost the tough edge, now he was showing a look of concern for me.
"The reason we're being so hard on you is because it is such an important decision. So many people walk away from the greatest opportunities in life because they're afraid.
I don't want you to be afraid."
Yeah, freakin' right!
If that's true, why have I been trapped in the corner for the last 45 minutes without permission to leave?!
After another 20 minutes, I had promised him that I would come back in person on Saturday to meet with him again. He put out his hand. I shook it.
And he wouldn't let go.
"You've promised me. Now, that's your word. That's your word as a man--and a man of God." (of course, I had talked about my faith during the night) He let go of my hand. "I'll see you Saturday." O.o As I drove home, I asked forgiveness from God for lying to the man about meeting him on Saturday. And God forgave me--just like that! : ) Victory!
When I arrived home, I told my wife about the ordeal. The look on her face, when I impersonated the things I had experienced, was priceless.
Shock, Disgust, and just Horror.
But this man that I had promised to meet on Saturday still had my phone number. For all I knew, he had my address per my friend who recommended me for this "opportunity".
So I knew I had to end the relationship with this company. How could I do that?
Well, I had a lot of information. I had heard a lot of promises and things that I could research and test. I choose the easiest. I poured a 6 ounce glass of water. I dropped in my multivitamin. I watched the clock. In less than 30 seconds, without any kind of stirring, the entire pill had dissolved from a capsule into a fine powder. After a minute the powder was dissolved. I called the guy. I told him my findings. He claimed he made a mistake. He asked me for forgiveness. I ignored that request and began to list off all of the lies, all of the hurtful things that they had done to try to make me feel like I worthless without their company. I told him that I would not see him on Saturday and if he attempt to contact me or my family ever again, I would contact the police.
Did I forgive him?
Of course. Because almost immediately I could look back and imagine him sitting in that same uncomfortable chair I was in--being subjected to the same intimidation tactics that he was now doing to other people.
This is our culture, America.
We learn to become the things that influence us. That is part of being human. When you suffer abuse, often times you become an abuser. What you allow to impact you changes who you are.
That's why what you value is so important. Think about your values today.
Within the next 2 weeks we'll talk more about "Values" and "Ideals".
Thanks for reading. Please be mindful of unethical business practices no matter where you work. If you feel belittled or intimidated talk to your human Resources Department.
Outside of work, If you're being harassed, call the police. If you're feeling belittled, intimidated, or dehumanized in a relationship. Please act now and learn more about abuse.