Don’t donate to charities through MLMs! Why their ‘good deeds’ aren’t as innocent as they seem

Tough times – like COVID-19 – bring out the best and the worst in people. Find out how MLM reps are cynically using this tragedy for personal gain.

Sadly, while many people in communities are pulling together and looking out for people who need help right now, others are viewing the Coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to make money from others, and further their own agenda. 

The news is full of warnings about a spike in scams right now, and to that list we’d like to include the rash of MLM reps in a hurry to push their products under the guise of ‘charity’.

We’ve explored before how cynical MLM reps use the goodwill of others to line their pockets, help them maintain or gain rank, or simply get their business in front of potential new victims.

And what better opportunity for MLM reps to look good (while benefiting themselves) than a national lockdown in which many people have lost their income and are fearful of the wellbeing of themselves and their loved ones? Or are even putting their own lives at risk for the rest of us?

Don’t believe anyone would be that cold hearted? Let’s look at some examples, so you know when to avoid parting with your hard earned cash. 

Younique Presenter asks for £5 to pay for 69p NHS ‘self care pack’

Recently in a neighbourhood Facebook group set up to help people in Covid-19, a Younique rep asked people to sponsor her ‘self care packs’ for NHS staff. Each pack contains sweet treats, ‘uplifting quote cards’ and Younique samples:

We priced the pack based on Tesco prices, where all non-Younique products are available. Most are in multipacks, so we calculated their individual prices:

  • 1 x hot chocolate sachet – 30p
  • 1 x Haribo Starmix pack – 11p
  • 1 x Yorkie biscuit – 14p
  • 3 x Lotus biscuits – 14p
  • Total = 69p

So, aside from the ‘uplifting quote cards’ (one of which looks homemade), and the Younique samples, which are given away free by Younique Presenters to promote their business, each pack costs just 69p. 

And yet this Younique Presenter is asking people to sponsor each pack for £5 – a profit of £4.31 (less the cost of the envelope).

So, not only does this Presenter use this an opportunity to get samples for her business in the hands of (often) cash-strapped NHS staff, but she’s apparently making a VERY healthy profit too. 

And yet she’s presenting this as a charity effort, and wanting credit and praise for it. And when this post was questioned and removed (rightly) from the Facebook community page, she was enraged (demonstrating something that looked very much like narcissistic rage). 

We don’t know about you, but this doesn’t appear very charitable or generous on the part of the Younique Presenter. She’s seemingly making a healthy profit from each pack, while promoting her business by sending out business samples.

New pandemic, old tricks

While the current COVID-19 lockdown may be an unprecedented situation, sadly MLMs have been cynically using human tragedies and charities to earn money and gain promotions for years.

Just check out some of the appalling examples here, including using 911 to sell, and leveraging ‘brilliant’ opportunities such as devastating hurricanes, funerals, and even baby and child loss.

While some of the selling and recruitment posts are more obvious, some MLMs take a different tack, by masquerading their self-interest as doing a good deed.

But, like pretty much everything with MLMs, when you take a look beneath the shiny veneer, most of these good deeds are actually, no surprise, simply self-serving.

Let’s take a look at one MLM in particular here – Forever Living. Every year during breast cancer awareness month, we see lots of Forever Living reps share posts like this:

As you can see, the reps are claiming that these packs are “non profit making”, and the inference here is that the rep (or even the company itself, if they are encouraging their reps to promote these packs) is simply doing this out of the goodness of their heart. It’s a selfless gesture to help those less fortunate.

Or is it?

Let’s look at these packs in more detail.

So, local people or businesses are asked to buy a positive pack for a good cause. In this case, it’s £18 and the good cause is cancer patients in a ward at the local hospital. We’ve also seen money being raised for patients at cancer hospices.

So far, so good. The reps themselves claim they’re making no money out of these packs. However, while they may not be profiting immediately from the purchase of the items in it, they will, presumably, be collecting Case Credits (the points system Forever Living uses to calculate sales) for the purchases for them, and their upline (senior reps) will collect commission on the purchases.

The company will also, of course, benefit hugely from the profit on the purchase of these items which, when compared against high street equivalents are often significantly more expensive. (We priced Forever Living products against high street alternatives here.)

The rep putting the packs together will be using their Case Credits towards company incentives like bonuses and travel too.

It all starts looking much less magnanimous when you peel back the layers. And there are many of these posts around right now, creating ‘care packs’ for the NHS.

What’s the alternative?

If the MLM companies and reps genuinely want to help people and charities, then we’re sure all parties concerned would much rather actual cash was donated to research, facilities and treatment.

And even if a company wanted to donate physical treats for cancer patients or NHS staff, some basic calculations on Forever Living products show that they could find high street alternatives for as little as half the price. Meaning the companies could give to twice as many people, or donate the rest in cash.

But of course, this would mean that Forever Living wouldn’t earn profits on the product sales, the upline wouldn’t get their commission, and the rep wouldn’t gain their Case Credits. And no one in the MLM would be able to claim the moral high ground of helping a charity.

‘Donate £1 to me the NHS’

The Younique rep above isn’t the only one using the enormous goodwill for NHS workers to apparently promote her business right now. Here’s another current post from a Forever living rep:

Nice touch on the ‘choice’ of responses to this post (both are basically ‘yes’). It’s also a very clever emotional manipulation – who can’t afford to donate just £1 to thank/support the brave NHS staff?

But as we’ve seen above, these kind of posts are a cynical attempt to help no one but this particular Forever Living rep (whatever she might protest if challenged).

Incidentally, this particular Forever Living rep has been highly active with posts like this throughout the lockdown. And finally, after two years of trying, only got her first promotion (to Supervisor) last month.

Coincidence? We don’t think so. All those NHS donations boosted her Case Credits (CCs) and finally bought her the promotion.

“I will make no financial gain whatsoever”

Here’s another post, from someone who is in the downline of the Forever Living rep above:

In her post she states that “I will make no financial gain whatsoever.” But she fails to inform people that these purchases will contribute to her monthly CCs – and ultimately benefit her. Perhaps she is hoping people will buy her a promotion too?

This is NOT, in our opinion, an act of generosity, but is self-serving dressed up as a good deed.

If you genuinely want to help charities or good causes at any time, donate directly to them, buy high street products (at a fraction of MLM prices) or get involved in another way. Don’t be emotionally blackmailed into helping a greedy/desperate MLM rep further their own selfish agenda.

99.6% of MLM reps lose money

If you’re new to our site, and would like to learn more about MLMs you can read plenty of articles and research here. But for a quick introduction, here’s why we continue to campaign against this industry.

According to this research into 200 MLMs published by the Federal Trade Commission, an average of 99.6% of participants in an MLM will lose money when expenses are taken into account.

This has yet to be disproved by any research, and indeed is corroborated by every single MLM income disclosure statement ever published (these are from the companies themselves).

Multi-Level marketing (MLM) is a predatory business model in which everyone except those at the very top of the pyramid lose money, self-esteem and friends.

No wonder MLM reps are so desperate they’ll use anything – even a global pandemic that has killed thousands – in an attempt to recruit, sell and get promoted.

Read more about MLMs and Coronavirus

COVID-19 isn’t the only virus plaguing the plant right now. As you can see for this article, MLM companies and reps are using it as an opportunity to give their businesses a boost. Here’s why you need to avoid them like the plague:

Photo by Sincerely Media