How MLM reps lie to lure in victims

Find out how MLM reps seem to lie to lure in victims in this examination of recruitment FAQs, shared on social media by a Forever Living Manager.

Recently a top Forever Living FBO (Forever Business Owner) in the UK shared some FAQs about joining the business. It’s a perfect example of the (what we believe are) lies that are told to lure victims into MLMs.

In this article we take each of the questions and answers, and after each explain what we believe, from many years of research and speaking to experts, is the real truth. At the end, we also explain why MLM reps use emotions to defend and deflect any criticism, and the difference between a ‘hater’ and a ‘critic’.

Just to be clear, we have chosen this particular social media post to examine not because it is unique – quite the opposite! This is a classic sales pitch that we have seen from reps across many different MLMs. This one happens to be by someone with Forever Living, but it could easily have been someone from another company.

And while individual details may vary from MLM business to MLM business, the basic pattern and business structure is the same across the board. As, often, are the responses to these reasonable business questions. Our aim here is to highlight the MLM sales pitch, and explain why it’s not correct.

So let’s get started. Here are the FBO’s questions, answers and what we believe is the real truth.

Are there any sales targets?

No, you can choose to do as much or as little as you want. 

The truth:

If you want to earn money from Forever Living, then this does not appear to be true.

In order to earn commission on your sales at Forever Living, you need to be ‘Wholesale Qualified’. And in order to be Wholesale Qualified you need to have “purchased 2 Case Credits within two consecutive months”:

It’s only after buying two Case Credits (CC) that you can progress from being a customer to an FBO, “with the right to sell FLP products and sponsor other FBOs to sell FLP products.”

The last time we checked, in the UK, 1CC was worth around £159 wholesale and £227 retail. In the US it was around $214, and in Canada it was $283. So this means you need to buy or sell £318 products over two months in order to earn commission.

That sounds very much like a sales target to us. 

And the targets rise the further up the company you climb (if you ever do…). If you are a Supervisor or above, in order to qualify for bonuses and incentives, you need to meet the requirements of the marketing plan. You also need to have a total of four “Active Case Credits… during that month, at least one of which is a Personal Case Credit.”

If you do not achieve ‘active status’, you won’t be paid a Volume Bonus that month, and won’t be considered an Active Sales Leader. And any unearned Volume Bonus will be paid to the next Active Sales Leader in your upline.

So every month, you need to ensure you and your team buy or sell a minimum of £636 worth of Forever Living products, £159 of which must be bought or sold by you.

What are the typical earnings of a product promoter?

£200-£800 a month but if you want to earn less, or more, that’s fine, you can earn a lot more building a team of product promoters.

The truth:

According to Forever Living’s own figures, 88.6% of people who joined the business didn’t earn anything from the company in 2018.

Their figures also show that 96.46% of people earned much less than £200. Even if you only take into account the people in Forever Living who earned money in 2018, less than 1% of these people earned more than $1,493 a month on average.

Which means that if you want to earn £200 a month with Forever Living you need to be in the top 3.54% of everyone in the company, and in the top 30% of everyone who actually makes money.

That’s hardly what we would call ‘typical’. 

And as you’ll discover as you read on, even a ‘successful’ member of this FBO’s team only earned £87 in one month (before deducting expenses) despite apparently working hard at the business.

Let’s also look at the claim, “you can earn a lot more building a team of product promoters”. If you want to earn ‘a lot more’ than £800 a month then, according to Forever Living, you need to be among their highest earners, who they admit are less than 1% of not just everyone who joins the company, but everyone who makes money. This can absolutely not be considered ‘typical’.

Worryingly, the DSA is aware of what we believe are misrepresentations, if not outright lies, like this, and are appear to be happy for them to be shared. (You can read our opinion of the DSA here.)

How many hours do people usually need spare?

Even just 5 hours a week can be plenty. It fits in around your life and a lot of it you can just fit into nooks and crannies of time.

The truth:

According to the DSA, 49% of people who join MLMs like Forever Living work more than 10 hours a week trying to make money. 

But even if you do work just five hours, let’s look at how much you might earn per hour. According to research published on the FTC website, 99.6% of people who join an MLM will, on average, lose money once business expenses are taken into account. 

And we already know from Forever Living’s own figures that 88.6% of people in the company in 2018 earned nothing. But let’s be generous and imagine that you did earn money. And if you spend five hours a week, every week, you’re investing around 21.5 hours a month on average.  

So if you earn an average of $105 a month (this is what 69% of the people who do earn money with Forever Living earn), that means you’ll earn $4.88 an hour before expenses.

If you want to earn more than minimum wage for your efforts (again BEFORE deducting business expenses) you need to be in the top 3.63% of all people who join the business, and the top 30% of everyone who makes any money at all. 

We also know that once you join, you’re encouraged to spend time on the business to make it work. (And not for you, as we explain shortly, but to help your upline achieve their targets.) Here’s what one former FBO told Timeless Vie about her experience:

“Mums often got stressed out with the lack of time they now had with their kids but where told to ‘make your kids the reason to succeed, not your excuse’ and to find them a babysitter as it would all be worth it when they were living life like a millionaire.”

And here’s what FBOs are told to do if they want to achieve the rank of Manager (taken from a presentation slide at a Forever Living Success Day):

  • Send 400 dear neighbour letters.
  • Contact 20 people from your WDYKL (who do you know list) EVERY DAY.
  • Contact marketing five people a week.
  • Getting two experience packs out a week (you will need to pay for these).
  • Find two events to go to and collect cards from.
  • Find two people to host pamper evenings.
  • Ask C9 customers to blog about their experience.
  • Promote lifestyle, recruiting and keep social media active.

(This kind of activity is quite common in MLMs. Take a look at what Body Shop at Home reps are expected to do here.)

We don’t know about you but that feels like a very exhausting list of tasks to complete, and certainly can’t be achieved in ‘nooks and crannies of time’.

What if I want to stop/quit?

There is not a contract. You’re not obliged to do anything. You can pause and take a break, stop all together or just look after your personal needs/those of a few customers.

The truth:

On paper, yes you can just quit an MLM. But we know from talking to people who have left MLMs, that it’s not that simple. Why? Because everyone above you on the marketing plan NEEDS you to stay in the business in order to retain their rank, commissions and/or bonuses. 

Just take a look at the ‘free’ MLM car, and how companies use the car bonus to pressurise their reps to keep their downline in the business, and selling (or buying). 

And Forever Living appears to be no different. Here’s what you need to achieve in order to reach the Manager position:

As you can see, you need to be responsible for 150CC of sales over four months from you and your team of 14 people. That’s 4CC from you directly and the rest from your team. So we estimate that’s £636 of your own sales (or purchases) and £23,214 from your downline. 

And if you achieve the car plan (Forever2Drive) you need to initially hit these targets:

To keep your bonus, each month for the 36 months you are paid it after qualifying, you need to maintain the month three target – a minimum of 150CC (£23,850).

If you fail to achieve the target your incentive will be calculated at $2.66 times your total Case Credits for that month. If your Case Credits drop below 50, you won’t get any incentive payment at all. And remember: you still have a car lease in your name to pay!

Now imagine you’re only just scraping by, or are a little short of your target, and one of your team says they want to leave or take time off. Their loss will mean you miss your target that month, and all your hard work would have been for nothing. And worse – you’re going to lose the money you would have earned, plus potentially need to make up the money on your car lease payment.

In this circumstance are you going to cheerfully let that member of your team pause their business or walk away? Or are you going to use everything in your power – including emotional manipulation – to try to make them stay? 

In our opinion, based on countless testimonies we’ve heard and read from people who have left MLMs, the latter is far more likely to be the scenario. 

Do I have to go to trainings in person?

No, we have plenty of training on Facebook groups, YouTube, webinars and you can catch up with myself & other leaders over zoom.

The truth:

While yes, during lockdown, all trainings and events have taken place online, before this it seems that people were expected to attend in-person events at their own cost. Here’s what the ex-FBO told Timeless Vie:

“The leader told me if I really wanted to succeed I’d be at the next official training event, which was too expensive for me and I didn’t have transport to get there.

“I was already paying out for things I hadn’t expected, having four monthly payments to access training and so on (QLS group, Forever Knowledge, Forever 360 and Smart Pod). I was told to ‘buy the ticket now and figure out how to get there later’, which turned out to be a common phrase I heard a lot.

“To try to get in everyone’s good graces again I borrowed money for this training event (taking four train journeys on my own at the weekend), hoping it would be enough to get some more help.

“In my Facebook group women were told if they didn’t have a sick day off work or leave the kids with a babysitter in order to attend training events they were losers who made excuses and wouldn’t succeed.”

What if I’m not very confident?

You aren’t expected to do anything – so take the pressure off yourself from day one! Personal developement naturally happens within Forever – it’s a hand held business so you are supported in working outside your comfort zone.

The truth: 

MLMs seem to love people who lack confidence. In fact, listen to any top MLM rep tell their story and they’ll say that they used to be painful shy, suffer from anxiety, etc. (Many of these stories are apparently made up or exaggerated.)

And when you join an MLM it’s true that you’re encouraged to work on your personal development. But that’s because that’s where most of the money is made, we believe! Self-development is a huge industry in MLM, and some of the top reps in companies either offer their own programmes, or promote gurus to their downlines (taking a cut of any money made).

In fact, it’s such a lucrative, predatory industry that Susie Ma has invested in creating high quality business and product training for Tropic Ambassadors, which they provide for free. She says that this is to prevent Ambassadors from getting sucked into the expensive success mindset training that so many MLM reps lose money to. 

Mindset is also a great scapegoat for when people fail at MLM. If the business didn’t work for someone, they (and others in the team) will be told it’s because they didn’t have the right mindset.

Do I need loads of customers?

We coach you to find and look after 20-30 customers who regularly re order with you.

The truth: 

This statement deliberately makes it look easy to find loyal customers to sell products to. But this doesn’t appear to be the reality. 

In a video, the FBO who wrote these FAQs says, “I have about 17 regular customers”. And another of the UK’s top FBOs admitted in a training video that she only has nine regular customers. 

If it’s so easy to find 20-30 customers who regularly buy from you, why haven’t these top FBOs who have been in the business for many years managed it? 

Probably because, as we believe, it’s very difficult to sell products that are as much as five times more expensive than high street equivalents (according to our price checks). 

And if it’s so easy to sell Forever Living products, why did this former FBO who reached the role of manager admit that “she was paying hundreds of pounds of her own money into the company to meet the minimum threshold of earnings she needed to keep her business afloat”?

Surely, during her “three years working full-time for Forever Living — rising to become a manager with a team of 100 beneath her” she’d have earned more than just £5,000 if she had 20-30 regular customers?

What these FAQs don’t tell you is that, from all of our research, we have come to understand that the only way to make money in an MLM is to recruit and climb the ranks. Even a Black Younique Presenter told us that she struggled with retail sales and had to sometimes personally buy to make her sales target. The money always apparently comes from your downline.

How much does it cost to get started?

£199.75 and for that you get everything you need to get your business off to a flying start (our fastest selling products, literature and a website).

The truth:

Yes, you can start Forever Living with an investment of £199.75. But is that all you really need to spend? As we’ve already shown, you need to sell (or buy) 2CCs over two months in order to start earning money. 

You’re also expected to “Become your own best customer” and use their products yourself:

Here’s what one Forever Living training video says: 

“If you’ve got a product that you’re using that Forever Living Products has then you’re not using the products properly. Every single product you use… needs to be Forever Living if we do that. It’s that simple. How many people can redirect their spending?”

When we priced Forever Living products against similar (sometime superior) high street products we found they were, without exception, more expensive. Some up to five times more expensive.

And don’t forget all the marketing materials you need to invest in and other business expenses.

It sounds too good to be true does it really work?

YES – we have been an established company for 43 years (globally) and running in the UK for 29 years. We coach all new business owners how to follow a simple, proven business system that works.

The truth:

If Forever Living’s “simple, proven business system” really works, why did 88.6% of people in the company in 2018 earn zero? And even of those who earned money, 69% earned an average of just $105 a month, before deducting business expenses.

The real truth is that, according to that research published on the FTC website, 99.6% of people who join an MLM will, on average, lose money once business expenses are taken into account. 

Here’s an example of what the downline of the FBO who posted the FAQs are earning. This is a Facebook comment from one of her team:

Yes, she does say that she only earned £87 in a month (before deducting business expenses, including purchases for personal use). And all the evidence shows her working her business hard that month, including hosting 6am Power Hours on Facebook and attending evening online training.

And this same FBO was considered so ‘successful’ at Forever Living she was invited to give training to other reps at one of their events.

We have seen nothing that indicates Forever Living is any different from any other MLM. Indeed, according to a whistleblower, this is what you REALLY need to do if you want to succeed with the company. 

“I earn a six figure income”

I started my business 12 years ago to earn £200 a month, now I earn a six figure income as I stuck with it.

The truth:

As we revealed here, this FBO and many others are, in reality, apparently hiding dark financial secrets about their businesses. According to Companies House, this FBO has an outstanding director’s loan of over £206,000:

And not only has she been unable to pay back this loan over a number of years, but she’s actually increased it year-on-year. In our opinion these are not the actions of a financially abundant person.

In fact, according to a Forever Living whisteblower, this rep is probably earning around £2,000 a month “at a push” – despite apparently telling her downline she earns “over £18k a month”. Looking at the lifestyle she continually shows off on social media, we’d say that an income of £2,000 seems more likely, and would explain why she needs to continually borrow money from her business.

What’s the difference between a ‘hater’ and a ‘critic’?

This last question is one of our own. For, inevitably when MLM reps like this FBO are called to account, they resort to calling their critics ‘haters’ and claim that anyone who dares to question what they say or do is just a jealous failure or a troll. They’re also fond of playing the bully card.

We believe that the reason for this is that they can’t defend what they do with facts and figures. That they KNOW that what critics say is true. So the only weapon they can fall back on is victimhood. This also enables them to gain the uncritical sympathy of their downline, and stops them from properly examining an alternative point of view.

It’s the same deflection strategy that cults use.

The truth is that there are numerous critics, including us, who believe that many top MLM reps are manipulative bullies. We believe that they know the business won’t work for the vast majority of people who join their team. We believe that they know they’re often promoting a fake lifestyle. We believe that they know that they’re luring people in with false hope, just so THEY can make their rank and earn their own bonuses and commissions.

And when the business inevitably fails for people (remember, according to Forever Living themselves, 88.6% of people with the business in 2018 made nothing), they’ll probably tell them that they ‘didn’t want it enough’, ‘didn’t work hard enough’, ‘didn’t have the right attitude’, or were ‘too negative’.

They’ll tell them, as this FBO tells people in her FAQs that all they need to do is “follow a simple, proven business system that works”. So if they don’t succeed, it can’t be the business; it must be them.

We call out MLMs and the people who enable them to continue because we believe that MLMs are pyramid schemes and are incredibly financially and psychologically damaging for many people who join them.

And we use examples like the above FAQs to demonstrate the ways that MLMs lure people in. It’s not specifically about the person who shared these FAQs (which is why we don’t name individual people). It’s not about ‘hating’ or ‘bullying’ anyone. It’s about ending the damage done by this industry by preying on people.

As always we have made every effort to ensure the information we share in this article is accurate. If we have made an error, please contact us and we will correct it.

Photo by Camylla Battani