Public Service Announcement: MLMs and Pyramid Schemes

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If you’re in the market for a new job, or another job like yours truly is, then you’ve probably come across your fair share of multi-level marketing companies in your job hunt. These are also called MLMs and pyramid schemes in the common vernacular, due to the structure of the business itself. For the sake of this post, and for the sake of everyone who drove me to write this in the first place, I won’t name any actual companies I’ve come across in my job search. I won’t name the people I dealt with when I found them.

They know who they are, and at the end of the day, they only care about their bottom-line. If you think you know who they are, leave them alone as a favor to me, and a favor to them.

Full disclosure: I’ve sold for one of these companies in the past. Avon, to be exact. However, it was more of a fun little hobby for a 10 dollar startup cost, and this was long before I ever got into social media. I never attended any of the meetings, and to be honest, I’m kinda glad I never did. I handed out literature to people on occasion, but tried not to talk shop with my friends unless the subject came up.

Yeah, I was probably a shyt-poor representative in some people’s books, but whatever. I broke even when I hung up my hat on that when I took on my current job, so I guess I did better than I thought.

Fast forward to the job search of 2021, or the latest installment of the never-ending shitstorm this year has been for me. It’s been nothing but rejection after rejection after another. I’ve had interviews, but none went anywhere. I’ve heard from recruiters, but nothing’s come of it.

I’m so over this, and I’m done holding my breath on anything ever turning up. Either way, I don’t wanna jinx anything, or make the Job Gods any angrier than they already are.

That being said, several of the companies I applied to responded almost immediately. For someone who’s been job hunting for months on end, this could seem like the turn they’ve been waiting for! One company had a posting on one of the job boards that sounded like something I was open to. Flexible hours, decent pay, with promises of more on top of it. We’ll say their company is about something that isn’t cryptocurrency.

So I put my name in the hat, just like I did with the 90 other applications I put in that day. (No, that’s not a typo. 90 applications.) Almost immediately, one of their recruiters got back to me. I was elsewhere running some errands related to my mom’s passing. The info they gave me was different from what I saw in the job posting, but they made arrangements for a phone call from one of their team members.

Their team member called me that evening, and things went as expected in a interview. Until they mentioned that they’d been in this for a year, and mentioned having an “upline.” When we got to talking about what I’m looking for, I told them that I wanted something remote, and something stable more than anything. They couldn’t end the call fast enough after that.

That confirmed everything for me. There were mostly positive reviews on Glassdoor for this company, but one had some seriously horrifying allegations about possible scamming activity going on. It makes me wonder if the company paid for those reviews.

Other blog posts indicated that the products and services this company sold were legit, but their verdicts were “yes and no” in terms of whether or not to move forward with them. One post mentioned that there wouldn’t be any income for awhile after starting. Yeah, nope. I don’t have that kind of time.

One post about this company on a forum about MLMs talked about instances where the company tried to bribe, then bully and threaten a critic on social media into taking their post down.

The way I figure it, if any company, regardless of their industry or business structure, feels like they need to resort to bribing or threatening dissenters is a company that sucks donkey balls, and they know it.

The interviewer with the company I found ended the call, and after that, I haven’t heard from them. I won’t ever hear from them again, nor do I even want to anyway.

The company closed the job posting that same night, and I reported them to the job board as being an MLM, along with several other names this same company’s operating under.

I feel like I dodged a bullet. All I’m out was time. Many others aren’t so lucky, and my heart goes out to them. I still wonder what that interviewer I dealt with has to show for their one year involvement in this.

So, what companies are pyramid schemes, and what do I look for? Great questions! This article by the FTC has some signs on what to look for, but here’s what I’d add to the list too:

First, does the job posting state that the role is commission only, no paycheck? I’m sure there are legitimate companies that use this kind of compensation rate, but they’re few and far between. It’s not the be-all, end-all, but it’s a clue.

Does the company representative that reaches out to you state a company name different from that listed on the job board? Yes? Then it’s either a scam, or it’s an MLM.

During the consultation or interview, does the interviewer seem like they’re in a major hurry to get you on their team, and do they take umbrage when you mention that you’d like to think about it? Yes? Then move on.

Does their name show up on this master list of MLMs, called “Is This an MLM,” which you can find here. Yes? Run, yesterday. End all correspondence with the company, find a way out of any upcoming interviews you booked with them, and move on. This was just one so-called opportunity out of many other legitimate ones out there.

However, if the company name doesn’t show up in the master list, it still doesn’t mean it’s not an MLM or pyramid scheme. It just means that whoever set that site up hasn’t heard of it, or it’s still obscure enough it hasn’t caught onto anyone’s radar yet.

The good news is, you can suggest the company name be added to the master list. You can also report the posting to the admins of the job board you found them on. Some job boards unfortunately don’t give a rat’s ass, but the majority do care about your safety as a job seeker. The job board I found that company on took quick action when I reported them as a pyramid scheme, which is actually included as one of the violations in their terms of use.

Over to you, readers. If you’re in a season of job hunting, have you found any pyramid schemes or MLMs in your search for that next great opportunity? Do you know someone who has? I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways, so drop ’em like they’re hot, and let’s talk.


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