Podcast

Episode 318

Oct 9, 2020

Michael and Allissa discuss if massage therapists can sell multi-level marketing products ethically.

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EPISODE 318

Weekly Roundup

Discussion Topic

  • Can We Sell MLM Products Ethically?

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Transcript:

Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by Acuity, our software of choice. Acuity is the scheduling assistant that makes it easy for both traditional businesses and virtual businesses to keep their calendar full. Acuity is the business suite that takes hours of work off your plate so you can focus on the fun of your massage business. From the moment a client books with you, Acuity is there to send booking confirmations with your own brand and messaging, deliver text reminders, let clients reschedule, let them pay online so your days run smoother and faster as you get busier. You never have to say, what time works for you? again. Clients can quickly review your real-time availability and book their own appointments. You can get a special 45-day free offer when you sign up today at massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity.

Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. And welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we help you attract more clients, make more money, and improve your quality of life. I'm Michael Reynolds.

Allissa Haines I'm Allissa Haines.

MR And we're your hosts today. Welcome. We're glad you're here. How are you, Allissa? What's going on?

AH I'm okay, except I'm already stressed out about your "what I've been reading this week," so let's just jump right to it.

MR [Laughing] That's my job. I'm here to stress you out and all our listeners. So what am I reading this week? Well, this morning, an episode of Wall Street Journal's Money Briefing podcast was out and talked about unemployment benefits, specifically unemployment benefits that are very specific to our audience, which is self-employed people. By the way, I love the Wall Street Journal Money Briefing podcast because it's 10 to 12 minutes long. It's every day. It's super short, super succinct, super direct, and really practical stuff it teaches you about when it comes to money and the economy. So anyway, I really like the podcast, as a side note.

But today's episode talked about unemployment benefits. And specifically, there is concern, very real concern, that some people may have to pay back unemployment benefits they received under the pandemic unemployment program because they were overpaid due to errors from the state. So what happened is there are lots of cases popping up where states are saying, hey, you overpaid by $10,000 or whatever -- or I'm sorry, we overpaid you by $10,000, so you owe us that money. And what happened is there's a software program that was put in place by the state unemployment programs to help calculate unemployment benefits for self-employed people. And this is -- just saying this out loud just is ridiculous to me. When I hear myself say it out loud, I'm just rolling my eyes. What it did is, in many cases, it calculated unemployment benefits based on the gross income and not the net income.

And Allissa and I have talked about this till we're blue in the face over and over in the past, about the difference between gross and net income. Gross is just the raw sales that you bring in, just what people pay you, not -- that does not count expenses and deductions and all the things that come out of your business from an expense standpoint. The net income is what's left over after all expenses are paid. So it's a very different number for most people. Your gross income is higher; your net income is lower. And the net income is what it should've been based on, but states -- the software program was basing the benefit on the gross income. And the software maker said as soon as they found the problem, they fixed it right away, but it was not in time to remedy this issue of states overpaying many people that were self-employed. And so there's all these cases starting to happen where states are sending out notices saying, hey, you need to pay this money back. So that's one thing to be concerned about, is to be aware that there was this issue with unemployment. You might want to investigate, maybe take a closer look, maybe contact your state, kind of see what the situation is because this will be a really, really nasty surprise for a lot of people.

Now, here's the caveat: The House Democrats HEROES Act bill has a provision in it that will allow states to basically forgive this issue and not require people to pay the money back. The bill has not passed as of the recording of this podcast, which is about five days before it publishes, so October 5th today, so we don't know what's going to happen. But the HEROES Act does have a provision from the House Democrats to attempt to give states the opportunity to waive that requirement to have it -- to have people pay it back. So this is a mess. We know it's been a mess. And here's one symptom of the fact that this whole thing was a big mess and people were -- everyone was scrambling to make this work, and this is one of those issues that happened as a result of the very rapid, unprecedented way all these systems had to be retrofitted and upgraded.

So it's not great news, but I wanted to share that so that people are aware that this has been an issue and may become an issue. So sorry about that. Wish I had better news.

AH Well, I'm going to -- well, I can breathe now because now that you've explained it, I'm pretty confident I'm not victim of it.

MR Okay. That's good. That's good.

AH In Massachusetts, the typical unemployment strives to match about 70 to 75% of the recipient's income before they were laid off, or in this case, pandemic'd. And once they got the PUA up and running in Massachusetts, the recipient state awards matched about that. So I did the math on what I -- my 2019 Schedule C numbers and stuff, and my state PUA award about matched that 70, 75%, so I am confident I did not get overpaid. Whew.

MR Well, that's good, but here's the thing that's still concerning. So even if people were like you and did the math and questioned it, there were so many people that were -- people had to staff up and hire people that were inexperienced, and all these people were overworked. And there were so many cases, apparently, where people would call their unemployment office saying, hey, I think I'm being overpaid, because they did the math just like you did, and the person on the phone said, no, no, you're fine, and they reassured them that everything was fine because they didn't know any better.

AH Yeah. That's a bummer, man. Yeah. Well, here's hoping people set aside a little extra of that if they were concerned.

MR Yup, they just keep on coming, don't they?

AH They really do. This is will get sorted out, and I'm going to hope for the best. So here's what I've been reading because I can't handle the kind of stuff Michael's been reading. I read my second novel from Erin Morgenstern. It's a novel called The Starless Sea. And I'm going to be honest: I did not like it as much as I liked her first novel, called The Night Circus, which I thought was just phenomenal and beautiful. And it's fiction. It's a little fantastical and magical as well. This second one, The Starless Sea, was a little creepier, scarier, which I don't typically like. But I didn't -- I liked The Starless Sea, but I also felt like the book was holding me hostage because it took me so -- it's a long book with a lot of layers, so it took me a long time to get it through, and I just so happy to be done with it last night so I could move on to the next thing. But I did want to -- even though I didn't love The Starless Sea deeply, I did love her first novel from about ten years ago called The Night Circus.

So I wanted to mention this fiction writer, Erin Morgenstern. And when I looked her up last night to get a link to her actual website versus just an Amazon book thing, I found out that she was born and raised not far from me and currently lives in Western Massachusetts and went to college right next to where I lived in Northampton for several years. So anyhow, Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus, The Starless Sea, really beautiful, lovely, picturesque, descriptive, and interesting stories. You should check it out. There's a link in our podcast notes. And that's what I've been reading, Michael.

MR Very cool. Two very different things we've been reading. [Laughing]

AH Dramatically different.

MR Both valuable. All right. Well, before we move on to our topic today, which, by the way, I am so pumped about -- I cannot wait -- but before we do that, let's show some love to our sponsor, Jojoba!

AH Yay, Jojoba!

Sponsor message This episode is in fact sponsored by The Original Jojoba Company. I believe that massage therapists should only be using the highest quality products because our clients deserve it and we deserve it. I have been using Jojoba for years and here's why: it is the only company in the world that carries 100% pure, first-pressed quality jojoba. It is nonallergenic, so I can use it on any client and every client without fear of an allergic reaction. They also have some new, delightful products, including a hand salve, which is more solid in a tin, and there is a balsam hand salve, and they've got also -- in the liquid jojoba, they have a balsam formulation and a chamomile formulation, which is really neat and light, and I really very much enjoy all of these new things, and I'd like to thank them for sending me the samples. And also, I want you to know that I like them so much I'm going to legit buy them, as you should. You can get 20% off the price of those products when you shop through our link massagebusinessblueprint.com/jojoba. And that's, in case you're new, spelled J-O-J-O-B-A.

MR Yay. We love Jojoba. All right. So I am super pumped about our topic today because we've been kind of talking about this for a while and it's got a lot of layers, so why don't you introduce our listeners to what we're talking about today?

AH Yeah, man. And I've been punting this week to week for roughly four or five months now because I found it a little overwhelming at first, so here's hoping that we cover it well. Can we sell MLM products ethically?

But first, Michael, what's an MLM?

MR MLM is short for multi-layered marketing, also called network marketing. There's a couple different names for it. But yeah, multi-layered marketing or network marketing.

AH I thought it was multi-leveled marketing.

MR Sorry, multi-level marketing. You're right. I'm wrong. I said "layer." Why was I thinking "layer"? Multi-level marketing. You are correct.

AH So tell me about the structure of an MLM company.

MR So an MLM is structured in a way where you've got a product or a service or a thing that you're selling, and the idea is that the organization recruits people to sell this product, but there is another -- here's why I probably said "layers." There is another layer of business attached to this system in that you're supposed to recruit people under you to also sell the product. And then when those people sell the product, you get what's called an "override," typically, which is when they sell it, they get a commission for it, and then part of that commission rolls up to you, and you get part of a commission. And then if they get people to recruit under them, then it kind of keeps rolling up and rolling up. So the idea is that the product is not sold by traditional advertising and marketing and kind of the traditional channels. It's sold by this kind of army of people that are recruiting people under them to recruit people they know in their network to buy the product and then to recruit more people.

AH So an example of that would be like, if I am a -- I'm going to air quote this -- "consultant" for a company that's selling vitamins, and I sell a bottle of vitamins for 100 bucks. I sell this bottle of vitamins to somebody, my mother, whatever, and maybe I get 30 bucks off of that sale -- that's a ridiculously large commission; you don't really get that, but I'm going for easy math here. So let's say I get 30 bucks commission for every $100-bottle of vitamins that I sell. And then I'm like, hey, Michael, you should sell vitamins too, and I get him all signed up, and he's now one of my consultant team. And so Michael sells a $100-bottle of vitamins to his mom, and he gets 30 bucks, and then I get 10 bucks because my consultant sold a bottle of vitamins. So I'm not only getting 30 bucks for every $100-bottle of vitamins that I sell, I get 10 bucks for every one he sells. So I make money from my peers that I have brought in to be consultants selling.

Is that a pretty accurate explanation?

MR Yeah. Yeah, called your "downline." Yeah.

AH There you go. So that's that. And what are some examples of some MLM companies? I will answer, and then Michael can answer. Older than dirt, Tupperware, baby.

MR Oh, yeah.

AH Tupperware has been sold as an MLM for a million years. Avon.

MR Amway.

AH Amway, yeah, cleaning products and stuff. And oftentimes, when people would start to sell these products, it would be done in -- back in the olden days, when we could actually be around other people, it would be done via parties, events, and very specifically also for women. Women, back in the day, when they didn't have -- most women did not have jobs outside the home -- it was a way for women to gather and be social and also make money by hosting these parties in which they would sell Avon or Tupperware or lots of lady-related products to their lady friends, and things that would make homemaking easier, like Amway and the cleaning stuff. Nowadays, of course, there are tons of different MLM companies, many of which are very male-centric; it's not just all ladies anymore.

But it was very much an income source for women who couldn't work outside the home, or didn't want to work outside the home, who needed something that could work around their child care schedules and all of that. It was very much touted as a "woman power" thing, this particular direct sales, network marketing, business structures. And there's a very deeply rooted component that still recruits women based on the "your hours can be flexible; you can do this work and still prioritize your family; it can help you build relationships with other women; we're always looking for community" -- all that stuff. So there's definitely that underlying feeling of empowerment, of being a -- I'm going to air quote this -- "small business owner," but with different levels of support, which we'll get to.

So our general feelings about multi-level marketing: straight up, pretty downright negative in a lot of ways, on my part. We're going to talk about the negatives and the positives, so don't turn out yet -- don't turn us off yet if you're really into selling something in particular via an MLM company. We're going to get there. But in general -- and I think you'll find that for many, the general perception is negative. And many of us feel that most MLM companies are pretty predatory; they tend to prey on people who are gullible and will buy any kind of miracle cure for anything, or will be very easily guilted into buying something because their struggling cousin Rhonda is selling it and they want to help her. And then predatory in the way of recruiting other salespeople -- other consultants or whatever you call them, depending on the company -- and they do this by perhaps setting unrealistic expectations of earnings.

And if anyone's every gone to massage school and had their business teacher tell them they could make thousands of dollars a week and not explain about taxes and operating costs, you understand what this is. There's a very common attitude of "you can make as much money as you want, you just have to put the work into it" without really saying what that work is or how much time that will consume. Very often, MLM companies require a purchase of product to buy in or start, so you have to buy a bunch of product that you then sell, or -- and not all do -- and some even require that you just have to purchase a starter kit to get yourself familiar with the product. So those are some of the negative, the first batch of negative feelings.

In relation to being a massage therapist who wants to sell such products, there's a whole other layer of concerns. And that can be that you, as a wellness provider or however -- health care provider or alternative care provider or whatever you consider yourself, to sell a product is one thing; to sell a product as well as try to recruit other consultants and distributers can create really unhealthy dual relationships. So let's say you sell this bottle of, whatever, CBD cream to some client, and they're like, I love it. I'd love to get more of this. And you're like, hey, you know, you can get a better price if you're a distributer and you want to sell it to your friends. And so you recruit them onto your team, and you give them all the sales info. And then the next time they come in, you're like, hey, how's that going? Did you sell any bottles? That can be super-de-duper uncomfortable because what if this client has realized that the CBD cream doesn't really work for them, but they don't have a nice way to say, yeah, you know what? I don't -- it's not really working for me anymore, and I'm sure as heck don't want to sell it to my mom. Or what if they're still using it for themselves, but they don't have the time or the energy to put into actually selling it to other people? They're going to feel like they've let you down or can't be honest with you about it.

So do you want clients or colleagues, if you've recruited colleagues onto your team, to avoid you because they haven't sold anything or dodge your checking-in calls because they don't want to talk about MLM stuff? And what if you're calling them to check in about how their migraines have been? They don't know that. They just know your name pops up on the caller ID, and they're like, uh, she's just going to ask me if I sold any vitamins. So do you want to create a potentially unhealthy dual relationship? That is a thing one needs to ask themselves if they are going to sell any product, MLM or otherwise, and especially if one is going to recruit a client or a colleague into that sales relationship. So that's part one, create unhealthy dual relationships.

Part two is lots of these MLMs are health-related, so if you're selling something that's health-related, is it in your scope of practice? And this is a weird gray area. We've covered it before. Lots of sales tools make claims. They make claims as if they are based on some level of knowledge. Oftentimes, these claims are not evidence-based or even evidence-informed. They're just sales copy from a company trying to sell something. So are they making claims or statements out of our scope? And even if this product is an over-the-counter product, even if your neighbor who is an accountant can sell this product, when it comes from us, when it comes from someone who has presented themselves as some kind of a source of knowledge related to health and wellness, people trust our advice more than their accountant neighbor. They clearly understand your accountant neighbor is not a nutritionist or an aromatherapist or has any health training. They're just selling a product they could buy anywhere. But when it comes from us, that sale is rooted in a sense of trust, whether that be from a client or a colleague or just someone who's not your client next but really wants that bottle of vitamins, because they're getting it from someone who has presented themselves as a wellness professional, one form or another, however you consider it. That's a big problem.

My dentist went through a lot of medical training, so when he sells me a special water pick for my gums, I feel like I can trust that that is based on his knowledge and his experience with people's gums. If I was to start selling some water pick, there's a real sketchy authority knowledge bit there because people trust me because it's health-related, and they think I know about gums, but I don't really know about gums. Whereas, if they bought that water pick off the shelf at Walmart, they know that it's no -- there's no real knowledge or trust coming behind that in the way of a professional that they respect. So keep that in mind. People can think you know more than you do. They can think the sale is coming with an approval of you as a wellness professional saying I think this is going to work for you, which is usually dramatically out of our scope of practice. So there's the scope of practice issue.

There's also a problem here where there is a pretty low barrier to entry for selling MLM products. There might be a little bit of self-paced training, a little bit of expertise regarding the product itself, but it's a pretty low barrier to entry. I mean, if you can watch a couple hours of video training about a product and then start selling it, again, low barrier to entry.

And there can also be some ethical issues in any kind of sale, but especially MLM because products are often overpriced due to the need to pad profits so that more people can get more commissions. So if you're selling somebody this CBD oil that is $100 a bottle, but they could get a really similar one for 50 off the shelf at Whole Foods, what's the ethical component here? Are you selling them a particular product because you make money off of it versus something that would do just as well for them? And I'm totally thinking about -- that's not an MLM product, but -- I stopped selling Biofreeze because the same formulation was available over-the-counter at CVS, the same formulation for much less, and I felt guilty charging people whatever it cost me, like $18 a tube or whatever, when they could go to Walmart or CVS or Amazon and get it for $8 a tube. So just -- are you selling them something more expensive than it needs to be so that you can make money on it? I don't necessarily think this is a bad idea. Sometimes, it's just about service. I kept Biofreeze in the office so that people could get it faster than if they had to order it online themselves. And people appreciated that service and were happy to pay a couple extra bucks for it. Ditto that with Thera Canes. People don't want to pay shipping on Thera Canes, so I ordered a bunch of them, and I get free shipping and whatever.

So there's a lot here. So all things you got to consider when you are thinking about selling anything, but specifically about MLM products, which can be a little more demanding and assertive in the sales approaches and in the claims that they make.

But let's talk about a positive approach. When could selling a certain product and a certain MLM product be totally ethically cool and legit and wonderful for your practice and for your income? So what's the positive approach here? One, products that align with your practice and are within your scope. If you're a massage therapist, and you do lots of aromatherapy, and you've taken lots of training on it, then absolutely retailing or MLMing essential oils could totally make sense. If someone loves that lavender eucalyptus blend that you're infusing -- what's that word? I don't know -- diffusing -- diffusing in your massage room, and you can sell them a bottle of that to take home, rock on. That makes sense, as long as you're not going outside of your scope and telling them that it's going to heal their anxiety or their knee pain. You get the idea.

You could just sell the product and not create any weird dual relationships by asking people, like colleagues or clients, to become distributers. You could just straight up sell the product. You're getting a commission. Rock on. Why not? If you're going to say, hey, you can get this lavender eucalyptus online, you could give them a link to wherever they can get it at Whole Foods, or you can give them a link to your distributer, and they can get it a little cheaper, or you could order it for them and retail it at the office, rock on. There's nothing wrong with that. And there's nothing wrong with getting a commission. Getting paid for something is not evil. It's a standard practice in sales, and it's ethical as long as it's clear and disclosed, online or in person. And it can be really -- it can be a great income stream if you are selling products that align with your practice and are within your scope. I'll -- there's a lot of notes here, people, so.

It can -- you can make as much money as you want. Sure. It can be very difficult to make this kind of sales a full-time business, but a part-time or side income is a really rational way to look at it. And selling these kinds of products, and even attracting some people who sell it for you, can be very ethically done as long as it's done with some mindfulness towards dual relationships with clients or colleagues or friends, and a mindfulness that it could cause some resentfulness if they don't love the company as much as you do, and they want to get out, but they feel pressured by you. So if it's done with a sense of attracting this work and these colleagues versus pushing and persuading people to buy and/or sell this stuff for you, it can be done well, but it takes a very specific kind of person to do it.

So yeah. And sometimes, the products are actually really great and really do help people. And I know Michael wants to jump in here about that.

MR [Laughing] Yeah. I just put a little note in here that I'm not really joking but kind of jokingly saying I still swear by this product called -- it used to be called Immune26, and now it's called i26, and it's called hyperimmune egg powder. It's basically this stuff -- I think I found it like 20 years ago from this company called Legacy for Life. And it's an MLM, but they produce this immune support thing that I still swear, in my head, it helps me get over illnesses quicker and stuff. And I take it every now and then just -- I'm sure there's some science out there telling me why I'm wrong, but I like it, and it seems to help me. So whether it's in my head or not, I -- there are some products out there that I do like.

AH Rock on, man. You should buy all the egg powder you want as long as no one's pressuring you into it and it's not you making other people sell it and making them uncomfortable. Woo-hoo.

MR Nope. I buy it directly from the website.

AH You go. And I want to just drop in with my experience here. Michael's going to talk about his experience here. I have sold some MLM products and felt perfectly ethical and just fine about it. It wasn't lucrative enough for me, and I wasn’t going to start doing all of the training to learn more deeply and then to sell -- I'm not a salesperson -- and sell products based on their ingredients and benefits. And I didn't want to learn that much more about skin care; I didn't want to become an esthetician, and that's kind of the line it was. But I retailed it at my office, which was totally allowed. So I covered my costs and made a few bucks. But I wasn't going to recruit other consultants. That just wasn't -- it's not what I want to do for a living. I'd rather do other things.

And then I actually found someone, a local person, who makes similar kinds of soaps and creams and stuff, and it's a small, one-person, woman-owned business, and so I sell that stuff now. I haven't set up the retail at the new office, but I will. I have a whole bunch of stuff, and I'm going to retail it. So you can do -- I didn't alienate anyone; I didn't lose anyone. Every so often, someone still asks about the exfoliating soap, and I'm like, uh, here, go buy it from this other consultant, and it's fine. I don't -- but you got to be mindful about how you do it.

And Michael, you were part of a service-based MLM, which is a little bit different, and I want to hear more about that.

MR Yeah. Yeah. So I was part of one for about five years, specifically Primerica, the financial services company. So I think a lot of people have probably heard of Primerica. Some people maybe do or don't realize they're actually an MLM with a hierarchy and everything. And in fact, if you look at their Wikipedia page, it starts with saying, hey, Primerica is a multi-level marketing company. So I was a part of it for about five years. And for me, in this case, I'm going to preface this by saying I realize that my experience is not necessarily the norm. My experience is probably the minority, but it was actually mostly positive for me. And the main reason is that it provided a lot of kind of foundational experience and kind of a launch pad for me for what I was going to do later with my financial services career. So I was able to learn a ton about the financial services industry; I got my licenses with Primerica; there's a ton of support there in terms of just kind of getting started. And it eventually prepared me to go independent. So I left Primerica in 2019 -- I'm sorry, 2018, and then in 2019, I launched my own independent financial advisory firm, which a lot of our listeners are aware of. And so that experience kind of was a nice launch pad for that.

I mean, it was -- like I said -- and my RVP is the one who -- that stands for regional vice president -- the one that was kind of the recruiter for me, he got me into it. He's a super down-to-earth guy. He was -- I think he's probably the, again, the exception. He treats it like a real business He actually makes six figures full time with Primerica. He makes really good money doing it, and he does it really ethically. His integrity is 100%; he approaches it as a business owner kind of mindset; he's not high pressure; he wants the best for his clients and for his recruits as well. And so I was really fortunate that I met someone who had a really, really, rational, down-to-earth, serving heart with a lot of integrity that really got me into it in a very positive way.

I actually got to go to Disney. They sent me on an incentive trip to Disney; I got a free trip to Disney because I had a sales record along the way there, so that was a really positive experience. So all in all, it was super positive. And he and I actually keep in touch. My RVP from Primerica, we still keep in touch. We’re actually studying together for our next level licensing that we’re doing together -- I mean, separately, but the same license that we’re working on together.

So what I learned from him is that it’s really possible to be successful in an MLM if you focus on attracting rather than pushing. So much of the time, MLMs, including Primerica, really encourage people to do a lot of kind of hard selling techniques like, hey, look in your -- they literally said, open up your iPhone, look in your contacts; these are all your prospects. Start contacting your friends and family, blah, blah, and tell them what kind of opportunity they can have. And to their credit, they say be honest about it; don’t call it a full-time job or anything. But they still said go recruit people, go find people. And his approach was always, yeah, recruit people if it seems like it’s good for them, but don’t push it on people; make sure you do what’s best for people, and it was more of an attraction mindset. He was very educational-focused. And so I am personally one of the few people, I think, that left Primerica but still has a positive feeling about the organization. I think there’s a lot of downsides too, a lot of negatives, but my experience was fairly positive, though probably not typical.

What I also discovered was -- about myself, anyway, was that in order to be successful at an MLM, you have to put at ton of effort into it. And to me, if you’re going to put that much effort into it, you may as well run your own business. For me, personally, it was I could keep putting a ton of effort into selling and potentially recruiting and building my business under someone else’s brand, which was Primerica in my case, or I could do all that effort into my own brand and build a business that I own 100%. And to me, it became obvious. And so that might apply to others as well if you’re looking at, hey, I want to sell products or services or whatever. Maybe, instead of doing an MLM, maybe it also is worth considering, hey, if I’m going to put this much effort in, maybe I become a reseller for a product that’s similar but is not associated with an MLM. Maybe I set up my own virtual retail store to sell products I can just source from other suppliers. Or maybe I do it that way; maybe I put a lot of effort into something that I own as opposed to being part of a network marketing system. So that was my experience.

I think it’s unfortunately the exception. But I also like to bring that up because so much of the time, the MLM industry is just abused over and over by people that say, oh, it's horrible, and people are in a cult, and blah, blah. And all that is true to some extent, but there are people inside these organizations that do have integrity, that do it well, that do it full-time. And for a very specific kind of mindset in person, it can be a path that works for them if you’re careful and ethical about it. So that’s my long-winded experience with an MLM, personally.

AH I’m going jump in to just note a few warning signs: If you’re a particularly gullible person and you’re concerned about getting looped into something like this without full awareness and mindfulness of what’s going on -- and I’ll say that this is precipitated because someone who I went to massage school with, who I adored and respected as one of the most critical thinkers and non-schmaltzy people ever, I’m watching her get sucked into an MLM thing. And that’s finally what lit a fire under me to be like, we got to cover this topic.

So if you notice people that you know starting to talk about amazing life transformations with a shake or a mindset product or some kind of self-help or nutrition product or whatever, start to make real fantastical claims about how much they’re losing weight, or how much better they’re sleeping, or how they’re able to do this thing they were never able to do, or they’re not doing a thing that they used to do, and it sounds really fantastical and miraculous, there you go. Any product or service that is claiming miraculous results, and once you look into it a little more also touts some kind of miraculous income stream, that’s a sign. Things that sound too good to be true, typically are.

Or if you notice someone either on their business or personal sites and profiles start to talk about these kinds of results, and someone’s like, how’re you doing this? How’re you losing all this weight? And they respond with a "I’ll private message you," or "Private message me to learn more," it’s an MLM thing, which is not necessarily bad, but be mindful of it. And be extra mindful of products or services or any things like that that require you to spend lots of money to buy in. How much is that sample kit? And are they trying to downplay the cost of it by telling you how much you’ll make from it? These are all things any consumer in any world should be super aware of, but especially when it could be MLM stuff.

And I am aware that I am 98% negative on these, and we’ll talk a little bit more about in the quick tip about why I feel that way. Michael, anything else to say on this before we hit the next sponsor?

MR Hmm, yeah, I think we’ve approached it in a pretty rational, balanced, realistic way. So I’m pretty --

AH And extremely negative from me.

MR Yeah, yes. [Laughing]

AH I’m going to own that. I’m owning it.

MR Well, I’m mostly negative as well. I just also like to kind of hit all the angles and all the possibilities. So yeah, I think, in general, you’re right. I think most of these situations are negative.

AH All right. Who’s our sponsor?

MR All right. Well, let’s show some love to our friends at ABMP before we move on.

AH And ABMP is not a multi-level marketing company.

MR [Laughing]

Sponsor message ABMP is, in fact, a wonderful company and professional organization for massage therapists. They have CE courses you’ll love that are available for purchase, or included free with your membership, in the ABMP Education Center. Michael and I have a few CE webinars in there. You can explore hands-on techniques, complete ethics requirements, discover trending courses like "A Detailed Approach to Low Back Pain" from Allison Denney, who is one of only like three hands-on people I will watch videos from. All ABMP memberships include 200-plus video-based, on-demand CE classes. If you're not a member, you can also purchase access for a single course or a CE package at abmp.com/ce. You want more from ABMP? You can get it. Check out the ABMP podcast available at abmp.com/podcast or wherever you prefer to listen. It is hip, it is happening, and I love the ABMP podcast.

AH That’s all I have to say. I thought I had something else to say, but I didn’t. You can go to abmp.com to learn more.

MR Right on. Enough said.

AH I just got a little overwhelmed about them. Do you have any quick tips this week, Michael?

MR No. I’m going to piggyback on yours.

AH All right. So if you found this MLM topic interesting, and you want to know why I’m such a negative ninny about it, you can listen to a podcast called The Dream. It came out maybe two years ago. I think they just launched a new season. But listen to it from the beginning because it really covers an interesting history of multi-level marketing companies, direct sales, the good and the bad. It covers what they are like in different regions of the country, and even the world, because I know what they’re like here in Northeast, but it’s a much bigger culture in the Midwest, which is not something I realized. So yeah, listen to this podcast called The Dream. And you’ll find it on all the major podcast places. I’ve got the link to Apple Podcast up. But you can just search for it. You’ll find it. It’s pretty great. I don’t know if -- I don't remember who turned me on to it, if it was Michael or not. It might have been my friend Tracy (phonetic). Tracy Bradley, she listens to cool things and sends me podcast recs all the time. But Michael, what do you have to say about it?

MR Yeah. I thought it was pretty riveting.

AH It was amazing.

MR It is definitely very negative slanted, but it's pretty riveting. It was very eye-opening for a lot of facts about the MLM industry, kind of the origins, and I think it's generally pretty accurate. I mean, it's generally painting a picture that is fairly accurate of MLMs. And it's -- the stories they tell were just pretty interesting, so I found it pretty riveting. I enjoyed it.

AH You know what I thought was really fascinating? Did you read the book called Educated?

MR No, I don't think so.

AH It was such an interesting -- by Tara Westover -- so it's a book about a woman who was really isolated within this very small family who, I'm going to air quote this, "homeschooled" her. I'll put this in the podcast notes. Sorry, we're going off book here. It was a memoir about this -- from this woman who was raised in a super abusive and weird, small religious culty family. But her mom made the money for the family by selling essential oils. It is not the Young Living family; I'm not talking about them, so don't -- I don't want to get all the hate mail about Young Living. This was not the company. But the memoir itself was riveting, just what it was like to be raised in such an isolated way. And she was a brilliant mind that ended up getting full scholarships to a whole bunch of universities. But super interesting. Some of it's a little funny. There's a lot of abuse in there. It's got everything. But you learn kind of through the story about how her mom made and sold essential oils and turned it into this huge industry of MLM stuff. It was so interesting.

And I read some other stuff, some profiles on some other owners of some essential oil companies. Now I am going to get hate mail -- people pretending to be real doctors, the dude who insisted that water birth was the way and ultimately killed his newborn, somebody who was jailed somewhere else -- (indiscernible) okay, it's the same guy who was jailed somewhere else for pretending he was a doctor and actually killing a whole bunch of people with cancer -- really interesting. So yeah, listen to The Dream, and then if you're really into that, let me know, and I'll get you some more podcast recs.

MR Yeah, I'm looking forward to Season 2.

AH Now I'm going to get the hate mail. I'm cool with it.

MR Yeah. Yeah, I think Season 2 is coming out, or it's out on The Dream, so I'm looking forward to that.

AH All right. Take us home. We're done. I pissed off enough people off.

MR Are you sure? There's probably a few more people we could piss off.

AH We'll save that for next week.

MR Okay. Sounds good. [Laughing] All right. Thanks, everyone, for joining us. We appreciate you being a listener. You can find us, as always, on the web at massagebusinessblueprint.com. You can send all hate mail to podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. That goes to both Allissa and I, so we'll both be able to see it. You can also send love notes there too. We appreciate all your support, and if you do like what we talk about on these podcasts, you can give us a rating and a review on Apple Podcast if the spirit moves you. We appreciate that as well. So thanks, everyone, for joining us today. Have a great day. We will see you next time.

AH Bye. 

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