…With What’s Familiar

By Taryn “The Coop” Cooper

We’re kind of brainwashed from the beginning.  I like to think it’s a product of our time.  I am a Gen Xer, I was raised by Baby Boomers who were in turn raised by those who came from the so-called “Greatest Generation” (which was a product of the Great Depression and two World Wars, but I digress).  Yet, what is it that we’re convinced we need to do?

Go to school, get educated, get a job.  A job that has benefits and is supposed to “take care of us” till we basically are unable to get work.

At least, that’s the plan anyway.

I had a family member who was involved in what outsiders deem to be a “pyramid scheme,” which is shorthand colloquialism for “multi-level marketing” companies.  I can’t say that I was ever a huge fan of these types of businesses.

Until I took a good look at one, agreed with their marketing plan, and signed up as a customer and a distributor.

I’m one of the percentages of who had no choice but to sign up to start her own business during the latest economy.  I have two degrees and a large background on Wall Street.  I couldn’t find a “job” to “take care of me” for over a year.

So if I were to tell you, there’s one guy at the top making all the money, with a few rungs underneath that dude, and then underneath those folks, and then a bunch of grunts at the bottom who are driving all the business to make those guys money.

You know what I just described?  Corporate America.  To pin this all on Multi-Level Marketing plans that one does not understand on a base level is absurd.

You might find it interesting that on a Mets-focused baseball site, I am talking about corporate America and my own limitations in this economy.  There’s a connection though.  The Mets, and namely CitiField, have had a grand opening of sorts with Amway, one of the largest nutritional and multi-level marketing in the world…also one of the most recognizable names.  See, over by the Bullpen Gate at CitiField, there is a new Amway storefront.  Apparently, this is the only one of these in existence in the U.S.  Which does raise a flag with me, not exactly a red one, but one nonetheless since one of the beauty parts of Amway is the fact that your office is virtual and not necessarily brick and mortar.


Photo Credit to Deadspin

Amway is not new to associations with sports teams.  They currently have a naming rights deal in Orlando, with the Amway Center (where Orlando Magic plays).   You know, something similar to what the Mets have with Citigroup, the naming rights to CitiField.

Somehow, though, this is a big piece of news especially to the likes of Deadspin that have a regular commentary on what they consider to be LOLMets.

First off, let me try to dismay the whole idea of “pyramid schemes.”  They are ILLEGAL.  Multi-level marketing is nothing new, and there is nothing illegal with these companies with trying to provide honest hardworking people with secondary (or even primary) streams of income, and/or eliminating the middle man in transactions for our every day needs.  There are benefits to all.  Higher levels of customer service.  Financial freedom.  Sometimes a combo of both.

This is what the Federal Trade Commission has to say about recognizing them:

Pyramid schemes now come in so many forms that they may be difficult to recognize immediately. However, they all share one overriding characteristic. They promise consumers or investors large profits based primarily on recruiting others to join their program, not based on profits from any real investment or real sale of goods to the public…

There are two tell-tale signs that a product is simply being used to disguise a pyramid scheme: inventory loading and a lack of retail sales. Inventory loading occurs when a company’s incentive program forces recruits to buy more products than they could ever sell, often at inflated prices. If this occurs throughout the company’s distribution system, the people at the top of the pyramid reap substantial profits, even though little or no product moves to market…

A lack of retail sales is also a red flag that a pyramid exists. Many pyramid schemes will claim that their product is selling like hot cakes. However, on closer examination, the sales occur only between people inside the pyramid structure or to new recruits joining the structure, not to consumers out in the general public.

Amway, like other MLMs, have been investigated for these types of activities.  I don’t purport to knowing about their intricacies but I do know people who have “distributorships” that are active that believe in some of their products, like supplementation and household products that are not available on the market per se.  I guess if someone has a family member that wasn’t successful, felt ripped off, or whatever by these types of businesses, I can’t stop their biases.  What I can say is that many of these businesses are not run by Nigerian princes or Craigslist scammers who want you to hold onto a laptop for $2000, contrary to popular belief.

It’s easy to poke fun at these, but my philosophy on the backlash on this, and possibly many others in the walk of life, is that people will make fun of what is not familiar to them.  It happens with culture, gender, even business.  When you don’t understand something, it’s easy to have a mob mentality that it’s not kosher, it’s not reputable, and hey let’s gang up on it.

Yes, I know it surprises you to say it, but people tend to argue loudly for things they know the least about.

I am not involved with Amway.  Personally, I do not care for their marketing structure but it works for some people, so there you go.  What distinguishes some MLMs from others is their commitment to products, and to people, not just making money.

I think some of the backlash with a perceived partnership with Amway taking a physical storefront with CitiField is ridiculous.  Would people feel more comfortable if a “reputable” company like Weight Watchers opened a storefront?  “Hey before you go in and eat Catch of the Day fried food specials, sign up to lose weight!”  Or if maybe Citibank opened a teller branch there, so you can take care of opening a wealth account, before heading to Banner Day?

Do I wish another storefront went in CitiField?  Yeah, maybe.  But to ridicule simply for the sake of it, or to simply make fun of what is unknown is getting old.

We all know the Mets management has a note due for CitiField.  They need to make money from outside sources other than fans coming to the park.  So they have someone, a company that is profitable and is DEBT FREE (something, by the way, the Mets are not), that is willing to pay rent?

If it was a company known for, I dunno, terrorist ties, child labor practices, skirting labor issues with employees, I can see the outrage.

I’m tired of two things in my life that are deeply personal, Mets and business, being put on display for ridicule.  Enough.  Let it go already.

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