Amway, Part Two
Last time I wrote about Amway, I was relatively nice towards them, and gave them the benefit of the doubt. This was mostly because I was friends with the people that tried to recruit me otherwise; to be polite to their faces and directly turn around and write a piece in a public blog shitting all over them would be, in my view, in poor taste.
Because of that concern, and that honestly other things came up and got in the way, I never really did follow up with the Amway people.
Well, I met more Amway people in Chicago, and I am quite comfortable now saying Amway is possibly a cult, and defiantly a pyramid scheme. I already knew this, but now I have a good excuse not to be so polite about it.
Let me open with a story. What happened was, I was at a train stop in Chicago, by the U of I C, and it so happens I chat up a couple of guys while waiting for a train. This is the kind of place where I like to be outgoing, so nothing out of the ordinary. Now, I’ll note at this point, I had to take a train stop, but in between getting to my destination and my plans for the rest of the day I had some hours I had to kill, which was going to be writing or reading books on my laptop in a Starbucks anyway. Anyway, this was some time ago, so I’ve forgotten the name of our guys, but one was much taller than me, and the other was short and lanky, so we will call them only Tall Guy and Short Guy. So anyway, we start talking, we’re having a totally normal conversation, and they were cool and fine to talk to, as strangers go. They were both students at University of Illinois at Chicago, and tall guy was super friendly, interesting to talk to, and was a good conversationalist. He asked a lot of questions about me, and found me interesting, and I asked him about his studies at University, and so forth. Short Guy was more quiet, didn’t say as much, be he was a sophomore and I think he had an internship, which we talked about.
Anyway, we were heading towards the same place, more or less, so we talked on the way. I needed to find a bank, so they helped me locate a local branch on Tall Guy’s smart phone. I mentioned I had some time to kill, and I was willing to continue the conversation, I’m as a rule down for hanging out with random subway students while we’re all in a safe area, so we agree to get coffee. They mention something about coming down to this area to expand some sort of business thing, which sounds interesting, and I’d like to hear about what they are doing. They mention something about it being online, or something, and there were going to head to a college near the train stop we got off to go to a meeting, I wasn’t quite sure at the time. So me and these guys get coffee from the local Barnes and Noble/Starbucks combo- I’m a sucker for Starbucks, it’s part of my white, middle-class heritage- and then we go hang out at the Chicago Public Library, or the Harold Washington Cultural Center, whichever it was called. The building was pretty cool. The architecture was great, the inside had really cool designs, and I liked the setup of the building generally. It was all around a place I would be comfortable sitting down somewhere and reading, or opening my computer and say, write a blog post like this one.
So, we sit down, and in short order both Tall and Short Guy start to pitch Amway to me. Tall guy takes the lead. Now, they do not open by telling me that they are Amway people. I in fact, say that this reminds me of Amway, and mention most people i know don’t react kindly to Amway, which I don’t think was what they wanted to hear. Anyway, they soon admit they are Amway representatives; a couple other weird things happened that I’ll get to in a moment. Now, one thing to note, is I’ve already mentioned that I word and play poker, and am generally quite happy with my current financial situation. I’m not at all the kind of person that they are looking to recruit. Short Guy notices that I’m not very interested quickly, and sort of disengages; tall guy keeps going, I don’t think he notices.
Now, the presentation was interesting to me. I’ve already had this special, so I know how it works and am familiar with the material beforehand. And it’s also clear that while he is Charismatic, tall guy isn’t super experienced in giving it, and he’s going very by the book. I could have said straight out that I wasn’t interested, but honestly I figured I could learn something from hearing the pitch and looking at how it works. Amway, by the way, is kind of a super sketchy company, and this meeting did them no favors in my mind. Anyway, there must be a specific way Amway universally teaches it’s reps to present this information. I say this because Tall Guy began with the same diagram my Peoria friends drew, this is you, this is your money, here is time, and some lines, and wouldn’t it be nice if you could make money without working a job? It’s not something I remember or care to reproduce; my thought at the time it was distracting from anything approaching what Amway was all about, and an attempt to hook people with the promise of easy money.
Now, Tall Guy very much wanted to give this presentation in order, as whenever I asked a question, such as how much does it cost to sign up, he’d respond with only “don’t worry, we’ll get to that.” Another part of the pitch is buying products yourself through Amway, which gets you them at a discount, but this is kind of useless when you consider that’s basically the equivalent of a cash back program on a credit card, and Amway is pitched primarily as a way to make a lot of money. He asked how much I spend on products in a given week/month, which I said was very low, as I tend to be a minimalist, to the point where any savings I could get through Amway would be negligible versus the hassle involved. The big red flag, was when they mentioned Amway not being a pyramid scheme, and then gave a poor definition of a pyramid and used this to assure me that Amway is not about that. They used the example of a corporation being a pyramid scheme, in which case each layer of management make more money than the people below them. At Amway, conversely, it is possible for any person in the recruitment “chain,” for lack of a better word, can earn more money than the person above them i the chain, who sired them. Sire is the correct word, by the way, as Amway is a big business vampire. Amway, for those curious, is a pyramid scheme- a lot of the incentives for joining, and the pitch for making money quickly, is to focus on recruitment, and of course if that happens, there is always someone at the bottom who’s signup bonus gets kicked up the the people that recruited them. The bottom layer is sort of just screwed.
Aside from that, there were other dodgy things, like misrepresenting some facts about the company, dodging certain uncomfortable questions, focusing too much on long term goals in the company rather than what it can do for me now, etc.
But I’m sure most of these thoughts are a rehash of my previous post, which I linked to. What is actually on my mind this time, and why I’m writing another post, are the social implications of working at Amway Amway, and my feelings walking away from this encounter. See, I thought these gentlemen, especially Tall Guy, were interesting in their own right. I might think Amway is a scam, but at least these people were going out and putting effort into making it work, which is admirable. I like meeting people who go get shit done, and they were doing this while in school. They seemed to believe they could make money from this, so the work they were putting is is admirable. In short, I would be quite willing to get coffee with them next time I was in Chicago, or at least chill for a bit somewhere. But as soon as it became clear that I was uninterested in Amway, it was clear that tall guy was no longer interested in me. And isn’t that interesting. We were polite. We exchanged numbers, and he said to call if I changed my mind about Amway, and he and his friend left to find more recruits, or perhaps victims. And that was that; I haven’t called him, and I won’t, and he hasn’t called me, and won’t.
But I was still thinking about it when I left. In a way, people’s times was wasted here. Tall Guy could have simply said, have you heard of Amway, I could have said yes, and I’m not interested, and that could have been it. Of course, on the other hand, they got practice doing their pitch against a hard audience for it; I was entertained and interested in hearing it and looking at how it worked. But beyond the recruitment for Amway, I couldn’t help but feel that we were both interesting parties, and perhaps we could have enriched each other lives in something unrelated. Nothing huge, of course, but I can’t shake the feeling that perhaps something small was lost here. And that brings me to the two main points I came away wanting to write this about.
First, that a big part of Amway that is bad is that it warps your relationships with other people. Because tall guy only wanted to talk to me to further Amway, he missed out on anything else I could offer. Now, that might not be much. Maybe I’m boring. But multiply that chance with everyone he talks to that day, everyone he messages on Facebook about Amway, any friends he invites to lunch to talk about it? Now, that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but I’m not sure it’s far from the truth. You just become, “that Amway guy.” A lot of people already know Amway is bad of course, but this is a bit more general. Any company, or business, where you talk to people only because you’re going to eventually turn that conversation into money… I dunno, I suppose that is the point of sales. But I’d rather it be open if I’m trying to be sold something. I don’t to be just “networked” if I’m not there to network. This is, of course, for average social situations, of meeting people on the street or a social setting. I wouldn’t want to be recruited to anything at a party, of course, but at say a career fair, that’s to be expected. But I feel when a business asks you to reduce the people you meet to numbers or recruits, or your friends turn into dollar signs, I think that’s the sort of thing we should avoid.
But that’s more of a specific point about Amyway and sort of corner case corporations and things like it. Again, the problem with it is just that you only interact with people because you want one thing, and that warps the whole way you socialize with them. And that’s bad.
But the other thing, which is more a general case of the first point, revolves around outcome independence. If I had to say the feeling I had walking away from the encounter, objectification might be it. Now, that’s a loaded word, I’m sure, and I don’t think I mean it the same way as some academics might. I’m not sure I agree with the way they use it, either, but that isn’t really the point. I suppose my feeling came form the fact that since i couldn’t help them with the one particular thing that Tall Guy and Short Guy wanted, even after some time talking and well, meet people like normally meeting people, well that was kind of a mildly shitty feeling. Nothing to write home about, and I think the experience was still positive in my life. But a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I think the way this could be avoided would be social outcome dependance; after all, people and friends and acquaintances you talk to once or twice can add value to your life in quite unexpected ways later down the life. Value, of course, is not say, monetary value but also social value like hanging with friends or vibing with people and so forth. So the problem is then when we focus too much on the specific value we want form people, that is what caused this feeling of objectification. In this case, the Amway Guys could have said, we’re with Amway, you interested, I say no, and they respond with that’s cool, we’re working right now, but here’s my number if you want to chill or go to bars or whatever it is that people do with people they meet on the Chicago subway system do with each other later. Or not, but it wouldn’t have been a time sink, and there wouldn’t be this feeling of someone pretending to care what I had to say to get me to sign up for a shitty business. And that’s true of other cases, when you chat up that cute girl reading her book in a coffee shop, are you trying to get a date or are you cool with making a cool friend to talk about books with? I feel this is sort of generalized, I feel that when there is a disconnect with the outcome somebody wants, and what happens, and when the other party realizes this, that’s when they get this unpleasant objectification-ish feeling. And the way to avoid that in outcome independence, and be willing to let whatever is going to happen, happen.
These were just my thoughts heading out of that meeting. Mostly I’d advise to stay the hell away from away.
Edit: The link to this post apparently is /amway-part-1/, which I noticed, and that is weird.