Amway, Part One
About a week and a half ago I was having lunch with a couple of friends of mine at a local Vietnamese place. I hadn’t spoken to them in a while, so we were catching up, and one of the things that came up was this company they had been working with. And to get this out of the way, we are talking about Amway, and yes, it is that Amway. And they way the described it sounded interesting, so I asked them about it. Neither of them could really explain it very well, other than talk about some of the products they sold. But it just so happened that I had suggest lunch on Thursday, and by coincidence Thursday is Amway’s recruitment/training meetings, so it was suggested to me that I come and check it out. I didn’t have plans that night, so I decided what the hell, I’ll see what it’s all about.
Now I’m going to preface this and say that I went to this meeting, but I hadn’t heard of Amway before this, or know anything about them or their practices and reputation, and have avoided doing more research before writing this because I wanted to report my uncolored first impressions, and how I felt about the experience, without knowing anything about MLM in depth. So .that’s the perspective I’m writing from.
So I drive with my lunch friends and a third friend of theirs down to a hotel not too far away from the local campus. They rented a room for the presentation, and everyone is dressed much more formally than me (I own a single pair of jeans at the moment and have a decently low ceiling on the formality of my shirts), business casual I would describe it as. The presenters were this gentleman Nick and his wife (I forget the names of most of the other people there, but everyone was friendly). I took some notes of poor quality throughout the presentation, and am going to just relay some feelings I had. And I want to note, that while I did not have high hopes, I tried to go into this thing with the mindset that if this was indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity, I would honestly consider it. Just because MLM has a bad rep doesn’t mean it necessarily is a bad thing, it’s just very very probably a bad thing. So here is a list of thoughts that occur to me as I think back to the presentation:
The reason I went to the meeting is to see what it was about. The biggest strike against them is that after listening for them for an hour, I can’t explain to you, dear reader, what this company does in a short, concise sentence. I was being offered a job, or business platform, or sales position and the best I could give you if you asked what I would be doing was selling “products.” What I think they are is an affiliate program, similar to Amazon Affiliates but also sort of person to person. There is are exclusive product lines (which I will get into later) and also partnerships with some big and familiar companies such as Petsmart and Best Buy. You can sell, say Best Buy products at a discount from retail and get some percentage of the profit. The exclusive products I think work a bit differently, and have better margins, but it’s sort of the same thing.
Some leeway can be giving for the lack of description and clarity in this meeting can be given because Amway appears to be a company that does “things.” There are other companies like this, the first that comes to mind is Google, which is a search engine but they also have self driving cars and took pictures of the entire US and also they are inventing immortality. Amway is the 25th largest privately own company in the United states, and they own a sports stadium and possibly a team, and they do lots of things. The multi level marketing (which this is) division of the company is like a subsidiary of theirs, at least this is how it was explained to me. If I am reading my notes right, this division is called “Amway- Leadership Team Development.” Now, they may have told me what Amway as a large corporation does, but if they did it was not emphasized to the point I remember it at all.
Now I do have some idea what Amway is now, but first I want to talk about Direct Sales and MLM organizations in general. I know these are distinct terms, companies are very defensive about what labels they get attached to, but they are for most intents and purposes similar. Which is better, sales or more people? So if I start selling, say Mary Kay products, and if I work 30-35 weeks and move 5k of product a month, and net say 2k of that, then Mary Kay isn’t so bad to work for because the sales alone are worth my time. Or if I work 10 hours, and make 500 profit per month. These numbers are out of thin air, but I wouldn’t disparage Mary Kay too much if these were true. And it’s clear that all the real money is made by the people below you, this is how people make 250k+ a year from these companies. This brings up two points: the people at the bottom need to make money. If they don’t, then it’s a pyramid scheme; if the profit from selling the actual products result in minimum wage, or honestly even if they are slightly above minimum wage, then honestly it’s not worth the time required. And the other condition where it becomes a pyramid scheme is where at low levels of sales, more money can be paid per hour of recruiting then hour of sales put into the business.
I’ll just note here that not a single person I spoke to after the meeting about Amway or described their platform to reacted positively. Every single person I spoke to said it was a scam. And this comes to anther point that Nick made that I take issue with: I don’t want to sell products to my friends. I don’t be that guy who you feel is always trying to sell you something if you hang out with them. And they explicitly told you to go to your friends. And I know that I personally would be annoyed if my friends I went with tried to sell me Amway products more than once or twice, because that’s quickly obnoxious, and turns every time that friend communicates with you explicitly into them wanting something.
Now a couple points up I talked about what the sales figures would have to be to make this worthwhile, because the actual money you make is what’s most important for any potential business opportunity; i.e. are you actually making enough for this to be worth your time, and any other social or other costs your are incurring? In the Q and A session, and when I spoke privately with Amway representatives, they assured me that it was, and reiterated that in fact you make as much money as you are willing to put in work, without very much further qualification. When I asked if it was reasonable for me to make a million dollars within three years (what is honestly what my point is for considering joining) everyone was very quick to assure me that it wasn’t a problem at all if I was willing to work hard. While I’m sure that this is actually possible (it seems a couple other young twenty-somethings in the company have managed this) the fact that no one acted as if was unrealistic was unsettling.
Speaking of making money, when I asked about the sales figures of people I met there, none of them seemed to be doing this full time or honestly making much money at all. Nick and his wife still ran a gas station, and while they are at Emerald level (which I shall explain in the next bullet) they seem to have very low sales figures, not even at 1k a month in gross sales, and they have been in the company for five years. No one else seemed to be clearing even 1k a month in profit, which is less than what a minimum wage job brings in.
There were a couple odd things about how the information was presented. First, I was told by my friends to bring paper for notes, which is reasonable, but there was no literature for them to hand out for me. there is an attempt to obscure information, they did not have literature for me, or a brochure, or any information that was a summery of the presentation. As you sell more products, you get these points, and the more points you have the bigger percent commission you get on sales. Fine, but the stated reason points (about 3 dollars per point) are used is because Amway is international and different people use different currencies, but everything is pretty much tied to the dollar anyway, so this just seems like attention whoring on Amway’s part or some ploy to obscure information. And there were several levels of the company- you’re tried to get to platinum, or emerald, or diamond (which makes 250k+) in a year, but for most people these tend to be super long, as in years, term goals, and a fairly large part of the meeting was spent discussing the level which most people in attending would likely never achieve. So Amway is selling the long term dream and not what is realistically achievable upon signing up.
Now me personally, I have a problem with authority. I don’t particularly like being told what to do, or hemmed in with arbitrary rules, and with the compensation- the more you sell, the higher percentage on sales you make- I feel that at any lower than top level of sales, I’m having income withheld from me for what to me is a very arbitrary reason- I don’t want to jump through hoops. And my $208 sign up fee (there is a sign up fee) buys me a business license (which frankly, I’d rather buy and deal with myself) which is about $80 of it, and the rest of it goes to buying your initial product kit of products form their initial partners for you to sell, which frankly none of which I want. And it isn’t just something I have against the products, but the idea that I don’t want all of them and Amway gives me a take it or leave it deal instead of caring at all about my needs or what I may want from them. Also I’m still unclear why we need a business license in the first place.
Oh, and they give you a website. I don’‘t know how it works or what it’s for, but this was mentioned. There are tools to customize it but it doesn’t look like you can add your own HTML or code so I’m not excited.
About the $208 to sign up, they were actually quite upfront about this and opened the meeting with this. Despite the breadth of negativity in this post, every person there was polite and friendly, honest from what I could tell, and seemed to have more drive than the average person to succeed. I would probably have lunch or coffee with about anyone i met there, and Nick was actually very good at presenting. He was funny, personable, and I can see why people would sign up.
Amway had a huge, huge, lack of focus. Are we here to make money? Or is this a social thing? At one point, I was told “we are here to help people, not to sell products.” The exclusive products they mentioned earlier, there are 5 products/companies/partners that you can only get through an Amway associate, and these vary from makeup, to pet supplies, to an energy drink company, as well as a couple others. And the thing is, there are just so many products, and spread out so much, that it’s impossible that I can be a master at selling all of them, and there is no encouragement to focus in on any one product and knowing how to sell it. I tried the energy drink and some of the other products, and they were merely okay. Average. Nothing special. I wasn’t excited for any of them at all.
Having said all this, at the end of the day, I won’t be signing up for Amway. And the biggest problem, is not the feeling of uncomfortableness I had with the experience, and the stronger feeling of uncomfortableness I would feel asking someone else to join. It’s that I wrote things as they occurred to me, and I honestly can’t come up with a single thing that excites me about the company. Everyone was nice. Some people seemed driven and motivated. But not a single person seemed super successful. And nothing really piques my interest to inquire further.
But….. for funsies. What would it take for me to actually consider it? What would Amway have to give me, if I demanded it, for me to actually consider the offer? Let’s see…
Waive the sign up fee. I don’t see why I have to pay any company for the opportunity to work for them. I can file for a business liscence myself, and I don’t want any of their products. The inability to choose what products of theirs I want to see is a complete deal breaker for me, I need something very focused.
A mentor in the company. No one there is hitting sales figures of over 1k a month, and that’s not even asking what profit there is. If I join I want to be successful, so I only want to be signed up under someone successful.
It needs to be reasonable that one can be making 800-1000 dollars profit within 3 months of signed up; this is from sales alone. I would need to be able to do this and quickly train anyone I sign up to do this; i need some assurance when I ask people to sign up under me they get a good deal even if they are at the bottom rung.
I would need to start higher up the arbitrary pay scale without salves volume. If I’m going to be working for and with this company, we need to be equal partners; I don’t want my earning potential limited because I haven’t yet jumped through enough hoops and have gotten my gold star.
And as stated above, I’d need people to help get me a reasonable plan to get about a million dollars in three years.
And no expectation from anyone I try to sell to my friend’s and family, as that is obnoxious as hell.
That’s all I can think of for now. So at this point, for fun, my plan is to just call them up and see if they’ll work for me; plus, I think it’d be cool to ask people high up in the company to see how aware they are of all of this and find out if they are cynical or not. I’ll be following up with the people who talked to me, and watching this informational DVD’s I’ve been given, and we’ll see where this all goes in Amway, Part Two.