Former MLM Members Are Exposing Their Secrets And Stories, And The "Hey Girlie!" Of It All Is Just...Overwhelming
Chances are you've gotten a "Hey girlie!" from someone you went to high school or college with, aka someone who's now neck deep in a multilevel marketing scheme, or MLM for short.
Recently, we asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us their experiences with MLMs, and their answers were nothing short of harrowing, TBH. Here's what they told us:
Please note that some of these answers are from this Reddit thread, simply because they were too interesting not to include.
1."My spouse's old family friend tried to recruit us for a magical vitamin/wellness MLM. Now, this man had known my spouse's mother very well and was there when she was dying from cancer. Fifteen years later, the dude had the nerve to say, 'I wish these vitamins had been around when your mom was sick,' as a manipulation tactic to get us to sign up. He has never been invited back to our house again. That's some dirty low stuff right there."
2."I was in an MLM for almost a year. I got roped in because it was a product I liked and I wanted to supplement my income. I ended up having too much product, couldn’t sell it, couldn’t recruit people, and was never 'performing well.' I was constantly hounded to have more parties and recruit more people. Then COVID hit, and there were MULTIPLE uplines suggesting we use the pandemic as a way to gain sales. This was when COVID first hit and people were losing jobs…I thought it was the most disgusting tactic I’d ever seen. I stopped immediately and thankfully managed to sell my inventory. Never again."
3."I'm a lesbian but most of my family and friends are straight so it's rare that I meet other gay women at family or social events. A few years back, my friend threw a party and introduced me to this beautiful, fun woman who almost immediately started flirting with me. I was so flattered that I didn't question it. We went out the next night, but the conversation kept veering to her 'investment opportunity' (aka a beauty product MLM)."
"She tried to convince me to join (flirtatiously), but I kept avoiding saying yes as it seemed fishy, but I didn't want to push her away. She then invited me to this 'party' which turned out to be a recruitment seminar for this MLM. At the end of it, she pressed me to join and introduced me to her superior to convince me. Neither of them could answer my questions or concerns, so they told me to leave as I wasn't smart enough for this venture. I never heard from her after that. She literally led me on sexually and took advantage of me just to get me in her 'downline'".
4."My recruiter told me she made $400 at the party I was at. I later learned she made 25% of that. I was told if I could get 2 people under me, I would make $400-$500 per month. Then I was told I needed 4 people instead of 2. Then I was $2,000 in debt with nothing to show for it. After that, I deleted them all and changed my phone number."
5."I drank the MLM Kool-Aid and was a jewelry consultant for one year. When I voluntarily cancelled, I had over 5,700 pieces of jewelry that cost $2.75 each, for a total of $15,675. I was told to buy, buy, buy, and recruit, recruit, recruit. I was getting sick of not making any money while everyone above me made money every time I bought jewelry. Thankfully, I was able to sell off most of my stuff. I will never ever sign on to another MLM company again."
6."My mother was involved in one years ago. She told me she quit when she realized she approached every new acquaintance with an aim to make a sale instead of making a friend."
7."I know a woman who got sucked into one. She constantly makes videos on Facebook and Instagram acting like she has this perfect life, and last I heard, her boyfriend had to call her from a gas station to see if they had any cash in the house because both of their credit cards were declined and he needed gas to go to a friend’s birthday party. Needless to say, he didn’t go. It literally says 'Boss Babe' on her Instagram."
8."When I was in college, I had a girl convince me to sell sex toys. I had to pay over $700 dollars and got a bag full of dildos, anal plugs, lube, etc. in the mail. Years later I tossed them all in a dumpster out of embarrassment (not sex shaming). Looking back now, I should have tried out each one and kept what I liked."
9."I got involved in knife sales. The contact info was written on literally every board at my college. The interview consisted of the supervisor asking me how many things I was involved in over my life and how many contacts I had made. It weirded me out, but I figured maybe they wanted well-rounded people who could connect with a lot of people."
"When the two day 'training' arrived, I knew I had messed up. They were advocating super pushy policies — 'Let me just do the demo,' 'Sell the whole set even if they’re just looking for one knife,' and 'Call me if they’re on the fence and I could push them over.' I felt super uncomfortable doing any of these things to my close friends and family, but I also figured I could set up a few demos to people who would get it and just get paid for those times.
Then here is what sent me over the edge: They set aside part of the training for us to cold call our contacts at 7 at night. We literally had to keep making calls and trying to put things on our calendar. I called my boyfriend at the time (now husband) and somehow conveyed to him what I was supposed to be doing and he let me basically have a two-hour phone call with him reading the same pitch over and over again. I did not go back the second day. No way was I living through that horror again."
10."I've seen a friend and his wife get into an MLM, and in three years, they sold most of what they had, moved back in with the husband's mother, and both began selling drugs to support the MLM habit. They still think they're mere months away from being millionaires — it's infuriating."
11."Back in 2014, my mom got roped into and MLM and put in $3,000 to sign up. I don’t remember exactly what they were selling, but it involved affiliate programs. Six months later, the president of the 'company' got arrested, and thousands of people, including my mom, never got their money back."
12."When I was in my early-twenties, a coworker convinced me to join an MLM to sell energy drinks, makeup, and essentially groceries. No surprise — I only spent money and did not make one red cent. On top of that, the meetings were extremely religious, and the coworker would make comments about how I needed to wear skirts to the meetings because 'that's what women do,' and that men were the ones who wore pants. I stopped going to meetings, and I later found out that this guy was stealing cash from the company we both worked for."
13."My friend's mom got in on the ground floor of a very well known essential oil company — I want to say around 2006-2008. She's now at the very top of the company, only under the President, CEO, and CFO. She literally rakes in millions, which is great, good for her, but she’s been so enamored by this company since she’s able to support her family that now she thinks oils are a cure for EVERYTHING."
"She doesn’t keep a first aid kit or bandaids or any kind of medical supplies in the house, they don’t see any doctors to my understanding, and they refused the vaccine because they think that lavender and peppermint oils will repel COVID. They have two extremely immunocompromised daughter-in-laws and during the height of the pandemic, they all got COVID but still saw them because they thought the oils could take the disease away from them."
14."When my husband died, he left me with a ton of debt. Not long after he died I had gone to a Tupperware party for a friend and made some positive comment about one of the products, and that put me on the presenter's radar. This presenter happened to be one of those top tier ladies who ignored their family to make it big."
"I was BROKE. I was paying off so much stuff while waiting for the life insurance to come through, so Tupperware was spun as a way to earn extra money. She even gave me the starter kit without having to pay upfront.
The problem was I worked full-time and it was near impossible to book parties. I did my first presentation at my house and booked no parties. I reached out to all my friends and family and still booked no parties.
The pressure from this woman was IMMENSE. She'd call me while I was at my day job. She'd try to convince me to quit my day job to focus on Tupperware. She knew I was broke, but she was adamant that if I quit my job I'd make it big, and before I knew it, I'd have a Tupperware car just like her.
She never listened to me. She had a response for everything. Nothing was based in logic and every time she called me, which was weekly, I was filled with dread.
I started to ghost her. It took months for me to work up the courage to tell her I didn't want to do it anymore. She dragged it on and on and on. Finally, she sent me a curt 'Leave your kit at the front door,' message, which I did.
She tried to recruit me again a few years later — I ignored her calls.
All I wanted to extra income to help me. I also wanted to add to my friend group. All I got was stress, anxiety, and frustration."
15."I worked for a week and a half during the COVID lockdown for a knife MLM's 'marketing company.' They targeted college students looking for extra cash, and I was desperately looking for ANYTHING to do other than my homework. So, after three days of training via Microsoft Teams, I was told to schedule meetings to 'practice' my spiel to my family. We were enticed with free knives after our first practice meeting — which I never received —and trips to outlandish places, which I, of course, couldn’t care less about."
"After the first week and selling a couple knives to my grandparents, I was told we would have to wait until week three to give our deposit info in order to be paid, but we had to keep working until then. We also had to make sure we kept track of our sales so we could tell the company how much to pay us! I know some people who actually did really well for themselves through this company, and one is a close friend who is fully aware of the scam, but doesn’t care because she got to go to Florida for free."
16."I sold jewelry for a hot minute in 2019. I only invested a couple hundred dollars, so I didn't lose much. The thing that was most interesting to me about that particular company was the way they created a false sense of urgency over the release of new products. They dropped the new products at 3:00 pm every weekday, so around 2:45 there would be a huge flurry of group messages from the 'upline' saying, 'Get ready for new!' 'Girls, it's almost time for new!!!' followed by a long line of complaints when the 'new' sold out super fast. That was really annoying to me because I'd be at my ACTUAL job at 3:00 pm and didn't need a bunch of over-excited women blowing up my phone. I got out of it after about three months when it became apparent to me that you could never sell enough to recoup what you put into it."
17."I joined a jewelry-based MLM thinking it would be cute to sell jewelry as a side hustle after I relocated across the country. I got roped in to the 'be your own boss' and 'make money while you sleep' mentality, and for a while, it boosted my confidence because I truly thought I was doing a great job running my own business. On paper, I brought in good money (about $100 per live show, which was one hour a week), but I had to ship out the jewelry to people, which ate about 20% of the profit — then the money earned went back into ordering more jewelry."
"A couple months later, once the glitz and excitement of it all wore off and I realized nothing was coming back to me, my boyfriend told me the only way to earn money in the business was to add new 'business partners.' I told him I wasn’t interested in doing that, but that was part of the scheme. I was so hurt by the people who had roped me into the business that I quit that same day. Luckily, I made it out with only like $30 lost, but I still have a ton of jewelry and packing materials taking up space in my house."
18."Some dude tried to recruit me into buying and selling energy drinks. It was a known scam throughout school at this point, so I decided to go along with it to see where it would go. The guy’s dad was a friend of mine, and my dad has a pretty well known computer shop in town."
"Anyway, I went to pick up MLM man from his house to go to a meeting, and this guy loaded three cases of energy drinks into my car. I was already sketched out and this was a liability I didn’t want to encumber myself with, so I told him I had a family emergency. He got out of the car and told me to keep the 85 or so energy drinks. The three cases were in my car for a few weeks, and I never touched them. About a month after not hearing anything, one morning, there were maybe 8-10 cases of the energy drinks stacked right outside the back door of my dad’s shop. 2/10, would not try to join a cult again."
19."I almost got sucked into an MLM in college because my professor was also a representative for the company. At the time, I was desperate for money because my job paid less than minimum wage, and I had an upcoming surgery. It sounded interesting because it involved selling fair trade coffee. I had my parents nearby on the Zoom call to get their perspective, and they immediately knew it was an MLM. I wasted over three hours trying to be polite, while also trying to make the right decision. Class for the rest of the semester was rather awkward, especially when he told me, 'There won't be any other opportunities like this.'"
20."A college roommate of mine joined an MLM and attempted to recruit me. She was 18, came from a really small town, and was pretty naive. She wouldn’t tell me the name of the 'company' because her up-line said people spread lies about the company. Major red flag."
"I attended a recruiting meeting to support my roommate, and the recruiter went on and on about 'being your own boss' and 'gaining financial independence' and avoided every question I had about the company, what her role was in the company, and even the NAME of the company! She noticed I was getting suspicious and got super passive aggressive and ended the meeting. My roommate stayed with them and lost so much money going to all these mandatory out of town 'conferences.' MLMs prey on defenseless individuals and gaslight them into thinking they’ll be able to achieve financial success when that’s is very rarely the case."
21."I worked for a jewelry MLM for about a year and a half. In the beginning, I loved it. I thought the Facebook Lives were a lot of fun, and enjoyed the 'social' part of it. However, behind the scenes was a different story. I witnessed a LOT of toxic positivity. Some of the uplines' livelihoods depended on their downlines buying product, so they would want us to buy, buy, buy all the time. Didn't matter if we couldn't sell it, just buy it! I witnessed the uplines tell women they weren’t doing enough, or trying hard enough, if they couldn’t sell their inventory. It was always their fault."
"If we ever tried to vent about issues within the company, we were told to hush and that we needed to think positively. I also realized that the company's consultants were the main customers. I felt so stupid. Getting out was the best decision I ever made, and I will always warn others to stay away."
Answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.