Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Confessions of an ex-MLM agent - The Inside story!!

Ok, I can see people shaking in dread and preparing to navigate away, before they notice the 'ex' tag and settle down warily to read what this is all about.

Warning: This is a long post!

How we got In

The year was 2000. The husband who was not yet the husband then, was working in Bangalore, one of the thousands of young software professionals who start their careers in the big, faceless corporates every year. He was staying with college friends all of who left one after other for on-site assignments, job change or because they got married. The man was young and bored. And lonely.

Then, one day he gets introduced to a guy, a successful s/w professional who lives in the US with his wife, also a s/w professional by a friend. I have come to expand my business, the man says. I am looking for sharp, young people to diversify with. Come over and we will discuss. The husband, who is tired of frequenting the pubs and the bars of Bangalore and is just craving to meet some nice people, goes willingly.

He is enchanted. He finds a room full of people, young and energetic. People who are very, very succesful in their respective professions. The whole place is filled with fun and laughter and energy. People are extremely warm and welcoming. When the time for the meeting comes, people move into a room while the host shows them 'the plan'. The name of the company comes right in the end..and even then does not mean much to the husband as it is fairly new in India and not many people have heard of it.

He finds the products expensive - ridiculously so...a bottle of detergent costs close to 400 bucks. But even before the thought has fully formed in his mind, it is scorched away by the host. All the products are concentrated and will work out cheaper than the market products if you use them the way they are meant to be. And they are such WONDERFUL products, he says. And thus, the first bit of mental programming happens. This is what the husband would repeat, over and over again, during the course of the next 5 years when confronted with the high-price accusation.

The middle years

The year 2002. Marriage. Enter yours truly. Moved to Bangalore with stars in her eyes and dreams of a new life in her heart. And, to give credit to the man, he has not disappointed.:D. But I digress. My first introduction to the 'business' as this travesty is called was at a 'seminar'. A rally is a place where a highly 'succesful' person in the business will come and share his story with the more unfortunate individuals who were not yet succesful in the business and still struggling.

I found the whole setting larger-than-life. Men wearing dapper suits. Women in glitzy jewelry and lovely clothes. The 'achievers' walked on stage to the music of 'Rocky', waving their hands and feeling no less than movie stars. I was a young bride. Straight out of college and eager to please. Over-protected and from a small town. I took the bait, hook, line and sinker.

And so I sat at home for the first 6 months after marriage trying to do 'business'. 'You'll never have to work', my uplines(people who introduced us into the business), told me. 'You'll be a millionaire and will travel around the world and be treated like a queen'. 'Yes, yes', I told myself as I tried desperately to sell products to anyone remotely human that I came across.

But right from the word go, things did not work out between me and the upline lady. I remember the first ever time we went to their house and she told me, 'You have to be more submissive'!! What the fuck?? I was contributing to her business by buying 4k worth of useless products and I had to be submissive to her? That was the first time I had a fight with the husband.

Soon, the fights became regular features. I started working and suddenly time was at a premium. I would be expected to put in a hard day at work, go to the uplines' house at 7 pm for a meeting every week and stay on till 11. Or 11.30. Or 12.00. And then be accused that I am not spending enough time with the 'team'. Every friday night would end in tears and a fight.

The beginning of disillusionment

Looking back at it today, there are so many, so many things about the business that I positively abhorred. The total lack of freedom in your personal life. Whether it was buying a car or having a baby, we had to get 'permission' from the uplines for EVERYTHING. The total lack of personal time. We would have 3 meetings every week. And then we would be asked to go forth and spread the word of the business lord during all the remaining days. The expense. Whether we liked it or not, wanted to or not, we had to buy products worth 4k every month. The lack of personal choice. I could not buy my favorite toothpaste or my favorite cream from the local store. All products HAD to be from the business. We were even encouraged not to watch television and, in fact, did not have TV at home for the first 3 years of marriage. Now I am totally against TV anyways, but I am so totally pro-choice today that I am appalled I ever went with that.

The fights increased. In intensity and volume. I was horrified that this gentle, totally rational man I was married to, was, for the first time, refusing to see reason. He was refusing to quit. I did not know it then, but he was exhibiting all the classic signs of a person in a cult. Even though he was doing well at work, he had begun to identify himself in this business so much, that a life in the 'outside world' with 'negative people' must have sounded terrifying to him. Our parents were both foaming at the mouths at the 'devil' that had gotten into us. My career was in tatters.

The redemption

The redemption came in 2004 when I decided enough was enough and we needed to have a baby, pronto. By that time, our success was too little and too far between and, I think, the hubby had realised that it will not work out. But even then, he was reluctant to shed the last vestiges of bondage and walk toward freedom till Kuttan's birth. Kuttan brought with him not only laughter and joy for us, but also freedom, in a way. It has been 3 years since we quit. And I thank the Lord every day. For kuttan and for the wisdom that made us do it.

If someone asked me what I regret the most about my MLM years I would say, the lost opportunity. I got married as soon as I finished college. The husband was barely out of college himself. We had 3 golden years between our marriage and the time kuttan was born, that we could have used to spread our wings and soar in the sky. Careless and fearless. There was a wealth of opportunity that we could have explored and did not. We could have travelled. We could have studied. We could have made real friends. We could have spent long hours at work and advanced our careers. Instead, we let our wings be clipped and closed our hearts to the worTld. And that is why I will never, ever be able to forgive 'the business'. And why, to some extent, I resent the husband to this day.

Well, as they say, all's well that ends well. Our 'uplines' zealously followed up with us for a few days and tried to get us to come back into the fold. When it didnt work out, they gave up and moved to greener pastures. And yes, it's a little late in the day but today we are doing things that we should have, would have, had it not been for the business. So we do it a little slowly, dragging around kuttan everywhere with us. But we will still get there. And be happy while we do. The nightmare is finally over.

Disclaimer: This has been a cathartic post for me. It has not been easy to write it but I have, nonetheless, because, well, if it helps someone, why not. It is all about MY experience and perception alone and probably someone else may have a very different take on it. If I have hurt someone's feelings, I did not mean to. Each to his own.


Swati said...

Ohh I know what you mean..thank god we did not enter. Have been given lucrative offers by closed friends several times :)

Mama - Mia said...

BM - i am sure it must have indeed taken you a lot of courage to say all this.

but like you also said alls well that ends well. at least you guys had a stable job... imagine people doing this as their only source of income waiting for that big success!!

am glad you decided to post this!


Lavs said...

A brave post!! I had two of my close friends in this business..losing their peace of mind waiting for that big success..but seriously 'uplines' told you when you should have kids, is it???

This is ridiculous..glad you have come out of it.

BangaloreMom said...

Swati: I know!! Thanks

Mama-Mia : Actually it did...more than you know. I thought about doing this for a long time and talked to the hubby long and hard before I finally did it. I really felt the world should know what goes on inside.

Lavs: Thanks. And yes. You really have to ask permission. :D We knew a couple who got pregnant and said it was by accident. I always wondered though!! :D

Imp's Mom said...

Wow! Is this how MLM's work? My parents were involved with Amway, but not for long. We still use a few of their products though.

Good you are out and leading your own life. You knw u managed to scrape through a tough phase together and that is what matters the most. So don't be resentful, I'm sure it has made you both closer than every before.


RRmom said...

Wow. That leaves me speechless. I was introduced to MLM soon after I landed in US and being at home at that time I was so interested in taking it up. Hubby was totally against the idea and told me after the 'seminar' that he has seen quite a few people walk up to him in stores asking for him to join this MLM business. He talked me out of it saying that people will never buy everyday products from the MLM brands. I was heartbroken but never had a choice to take it up without his support at that time.

After a few years in US, seeing a lot of indians walking up to us in stores wanting our number, telling us they have a business proposition for us, I understand they are desperate to do anything to succeed. I also appreciate hubby's decision to not let me fall into this trap and lose sleep over the ever evading success.

B o o said...

What the hell!! The whole post sounded like a thriller movie to me! (Like THE FIRM!) This happened for real? Whoa! Im glad you got out of this one, BM. Scary!

Aryan said...

Oh no gald you are put of it now..

Compulsive Dreamer said...

I am so glad that you feel the same way about this. I have seen my parents succumb to this "business" not once but twice (two different companies) and I have cried and pleaded with them not to waste their time and effort on this. My mother would be frustrated and depressed and I would be appalled at the expenses. And this was at a time when we were going through a very bad phase financially. This was probably their big hope of making some money and rectifying the financial situation. But nothing worked. And in the end they came to their senses and quit the "businesses". I was so relieved and am so happy they havent gotten back to doing anything remotely similar despite many more people luring them. Sorry to hog up your comment space, but this post really brought back bitter memories.

Orchid said...

hi there, first time here..and first off, you write well.
And...boy this is the first time I have heard the story from the other end of the aisle...we have our radar on alert for the amway, quickstar folks and are constantly trying to get away from them..but never heard abt what goes on on the inside...
glad for u though :)

Just Like That said...

Oh. BM! :-( its this bad is it? I've had a cousin of mine start with Amway some yrs back. They stayed with me when they came to the conference in B'lore. They were quite kicked about it and wanted me to join thru them, if ever I decided to join. At teh time, I was working, so I didn't give it a thought. LAter, when I quit work, I did wonder about this- Oriflame and Amway particularly...
Well, glad I didn't succumb to the temptation to find more- Knowing sucker me, I would have 'submitted'!!

Poppins said...

Oh wow. Thanks so mch for writing this. I am so forwarding this piece to a friend of mine who is with Amway. She doesn't try to sell the products to everyone, but when she talks about personality development, I always feel uncomfortable.

Although I didn't know it was this bad when you got into the business. I've been approached for Amway many times but have never attended their seminars. So it was an eye opener to me. Somehow I always believe in the virtue of plain and simpel hard work, there are no short cuts in life.

And that includes attending these Landmark Forum/Art of Living seminars. I have nothing against them per se, but I truly believe that changing your core personality is a slow and steady process, 3 days spent somewhere can hardly change the course of your life!

Collection Of Stars said...

Glad you got out of this whole networking thing. One of my uncles also was part of it and tried to get us all to join. But we refused and he too quit sometime later. I can understand how it must have encompassed your whole lives.

AarKay said...

OMG...Bangalore mom I cant believe that you have gone through all this..but then we all make mistakes....congrats for emerging victorious out of this mess :-)

Sangeetha said...

I remember once i had said something against Amway and u scorched me with ur words! :-)Well, whether Amway is good or not, u were one their sincere 'soldiers' at that time!!! i didn't know it was this bad on the inside...thanks for sharing ur experience.

Swati said...


S.Praveen said...

Hello, first time here. I rememeber my dad was being brainwashed by a number of people when I was a kid to join Amway, he strictly refused. Oh man this is really pathetic..glad u guys are out of it.

Just Like That said...

Wassup? No responses...

noon said...

Just read this post...it's been so busy here and I fall asleep earlier than my normal (late) sleep time...so have not kept up with posts.
I admire your courage for writing this post...it sounds scary.
What is MLM? (I know it is like Amway).
I have been approached several times for Amway. But the first time, I remember feeling so good when some random person called me (after meeting me once some place, can't remember) and said I have all the traits for a good business woman blah blah - I had just finished UG then - but when he mentioned this, I just said no - just because I didn't have patience for all the jargon he was using and never bothered to go to any meeting or anything...
How do people get sucked into this? It's not like they only get young/lonely people like your husband was at that time...they get older/mid career people also...how do they manage to get people to fall into the trap?!
How do these people manage to have any friends? I mean one mention of amway and I will run away...

Anamika said...

Had a similar experience of attending an Amway meeting a few years ago. But it sounded phony right from the beginning. The person even visited me at my home a couple of times. But I would go absconding and leave my parents to handle him. My mom was a tight-fisted lady strong in managing finance. so ,I would leave her to handle him.
BTW, i've tagged you for a meme in my blog.

BangaloreMom said...

Imp's Mom: Thanks.

RRMom: Good to see that your husband was sensible enough to see through it.

Boo: Me too, believe me!

Aryan: Thanks

CD: Sorry to hear about your experiences CD. The truth is that there are a LOT of people who can ill afford this business and still their uplines go on milking them for every penny. One of the things I could never bring myself to do.

Orchid: Thanks for the compliment. And yes, nowadays most people have Amway or Quixtar on their Radar and move away from them. But we were young and stupid and did not know better.

JLT: :D. Knowing you, you probably would have!

COS: Yeah ..most people quit.

Aarkay: Thanks. I like to believe we have emerged stronger and wiser. :D

Sangeetha: Did I do that? Quite possible. I do apologise you know! :D

Noonie: MLM is multi-level marketing where you recruit people into using and selling products who in turn recruit more people and so on. It is Amway and a lot of other companies like that. And no, its not only single or lonely people. The idea is that they prey on the one thing you dont have and present this business as a solution.

For example, for a single guy for who money is not a problem, it might be friends. For a working couple with a small child, it might be time. For a low-income family , it may be more money. I mean, everyone has a dream right??

Anamika: Glad you got out of that one in time.

the mad momma said...

wow - scary. my parents got involved in it a couple of times but fortunately lost interest. i am so glad to see someone write abt this. ppl involved in this tend to lose their friends too.

my uncle has a friend in amway or modicare or something - and his name is saved on the cellphone as 'Don't pick up'. They dont answer his calls in the house!!!

Priyal said...

check all mlm scam