Saturday, February 05, 2005

Pyramid Schemes

Shame on those who would disguise a pyramid scheme as an opportunity to achieve success. Whether it's cleaning products or knives, the pyramid scheme, a system of selling goods where commissions are paid to recruit new sellers, almost always turns to disaster for the individual investor. But lots of people will bite when the greed factor kicks in, and only realize when it's too late that they have wasted their time and money, for the benefit of a select few at the top. Since commissions are based on the number of sellers recruited, the right to sell the goods is sold to an increasing number of sellers at lower and lower levels. Eventually, one discovers that there are a limited number of people willing to participate, gives up, and loses their investment.

And that recruitment, lordy. Talk about pressure. I suppose one could chalk it up to a learning experience, mostly for the young, who don't have the wisdom to realize that they are being suckered. But it can be an expensive lesson.

I can barely remember the "Amway" party I attended, but I do remember the pressure of the sales person, who was my friend, capital was, attempting beyond all reason to get me to throw down my money for this rare chance to become a big success. After the chart presentation, and the stellar product line, all that was between me and The Donald was my unwillingness to take part in this "sure" thing. But my mind was made up. There is no way in hell I was ever going to attempt to drag someone screaming into a pyramid scheme, knowing full well the pitfalls of such a plan. And of course, my friend eventually discovered that his investment was wasted. I am not saying that there are not a few who actually stick to something like this and make a success of it. But it is very, very difficult, and the zipcodes of America are lined with those whose experience with a pyramid scheme is remembered with disdain.

But'cha gotta see the humor in it. Even if you have been a victim, and lost money, it's over. Look back and see yourself going red in the face as you espoused the virtues of floor wax, kitchen and toilet cleaners, as if no other tsp based soapy product could possibly compare. Think of your lame sale's pitch. Think of the fact that you were blinded by greed and learned a lesson that might have cost you, but didn't kill you. Think of the time you told someone that, if you could just sign them up today, within the next hour, you would still win that trip to Disneyworld, all expenses paid for you and your family. "Just a second, I am going to call my supervisor to see if I can still win it, Rich".............and then...."ALRIGHT! He said there's still time! Sign up right now, Rich, and my dear beloved kids WILL get to Disneyworld after all." Pretty twisted, but in retrospect, to me anyway, pretty funny.

I don't really have anything against Amway. Amway is only one of thousands of companies whose sales tactics have drifted toward the pyramid over the years. I admit that I have no idea how they pitch their products these days. But they do, in my mind anyway, hold the position as Pyramid Scheme King.

In 1997, we were planning a vacation to Detroit, to see certain "must" sights, like the original Motown recording studio. While perusing the travel books we had purchased to help us decide what else to do during our trip, we discovered that we would be within striking distance of "Amway World Headquarters", located in Ada, Michigan. I didn't stump for a yes answer right away from my traveling companions, Marie and Blaine, but I kept it in the back of my mind, and took a suit and tie along, you know, just in case I might get a photo op in front of the Amway World Headquarters sign.

And one morning in Detroit, as we planned our day, I made my case. Those two nuts went for it. We made other stops along the way, and had a blast, but we did actually travel the 150 miles from Detroit to Ada, to the destination point of Amway World Headquarters, just to kneel before the Amway sign, maybe do the tour.

Just about closing time, we pulled into Ada, and unfortunately were not able to catch the tour of the Amway factory. I would have loved to have heard the likely over the top superlatives about the Amway products. But still, I did suit up, at the back of our rented van, and the three of us walked a block or two to the sign, and got some pictures.

If you wanna see a couple, click here.

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