When I was a freshman in High School, I was introduced to the concept of Amway. At the time I was young, naive, and also legally incapable of owning and running an Amway business thanks, mercifully, to various child labor laws But one-day soon, wouldn’t I like to be a part of an Amway business? The idea had a powerful allure: you put in “X” hours per week (where “X” is some number less than what you’d need for a part-time job) talking to “Y” contacts (where “Y” represents some seemingly-reasonable number of friends, family, and poor schlubs who you can rope into a marketing pitch session) and if only “Z” of them join (where “Z” is some number less than “Y”, but one which is nonetheless unachievably high because some number “Z-prime” of them, which assymptotically approaches 100% of “Y”, have already heard of Amway and aren’t interested) then you’ve got a solid foundation for a growing business. If each of your “Z” business associates goes out and does the same, and each of their associates the same again, why then, in like no time at all you’ll be raking in megabucks without any further committment of your own time and resources. You’ll be on easy street. That’s the way they sell it, anyway.
This is, classically, what we call a “Pyramid Scheme”. This post isn’t a dig on Amway – they make perfectly fine, if overpriced food, cleaning, and dietary supplement products – nor is this post even about Amway. Amway is just the starting point, an anecdote, a part of a story about how I developed a healthy skepticism of “get rich quick” schemes and grandiose claims. And it’s true you can defend Amway: their business is legal, and they do market and sell actual physical products. But with Amway the whole idea wasn’t so much that you made money by marketing and selling Amway products. The whole idea was that you got other people to market and sell Amway products for you, and then you make a cut of their profits. More recently, I read an exposé that told how the only people who ever got rich from Amway were the ones who made and sold the promotional materials and the motivational videos and books and went on the motivational talk circuit. No one ever made a mint selling overpriced Amway products.
I had loved ones inolved with Amway. One day, we anticipated, I would join their “organization” and get involved, too. And things would snowball from there and we’d all be rich. My loved ones never got rich. But they did spend overmuch, for a little while, on Amway products. Eventually, they parted ways with Amway, quietly. And with that, I was already better prepared for my next encounter with pyramid schemes and “multi-level marketing”.
Several years ago, before I met Dear Wife, I left Small Town, Southern State, USA to move to Big City, Southern State, USA. (I am not a Southerner, but the South became my home when my military father retired in the aforementioned Southern State.) I was hieing out for hopefully better job prospects and almost certainly better personal life prospects. Both turned out to be true, thankfully (I have my current job, for instance, and I met Dear Wife.) But upon arrival in the Big City and putting forth my resumé in various venues for the putting forth of resumés, I was contacted for an interview from an insurance and financial services company. Insurance and Financial Services weren’t my area of interest, but I was pretty desperate at this point. Of course, I did not turn down the interview. I don’t know why the fact that the interview took place late in the evening didn’t tip me off that something was amiss. Continue reading