I’m still going through the back issues of Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. In addition to noting the passage of Perry DeAngeles (who’s unique take on the subject of skepticism marked the early episodes so powerfully) and running across the odd bit of trivia, the interviews are the things that keep me listening.
In episode #135 the interviewee is Robert FitzPatrick. I wish I had run across this guy and his invaluable information before I signed up for Amway way back when. If I had run across him before then I would have saved myself a lot of pain, worry and expense. Luckily the Wife and I are pretty savvy when it comes to counting pennies (I only wish I was that savvy when it comes to sales pitches. I’m getting there) and it only took a few months before we realized that the cost of the goods from Amway and their online presence Quixtar, even at the discounted rate, was more than equivalent quality products available from any big box retailer would cost.
(interview with Robert L. FitzPatrick of pyramidschemealert.org begins at 37:00 into the show)
Since 1980 a new form of sales and marketing, called multi-level marketing or network marketing, has spread worldwide and spawned an explosion of pyramid sales schemes involving tens of millions of consumers. The line between legal forms of network marketing and fraudulent pyramid programs is a point of controversy, confusion and inquiry in many countries. Pyramid Scheme Alert will provide much needed information to consumers and other interested parties to reduce the number of illegal and de facto pyramid schemes and victims-and to minimize the severity of effects on individuals and communities.pyramidschemealert.org
So many of the things that Mr. FitzPatrick related in the interview reminded me of my experiences with my upline and Amway that I kept getting chills thinking about how close I was to buying into the whole twisted mindset of selling people something that I needed them to buy, simply because I needed them to buy it. It really is a cult mentality, and they are hardly the only group I’ve been part of that, in hindsight, look suspect on the cult score.
To this day, every time I’m confronted with a direct-selling scheme, I cringe. There are many more of these MLM schemes out there now than there have ever been in the past, and the internet appears to be the vehicle allowing these businesses to flourish. We’ve come a long way from the days when the Amway guy could show up at your door, selling soap at a price where, in rural America, it seemed like a bargain since you didn’t have to go out and get it from a store in the nearest big city. Amazon may not pay me to buy products from them, but it’s hard to argue that their prices are driven by anything other than fair market value. More than I can say for most direct sell products. This whole article serves as a shameless plug for Mr. FitzPatrick’s site Pyramid Scheme Alert. It really is too bad that no one takes the subject of these schemes seriously.
Ever wonder what is in all those self-storage units? Think about it for a bit.
My upline might have still had me under his thumb if he hadn’t been such a true-believing born-again. The fact that Amway used the evangelical religion to sell their products to other evangelicals simply disgusted me. The products had been a decent value when I first heard about Amway back in the 70’s. Today the company is nothing more than a swindler’s organization. The hypocrisy of the prosperity gospel being used as a marketing strategy knocked sense back into me, and I never looked back. All the MLM’s that I have looked into since that time are scams. All of them.