Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, May 10, 2024

Book review: Get-rich-quick schemes often come with a BITE

The Benjamins in your wallet are lonesome. They want more of their fellow fivers around, perhaps a few hundred, if it’s possible. And it might happen if you believe the pitch from that old college pal you rarely hear from or the guy in your church who wants you in his sales group.

But beware, says author Jane Marie in her new book, “Selling the Dream,” because being an entrepreneur can come at a price.

It sounded like a good idea.

Eighteen years old, a dropout, unemployed and “living in a punk house,” Jane Marie saw a TV ad for what she knew was “a pyramid scheme.” It wasn’t her first go-around with an MLM (mid-level marketing) scheme, but it was her last.

How did she get suckered twice?

Surprisingly easily, actually.

MLM is “called a million different things,” direct sales, network marketing and so on, but they all “work in basically the same way.” The business’s owners and early joiners sit at the top of a pyramid-shaped structure and “set out to recruit teams of sellers” who recruit teams of sellers, who... well, you get the picture. But “a little simple math” proves that in just 13 steps, the MLM will have recruited every person in the world.

Impossible numbers aren’t all, though, Marie says. A while back, “extensive research” showed that “as many as 99% of those who do join (an MLM) make no money or even lose money.” That includes Amway, LuLaRoe and most other pyramid-driven, work-at-home, get-rich schemes, many of which are practically household names. Those businesses take advantage of human nature and a few tricks of psychology that “are fascinating and something we all do whether we’re involved with an MLM or not.”

So how do you avoid being taken in by a scheme that might take you for your money?

Slow down and ask questions. Where’s the money coming from and how do you get yours?  What does the government say about the business?

And then remember “BITE,” or Behavior, Information, Thought and Emotional control, a model sometimes used to describe control methods used by cults.

Chances are, you’ve bought something from an MLM and you got the “you-can-do-this-too” pitch. The idea of having home-parties and selling in your spare time sure sounds good. But read “Selling the Dream” once and you’ll think twice.

Marie writes about mid-level marketing from the point of view of someone who was the “average” age and gender of MLM sellers and who knew better than to get involved but did anyway. Her front-row peek is told personally and honestly, which gains a reader’s trust pretty quickly, and Marie’s sense of humor helps keep it. She’ll also hold your interest with a nice history of how MLMs are created and maintained, how they are regulated (or not) and why people sign on, even against their better judgment.

That makes this a book you can read for fun (because it is), but you’ll also learn something that might affect your wallet, whether you join or are just a customer. Should you look for “Selling the Dream”?  You bet your bottom dollar.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in publications throughout the U.S. and Canada.