Recently I was introduced to a… unique company. I don’t want to say “pyramid scheme,” but it really is a legal version of it — known as multi-level or referral marketing. Wikipedia will give you a big insight into what these terms mean and how they are related to each other.
ViSalus Sciences is a company that is in the business of weight loss. Excuse me — I should rephrase that.
They are in the business of MARKETING weight loss products, and having you do most of the leg work for them. That’s what multi-level or referral marketing is. It’s a marketing tactic that markets to people, either in-person or through someone you know, rather than traditional means such as television. They have representatives from their company come by to talk to you after you are invited to a “Challenge ‘Party’” (notice the double quotes) or some sort of get together by a friend or acquaintance under the guise that the product that they are selling is healthy for you.
It may very well be healthy for you. It may even help you lose weight. But when a company talks about how their product is good for you for about fifteen minutes, and then spends the next hour or so explaining how you can MAKE MONEY while using it and becoming an “Independent Distributor” (read: selling the product to your friends, and then they sell it to their friends, and you get a cut of that), you have to question the intentions of this company.
… Or are you allowed to?
There’s no question that obesity is a problem in the United States. The underhandedness of it all comes from playing off the emotion that if you reject the product for any reason (since they say anyone can benefit from losing weight or becoming more lean) then you are seen as someone who doesn’t give a shit about their body and scrutinized for it. Of course, it’s totally not because you don’t agree with what you are presented with, and question why it was presented to you in such a manner! They tell you you are going to die if you don’t change the way you live. And that may very well be true. But what they mostly want you to do is to buy into their marketing plan.
ViSalus Sciences doesn’t care if you lose weight or not. What they really want you to do is to market their products to the next guy, and have them market it to the next guy. Yes, I understand that businesses exist for the sole purpose of making money. But there is a reason why certain business ethics are in place and why business models like a “pyramid scheme” are outlawed, and others like “multi-level marketing” or “referral marketing” are walking the fine line. The reason why these are so controversial and not legitimate business models is because they are UNSUSTAINABLE. What happens when there are no more people to sell your product to and make money off of? In this case, what happens when everybody is skinny? The whole system falls apart, and only the people at the top are left with any money.
The oddities don’t stop there, of course.
When you dig deeper into (or, rather, get poured on with) the details of their referral program, it starts with you getting your ViSalus powder meal replacement substance for free when you refer three of your friends into buying one of their kits — the most expensive being a $250 “Transformation Kit.” That’s probably a tough sell, but its the “most rewarding” from ViSalus’ standpoint when they’re trying to sell you into selling their stuff. What’s more, is if you keep selling to people and then THEY sell to other people, and so on, you start getting checks cut to you in terms of percentages of what they buy and keep buying. Pretty sweet, right? And eventually you’ll get to a point where they’ll actually pay you for the lease of a BLACK BMW at 600 bucks a month!!!! Oh, did you read the part where it has to be black? That’s okay, if you don’t want black, they’ll give you 300 a month for something that isn’t black.
So, wait. Did you read that right? What the fuck does the color black have to do with any god damned thing? I’d probably just chalk it up to the CEO of the company wanting his minions to look like a fleet of stealth fighters driving into the parking lots when they have any stupid meetings or expos for their marketing clients. Maybe it’s an inside joke and he actually hates black BMW’s. I don’t know what the fuck they’re trying to get at. Besides, what happens when you repaint your black BMW into a red one? Do they still give you 600 dollars? It’s still technically black on the pink slip if you don’t change it, right? Are they going to send someone to your house to inspect your car’s color? Who knows, maybe they send a person to your house to gain intelligence on other matters, like when you take a shit or beat off. And it doesn’t stop there… you could potentially be making millions of dollars with this marketing plan. Hooray! And you’re not even an actual employee of their company, yet you’re bringing in 10% of their gross income! Makes a lot of sense. Toss in a bunch of other random shit like a magazine subscription to the aptly named “Success” and you’ve got yourself some fireplace-burning material in addition to pumping weird chemical powder into your body and all the other benefits that come with it.
I think what irks me the most about the company, other than its obviously questionable business model is that on the first page of a Google search there are literally two to three results asking if the company and its referral marketing business model is a scam. That is a red flag in itself. You should not see that for any legitimate company. You don’t search Target and see “is Target a scam?” as the second result, right? I’m sure if you dug deep enough you’ll see some randoms on the Internet gloating about how they may have scammed Target or how some idiot doesn’t understand how a credit card transaction works.
Not only that, I have a sneaking suspicion that ViSalus themselves are actually putting these “Is it a scam?” articles up on these random web sites. ViSalus is owned by a huge marketing company known as Blyth, and they have probably flooded the internet with articles of this nature to bury any real “evidence” of any legitimate complaints about the company. Nearly all the articles you can find about ViSalus asking if it is a scam talk about the dicey things they may do, but end up praising them and saying how good the products are… topping it all off with a referral link to their own referral page to have you buy their shit. If these articles were actually by individual writers, then they have no knowledge of journalistic ethics (what’s that?) since there is a HUGE conflict of interest apparent and no way to actually tell if they are saying what they’re saying just to get you to buy into it all. This is what makes the company possibly being a scam a self-fulfilling prophecy. They apparently say that it is a scam… only to conclude that it isn’t. But by flooding the internet with these types of articles, it makes you question what they’re really up to.
To conclude, I’m not saying that the products they sell don’t work. I’m not saying either that there isn’t money to be made by falling into their weird referral marketing program. I just know that I want to stay the hell away from this company, and if anyone wants my suggestion, it would be to do the same — and make sure you skip on giving them any of your personal details.
Here’s a few extra reference materials from Yahoo-related web sites (so you know that it isn’t some fucker posing as a legit consumer):
Same article as above with a different name: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2011/08/08/entrepreneurship-nothing-to-lose-and-everything-to-gain/
And it keeps getting worse. Not only do they have your friends selling you this shit, they have five-year-olds explaining it to you like they know everything. BUT HEY! Don’t forget about how you can REFER YOUR FRIENDS! Yes, even a five-year-old knows how multi-level marketing works — its that simple! Here’s one video that pretty much shows how bad this company wants you to get sucked into its ploy.
The comments are nothing short of hilarious. Especially the one that says:
“So many of these responses amaze me. I would be willing to bet most of these people know nothing about these shakes, eat at McDonalds or Burger King every week and talk about eating properly. I have had these shakes as my breakfast for 2 years and would drink them for the rest of my life. They have more quality nutrition packed into each one than I can get from just about any breakfast. I exercise daily, which we encourage, and eat fruits, veggies, fish, daily. No need for such negativity.”
By some guy named “TheViGuy.” Well, that isn’t some viral marketer employed by ViSalus, right? Wrong. It is.
It looks like there’s even more five-year-olds-explaining-multi-level-marketing videos on YouTube, too. Enjoy.