Thursday, February 02, 2006

 

Lowlife (part two)


Everyone and his mother’s dog who has had anything to do with the Amway company seems to have posted a horror story about it online, so I might as well throw in my ha’p’orth.

I was sucked into the grinning maw of this monstrous pyramid scheme in 1998, and although I escaped after about four months, I’m still bitter and twisted about it nearly eight years on. For those lucky enough never to have heard of Amway, it’s a US-based Multi-Level Marketing racket in which people on the lowest rung of the ladder, the distributors, sell shitty things like dishrags, bog cleaner and panty-liners at outrageous prices, then give a cut of the profits to their so-called ‘upline’, the person who recruited them in the first place, who then gives a cut to his or her upline and so on. The idea is that by recruiting successive layers of people downline from you, you end up a multi-billionaire one day and don’t have to work any more once the flow of royalties reaches a critical level. Thousands of these schemes exist, apparently, but Amway is the biggest and the best at what it does, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.

An old friend of mine, someone with his head screwed on pretty tightly, approached me to ask if I’d be interested in this one day in the spring of 1998. He’d been recruited himself a few months earlier. It sounded good, and I was looking for a get-rich-quick idea at the time. I read some of the literature he lent me as well as listening to a few cassette tapes. I heard and read stories of people retiring in their early thirties with enough wealth to pay for, and float, a cruise ship. I listened to the impassioned bellowings of evangelical converts to the cause, who convinced me that this was the best thing that had ever happened in my life. I signed up.

It started with the cassettes. You’re expected to buy at least two of the fucking things a week. They’re cheap individually, but the cost mounts up. Each one of them consists of two ranting pep talks by someone high up in the company, telling you or his live audience that you can do anything, anything in the world, if you set your mind to it. They started getting a bit samey after the first few, and vaguely I wondered why I was having to fork over for two new ones each week; like a stupid fucker, I didn’t realise that the profits were going to the head honchos and keeping them in that position.

Then there were the meetings. I went to a couple of these a month, driving sixty miles or more after a hard day at work to listen to some local hero who’d started to make good in the company explaining why the scheme was infallible. The first time I got crapped on because I was wearing a grey suit and not a dark one. I was dimly aware that this was a bit fucking weird, but the enthusiasm at these gatherings was infectious.

I ordered some of the products which I was then supposed to sell. They seemed okay, if a little unnecessary, especially the breath freshener and multivitamins. I never got up the bottle actually to try and sell any of this shit, and I’m glad I didn’t. I never used any of it either. Recruiting new people was also something I got nowhere with. I got as far as phoning two acquaintances and telling them about a ‘wonderful business opportunity’; they laughed and asked if I was taking the piss, and I was too embarrassed to go on.

I was then 28, and all the people I met from the company insisted that I absolutely was going to retire at 30, I just had to be patient. The penny dropped when I went with the friend who had recruited me and his wife to a ‘rally’, as they’re called, in Doncaster, a festering shithole of a town if ever there was one. The jamboree featured clapped out sixties singers The New Searchers for entertainment, and there must have been a couple of thousand eager young and not-so-young distributors there. On the stage, a procession of bigwigs from the US strutted, roared, wept and spat. One of the cunts, who had diamond studs in his suit jacket, for fuck’s sake, kept referring to himself in the third person: “And now the mortgage is paid off twenty years early because FRANK HAD A DREAM!!!” A second cunt was up there with his wife, who was quite fanciable if a little Stepfordesque, and he had mirror shades on all the time. Later I saw him up close and his eyes were little and beady like a snake’s.

What swung it for my friend and me was the cars in the parking lot. With all this wealth, all this success, the car park should have been full of limousines, Jaguars, top-end BMWs and Mercs, sports cars. Instead there were clapped out little VWs and Peugeots. At the end of one of the rants, my friend and I looked at each other, said “fuck this for a game of soldiers”, and left, never to look back. I was lucky in that I ended up only about £200 out of pocket, but he lost out on a few grand, and there are tales on the internet of people bankrupting themselves.

The freakiest thing about the whole scam is the way the company tries to impose uniformity on the lower castes. There’s the business with the suits, as I mentioned earlier. Then, you’re strongly discouraged from having facial hair, although one of the top men in the company has a luxuriant beard, which he presumably flaunts to show that he’s above the rules, a veritable Godhead. The top people are almost invariably devout Christians and Republicans, and the serfs are expected to follow suit. I’ve read transcripts on the Web of speeches given at some rallies in which senior Amway people rail against abortion and homosexuality. I think this need to impose conformity stems from the company’s awareness that most of the people they recruit are gullible dupes and need to be shielded from malign influences that could plant the seed of doubt in their minds.

I’m not pissed off with my friend because he was, like me, a dupe, and we remain good friends. I am pissed off with myself for being such a fucking sucker. Most of all, I’m pissed off with the utter cunts who run Scamway and tease people with the dream of a better life, when they know, they fucking know, that it’s all a scam designed to enrich a handful of the top brass. I’m sounding like a Commie here, which I’m not, but these sort of people, with their sliminess, their shiftiness, their bigoted and hypocritical religious bullshit, give decent business a bad name. Fuck Amway and all who work for it who know exactly what it’s about. Hanging’s too good for ’em.

Comments:
In the US, running a pyramid scheme is actually illegal. But, like Scientology, once something has enough money it can make itself an exception to the rule.
AmWay is most definitely a ponzie scheme, and I'm completely embarassed that Michigan is such a prominant location for the frickers.
 
I like it when people try to sell me Amway, or worse yet, try to get me to sign up.

I usually laugh them out of the house. THen, if I have some time on my hands, I follow them with my truck, laughing at them over the PA system and encouraging pedestrians to join in the mockery.

I haven't had an Amway/Jehovah's Witness/Fuller brush/Kirby Vacuum/Baptist come to my door in three years now.

Apparently word gets around.
 
For awhile I was engaging in "Value Added Marketeer Marketing"
I captured the d2d and pressed them into work in my subsurface textile mine.
(we have shafts running for miles in all directions, digging up swatches of fabric and, occasionally, whole tube socks.)
 
These amway types are artichoke, lower caste people looking for a viewing.

My friend's brother tried it on me years ago. I don't know why he was involved because he was fucking rolling in it, anyway i told him to fuck off, but he left some gear which was quite good, especially the anti-mist stuff for windows and mirrors. He came back for it and i was angry so I threatened him. He left the stuff and he has avoided me for 12 years now. Fuck the little shit. Everyone seems to have an Amway story.
 
SafeT: what's a 'ponzie' scheme? By the way, your second comment and some you've made on other blogs today makes me worried that you're losing your mind. Time for a tune-up, I fear.

Dr E.: I don't mind the Jumping Jehovahs so much, as they're relatively easy to put off. Amway people are like Rottweilers clinging to your scrotum.

Doc Maroon: yes, I've heard some of Amway's car stuff isn't bad, but I never got round to trying it.


Now that you're all here, can I interest you gentlemen in a fantastic business opportunity?
 
I spelled it wrong.
It's actually Ponzi scheme.
Wiki has an article on it.
Basically, a pyramid scheme.
 
Actually, Wiki says Ponzi schemes aren't exactly pyramid schemes. So I speka the ignorance!

As for losing my brain meats, I really haven't much to begin with. I traverse from self-parody to absurdist non-sequiter and back again.
Its a cycle. The circle of life.
 
Thanks for the edification, SafeTinspector. Afer reading that, I think Amway looks more like a Ponzi than a pyramid racket.

Interesting, your reference to your brain meats. Do I take it that you've human tissue inside that mechanical shell of yours? That would make you a cyborg rather than a robot. Which reminds me: something that always annoyed me about the Star Wars films, even the good ones as opposed to the most recent atrocities, was that robots were always called 'droids'. Androids are robots designed specifically to resemble humans, something that C3PO and R2D2 decidedly didn't.
 
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