Moms, Can We Please Talk About MLMs?


MLMsBefore I get into this, my intent is to be informative and not hurtful or offensive. As moms, we all want what’s best for our families. I’m not placing blame – I just want an open and honest conversation about MLMs and their business structure. I’ve seen way too many people get hurt. So here we go.

If you don’t know, MLM stands for multi-level marketing. And if you’ve been asked to buy something like makeup, essential oils, shampoo, leggings, nail decals, nutritional shakes, tote bags, or a non-toxic cleaning product from a rep, you’ve encountered an MLM.

MLMs started with companies like Tupperware and Mary Kay where friends gathered at each other’s homes to eat, talk, and buy products. Now, with the help of social media, these types of companies have increased exponentially and are impossible to escape.

MLMs can seem harmless enough. On social media, you can just keep scrolling if something doesn’t pertain to you. But the truth is, they hurt friendships, can destroy people financially, prey on vulnerable people, and can be even more dangerous when unqualified people start giving medical advice as it pertains to the products they are selling.

Hurting Friendships

Have you ever received a DM from a high school friend and instantly got excited? Only to realize they were just looking to sell you something? Or maybe you met a mom at the park and thought you hit it off? Only to get invited to shop at an online party? It’s happened to me, and for lack of a better word, it sucks. I’ve also had to mute countless friends on social media when their feeds go from cute pictures of their families to constant sale pitches. I wish it wasn’t the case, but MLMs have made me distance myself from friends. It’s sad. And I don’t know if they even realize it. If they do realize it, it’s probably because they noticed that I stopped liking their posts. I love and want to support them, but I can’t support the business model. Their posts just make my heart sink. Those that have researched MLMs know what’s really behind that script and big smile. 

Financial Losses

According to a report by Jon M. Taylor of the Consumer Awareness Institute posted on the Federal Trade Commission’s website, less than 1 percent of MLM participants will profit.

So, let that sink in. Can you imagine if there was a business down the street where it didn’t pay 99% of its workers? I certainly wouldn’t shop there, and I can’t imagine anyone else would either. But MLMs survive on this notion that if you just work hard enough, you can be successful. It appears like you’re surrounded by successful people, but the reality is that it’s just an image. MLMs teach their consultants to look successful so that people will want to join underneath them, which is called a downline.

Additionally, even if you don’t sell a product for an MLM, you can be hurt financially. How? MLMs require greater markups because there are so many people in the upline to get a “cut”. All MLMs have comparable products; many from actual small businesses you could support instead – and often for a much more affordable price. 

Vulnerable Populations

Single moms, stay-at-home moms, underpaid professionals like teachers, college students, immigrants, and people with chronic illnesses – are just a few examples of the types of people these companies are designed to target. The companies boast a small investment and promise them the world. If you’re someone in one of these positions, and someone you trust is telling you that you can do it, it’s easy to fall for.

Anybody who really knows me would call me a feminist and an advocate for all types of people who often struggle to have a voice. I really hope that we can start to become more aware of how MLMs work so that people most vulnerable to these companies stop being targeted.

Medical Dangers

People who are not dermatologists suggesting skincare products. Essential oil reps suggesting you digest oils or use them with children. These are just a couple of examples of ways you can hurt yourself and others by buying into some of the sales pitches. If you must buy something from an MLM, please do your research. Research the dangers and look to see if they have any outstanding lawsuits. 

A few things to think about if you’re in an MLM or thinking about joining one:

  • Look up the company’s income disclosure statement. Keep in mind the amounts shown don’t even show expenses.
  • There are lots of legitimate side hustles – crafts, tutoring, freelance writing, and virtual assistant just to name a few. You are much more likely to be successful starting your own small business.
  • TikTok has recently banned MLMs and there’s a lot of talk that other platforms might soon follow. If that happens, that will be a huge game-changer for these companies.
  • Your friends love and care about you. Even if they don’t love your MLM.