Ex-MLM Members Share Their Negative Experiences And How They Managed To Leave

by Rachel

If you don't know what a "MLM" is, oh hun, you are in for a treat! "MLM" stands for multi-level marketing scheme, and they are basically pyramid schemes: wherein you sign up (and often pay) to become a part of a company, then you sign up your friends and family to help you sell the products--and you get a cut of the commissions.

MLM's often prey on vulnerable women and, statistically, most people who engage with an MLM actually end up losing money--not gaining the dream lifestyle you really want. Social media has helped MLM promotion to no end, with a "work from anywhere" and a "be your own boss" attitude.

Read on for some of the best stories from this Reddit thread: which asked Ex-MLM members for their top stories.

Friends > sales


"My mother did Amway years ago. She told me she quit when she realized she approached every new acquaintance with an aim to make a sale instead of making a friend."

The toxic business practices...


"My recruiter told me she made $400 at the party I was at. I later learned she made 25% of that.
I was told if I could get 2 people under me, I would make $400-$500 per month.
Then I was told I needed 4 people instead of 2.
Then I was $2,000 in debt with nothing to show for it.
Deleted them all and changed my phone number.
I am an owner of 2 businesses, so I thought adding a small side hustle would be an easy transition, but it turned out that as a legitimate business owner, I couldn't bring myself to use the toxic business practices that were expected of me (cold messaging, hounding people for orders, constantly reminding people about deals, etc.).
When I left, I helped the two girls who were under me get out as well, and apologized for roping them into something I thought was a good deal."

This is heartbreaking


"My mom was caught up in the Market America scheme. They manipulated an already vulnerable, mentally unstable woman to sink $20k into her”business”. She took her own life less than a year later. If the company has washed up celebrities as spokespeople and asks you to spend more money than you typically make in your “business”, you may want to reconsider your investment."

Be your own boss!


"Joined a jewelry-based MLM thinking it would be cute to sell jewelry as a side hustle in July after I relocated across the country. I got roped in to the “be your own boss” and “make money while you sleep” mentality, and for a while, it boosted my confidence because I truly thought I was doing a great job running my own business. On paper, I brought in good money (about $100 per live show, which was one hour a week), but I had to ship out the jewelry to them, which ate about 20% of the profit, then the money earned went back into ordering more jewelry.
By September, once the glitz and excitement of it all wore off and I realized nothing was coming back to me, my boyfriend told me the only way to earn money in the business was to add new “business partners.” I told him I wasn’t interested in doing that, but that was part of the scheme. I was so hurt by the people who had roped me in to the business. So I quit that same day. Luckily, I made it out with only like $30 lost, but I still have a ton of jewelry and packing materials taking up space in my house."

You can't make money in a MLM without screwing your pals


"I joined Primerica, I didn't see any red flags at first but small ones started popping up.
Like my team leader telling me to basically live outside my means to make people think I was doing really good and then they'd join and then I'd do really good.
Or finding out all the contests ran around recruitment and not sales numbers.
I left as soon as I realized, even put my name and number on the do not contact list.
Blew a lot of money trying to make that work only to realize I wasn't going to make any money without fucking my friends."

Selling drugs to support an MLM??


"By not getting in, I've seen a friend and his wife get into Amway, and in 3 years, they sold most of what they had, moved back in with the husbands mother, and both begin selling drugs to support the Amway habit.
they still think they are mere months away from being millionaires. its infuriating"

So many people don't know they're being taken advantage of, until it is too late.


"My story may end up being typical but I'll tell it anyway.
~on mobile so formatting, etc, etc~
Anyway, I had just started college right out of high school. Was going to an art school (i know, bad idea) and was looking for a job to do between classes. Classmate of mine mentioned CutCo, so I naively went in for an interview.
Few points to know. I had no previous job experience at all, the "office" was in the next town over, and I didnt have a driver's license at the time, let alone a car. My freaking Mom drove me to the interview. Got the job anyway.
So I get the CutCo bag of stuff to show off and was sent on my way to harass my relatives. I thought that I was only doing example shows to them, practicing for the real deal. My Dad and StepMom even bought some knives (no idea what happened to them though, last I saw they used a different set). Once I run out to people to bother, i start running into problems.
Problem 1 was i didnt sell anything other than that one set. Problem 2 was i hadn't gotten any other people to talk to. The "pyramid" part of my pyramid scheme wasnt working real well. Problem 3 was the straw that broke the camel's back apparently. I couldn't get to the weekly meetings because my mom refused to drive me across town every week (she had a long commute).
In the end I got a call from my "manager" telling me he was basically letting me go and I needed to turn in my swag bag. I told him I couldn't get to him so he had to come to me. Later that day he rolled up, o gave him the bag and that was it. Dont think I ever got my cut from the knives I did sell either.
The real kicker was k didnt even realize it was a MLM until almost a decade later, browsing this very sub."

Up-lines put so much pressure on their downlines, with no respect!


"I've been wanting to tell this story for ages, and never got round to it.
When my husband died (abusive prick so don't feel bad for me) he left me with a fuck tonne of debt (ok you can feel bad for me now lol). Not long after he died I had gone to a Tupperware party for a friend, and made some positive comment about one of the products, and that put me on the presenter's radar. This presenter happened to be one of those top tier ladies that ignored their family to make it big. She was/is the regional person. Whatever the title is.
I was BROKE. Paying off so much stuff while waiting for the life insurance to come through, you'd be surprised at the amount of companies that don't give a shit that you've lost a spouse, they just want their money. So Tupperware was spun as a way to earn extra money. She even gave me the starter kit without having to pay up front.
Problem was, I worked full time, and it was near impossible to book parties. I did my first presentation at my house and booked no parties. I reached out to all my friends and family and booked no parties.
The pressure from this woman was IMMENSE. She'd call me while I was at my day job. She try to convince me to quit my day job to focus on Tupperware. She knew I was broke, but she was adamant that if I quit my job I'd make it big, and before I know it I'd have a Tupperware car just like her.
She never listened to me. Even when I said to her "How do you expect me to pay my bills if I quit my job and start up Tupperware?" She had a response for everything. Nothing was based in logic and every time she called me, which was weekly, I was filled with dread.
I started to ghost her. It took months for me to work up the courage to tell her I didn't want to do it anymore. It took weeks for her to accept me "don't want to do it anymore". She dragged it on, and on, and on. Finally she sent me a curt "Leave your kit at the front door" message which I did.
She tried a couple of years down the track to recruit me again. I ignored her calls.
All I wanted to extra income to help me. I also wanted to add to my friend group. All I got was stress, anxiety, and frustration."



"I know a girl who got sucked into Arbonne. She constantly makes videos on FB and instagram acting like she has this perfect life and last I heard, her boyfriend (that she claims in her husband on social media) had to call her from a gas station to see if they had any cash in the house because both their credit cards were declined and he needed gas to go to a friend’s birthday party. Needless to say, he didn’t go. It literally says “boss babe” on her Instagram."

You have to have a lot of charm...and no shame


"My SIL talked me into selling It Works! I was hesitant, didn't quite need the money, but figured extra income couldn't hurt. Was a "seller" for 6 months. They kept telling me to add all of these women I have in common with people I'm already friends with. And to post about it 3 to 4 times a day on Facebook and Instagram. I literally made an Instagram for it. They said to message at least 30 people a day about. And twice a week there was a group video chat they kept insisting I join. I couldn't join due to me being at my normal job.
All in all. I hated it. I'm awkward and a terrible salesperson. And I made nothing from it. Never made a sale. They kept saying "try and get your mom or aunts to support you". It was a waste of money and all. But, made out with 1 new friend."

You can't game the system


"My wife wanted to do nuskin for about half a year. The thing is, we already have an online sales business with a few thousand regular clients so doing nuskin just added one more product onto our product list which was already pretty extensive. The problem, as I knew it would be, was that you don't make any real commission money unless you get people 'below' you. No biggie, my wife just fake signed up family members and did all her sales in their names so her name could collect the higher commission. But even after going to all that hassle (multiple emails, credit cards, shipping addresses/po boxes, etc) the commission was still only something like 15-17% and our typical profit margin on cosmetic products is more like 40%. Some stuff, like The Body Shop shampoo, we can sell for over 100% markup. She figured that the free vacations and other perks for winning sales competitions would make up for it, and she ended up in position to win a 5 day trip to South Africa. But when we researched what all the trip entailed, it actually seemed like it was going to suck balls, especially when we had a 1 year old at the time, so she just cancelled all her accounts, sold off the remaining product, and that was that.
Bottom line is that if you had the ability to make real money doing online sales for an MLM, you'd most likely make twice as much money for half as much work actually just working for yourself."

MLM's often prey on vulnerable women


""every female I know who is a parent or is leaning into family life pops up in my newsfeeds with their mlm bs"
This isn't surprising -- not because moms are stupid, but because MLMs deliberately prey on the vulnerable.
When you start staying home with your kids, especially after having a career, there are a lot of things (potentially) going on at once: social isolation, loss of income leading to feelings of inadequacy or not doing your part, ambivalence about the worth of unpaid labour in the home, guilt and insecurity about your parenting decisions... the list goes on.
MLMs promise mothers what seems like the perfect solution: being able to earn money and spend time with your children and connect with an instant community of women just like you and feel worthy and important again. Those promises are lies, but sadly, they are very effectively aimed at those who are, because of their vulnerable state, most likely to believe them."

Have you escaped an MLM? Share with us in the comments below!


Q. what's the difference between MLM and armed robbery?
A. you can make money with armed robbery.