Dear Friend/MLM Member: Please Don’t Do This

For the purposes of the article I am defining Multi-level Marketing as any business that has a downline. Meaning members earn a percentage of the earnings of those they recruit. 

I currently have family members in MLMs, some friends in MLMs, have been recruited by Primerica and many others, and my wife even sold Stella and Dot for a while. My point in all this is that though I haven’t joined any, I am well acquainted with them.

While I am not going to argue for or against the merits of MLMs, there is one practice that I have witnessed over and over with MLM members that has broken my heart and many others who have been recruited.

If you are in a MLM and fall into this trap, please take this to heart and consider adjusting your recruiting strategy.

Dear Friend/MLM Member: Please Don’t Do This... /dear-friend-mlm/...For the purposes of the article I am defining Multi-level Marketing as any business that has a downline. Meaning members earn a percentage of the earnings of those they recruit. I currently have family members in MLMs, some friends in MLMs, have been recruited by Primerica and many others, and my wife even sold Stella and Dot for a while. My point in all this is that though I haven't joined any, I am well acquainted with them. While I am not going to argue for or against the merits of MLMs, there is one practice that I have witnessed over and over with MLM members that has broken my heart and many others who have been recruited....

Please don’t trade your friendships for your downline

I have had multiple friends who began selling MLM products and because most MLMs encourage you to start by selling to friends and family to build up your network, they came to me with an “opportunity”.


Dear friend,

I love chatting about business and could do so for hours with about anyone, but I don’t want to be mislead.

Please don’t ask me to get together because we haven’t hung out in months, when your true intention is to recruit me.

The problem is that when you begin leveraging your relationship with your family and friends to corner them with your “opportunity”, you quickly erode the relationship.

As Warren Buffett has said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

So it is with relationships.  All the trust that took years or decades to build can quickly diminish when your friends feel manipulated by you.

Please remember that friends should be straight with each other.

We have been through so much together and I am not giving up on you, so please don’t give up on me because I didn’t join your MLM.

To be clear, I don’t at all have a problem chatting with you about the MLM, but just be honest with me and say that’s why you want to get together.

Just don’t tell me that it is because you miss spending time together.

When all’s said and done I don’t care how amazing the product is.

I don’t care how much money there is to be made.

I don’t care how it is revolutionizing the world.

I just want you to be my friend. 

Friendship is a sweet responsibility...

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  1. Chris Guthrie

    I think you shouldn’t shy away from the discussion that MLM’s aren’t real business models for 99%+ of the people that join them.

    Who really gets rich? The top.

    I suggest building a real business

    • Bob

      yea I didn’t want to get into it in this post, because it would have taken away from the point of it – and would have taken about 3000 more words 😉 But maybe for another day…

    • Chris Guthrie

      I had someone at a doctor’s office approach me about an MLM opportunity – while I was waiting to go into my appointment.


      If the business first suggests to round up your friends and family and get them in on the opportunity (or any variation) please save yourself and your friends and family the trouble and do something else.

      There are so many more opportunities to earn money now with the internet and they don’t rely on bothering your friends.

    • Rozan Holmes

      I’ve been told over the years that I’d make a good salesperson. However, I don’t like “pushing” anyone, especially my family/friends to purchase anything. Therefore, I haven’t joined any MLM type situations ever (and I’m now 62 years old and have seen many come and go). To make a little extra money right now, we buy items from some auctions and resell at a yard sale situation, and a little bit on eBay depending on the item. Anyway, God Bless all of you and thanks for this message.

  2. shelly

    So true! I was part of one particular group and looking back it felt more like a cult! And we lost more money than made. The worst, I feel like they use religion and faith as a ploy!

    • Nancy

      Yes! That is exactly how I felt about it…..a cult! Not to mention that it just felt weird and dishonest.

  3. Pallab Gupta

    Umm, it’s Kahlil Gibran, not Khalil Gibran (last pic)

  4. [email protected]

    In the past, it has definitely been hard to be the friend who tells the MLM friend that I am not interested. These situations can definitely strain a friendship, especially – as someone else mentioned, I believe the scheme is a horrible idea and a waste of their time and resources. Also, for some reason, a lot of these things go through the church. So on top of friendship, there are the nuances of genuine fellowship that get affected – “I have to see you every week, and the only time you want to see me outside of church is to sell me something?”. This post is a thoughtful one. I hope it does affect the way people approach their businesses.

    • Bob

      Agreed Sher, I have felt the same way myself…

  5. Kelly {the Centsible Life}

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I am not nor will I ever be interested in sales. It’s just not suitable for me personally.

    I will add that my mom sold Avon when I was a kid (which was like a part-time job for her) and eventually went on to train 1,000s of representatives. Some were in it for the discount for themselves and family and friends who buy the products, but others worked hard to create 5 and 6 figure incomes. She never advocated the strategies I see today. There was hustle, sure. But there wasn’t LET ME SHOVE THIS IN YOUR FACE UNTIL YOU BUY SOMETHING.

    • Elizabeth

      Avon works very differently though–you can earn quite a bit of money solely by selling the products yourself (especially now that you can sell online too). In most MLMs, you earn a small amount per sale, but can’t earn significant money until you have recruited a team.

      Avon also has the advantage of selling products that are mostly every-day-use consumables. (Yes, I am aware they also sell fashion and jewelry items now.) Eventually I will use up the last bit of lipstick and need to replace it, or perhaps I will love it so much I will buy in other colors. I’m going to keep buying makeup, whether I buy it from Avon or some other source. Many MLMs have non-consumables as their main product. Wax warmers, DVDs, etc. don’t get “used up” and replaced like makeup does.

    • Nancy

      Avon has never seemed like a cult in the way that MLMs have always felt to me. Is it an MLM? I’ve never googled to find out how it works, but most women like the cosmetics or at least some of them. I’ve purchased a lot over the years instead of buying them at a regular store so it has never seemed like I was wasting money on frivolous stuff. I have never seen Avon representatives use the same method of selling that I’ve seen with MLMs.

  6. Kelli

    You are so right! This happened to me, and it was so disappointing!

  7. sarahbeth

    I find this post to be so true. At 19 I became an independent consultant for a make-up company, and I learned this lesson the hard way. Things were getting weird with me and my friends when more the half the time I wanted to see them was to sell them something. Fortunately, I learned the lesson very quickly. (I’m not a very good sales person, so I didn’t stick with it anyway). I love the company and the make-up, and I think most of the successful women there were very honest about their intentions with selling to people. It just wasn’t something for me.

  8. Matthew Pryor

    I couldn’t agree more AND I work with a network marketing/MLM company. There are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. I said from the beginning that I would not start looking at my friends as dollar signs… And I haven’t.

    The problem is that SO many people run their business the wrong way and it leaves a terrible taste in the mouth of the family/friends. It doesn’t have to be that way but more often than not it is and it sours the reputation of the industry.

    But there are many good people out there doing it the right way, with honesty, integrity, and patience. And those who commit to running their business like that for the long haul will have success.

    If you ever decide to run part II of this article like you mentioned above in the comments, please talk to me first. Would love to share a different perceptive.

    Thanks Bob and as always, keep up the great work!

    • Bob

      Sounds good Matthew – will keep that in mind!

  9. Sandra at Thistle Cove Farm

    AMEN! and please don’t ask me because if I were interested, I would have approached you. Warren buffet is wrong…it doesn’t take five minutes; a thirty second comment can ruin a reputation or friendship.

  10. Marie @ My Personal Finance Journey

    I have a friend, but we don’t really talk to each other, but one day she just texted me and asked me if we could hang out, so I argued to meet her. After a few minutes of chit chat she offered me if I want to join their company. So now I knew it, that’s her main agenda, why she wanted to hang out with me.

  11. Madeline

    Wow, everything you said, I felt. I’ve had this experience with a couple of friends. I told them I’m happy to listen but that I am NOT a salesperson nor do I even have a desire to be one! But they insisted on talking to me and I let them but politely told them I didn’t think it was for me. But there is now a strain on those friendships. Too bad this is the way it goes. I am against MLM’s as I think they are only about the people at the top, it seems a selfish way to earn money (off your friends and family?????). No thanks. Thanks for the attention to this subject.

  12. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    This is why I got out of MLM. Even if it’s a good product or business, you’re friends start thinking of you as “the one involved in that MLM”. I’d rather have the friendship.

  13. Elliot

    I’m against MLMs. They all have similar features and none of them are based on a quality product. They usually focus on markets where they can heavily mark up a product with lax regulation. Telecom and vitamin/supplements are 2 that come to mind. The business model is based on recruiting and self consumption. Good businesses should be focused on a quality product and value proposition. MLMs are focused on hype and misleading promises. I don’t get mad when friends try to recruit me. I feel bad for them knowing it will 99.9% of the time end in horrible failure that affects them and their relationships. My biggest peeve is their heavy handed recruiting aimed at university students. Lastly I have never seen anyone stay in the industry within the same company or same industry for over 10 years. That should be a tip off that eventually things run dry.

  14. Brian

    Great article. I have never joined an MLM group. When I have been presented with the MLM “opportunity” from a friend or family member I usually feel 3 feelings: 1. stupidity (How could not want to sell this great product and make more money for your family) 2. rejection (If you are not with us, than we are moving onto someone that will join us) 3. Guilt (How could you not want to support and use such a wonderful, healthy product from a faith-moral company and have so much extra time to spend with your family).

    Can someone answer me this question, if MLM products are so great, why don’t companies put these products on any shelf in any store to sell to all people?

  15. Vincent Marshall

    Could not have said it any better than most of the posts here. I started with MLM in Amway back in 1976, followed by Oxyplan, Alovera, A.L. Williams (now PrimeAmerica), Herbal Life, Enhance, Melelluca, iDiscover, Prepaid Legal, Platinum Gold, you name it because I wanted to help a ‘friend’. Where are those friendship you may ask? Well most have gone away like the MLM products. The companies are responsible for the bad vibes because they should provide training that exclude ATTACKING your friends as opposed to telling the truth about the business and letting the friends decide without pressure or feeling guilty. Amen Amen Amen!

  16. CoachHMaras

    My upline does there best to minimize that in your face garble and tries to provide training through a few different networking/business building trainings available to those willing to try as well as a learning process for 21 days where new members can become familiar with my team’s process. I appreciate it and never seem to see product vomit posts from the other people I’ve met through this process.

    I’m still at the bottom, but I like the discount and the model is helping me towards my personal goals that attracted me to the products in the first place. I’m too shy for all the inviting I’d need to do to make my luck change. A few of my friends have bought after my recommendations… but not through me 🙁 But I’m happy they’re trying it out and hopefully the products work as well for them as they have for me but I appreciate the support that I’ve gotten working with my upline/other members to reach my goals.

    It’s a business model that can be legitimate if someone’s actually excited about the products and if you protect the relationships around you. MLM People need to actually be interested in their potential clients/friend’s goals and actually need to feel sincere.

    • Evelyn

      I totally agree with u Coach, i am in an MLM and am enjoying it, it has brought a lot of benefits and personal development to me, i can earn in over 150 countries of the world, i am achieving my goals, and am happy.
      When MLM Iis done with integrity, its wonderful

  17. becca

    Amen! I also feel like there is another level or side to the friendships of mlm people, basically you can’t be friends with them if you aren’t in the business. I’m experiencing this right now with some friends as everything they do (openly admitted) is about the business. honestly I feel kinda sad for people like this that cut themselves off from the same world they that have convinced themselves they “helping”

  18. Jennie

    Yes!! THANK YOU for writing this. It bothers me so much how common this is and I and others feel used when an acquaintance or friend contacts you after a long time just to get you to try this new product.

  19. JTC

    I was recruited for one of the best known MLM schemes by my wife’s co-worker and her husband. They really gave me the pitch. I asked some probing questions. My wife was sick upstairs, but upon hearing everything, thought I was going for it. After every possible positive angle had been covered, I decided not to sign up. They were actually made that they had went through a complete presentation and I didn’t bite. That showed me a lot of where this kind of MLM leads: Shallow friendships, pressure, and anger if you don’t sign up.

  20. Cara

    I am sad when I get messaged by friends to buy something or “try a new product”, I myself have been with a MLM company for several years now and when I have friends or family want to order something I tell them the name of a different rep with the company. I would rather sell to complete strangers at a trade show or craft show than sell to my friends, it just makes it weird.

    • toolbelt

      A booth at a trade show typically rents out for more money than 60% of MLM reps earn in a year. And typically, any such shows must be pre-approved by the MLM corporate headquarters. Small sales/bigger expenses, huge sales/huge expenses.

  21. Paula

    I would add a major aggravation for me is when my husband and I attended a church that was FILLED with various MLM reps. I would get invited to a women’s meeting at someone’s house to arrive and discover it was a sales presentation for Tupperware, Mary Kay, etc. Was I ever invited to just a “get together” for a meal or game night? No.

    My husband and I were even hit up for MLM opportunities at a home Bible study. When the person wouldn’t take “no thank you” for an answer, we quit coming to that study.

    One funny story. Someone held a co-ed Tupperware party at their house. It was very entertaining to watch a man demonstrate the patented “burp” when the lid was sealed on a bowl. The host was appalled. The rest of us were highly entertained with his own sound effects.

  22. Miriam Pupuke

    Well this sounds very negative. I am in the networking business and yes it isn’t for everyone.
    Actually the networking business is a 21st century business. I dont want a 9-5 job or a “proper” business that costs thousands of dollars to start up and to take out loans or borrow money to start your business. I’m sure you know yourself christianpf that an internet business is the way to go these days. Why would you want a “JOB” or a “Shop front business” when you can have an internet business with way less startup costs and overheads.

    Obviously you didn’t “see” the opportunity that has been given to you. Thats ok. As I said its not for everyone. If you dont like it thats ok. If you havent seen you friends for a long time and they come at you from out of the blue – then maybe your not a close friend. Close friends are through thick and thin with each other. If this happens to close friends then maybe they werent as close as they thought.

    • toolbelt

      Actually, MLM is 70’s business. What Amazon is doing to retail, the internet is doing to MLM. Plus the internet is exposing MLM for what it really is, a product-based Ponzi scheme.

  23. Houstin Hutton

    I am glad to see that so many people have responded to this subject. My experience, I was a distributor of a well known line for several years. I recruited one distributor during that time. I sold quite a good bit of product before I made a major job change. I was really sold on the high quality of the products without the hype and hammer. Afterwards I tried to find a distributor who would sell to me for my own consumption. I could not get past the ‘Opportunity’ with several as all I wanted to purchase products. Lots of good experiances from this line but eventually dropped even looking for a ‘form the shoulder distributor’. The integrity of the founders was there and the quality of the products was here but the honesty of the distributors really was lacking.

  24. Shelly

    I agree with Matthew Pryor and a few others here I’ve been with a few MLM’s but the one I’m with now is he best for me. Personal development is more key than the money, even though everyone is in to make money. As far as only the people at the top make money…well that would depend on the plan. Typically FTC rules are that you cannot tell people exactly what they “will” make but you can tell them what they have the ability to make. When I’ve spoken to serval people who’ve been very successful in our company I’ve learned several Independent representatives that have overwhelmingly out earned the people that recruited them. So it depends on the plan and how the plan is executed. I love the company I’m with and wouldn’t go anywhere else. I’ve had friends that have come and gone and we’re still friends. They know I love the company and we learned how to keep things in proper order (friends first). Unfortunately companies have given the industry a horrible name and reputation but there are people who do it right and with integrity. As far as in the church, I don’t use my church family for that, but if someone ask me what I do as an business rep, then I show the plan and explain what I do and how it works. I’ve never had any negative feedback or ill feelings from them but again, it’s how I’m taught from those that teach and coach me. The founders of out company do not car if you are on the bottom getting started or at the top percent making big dollars. If you do anything that hinders the progression of the company or the consumer, they WILL terminate your position with the company. I’ve seen it happen…and people were shocked but our founders came from other MLMs where people got hurt and mistreated and they just won’t stand for that kind of behavior. So Bob, thank you for this article. There are good ones out there but it’s not the company, it’s the heart of the people in them. We cannot change the heart of a person.

    • Shelly

      Sorry for the typos…blame the tablet lol

    • toolbelt

      Of course you can out earn the person that recruited you. With a 60%+ churn rate in the MLM industry, its almost assured that your recruiter will leave and you will replace them, just like your recruits will replace you.

      And the personal development angle is merely a psychological tactic that MLM’s use to distract reps from realizing that the money they are spending on training/marketing materials, seminars, conferences and even annual conventions is effectively making them the client.

  25. Kim G

    I am a distributor for a company like this, but guess what, I have no customers! Why? Because I flat out refuse to sell to my friends and family! Now, if they are interested and want to approach me, that is different and I will talk to them. I truly believe in my product, but I only buy it for me. I see all these people in my company getting rich, but I just cannot hit up my Facebook friends like they suggest (especially the ones I haven’t spoke to in years). I have way too much respect for them. So, instead, I stay happy and poor and enjoy my products myself! 🙂

  26. Ron Ryan

    About 25 years ago I decided to get out of the MLM business. I came up with this list of five things which would be necessary if I ever got back into a business similar to those: 1) It must be a consumable product I would buy and use even if there was no business “opportunity.” Products competitively priced. 2) The company must have been in business for at least five years–and be growing. Ground floor opportunities rarely get off the ground. 3) The company must manufacturer it’s products. If you don’t own it, you don’t control it. 4). No risk for anyone wanting to become a customer or a “business builder.” No large investments. No large orders required or inventories to stock. Money back on products I don’t like. 5) Management must be of the highest integrity.

    After being burned by several MLM companies that failed for the reasons above, I have stuck to this list. I have been a customer of a direct sales company (not MLM) for 17 years, simply using the products. Others are doing well and making money enrolling customers. I’m simply a customer. However, I’m not afraid to recommend the products I use.

    Here is a fun video that kind of tells a story with which many can identify.

  27. James

    The MLM business model is very straight forward however it is not about the product as it is about the people. If your excited about your new venture then go tell the world but dont pesture, bug or jam it down friends and families throats. True friends will be there thru thick and thin however no one likes a pest. Contacting friends and family should be a one minute contact and if they say no to both the products and opportunity then end the conversation and talk about something else. No getting mad. You are looking for people that are looking for a change. If your vehicle is what they want they will join you. If not, so what. Just like traditional businesses customers come and go. Your just have to enjoy the ride, take the no’s and move on. Life is too short.

  28. Jill Washington

    Wow, I’m disappointed in the post. While I can definitely appreciate the message (and agree with it in terms of requesting that people be straight forward with their intentions), the mear title leads to negative connotations and the “negative groupies” that go with it. It is true that people have had negative experiences with MLMs but many have had negative experiences with brick and mortar businesses, too, No one seems to harp on that. On the flip side, there are people who have had wonderful experiences with MLMs but that is not always shared, Personally, I have made wonderful friends as a result of MLMs and have not lost any friends because I have approached them. They thank me, say no and I move on, Period.

    The bottom line is a MLM is a different distribution channel for a product or service that allows people to make some money as a result of it. Some have made a lot of money and some have made little to none, No one but the owner and workers make money in the brick and mortar businesses, which, again, are just different distribution channels for the product. In all cases, consumers have the right to say yes or no when it comes to purchasing the product or services,

    My hope is that the readers will understand this and not disparage an entire industry because of the actions of a few. I am sure that many still go to restaurants even if they have had a bad experience with one or two of them.

    • toolbelt

      The big difference is those having negative experiences in traditional businesses STILL earned an income, whereas those failing in MLM typically lose money. Furthermore, that lost money goes up the pipe to a few big uplines and corporate.

  29. Pokus

    I believe if you are in an MLM where you love the product yourself, it radiates and yes, you do have to introduce the product to friends and family. Just don’t shove it down their throats or catch an attitude if they don’t care for your product. My business is slacking because I never share the opportunity with anyone so I don’t recruit except for 1 person that actually volunteered to be my recruit. Let’s not bash the idea completely because it does help a lot of people build confidence and even build friendships with people they may not have met otherwise.

    • toolbelt

      People don’t join MLM to build confidence and friendships, They join it for the business opportunity. Furthermore, its sold as a business opportunity. Can you provide the link to even one You-Tube where an MLM’er says “you probably won’t earn any money, in fact you’ll probably lose money, but its a great way to make friends”??

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