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”.

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 is 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.

  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!

  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. 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.

  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. 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. 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. 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”