The Covid era has supercharged MLMs. As people find themselves with more free time, a need for income, and a desperate desire for belonging, multi-level marketing companies have provided the guise of opportunity. The barely-legal business model, which continues due to intense lobbying, hinges on its sellers recruiting people who will recruit people who will recruit people.
But as more and more sellers enter the market, it gets harder to find customers and recruits. Supply and demand! So MLM recruiters, who have long held a reputation for commodifying friendships and hitting up loose acquaintances, get even more creative. An article in Input Magazine describes the author's experience getting recruited for Amway on Bumble. After chatting with a person whom the author thought was a new friend, "mentorship opportunities" were mentioned.
I should've listened to the alarm bell ringing in my head. But, lured by the promise of friendship and professional development, I didn't. And after a few texts, another phone call, and a video chat where we talked vaguely about our life goals, I found myself on Zoom with Beth. I was equal parts curious, skeptical, and annoyed, still waiting to learn details about the enigmatic "e-commerce" business that had supposedly made her mentors their fortune.
After a long spiel involving a stick figure salesperson named Steve who she drew on a whiteboard, she finally revealed the nature of the enterprise: It was multi-level marketing giant Amway. And her "millionaire" mentors? Part of the company's training arm, World Wide Group.
The author goes on to discuss the recent success of MLMs.
These companies have flourished during the pandemic, recording $40.1 billion in sales in 2020, a roughly 14 percent increase over 2019, according to the Direct Selling Association. Researchers theorize the health crisis created near-perfect conditions for MLMs to proliferate, with many people unemployed, lacking child care that would allow them to work outside the home, or searching for remote work. The DSA reports that roughly three-quarters of sellers are women.
The pandemic has also pushed us further onto social media, where MLMs have thrived on platforms like TikTok despite efforts to ban them there. Recruiters pop up everywhere from LinkedIn to Tinder. Blevins isn't surprised they're on Bumble BFF, especially since users share details in their profiles that expose vulnerabilities, like a recent move or job change.Input Magazine