I received a free copy of the audio version of this book from #Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.
I was introduced to this book though by blogger Lydia Schoch. Why not check out her blog, too? Leave her a nice comment! We bloggers live on comments.
I may have no ability to push away a guy not worth having (and am a champ at getting rid of the ones WORTH having), but dang if I can smell b.s. in business and politics (and no, I don’t mean a Bachelor of Science degree). Happily, my fear, loathing, and research into pyramid schemes came very early–way per-internet. “If it sounds too good to be true…” was taught to me at the dining room table. Mind you, I suck at math, but even I can see when the numbers are not adding up and are rally just mumbo-jumbo.
Disclaimer: I have never seriously considered joining an MLM. I have seen people WHO GOT IN EARLY, seemingly do very, very well with them. I also saw a woman of over 300lb [not shaming–hang on] agree to sell chocolate in a home party setting because her friend did well. She was the target audience–a stay-at-home Mom with too much debt. She bombed. “Optics” are everything in this game. I know a PhD in PSYCHOLOGY who got sucked into Amway (under a different name–another game MLMs play). Yes, it is “true’–if you buy one jug of something, put it on your store’s shelf, then buy it yourself you “can’t keep it on the shelf.” Yes, it is stuff you were “going to buy anyway.”
MLM’s prey on stay-at-home moms and struggling single moms. The upper-middle and upper-class STAHM’s have all the advantages and win every time. The working class or single moms–well, they fail. The failure rate is around 99%. This book tells why. (As if you can’t figure out that all your friends are broke, child care to go to meetings costs a fortune or ruins every family and friend relationship….blah blah blah blah)
I also never seriously thought of joining a sorority. At my Big 10 college the Greek system was HUGE. I had neither the looks, income, personality, or personal interests to make it in the Greek world as anything more than a date to a cruel “pig” party, and I knew it! There’s a ton of similarity between joining an MLM and rushing a sorority on 3rd street or North Jordan.
If anyone has ever told you to “banish your stinkin’ thinkin'” or similar phrases, you’ve met a hardcore MLM-er without knowing it. Very likely it was at your conservative mega-church or in your suburban upper-middle class Moms’ book club or at the neighborhood pool. This book explains why that is.
Emily is an a-typical MLM [multi-level marketing aka pyramid scheme] recruit. A former sorority girl, she is happily married to a high-flying husband and has 5 little kids because they are “bad at birth control.” She had a comfortable life, but is isolated and lonely. She rarely speaks to adults. She rarely has time away from her kids. When someone she barely knew from school contacts her she goes–but it turns out to be a pitch for an MLM that she fictionalizes at “Rejuvenate.” Primed with wine, she agrees. Next comes success, alcoholism, and an income of her wildest dreams–most of which is wasted on an au pair, a p.a., and other expenses. [Note: She was in that 1% who truly succeed, but after the expenses were subtracted she made about $80k–something her profession as a chemist would have easily given her. Nearly every person in an MLM would earn more working a minimum wage job].
As Emily progresses up the exhaled ranks of her MLM, her life shreds and she, in hindsight, explains how and why.
“…a crack where the truth slips in….”
My years of fascination with alleged cults (like Amway which operates under different names today), cultish religion and similar groups, nothing here shocked me. In fact, the entire book was like one long vindication. Unlike the author though, I do not see capitalism as evil. I spent 4 years earning a degree studying authoritarian regimes–sorry, I don’t see capitalism as “evil.” The problem with MLM is the one she spells out–they are in bed with the GOP in Congress. Yes, the GOP. (Oh, don’t worry–the Democrats would be if they’d been offered the $$ first). But allowing the loopholes in business laws that we have is what allows these monsters to exist–not capitalism. Amway has had it’s hand up the GOP backside since it’s beginning (Disclaimer: I know a a few families who got into Amway earlier and as guru Dave Ramsey would say “changed their family tree” for the better, but still..) These companies stay “just” legal.
If you ask a MLM person about court cases they will inevitably answer “General Motors is sued all the time.” Yes, they are–but not for “tying” (requiring purchase of other merchandise to get the new, hot thing) and not for R.I.C.O.–racketeering influenced and corrupt organizations. And, yes, a law firm has a lot of similarity to a pyramid scheme, but, law firms PAY their employees. The big problem with pyramid schemes is you work for free most of the time. Product sales are not the key to success–recruitment is. You get paid for the people you recruit. That’s the problem.
If congress would close the loopholes theses accursed companies would die. Am I holding my breath? Of course not…… [The European Union aka “EU” makes it much harder for these companies and we should learn from them]. Somewhere out there, right now, a single mom desperate for more money is charging a sales kit to her “emergency” credit card and starting into a nightmare of debt and shaming. Just as if she’d dared to rush a sorority. She’d have been better off striking a deal with another single mom and swapping child care while each works a minimum wage second job. Or, today, taking the kids with her as she does a food delivery service like Door Dash.
A quick not on the comparison to the Cu Clux Clan [I am deliberately misspelling hoping to avoid freaks, ok?) It’s true. Check out the new book on the Clan, Fever in the Heartland (link is to my review).
Emily Paulson tells the story so well. This book should be in every public library, every church library (if any church still has a library) read by every suburban book group and, due to the business press putting some positive spin on these organizations occasionally, in every university library. MLMs ruin churches, marriages, extended families, and neighborhoods with their mandatory predatory recruiting policies and their ridiculous minimum buy figures. It’s time they were stopped.
I enjoyed hearing about how Emily became sober and went on to re-credential as a sobriety coach. I have not read her first book, but she has a good way with words and I can see how she would be a good coach [fyi: I took graduate level coaching classes during COVID]. Her new business, which is not an MLM, but a legitimate business that she owns, is called the Sober Mom Squad. They have a reasonable fee structure similar to other such groups and provide scholarships for those who cannot afford the regular fees. They also have groups specific to single moms, parents of special needs kids, etc, to help a person find their way to recovery.
Hey Hun by Emily Lynn Paulson published today.
Here’s a podcast in which Emily is interviewed
Listen to Emily’s TED Talk