not enough cats have testimonies
Reading Time: 14 minutes (Joël de Vriend.)
Reading Time: 14 minutes

Hi and welcome back! Recently, I found yet another similarity between multi-level marketing schemes (MLMs) and toxic Christianity. Yes, the hunbots have discovered trendy testimonies claiming onetime affiliation with their tribe’s dread enemies before seeing the light! Here, a high-ranking hun offers her totally-used-to-be-an-antiMLMer-y’all testimony. And she does it for the same exact reasons that trendy Christians claim to have been totally atheists before their conversions, and with the same exact goals as well. So today, let’s explore the similarities between these two toxic groups and the testimonies they deploy as sales pitches.

not enough cats have testimonies
(Joël de Vriend.) Which is easier to find?

(A hunbot is an MLM seller who avidly seeks to ensnare others into her downline. The downline is everyone signed up under the hun, plus everyone they sign up under themselves, and so on down the pyramid. The upline, meanwhile, is whoever signed up that hun, plus whoever signed that upline up, and so on up the pyramid. MLMs overwhelmingly target women, but male bro-huns exist aplenty — usually in financial MLMs, Amway, Herbalife, or the like.)

“I’m Gonna Get Real Real With You Guys.”

I found this gem through Savannah Marie, who does a lot of adorable anti-MLM videos. Here’s the one in question:

YouTube video

“This Anti-MLMer Turned Into a Hunbot… HOW AND WHY? (From Anti-MLM to Bonbabe).” Uploaded April 24, 2020. The main part we care about begins around 3:50.

I appreciate that Savannah Marie tried to hide the hun’s identity. I looked online quite a bit, but couldn’t figure out exactly who this hunbot is. That’s not a bad thing. We’ll just call her Hunny for now.

In the video, Hunny, a young woman with long blonde hair and a LOT of makeup on, announces to her viewers that she’s “gonna get real real with you guys.” She’s going to share her real live testimony! OMG! Gettin’ REAL REAL up in here!

You know, this already sounds like those super-trendy I-totally-used-to-be-an-atheist-y’all testimonies we hear so often out of toxic Christians nowadays.

Let’s see how closely her testimony matches! I mean, for sure she’ll be the exception to that trope, right? She even tells us flat-out that a year and a half ago, before she began her fakey-fake sMaLL BuSiNeSs, she’d have been the very last person “on this planet” who’d ever do something like that. And we have to believe her, because she’s being real real with us guys. So let’s just see.

Testimonies: Overview.

We’re talking about testimonies in the Christian sense here, not in the Amazon review sense. In the Christian sense, a testimony involves three parts:

  1. A pre-conversion past that will sadden, horrify, or titillate tribemates. Hopefully, it accomplishes all three. Oh, this person’s life was just awful before conversion! They were soooo far gone! Maybe they were rich and high-rollin’ or dejected and lonely, but whatever the case, they were completely the opposite of the tribal ideal.
  2. OMG CONVERSION MOMENT! The convert sees the light! Hooray Team Jesus! Often, this stage involves a miracle claim.
  3. Life after deconversionAfter conversion, the tale-bearer does a 180. Life now looks completely opposite from the first stage. Now, they fit completely into the tribe’s ideal for members.

Christians carefully craft, then deploy testimonies as sales pitches. Their leaders coach them in creating perfect testimonies and constantly stress testimonies’ effectiveness. Even lifelong Christians get into the act.

However: if a product is actually good, then nobody needs to know how one of its salespeople decided to begin selling it. Testimonies like these exist because the product being shilled isn’t good. It doesn’t do what its salespeople claim. If it did, they’d just offer that evidence to their marks. But since it doesn’t, they need to go hard on emotional manipulation and anecdotes-as-evidence.

Compare and contrast with ex-Christians’ ex-timonies, which are not used to sell. Sharing our stories can be an important way to bond and find community. They’re powerful that way. But when you sense a testimony is being used to sell you an idea, then tread carefully.

Ask yourself why the salesperson has gone there instead of offering evidence for their claims about their product.

Preview: She Neeeeeeeeeds Us to Know Her Testimony!

Hunny tells us her before story. I apologize in advance for how utterly incoherent she is.

I’m gonna get real real with you guys, cuz I think it’s just very important to share where I used to come from, and just how I came from that person that I was and, you know, found Arbonne, which trust me guys? That was the last thing that I ever thought I would be doing.

A year and a half ago, I started my Arbonne business and when I tell you that I was the last person on this planet to do Arbonne, I so so mean it. And that’s not just Arbonne. That’s network marketing, period. I, for some reason, one. These are all the thoughts that I had.

I love that she begins (at 4:40 into the video) by describing her pre-MLM mindset as being that way “for some reason.” She can’t explain why she felt that way. She just did!

She’s quite right about MLMs being predatory scams with predatory recruiters. However, more goes into anti-MLM than that.

Hunny’s more describing an average mark who doesn’t know much about MLMs.

In fact, that’s the exact type of person she needs for her downline. As we see in Christian testimonies, she seeks to build rapport and credibility with people who will identify with her own self-description.

Part I: Hunny’s Totally Awful Misconceptions About MLMs.

Hunny continues:

I thought any network marketing company is a scam. I thought, you know, there’s no possible way anyone can earn money in doing network marketing, I literally thought like it was a scam. Like people are just coming out to just hunt you for your money. And they don’t care about you. Like that’s to a T, that’s what I thought. [. . .]

You’re probably rolling your eyes at this video and you’re like oh yeah okay you whatever. No, I’m serious. I had those feelings, so I know what you’re going through and I know what you feel. Um. But also, y’all, I thought I was too good for it! [ok-sure-wtf.jpg]

So far, Hunny perfectly fits the Christian trope. (See endnotes for oodles of examples of it.) None of our totally-used-to-be-atheists seem able, either, to pin down exactly what atheism involves.

However, someone identifying as being anti-MLM will know exactly why MLMs qualify as predatory scams. We get our information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), various lawsuits and settlements, MLM sites themselves, and whistleblower sites like Pink Truth and Married to an Ambot.

Similarly, Hunny misunderstands the anti-MLM movement. Apparently, she had a general idea of its harmfulness. However, she lacked any real understanding of the business model.

And if people don’t educate themselves on harmful systems, they stand at serious risk of falling prey to the hucksters of those systems just like Hunny did — and just like she hopes her marks will.

Rejecting Scammers: So CRINGY, Y’all, Like Ugh!

Having established her creds, Hunny now describes her popular social-media presence on Instagram. She apparently boasts a lot of followers. Anybody even close to that kind of popularity on social media knows that huns zero in on them. After all, popularity on social media remains one of the few ways people can strike gold in MLMs (see endnotes for more). Indeed, Hunny tells of almost-constant recruitment attempts:

I just the thoughts that I had back then. But I was approached often in my DMs, you know, whatever, about different opportunities, whether it was Arbonne, or Monat, or ItWorks, or whatever. And I always ignored [breathy whisper] every single message. Always. I would not even open it.

Sometimes, I would, like, open it and be like, I’m not joining your pyramid scheme, like [clapping hands together] that was who I was! You guys. And it’s like, it’s cringy, and I can’t believe, like I’m sorry, like I, ugh! It’s so terrible! But that’s who I used to be. I used to be, like, super close-minded, to open to other opportunities.

MLMs are scams. Hunbots are predatory. But like Christians do in their testimonies, she needs to make rejecting MLMs sound “close-minded” and “cringy.”

Kirk Cameron does the exact same thing in his totally-used-to-be-an-atheist testimony. It’s a sort of joke: HAW HAW, lookit how totally wrong he was! Lookit how close-minded he was! HAW HAW! And Hunny later tells us that she even made fun of MLMs and huns! HAW HAW!

Being open-minded, by contrast, means allowing a huckster to take up your time, as well as believing whatever that huckster says without question.

Hunny’s Friends Would Never SCAM Her! No Way!

I’m sick of transcribing this brain-dead nitwit’s verbal diarrhea, so allow me to summarize:

Hunny totally wanted to make tons of money and “live the life.” In succession, she considered creating a monetized blog or YouTube channel, or maybe figuring out a way to capitalize on what sounds like a very popular social-media page. But nothing seemed to be panning out. Worse, she knew that the degree she pursued in nursing “could only provide so much” and wouldn’t provide the kind of boho life she wanted to lead.

However, every time a hun approached her to sign her up as downline, she would [obnoxious zipper snap gesture] say “goodbye, peace!” HAW HAW! [Summary and paraphrase by CC.]

Then, two of Hunny’s friends signed up for Arbonne and did well at it. That caught Hunny’s attention. Of course, they “shared their heart” with Hunny “multiple times,” but she “shot them down.”

That’s pure Christianese, by the way. Very roughly, “to share one’s heart” means to evangelize in this context. (In others, it means to share one’s feelings in a Jesus-flavored way or even to fall in love with someone.) You’d think that Christians would consider it obscene to see huns abusing this terminology in their testimonies, but you’d be wrong.

As Savannah Marie puts it, using this terminology sugar-coats what these huns were actually doing. They were flat-out trying to recruit their friend with the big social-media page.

And it worked.

Eventually, Hunny decided to purchase some Arbonne products from one of her friends.

Why This Purchase Was Important.

A small initial buy-in represents a huge victory for a scammer.

I’ve lost count of how many evangelism-minded Christians have invited me to pray just to see what happens. A few younger ones have even hilariously tried to double-death-dog-dare me to do it, like OMG it’s like that mirror game, “Bloody Mary,” that kids play on Halloween to scare themselves.

An atheist will refuse to perform for any Christian’s amusement. An ex-Christian will likely refuse even more quickly. In my own case, I prayed with a completely sincere heart for 24 years and got nowhere. If some King Them Christian thinks I need to think hard at the ceiling even one moment more, I’ve got a raised middle finger they can swivel on till they get the point.

Similarly, I don’t know about other anti-MLMers, but personally, I refuse to purchase any MLM’s products. I refuse to help them scam anybody.

But here, Hunny relates (around 14:30) that after she bought the products, an “immediate thought” came into her mind: “Why not you too?” I’m sure it did!

If someone does as ordered, that tells a scammer that this person is a good potential recruit for their scam. This person has demonstrated authoritarian-follower tendencies. A scammer will happily blow through hundreds of rejections to find that one person.

Part Two: The Conversion Itself.

So Hunny sent her recruiter a message. In it, she said had a lot of questions that she wanted answered, but she was interested.

Y’all, Biff acted exactly like this right before his conversion!

In testimonies, recruits always want to make it sound like they weren’t a foregone conclusion. Hunny wants us to believe that she still might have refused, like her conversion was still an if. She tells us:

I had to check my boxes or I was not going to do it, because I was not going to be involved with money off of people, I wasn’t going to be involved of having to pay monthly minimums each month. There was a lot of things that was either gonna make or break it. Arbonne checked all my boxes! And the minute it did terrified me absolutely!

However, it would have been extremely surprising for Hunny to pull out at that point.

I’m thinking back to my days as a Christian right now. And I seriously can’t remember a single prospect of mine or anybody else’s who got as far as Hunny without actually diving in. Very few prospects ever got even that far; most washed out after an initial show of humoring-us compliance, and almost nobody even got to that first show of compliance.

In Pentecostalism, by this time in the testimonies it was just a matter of getting the new recruit to say it out loud, then dunking them in the name of Jesus alone (not that foul Trinitarian sorcery). In MLM terms, Hunny’s recruiter was already readying the social-media announcement of Hunny’s signup.

Part Three: Taking the Plunge.

After she converted, Hunny says, first and foremost she felt bad about having bad-mouthed MLMs for so long. But there was another element to Hunny’s chagrin:

I’ve been thinking I’ve been too good for this for so long and it’s literally answered all my questions. And I don’t have anything negative at this point. And so I was terrified because I knew I needed to jump in and see what — what — what — what — what it was all about. [Cue lots of blahblah that might constitute an illegal income claim like the ones the FTC has warned Arbonne huns about making.]

Here, Hunny’s using the format of testimonies to model how she wants her own potential recruits to think. She wants recruits to second-guess their own opinions about MLMs and to wonder if maybe they’ve been wrong all this time. The fact that she includes a potentially illegal income claim immediately after her statement of chagrin only reinforces my opinion.

She goes on to say that she didn’t like her life before conversion. However, a lot of MLM huns probably don’t particularly like how their scams are shaking out for them after joining up. In testimonies, we never hear about Christians who dislike being Christian after conversion (though some take pains to make themselves look like oh-so-suffering martyrs).

And I agree with Savannah Marie here as well: Hunny might not like how her own life looks in a few years of recruiting for Arbonne. Many huns jump from MLM to MLM over years, never understanding that the MLM model itself is the issue, not the individual MLMs being chosen. Many MLMs end up imploding under their own owners’ greed, or getting shut down by the government, or otherwise changing their rules without notice to wipe out huns’ income instantly.

But testimonies always pretend that the story ends here, with the convert being blissfully happy with this new life.

After Conversion.

Hunny tells us that she thinks joining Arbonne was “the best decision” she’s ever made in her entire life.

Suffice to say, she claims to have achieved that coveted state of having it all: motherhood, a great career, and more than enough money to enjoy her life. Gosh, she might even eventually “go on mission” (short-term mission trips, another big scam in Christianity) and “write checks for charities.” She says she couldn’t have done this stuff with just one income, so I’m assuming she’s married with a husband earning decent money.

(On a related note, it shouldn’t amaze me to see how many high-ranking huns are pastors’ wives, but it always manages to. I don’t know if that’s what Hunny’s husband does, though. I’m just sayin’ that it’s so funny to see so many TRUE CHRISTIANS™ caught up in a stone-cold scam that so obviously piggybacks off their indoctrination.)

I’ve heard countless testimonies from Christians playing upon these same themes. They may not include the monetary success this hun claims, but they all play up the many benefits that membership in their new tribe has brought them. In every one of these sorts of lists in testimonies, friendship and community come into play. Often, converts even coyly reveal that they’ve found true love since joining the tribe.

But again, all of these benefits are pay-to-play just like that supposed “free car” is — utterly contingent on the hun paying into the scam at the correct levels. The moment a mark dips out of the scam, she’ll discover instantly how tight all these pay-to-play friendships really are.

Grand Finale: The Emotional Appeal.

As Hunny winds up her sales pitch testimony, she grabs at her listeners’ heartstrings:

You guys, we are meant for so much more than waking up, going to work, doing it, going to sleep, repeating it for so many years, and passing away. [. . .]

And so I wanted to just share with you where I cam from. Just know that I literally never thought [begins clapping her hands together] I would do anything like this. And I know there’s a lot of you out there [strokes her face; plays with her hair] who are stuck of not wanting to learn more because you think you know whatever you think, you probably thought what I thought too. [. . .]

Just reach out to me and we can talk. This is never me ever convincing anyone to do this business. You can either join me or not.

Yep, viewers’ reaction doesn’t matter to Hunny AT ALL. She made a 12-minute-long recruitment video, sure, but y’all, she doesn’t care if anybody joins her downline. She has nothing at all at stake here, no dogs in this fight!

Don’t be fooled by testimonies making those claims.

Similarly, I’ve heard countless testimonies from Christians who insist they are totally not selling anything at all. And sure, I’m sure they don’t get any money from anybody for successful conversions. However, I used to be one of them. I remember very well what absolute rockstars successful evangelists were in my old crowd. Even one successful conversion gained its evangelist a reputation as a soulwinner that lasted forever.

Successful Christian salespeople enjoyed a lot of attention — and often parlayed that attention into leadership roles in their groups, like Biff did. 

In the MLM world, recruitment is literally everything, and huns gain considerably more (and more tangible) rewards than soulwinners do when they successfully recruit someone.

R+F harassment diagram
The importance of recruitment in a similar MLM, Rodan and Fields. (Full source)

Testimonies in the MLM World.

So here we are, 12 minutes and 3500 words later. Whew!

Hunny uses her claimed onetime affiliation in the exact same way that Christians do. She hopes to score extra authority and credibility in the eyes of potential recruits.

If Hunny pushes hard enough on this claim, she might even gain herself a place in the MLM world as an anti-MLM whisperer, someone they go to for information about how to evangelize their enemies. Lee Strobel went hard on that tactic himself, with enormous success. Indeed, as we’ll see at some later date, one of the few segments of the MLM world that seems to be doing well nowadays is that of life coaches selling huns salesmanship lessons (like these totally-reputable-looking folks).

Her performance here tells me something important, though. It tells me that MLM leaders are starting to look at the growing anti-MLM movement as a credible enemy. And that’s good news!

As Christianity itself continues to decline, I’m hoping that more people begin noticing its deep similarities with MLMs. Noticing those similarities kept me out of Amway, and they can hopefully also keep others out of it and all these other schemes.

Huns like this gal will only draw more attention to those similarities by creating testimonies that sound exactly and precisely like the ones evangelicals make!

NEXT UP: Speaking of Lee Strobel, I want to show you just how impressed evangelicals are with his dumb Unchurched book — and how they could have figured out it wasn’t worth their praise. See you tomorrow!


Examples of Totally-Used-to-Be-an-Atheist Christians:

I think I first noticed the trope with Shane Hayes. After that, I began keeping mental track of Christians who claimed a past in scary, dreaded atheism-according-to-Christians. And the numbers piled up. Now it seems like most popular apologists claim that past. Today, I easily located nonstop examples of the trope.

In fact, the only popular apologist I checked whose testimony I couldn’t lay immediate hands on was Tim Keller’s. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t claim the trendy past, of course. If he does, it’s just not as prominent a claim for him as those of these other guys. (Back to the post!)

How to Make Good Money in an MLM:

  • Be the founders of the scam or be family/friends with them
  • Get in super-early, so you acquire an automatically-huge downline
  • Be a very powerful, highly-placed hun from another MLM who gets seduced in by a sweetheart backroom deal, then bring your downline across with you
  • Be conventionally beautiful AND have a huge social-media following that can be mined for downline without having to stray outside it

Indeed, these are the roughly .3% you see in income disclosure forms, the ones who blow their rank averages out of the water. Hunny fits the last qualifier, so she might actually be making good money. Now, most upper-ranked huns fall into this other category:

  • Get very lucky with market saturation AND work your tail end off 24/7, 100+ hours a week, to barely make not-quite-a-living wage; these huns run eternally on the ragged edge of downline collapse

If you do not fit into one of those categories, you will be one of the 99%+ people who either lose money or barely break even. As a given rule, if a hun is cold-calling people to join her downline, she might fit into the last category — though probably she’ll be one of the 99%+.

Also as a given rule, if a hun shows up online to argue about MLMs, she is not even close to being one of the .3%. If she was, she would either lack the time or energy to crusade online, or would be so wealthy she wouldn’t even GAFF what anybody thinks. (Back to the post!)

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A Last Observation: 

The key to knowing if an MLM has crossed the line into scammery seems to be the existence of a downline in its sales structure — and commission paid to an upline for what the downline buys. No reputable sales organization would ever advise a seller to recruit her own competition, especially for a job whose main qualifications appear to be gullibility and a source of income allowing for the regular purchase of product and payment of fees to maintain eligibility for commission.

In Arbonne’s case, in order to get paid, huns must maintain their eligibility with at least a $100 PRV (Personal Retail Volume) order that month. If they don’t achieve that PRV from legit product sales to outside retail customers, they must buy stuff themselves and hope to sell it later. That probably amounts to USD$150. So Hunny was flat-out lying about that, too. In fact, Arbonne’s payouts depend dramatically on maintaining various PRV levels. Oopsie.

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...