sandstorm around the egyptian pyramids
Reading Time: 7 minutes (Gaurav D Lathiya.)
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Hi and welcome back! Yesterday, I showed you a trend of really scummy ‘fundraisers’ conducted by the members (‘huns’) of a multi-level marketing scheme (MLM) called Arbonne. I speculated yesterday that MLM huns’ innate dishonesty was ramping up lately because they are panicking about making sales during the pandemic. And they might have very good reason to panic. Today, I’ll show you an MLM that had to deliver a slap to some of its huns who’d momentarily gotten a bit overexcited, why those huns got overexcited in the first place, and how this situation relates to Christian evangelism.

sandstorm around the egyptian pyramids
(Gaurav D Lathiya.)

(Related posts about salesmanship in Christianity: Scoring More Jesus Sales in the Pandemic; Ambassadors, Lords, and Salespeople; The Sales Pitch of Family Happiness; Perfect Sales Pitches in ‘Only God Can’; Making Sales Through Urgency; The Perilous Position of the Sales-Minded Christian; The Comfort of the Failed Sales Pitch; Trying to Motivate the Flocks to SELL; Selling a Rapture Scare; Making Peace a Marketing Tactic; Bait and Switch Marketing in Christianity; Why Christian Marketing Sucks (and Why It Must); Hell as Outdated Marketing; Church Marketing Sucks; Christianity’s Mad Men. Also: The Winning Team.)

(See this endnote from yesterday about MLM terminology, if you’re new to all this. It’ll open a new tab. A “hun” is someone signed up for an MLM.)

Come See an MLM Slap Some Huns HARD.

Background: Monat is an MLM that mostly sells expensive haircare stuff. Besides all the usual problems MLMs face, Monat’s been the target of a great many lawsuits from consumers who say these products made their hair fall out. Seriously.

In early April, I saw a lot of posts from Monat huns who claimed that the previous month had been their third-biggest month in Monat’s entire history as a company. These claims seemed to be everywhere!

But Monat’s owners delivered a backhanded slap to the huns making those claims. Here’s the story from Business Insider:

Monat market partners have been promoting a record number of new consumers and new distributors, celebrating March as the company’s third-biggest month in history. A spokesperson for Monat could not confirm these claims, and the social media posts have since been deleted. The company reportedly raked in nearly $400 million in revenue last year.

Oopsiedoodleboodle! Monat pulled the rug right out from under their feet!

“Market partners” (MPs) are what Monat calls their huns. So these claims came entirely from Monat huns, which means they all happened in those huns’ social media posts.

After that disavowal, Monat huns entirely stopped making those specific claims — and deleted the old ones, as the quote says.

Wait, What Did Monat Say?

Monat said they couldn’t confirm their huns’ claims.

Of course Monat could not confirm these claims. That’s because they are almost certainly not true. If they were true, you can bet Monat would not shut up about their wild success. True success helps them find new recruits, as I’ll show you in a moment.

If Monat had allowed those claims to stand, then news outlets like Business Insider would hear that crowing and immediately ask for support for those claims. Journalists don’t just print any old claim as true, like huns and fundagelicals will. They need some sort of outside corroboration before repeating claims.

So it was really best, in this situation, for Monat to stay quiet on that topic.

Huns, just like toxic Christians, really want those claims to be true.

But even more than that, they need their potential recruits and current downline to believe them.

Why Sales Matter Extra to Huns.

The products MLMs offer already have next to no market demand. Most of a hun’s day revolves around creating demand where none naturally exists.

Now these products have even less market demand than usual!

People are tightening their belts; many have lost their jobs or been furloughed. All of a sudden, appeasing frantic and greedy huns who misuse social capital by monetizing their closest relationships in pursuit of pity purchases is wayyyyy down the line of priorities for most folks.

Any salesperson would care about that situation, but huns care more than most salespeople do. You see, MLMs require huns to make regular purchases of their overpriced products — usually amounting to $200-300/month — to maintain their eligibility for commission.

And if a hapless hun can’t make enough sales to outside customers, why then she must buy enough product herself to maintain that eligibility. Maybe she hopes to use it herself or sell it eventually to retail customers, or maybe she’ll “swap sales” with other huns in the same boat (maybe even huns from other MLMs!) just so she doesn’t totally lose money. Probably, though, that stuff ends up in storage. Almost every hun at the bottom of any MLM does what I describe here.

Even worse, the higher her level in the MLM, the more product a hun must purchase to maintain that level. Almost all MLMs knock huns back to the schemes’ starting rank every month, forcing them to re-qualify for ranks from scratch. Ranks matter because the hun gets a bigger cut of the MLM pie as she advances.

Sidebar: The Added Worry of Those “Free Cars”:

If a hun has a scare-quotes “free car,” as many MLMs “award” to their higher-earning huns, the situation gets even worse.

What the MLM actually provides is a monthly stipend to pay for a new-car lease. The hun assumes this lease, which is frequently a requirement of her rank, in her own name. Afterward, she must make a certain level of sales each month to get her stipend.

Hopefully, she has enough retail customers to repurchase all that stuff from her. Otherwise, she must pay for the lease herself until she brings her sales up again. If she can’t, then the dealership takes away that “free car.” These are luxury cars, too, so that bill often amounts to $400-700/month!

Indeed, true-crime author Nick Van der Leek suggests that Shann’an Watts, the MLM hun tragically murdered by her husband a while ago, had trouble maintaining her eligibility for her car stipend. Her failure put a lot of stress on a family already stressed to the limits financially.

Despite her constant eligibility struggles, Ms. Watts lied freely and constantly both about the program and her success at it. Indeed, MLM recruiters like her utilize these “free car” programs to dazzle their marks — similar to how Christian evangelists dazzle potential converts with false promises of happiness, safety, and familial harmony.

From what I’ve heard ex-huns say about the various “free car” programs offered by this and other MLMs like Mary Kay, it sounds like a lot of huns end up in exactly the same financial situation as her.

Why Huns Lie About Success.

MLM recruiters lie about the potential for success for the exact same reasons that evangelism leaders do:

Assurances of success represent the most important part of a recruitment pitch for a sales job. 

People don’t join MLMs or evangelism ventures expecting to have to scrape the bottom of the barrel, lie constantly, alienate loved ones, hard-sell, and otherwise debase themselves for every single sale and new recruit they manage to finagle from an uncooperative market.

However, these assurances get heard by existing group members too. This double messaging is completely intentional. Some of each group’s existing members are really struggling these days to justify their continued involvement in what might be slowly swimming into focus for them as a grievous mistake.

Success claims create the illusion that things are turning up, that market demand has risen dramatically in the group’s products, that people are way more interested in joining up than usual.

Maybe hearing those claims will encourage some of those struggling members to stick with the group for a few more months — which represents a few more months of profit for their leaders before their drones wash out with empty wallets and annihilated dreams.

Promises, Promises.

Now let’s turn our attention to the Business Insider quote again:

Monat market partners have been promoting a record number of new consumers and new distributors [. . .]

These claims provided cover for a hidden recruitment promise:

Someone who joins this MLM now won’t have much trouble finding tons of retail customers or downline recruits of their own.

The FTC knows that consumers respond very strongly to such promises, which is why the feds scrutinize them so closely and hold them to tight legal restrictions. It’s also why MLMs dance as close to the line of legality as they can to make them!

We see the exact same strategy in evangelism when Christian leaders assure their flocks that “the fields are white unto harvest.”

Recruiters make these assurances because they work. Most people don’t like sales jobs, after all. These assurances ease their fears.

Why MLMs Matter.

An astonishing overlap exists between MLMs and the worst flavors of Christianity. They both attract the same people for the same reasons. They lie about the same stuff too! Once recruited, their victims utilize the same tactics to sell and recruit others. Recruits in both groups fail at roughly the same rates. Once those recruits wash out of the group, the remaining members of both groups abuse them in similar ways and for similar reasons.

In learning about MLM shills’ tactics, we can begin seeing them in use elsewhere by other people who want to exploit and manipulate us, like evangelists. In effect, MLMs help us to de-contextualize Christian tactics, which makes them easier to spot, dissect, debunk, and ultimately reject elsewhere.

Thus, I love exploring those similarities.

Here’s another one of ’em:

Both groups have responded to the global pandemic in the same ways: by creating a false narrative of vast sales success without any evidence to support it, all to create artificial demand in hopes of attracting new recruits and retaining existing members. Be very wary of any such claims in coming days from the salespeople of either group.

NEXT UP: We check out those wild claims of success from MLM huns and and toxic Christians alike. See you tomorrow!

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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,...