5 reasons I would NEVER join an MLM

You read that correctly. And I’m guessing many of you share the sentiment. Here are the main reasons I promised myself years ago that I would never join an MLM (multi-level marketing company), also known as network marketing or direct sales.

  1. Misinformation and false claims
    This was a huge reason for me. Years ago I saw a seemingly endless stream of posts on social media making pretty outrageous claims about diet shakes, drink mixes, supplements, and yes – essential oils. It was so prevalent that it actually became difficult to weed through the overblown claims and figure out if any of it was actually true. It was easier write all of it off as misinformation spread by snake oil salespeople.
  2. Cold messaging on social media
    This one… just ICK. Raise your hand if you have ever received a friend request on social media almost immediately followed by a message that went something like this: “Hey girl! How have you been? We haven’t talked since high school, crazy how time flies! I saw you just had a baby, cute!! If you’re looking to lose some of that baby weight, I have an AMAZING exercise program with proven results! Are you interested in joining my challenge group?” Ugh… this is just plain wrong on so many levels.
  3. Predatory recruiting
    The statistics about direct sales companies and their distributors can actually be pretty alarming. It’s well known that very few people in MLM companies make it to the top ranks, and the vast majority never make any money at all. It’s hard to see that data and then believe someone when they say “earn full-time income doing part-time work!” or “become a millionaire right from your smartphone!”. These tactics often target low-income people who need the money most, and also have the most to lose.
  4. Overpriced products of low quality
    This one is obviously quite subjective. Everyone has a different idea of what affordability means, and quality can also be viewed subjectively. But there are myriad honest product reviews out there from customers and even former distributors who speak to the poor quality of the products. It’s often believed that the prices are high in order to pay out commissions to distributors and “uplines”.
  5. Scams
    Of course MLM scams do exist. The number one sign that an MLM opportunity is a scam is an obvious lack of product or a focus on recruiting over selling. While not necessarily scams, it’s also true that direct sales companies pop up (the industry is growing quickly) and then shut down abruptly, leaving distributors out of luck after sometimes investing significant funds into the opportunity (or perhaps worse – purchasing a massive amount of inventory they won’t be able to sell).

I can imagine that this might resonate with you, you might be nodding your head in agreement, but also thinking “Ok Allison… but aren’t you a Young Living distributor? That’s an MLM too!” And you’d be correct. But I wouldn’t be giving you the full story of how I got here without being transparent about my thoughts, beliefs, and background.

So this is the part where I tell you that not all direct sales companies are created equal. The five reasons listed above STILL get my blood boiling, and I have a hard time supporting distributors that engage in those practices and companies that encourage them. So I’ll address what changed my mind about Young Living in those same five categories.

  1. They take a stand against misinformation and false claims
    While I didn’t see anyone I know personally do this, I saw other Young Living reps doing it years ago. And it was problematic. Since then, the company has cracked down on reps making exaggerated or unverified product claims through their conduct success training. They strive to make sure all distributors are educated on FDA compliance and ensuring proper labeling. This means a lot to someone like me, who values evidence-based practice. It also means that noncompliant distributors can have their accounts terminated, which I am not opposed to.
  2. No cold messaging on social media
    Of all the cold messages I have received, interestingly none of them have been from my MANY friends involved with Young Living. I finally signed up with my membership in July 2019, but folks in my social circles have been members since as far back as 2014 (that I know of). There still may be leaders telling people to use this strategy, and the truth is that cold messaging can be effective when done correctly. It’s just a method I chose not to employ. I have a professional background in B2B marketing and am comfortable contacting people in a courteous manner who give me their contact information. I won’t target anyone directly on social media, especially if we haven’t spoken in years.
  3. No predatory recruiting
    All of the leaders I hear from in Young Living make the same claim about the income opportunity: that it takes hard work to succeed (just like anything else in life!). No rank or salary is ever promised, and it is company policy to share the income disclosure statement any time the business opportunity is discussed. You can read that statement here: https://static.youngliving.com/en-US/PDFS/IDSOnlineVersion_PDF_US.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1O7oLpBkTUq-xTRxTlheesnJBoWEFO_54GJW5bWtNwEItHDlIQMnphDjs
  4. High-quality products that are responsibly sourced
    This one is SO important to me and a big part of my story. I was introduced to Young Living essential oils in early 2017 when my mother-in-law was in hospice care. Her longtime friend gifted us several oils and products to help her feel more comfortable. After she passed, they sat in our house untouched for months (which was unfortunate because we needed the emotional support). I finally began to explore the oils and what they could do, and I was honestly blown away. However, what I didn’t understand then was that you really do get what you pay for sometimes. So when those oils ran out or ran low, I started purchasing and using other brands (in part because of my frugal nature, and in part because of my anti-MLM stance). Here’s the thing: the results were not the same. I had to use TWICE as much product to get the same effect. I was using the product more quickly. I was experiencing respiratory issues when diffusing oils that were supposedly the same as the Young Living ones I loved before. Skin irritations occurred. They are not the same, friends. Not even close. My personal experience was that store bought essential oils pale in comparison to the quality of a 25-year old company with the highest standards in the industry.
  5. It’s not a scam
    This one is pretty obvious. Young Living has been in business for 25 years. They are the industry leader in essential oils. They are transparent about the business opportunity and have real, quality products for sale. There is no “scheme.” The company is pretty transparent and there is a wealth of resources available for product users and business builders alike.

If you’re on the fence about joining a direct sales company, know that there certainly is a legitimate business side and that some have phenomenal products that stand the test of time. Think about how many direct sales companies have been around for decades and are household names because their products are well-liked (Tupperware, Mary Kay, Avon, Young Living, etc.). It’s important to do your research, separate fact from fiction, and get to know the distributors you are purchasing from. Trust is crucial.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!

Be well,

Published by Alli Mincher

Alli is a full-time content marketer and freelance writer. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from The College at Brockport, State University of New York. She spends her free time practicing yoga, hiking, and promoting wellness through blogs, social media, and events.