There is no single method for creating and retaining such documentation. Different MLMs employ a variety of approaches to demonstrate that their product is sold to retail customers, including collecting retail sales receipts created by participants; having retail customers buy product directly from the company, rather than from a participant’s inventory; and having product users sign up with the company as customers who are not participating in a business opportunity. Other MLMs use other approaches or a combination of approaches.
An MLM’s compensation structure may give its participants incentives to make representations about the business opportunity to current or prospective participants. As a consequence, an MLM should (i) direct its participants not to make false, misleading, or unsubstantiated representations and (ii) monitor its participants so they don’t make false, misleading, or unsubstantiated representations.
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The 2004 letter should not be misconstrued as suggesting that an MLM can lawfully pay compensation on wholesale purchases that are not based on actual consumer demand by characterizing such purchases as “internal consumption.” The 2004 letter itself does not support such a construction, nor do subsequent judicial decisions. For example, the court in BurnLounge held that, notwithstanding the defendants’ characterization that participants bought packages for “internal consumption,” the compensation paid on such purchases was not tied to consumer demand for the merchandise in the packages; instead, the opportunity to advance in the marketing program was the major driver of package purchases. Similarly, in granting a preliminary injunction against Vemma Nutrition Company, the court rejected the argument that individuals who had joined as business opportunity “Affiliates” only wished to purchase product for their own consumption, finding that this claim was “not based in fact.”
MLMs are successful because they provide tempting possibilities — the more you recruit, the more you sell, and the more you make. The possibility for income seems almost endless. However, only a few companies can make this dream a reality. So how do you spot the good ones from the bad ones? Look at the product. If the company has put time and money into creating a valuable product, they will put time and money into selling it.
An example of a high-profile multi-level marketing company defending its practices is Herbalife Ltd., a manufacturer and distributor of weight-loss and nutritional products with more than 500,000 distributors. Although the FTC had been investigating Herbalife, it was activist investor William Ackman who shed a national spotlight on the company by shorting $1 billion of the company’s stock in 2013. Ackman accused the company of operating a pyramid scheme and backed his allegations with a bet the company’s stock price would fall under the weight of the scam.
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MLMs are also criticized for being unable to fulfill their promises for the majority of participants due to basic conflicts with Western cultural norms. There are even claims that the success rate for breaking even or even making money are far worse than other types of businesses: "The vast majority of MLMs are recruiting MLMs, in which participants must recruit aggressively to profit. Based on available data from the companies themselves, the loss rate for recruiting MLMs is approximately 99.9%; i.e., 99.9% of participants lose money after subtracting all expenses, including purchases from the company." In part, this is because encouraging recruits to further "recruit people to compete with [them]" leads to "market saturation." It has also been claimed "(b)y its very nature, MLM is completely devoid of any scientific foundations."
3. Business cards, buttons and brochures. Most companies offer sales aids that help the cold sponsoring process. If you owned a store, you would put out your "open for business" sign at the start of each day. Wear an "open for business" button promoting your product. Something catchy will inevitably create interest. If people are bold enough to quiz you about the button, they're probably outgoing and a great prospect. Pass out literature with your phone and e-mail, and use your business cards. Do this consistently. The law of averages says something has got to happen.
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