Multilevel Marketing

Herbalife, Forever Living, Amway, eCosway. All of these multilevel marketing (MLM) companies promote themselves as great business opportunities – invest a small amount of money to register as a distributor and set up your own business! Earn profit from the products you sell, sometimes even without having to purchase the goods yourself. Recruit more people and get a cut of their commission too! The companies have turnovers of many billions of dollars a year. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But is there more to them than meets the eye?

What are the products?

No, there is no way to tell if these two photos are of the same person. I strongly suspect they aren’t.

With many MLM companies, the products sold tend to be nutritional supplements, weight loss products and herbal medicines. For example, Forever Living sells aloe vera gel, a 9 day “detox” weight loss pack, bee pollen products and other supplements.

Straight away, we have many problems to deal with. Detox is a wholly bogus idea. Sense about Science have produced an excellent dossier on detox, explaining why it’s such a fraudulent idea. Simply put, our kidneys and liver already do a great job at detoxifying the body and most detox kits don’t even state what they’re going to allegedly detoxify. Just vague “toxins”, whatever that might mean.

A large number of Forever Living’s products are sold with medical claims on their website. These are small claims such as “boosts circulation” and “boosts the immune system”, but claims nonetheless. They leave the making of bigger claims, such as direct claims to be able to treat and cure named medical conditions, to their distributors, moving much of the risk to the distributors.

A long list of unverifiable claims

A couple of my friends have recently, unfortunately, signed up to become Forever Living distributors as part of a team. Inevitably, my Facebook timeline became clogged with adverts for the many gels, pills and weight loss products they’re trying to sell. Their team leader runs a Facebook page which contains claims that the products can treat named medical conditions ranging from IBS to arthritis. They’re all ridiculous claims. Many of the weight loss advertisements don’t even appear to use the same two people in the before and after comparison shots. After researching the ingredients, as I suspected, there’s very little to no evidence to back up the claims being made. For example, there is evidence that aloe vera is an effective laxative and some studies have suggested that it may help burns, but there’s no evidence it’s effective for any other use. A few more of my friends went to an informal seminar, in a coffee shop, by this team leader in which it was strongly implied the products can treat even more serious medical conditions such as paralysis and cancer.

It’s hard for me to emphasise just how wrong this is. It’s illegal to promote a treatment for cancer, under the Cancer Act 1939 s4. 1a which states “No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof…” The only exception is when the advertisement is published in a technical journal aimed at medical professionals.

I wanted to find out for certain if these products had any sort of marketing approval, as medicine law is fairly complex. I put in a Freedom of Information request to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to find out what information they held on Forever Living’s products (whether they’re licensed in any way, if they’re allowed to be sold with claims that imply effectiveness in treating a condition etc.). They responded telling me “There are no current Marketing Authorisations in the UK for products under the Forever Living brand, according to our licensing records. These products would not be able to make medicinal claims.”

And yet, they and their distributors do anyway.

The problem with multilevel marketing

Multilevel marketing companies often advertise becoming a distributor as great business opportunities, as if you’re becoming a self-sufficient business person. This isn’t really true. You have the main company who provides the products and then you have distributors. As I mentioned before, to become a distributor, you often “invest” a small amount of money and receive some products to sell or an online store front with your name on it. After this, you continue to sell products and are pushed to recruit more distributors. You then get a cut of their money. They recruit people; you get a cut of the new person’s money as well. You’re encouraged to recruit more and more people to set up a “down-line”. This set up is unsustainable for a number of reasons.

First and most obviously, there is a finite number of people in the world. If each distributor recruits ten people, just six levels down gives you a million distributors – over three times the population of Cardiff! Having more and more sellers is beneficial for the main company as any sales distributors make, the company profits from. Theoretically, the more sellers, the more sales are made. If a distributor even sells just one or two items to their friends and family, for the main company, it all adds up. The distributors don’t benefit though, as they’re not recouping their initial cost.

Besides that, there will be no more room for expansion. Ten levels down and you have 10,000,000,000 people, about 3,000,000,000 more people than there are in the world today. And that’s not considering that many of the remaining 7,000,000,000 won’t want to be part of the company or can’t be part of the company because they’re too young or already have a job etc.

This ignores the even bigger problem that there’s nobody to sell to. When the main focus of MLMs for distributors is recruiting more people, there’s a problem. Eventually, the pyramid will collapse and only those on the top will profit. When there is unlimited recruiting, the supply of products inevitably and invariably outweighs the demand.

Given the above, it’s perhaps unsurprising if not downright obvious that MLM companies have been compared to, or straight out called pyramid schemes. Bill Ackman, a billionaire hedge fund manager, has famously rallied against Herbalife, explicitly referring to it as “the best-managed pyramid scheme in the history of the world.”  He argued, using calculations he published and presented in December 2012, that most of the money paid to distributors is payment for recruiting new distributors. For this reason, he’s called on the Federal Trade Commission in the US to investigate Herbalife. He also stated that if the FTC did investigate and found in Herbalife’s favour, he would lobby Congress to change the law, in the hopes of ensuring that Herbalife would not be able to continue to operate. The Commercial Court in Belgium agreed with Ackman’s assertions as they ruled that Herbalife is an illegal pyramid scheme, in a judgment in the case of Test-Aankoop v Herbalife International Belgium in November 2011.

Outlandish claims about potential earnings

In the current job market, it’s not surprising that people will want to work for a company that provides them a guaranteed job. But expectations need to be managed. In the vast majority of cases, working as a distributor for an MLM company won’t provide people with anywhere near enough money to live on. According to a publication called Business Students Focus on Ethics, the average annual income for MLM members is US $5,000, while USA Today have published an article in which the Direct Selling Association has stated the median annual income is as low as US $2,400. The costBill Ackman also pointed out that less than 1% of people who join Herbalife will ever join the “Millionaires Team”, distributors who have earned over $100,000 from Herbalife in their lifetime.

These figures don’t really surprise me, given the problems outlined above with market saturation, trouble recruiting more people and the impossibility of actually convincing people they need these products. When you’re constantly hard selling to friends and family, you’re going to end up annoying them. This doesn’t stop distributors from making outlandish claims about potential earnings, however. The need to set up a “down-line” ensures ridiculous adverts will continue to be published online in the hopes of recruiting equally desperate people.

The problems with multilevel marketing companies are numerous, from their doomed-by-design infinite expansion set up and the fact that they mostly sell useless products. Multilevel marketing is an unsustainable, exploitative idea that unfortunately hasn’t been stamped out yet. Raising public awareness to these problems is a vital step to take to ensure fewer people are exploited and protect them from harm. These schemes need to be examined with much more skepticism in all that they do.

36 Responses to “Multilevel Marketing”

  1. Wendy oconnor February 20, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

    Well I just bailed out from forever as what I was putting in ( which was a lot of time and hard work) I no way got back out in fact in forever living I was actually FOREVER GIVING

  2. MrCee October 1, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    Wow this is all very heated. My view is that MLM is grossly misunderstood and I mean GROSSLY misunderstood. There are many business models around the globe and none are perfect. Some are aimed at getting rich quickly and others are more long term. The FLP route is LONG TERM and make no mistake about it. The main problem with the majority of FLP distributers is poor training and over inflated expectations buy ‘up-line’ distributers generating false hopes. If you dig deeper into the way MLM works (and in particular FLP) you’ll find a genius marketing proposition that provides a different business model. Forget the idea that it is a get rich quick scheme and you uncover a potential way to move your life in a new direction through HARD WORK. And make no mistake, it is hard work just as it is setting up any new business. The swamping of Facebook (and other social platforms) with Aloe stuff is partly to blame for people dismissing MLM as a scam. It pisses people off. But the distributers who do this are kidding themselves into thinking that AloeSpam is the way to do it. IT IS NOT. For transparancy I must add that my wife is a distributor (bet you didn’t guess that Smile ) but she is not an Aloe-bore. She fundamentally understands the concept and is able to sell the products and train people the right way. This is why it works but, as I said before, it is hard work!

    The problem with this article is that if offers nothing like a balanced view and is woefully ill-informed to the point of being reckless. FLP is not right for everyone but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t right for some. If you have a modicum of business acumen and the desire to succeed then it is an option. If you aren’t prepared to bust your balls for years then don’t do it. I know many, many people who earn massive amounts of money and I also know lots of people who are giving it go with no real hope of achieving simply because they don’t have what it takes and don’t get it on a fundamental level.
    Cheers.

    • Brenig James April 8, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

      Agreed. Some people seem to think that they can register, get their start-up box and get rich overnight. Like any business it requires hard work and commitment, even if it’s only 5-10 hours per week. And those who don’t commit and work hard ultimately fail, like they would if they had the same attitude in a traditional business. Furthermore, those who fail through lack of effort like to blame the company rather than themselves.

  3. James Worf September 15, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Like others…. great article. My wife is now a FLP ‘silver platinum manager with diamonds sprinkled on top’.

    Her association with the company and it’s products has hugely impacted on our marriage. She has lost very good friends because of her obsession with flogging the products to them and is no longer invited to social events – probably because they are all sick of her. It gives me no pleasure to say that, none at all. But I want others to know this. She is not making a fortune. If anything she spends more on buying all the products to try herself, making only the people above her money.

    She is hounded constantly by other FL idiots, telling her she is strong, brave, a great business woman and has these sickly American ‘positive’ messages drilled in to her almost hourly. It’s funny how many times, I’ve heard other FL reps spouting the same lines……amazing how many go and donate blood after their ‘clean 9’ and their levels of everything were ‘perfect’. Its lies. They are told to say this.

    Her ‘recruiter’ has even started interfering in our marriage, texting my wife, telling her she deserves a husband that is supportive and understands. And that I don’t respect her. And tells her how she should tell all her friends and family that I will not allow her to follow her dreams etc. The fact is she has very few friends left that care. And whilst I love and respect her and have supported her for the past 12 years of marriage, I know this is a con and cant bear to watch my once happy, fulfilled wife become consumed by this crap.

    They are also told to throw out compliments to anyone who has ever bought anything from them. They are told to boast about earnings in order to recruit others – which is how they make their money.

    They are told to be uber critical of any other aloe product sold in the UK – Holland and Barrett being their main ‘target’. The fact is their products are cheap but sold for an over-priced amount. There are no official health benefits that they are allowed to boast of.

    The truth is my wife had a very good job in London. She loved it and the industry she worked in. She lost her job and found another one, but was also made redundant within a year. Her ‘recruiter’ pounced on this and took advantage of her when she was at her most vulnerable and has hounded her everyday since.

    My advice to anyone thinking about joining FL – DONT. You wont get rich. You will lose family and friends and be left alone.

    • kevinbsullivan October 7, 2015 at 12:14 am #

      Bloody hell James. I can only sympathise with what you have said. You have confirmed every thought, issue and niggle I have ever had about the scheme. I remember hearing about it and thinking straight away: “pyramid scheme”, straight away. Whether, it’s “technically” that, or not, it drives a wedge between friends in my case. Thankfully, we would never ever get involved in a scheme like this. It’s a disgraceful model. You don’t see the likes or L’Oreal or any of the big name sellers needing to use these tactics. Why do they? Because it’s a scam as you know.

  4. Brenig July 20, 2015 at 8:53 am #

    Hi Rhys,
    It sounds like you’re a real expert on MLM: it’s a shame that you’re not! Complete twaddle. Much of what you’ve written is so far from accurate it deserves to be merited as a great work of fiction. You have as much responsibility to portray the truth as MLM companies do.

    If you’d like me to expand on this and provide explanation on why you are very wrong/misguided then please ask and I will gladly oblige.

    • Rhys July 20, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

      Oh, please do.
      I’m very interested about the specifics of where you accuse me of creating a fiction. I’m fascinated by where I’ve supposedly gone so wrong. Enlighten me.
      (And yes, comments do sometimes end up in the moderation queue, hence why none of your comments appeared immediately.)

      • Brenig July 20, 2015 at 11:39 pm #

        Ok. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give my opinion based upon my experience; I’ll begin by responding chronologically to points in your original post.

        I am an established Forever Business Owner, so my responses will have relevance to my company only; clearly I cannot comment on other companies’ models.

        There is no investment required to register with FLP, however, it is recommended that one purchases a box of a very small selection of products to use and share. After all, one cannot start any business without some kind of investment in tools; even a hairdresser would need to buy a pair of scissors.

        Nobody takes a cut of anybody’s commission. Everybody has their own business and everybody deals directly with the company. The company pays bonuses to the business owners based upon the total team turnover. NOBODY is financially disadvantaged by their upline. Moreover, the model is so fair and ethical that it is quite possible, and in fact does happen frequently, for an individual to earn substantially more than their sponsor and upline by developing bigger businesses, therefore dismissing your claims that it is an illegal pyramid scheme..

        Forever does not sell a “detox weight loss pack”. We have weight management systems which includes a programme called C9. The C9 is billed as a cleanse and diet as a precursor to the main weight management programmes, be them used for weight loss or weight gain. Nobody who is following the company’s own regulations ever refers to the C9 as a detox. So, regardless of the arguments regarding whether a “detox” is bogus or not, it is irrelevant as far as FLP is concerned.

        I think you need to be able to differentiate between “medical claims” and known benefits. Many of our products have ingredients that are known to be beneficial to bodily functions. For example, our Argi+ has l’arginine in it; a quick internet search will reveal that l’arginine, amongst other things, is known for reducing blood pressure – this is a fact, yet the company does not make any medical claim that it reduces blood pressure, instead it says that it “contributes towards the reduction of tiredness and fatigue”. I think that your comments on this issue are bordering on the libelous and you will be best advised to rethink your stance. If independent Business Owners are making medical claims then that is an entirely different matter; they should be reported to the company who could terminate their registration for breaching company regulations. FLP is a very, very ethical organisation and takes the matter of compliance very seriously.

        I see not a great deal wrong with the image asking whether anyone suffers from any of the conditions listed; the person isn’t claiming to cure them. However, we have many testimonials from people suffering from those conditions who say that our products, particularly the drinking gel, have helped bring balance back to their lives. No compliant Business Owner will ever claim to be able to cure conditions. Only two weeks ago I offered a free bottle of drinking gel to a young lady who has a number of those conditions, I did not claim that she would be cured, instead I asked her to try it and provide me with some constructive feedback. Only five days later she contacted me to tell me that her painful symptoms had almost disappeared. We allow our customers to draw their own conclusions. Your comment that it’s a “long list of unverifiable claims” is, therefore, wholly inaccurate.

        I am concerned that you reckon some people claim that we have a cure of paralysis and cancer; if that is true then I would agree that their heads need to roll as the company certainly would not endorse this. However, I am inclined to think that you have either grossly exaggerated this to help sensationalise your article, or you have completely misinterpreted what may have been said. Some cancer patients have stated that the use of some of the products have helped deal with the side effects of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Chemo does leave cancer patients extremely tired and lethargic and radiotherapy patients often have extremely dry skin where the x-rays have been concentrated; I can speak with experience about this as my mother underwent a course of both.

        The problem with MLM knockers is that you really don’t understand the concept at all; you’re too focused on debunking it to realise that what you’re saying is completely ridiculous. You first need to understand that not everybody wants to work for themselves, same as not everybody want to be a train driver or nurse or fireman or banker or plumber, etc. And for those who do want to work for themselves, not everyone wants to be in network marketing. You assume, through your rudimentary maths, that everyone with recruit ten perfectly identical successful network marketers; clearly it doesn’t work like that. Secondly, there isn’t a finite number of people in the world; millions of babies are born every minute, the world’s birthrate is rising whilst the mortality rate is falling, and millions of teenagers turn 18 years old every day, ergo there are millions more eligible adults to join MLM businesses. No MLM will ever reach saturation point. FLP has been in the UK since 1993 and in twenty-two years we have just over 4000 active distributors.

        I note that you don’t compare how many traditional new start-up business fail. Statistically speaking, something like two-thirds of all new businesses fail in the first year, and a significant proportion of the survivors fail in the second year.With another significant going to the wall in the third year it’s safe to say that the majority of new businesses fail within three years, and most, if not all, of these business owners have spent huge sums to leverage their businesses, and spend money on stock, premises, stationery, websites, equipment, etc. Some people lose everything when their businesses fail; in MLM, because there are no fixed asset risks any failure will not result in catastrophe.

        I don’t know why people stress there is only a 1% chance of becoming a millionaire in MLM? Apart from that fact that no MLM promises millionaire status, isn’t that a similar percentage to how many traditional business owners reach millionaire level? But more importantly, in my experience, the majority of people start network marketing businesses not to become millionaires, but to earn a little extra to help them pay bills, or pay for a holiday, or Christmas; some want to replace their full-time income and noting else, so perhaps the 1% who become millionaires are all of the people who actually wanted to become millionaires; did you think of that? That would be an interesting sector of research.

        It’s commendable that you should be concerned enough for your friends that you wish to steer them clear of MLM; are you also going to steer them clear of working in web design due to its sheer volume of numbers in the marketplace and the high number of business failures in that sector, too? Are you going to steer them clear of working in the automotive or transport industry because of the threat of redundancy? Are you going to steer them clear of working in the NHS because of the unpaid overtime and effect the stresses in that industry have on their health? Are you going to steer them clear of working in the armed forces because of the threat of injury or death? To remain credible, I hope you do. Why would you want to try and stand in the way of any of your friends’ paths to success? Instead, why not encourage them to work hard and succeed at their venture, because hard work in this industry IS rewarded with high earnings, but unfortunately, many, many, many distributors’ dreams are dashed by the constant sniping of people like you; and you can’t blame the MLM company if they cannot rise above the snipes and jeers.

        I could go on and on, Rhys, but I won’t because you probably won’t read it. You clearly have no real understanding of MLM and I suspect that the basis of your rant is the volume messages and adverts appearing in your Facebook newsfeed. Have you ever tried a product? I suspect not. If that’s the case then you cannot even formulate a credible opinion about them.

        I suggest that you actually research the industry vigorously before making such disparaging comments; perhaps if you researched it thoroughly you might appreciate the ethical validity of the model, especially FLP’s. I’ll even help you. I’ll run you through our one-to-one and A4 business presentation.

        All the best. 😉

        • kevinbsullivan October 7, 2015 at 12:05 am #

          So your upline doesn’t take a cut of your sales then? Really? Because I know people who have explained the business model to me, unfortunately. It’s complete bollocks and built on hype and targeting vulnerable people. Why do you think these schemes spring up in poor areas? You say “commission”. Commission is after sales. Very carefully worded there by you eh?

          It’s MLM, the clue is in the phrase “Multi. Level. Marketing” – a bit like a pyramid but carefully modelled, you clown. Nobody is disadvantaged by their upline? You mean, a person gets to keep a percentage of their income. Obviously. Why wouldn’t they? So, you tell me that “every” upline doesn’t get a cut of their sales?? Go on. Enlighten me.

          I was once told by a dentist, don’t ever put that Forever toothpaste in your mouth. Do I believe you or my my dentist? It’s all hype sunshine, as you know deep down. If not, you’re as gullible as the Herbalife lot.

          • Brenig James October 7, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

            That’s twice you’ve referred to me as a clown. Why are you so angry?

            Clearly you have little to no credible knowledge about any form of MLM business, and clearly you weren’t listening when the good people you know who thought highly enough of you to share their valuable time to introduce you to their businesses, otherwise you wouldn’t be so wrong on your opinions.

            I have neither the interest nor the time in humouring you in your argument against FLP and MLM, if you’d like enlightening then I politely suggest that you do some proper research from expert sources, or to start, try re-reading what I wrote above. If you’re genuinely interested then you could watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=beAAzKeLSZw.

            All the best. Have a great day.

        • paul February 12, 2016 at 10:06 am #

          Hi Brenig.
          I am a successful and proud Herbalife member. I see all these “experts” trying to educate them. MLM is the average persons best chance of earning a fortune. Unfortunately all I see happening is you are arguing with idiots. in my experience all that happens when you argue with an idiot is they drag you down to their level and use their experience as idiots hahaha

          • Brenig James April 8, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

            You are so right, Paul.

        • Hanna March 21, 2016 at 10:19 pm #

          Brenig, Your replies on this thread are articulate, very informative and completely spot on! 🙂
          After giving birth to my son 2 years ago, we both developed sepsis. My newborn son and I spent over 3 weeks in hospital following the birth – 3 weeks of fear and uncertaincy. To cut a long story short I had what the medical profession call FUO (fever of unknown origin) and this went on for weeks – even after we were both cleared of the infection, my temperature spiked every few hours, sometimes to over 39 and my CRP (inflammation level) was over 400 (extremely high even for a women who has just given birth) The doctors tried everything – I can cat scans, I was put on extremely strong antibiotics, but nothing helped. I spend the days staring at my charts hoping the figures would come down, but they didn’t.
          Anyway out of desperation I asked my mum to order FLP Aloe Vera as I had read an article on pure Aloe Vera Gel (untreated and WiTHOUT the leaf) had been shown to dramatically reduce inflammation levels and heal other areas of the body too. We asked the DRs if it was ok to drink and they said as long as it was just aloe Vera then it was fine to drink – but didn’t hesitate to add that it ‘wouldn’t do anything for me’
          It took a few days to arrive as my mum had trouble buying it without signing up, however, she did manage to get hold of some and I drank it every few hours!
          And I swear to god that within a few hours my CRP shot right down! I kept drinking more and more and within 2 days my inflammation levels were back to normal and my fever and spiking temp came right down! The DRs started questioning me as to what if anything I had been taking? They assumed I’d ‘stopped’ taking something that had caused my FUO – but I just explained that I hadn’t taken anything up until 2 days before and only when I was taking high doses of Aloe Vera did my stats come down.
          I can’t explain it but ever since I’ve been completely obsessed with the plant! I actually grow my own now 🙂

          • Brenig James April 8, 2016 at 3:03 pm #

            Thank you, Hanna.

            If something works for someone then I can’t understand why anyone would still want t criticise. The best thing to do is ignore the naysayers.

            I broke my leg nearly six weeks ago and immediately started drinking the Freedom Gel and Argi+ daily because of the ingredients known to aid to bone growth. After three weeks the specialist was impressed with the healing process, and yesterday a different specialist in the hospital commented on how well the bone had healed. Coincidence? Possibly; possibly not!

  5. Paula Middleton July 20, 2015 at 1:43 am #

    Well wrote, its about time we stopped having our timelines/tweets and inboxes filled with invites to join this amazing company,, if it was that amazing and it was a genuine invite then they would not request money to join..
    My daughter was pressured to join the scam and at 18 she is very naive, she did not like to say no,, her pack came with 3 creams one aloe vera gel one bar of soap. And it is suggested she leave ghedr same priducts with people for three days for them to sample!! Noone in their right mind would want to use a bar of soap after someone they domt know has used it…she also recieved 2 a4 ring binders that could not fit anything else in, all for over £100 .she had her Alevels looming when she joined and didnt do a lot to get sales due to studying., her manager was there for 2 weeks and she has heard nothing since her sales were not on target. I am appauld by the whole business and will make sure she has every last penny back she was intimidated to hand over money and clearly has been made a fool out of

    • Brenig July 20, 2015 at 9:13 am #

      What company did she join, Paula?

    • Brenig July 21, 2015 at 12:16 am #

      Perhaps, Paula, if she contacts her upline manager, she can get some professional guidance and support. Maybe she might be able to start building the successful business that she clearly was thinking about when she signed up.

      I’m really not sure that this is FLP, though as none of it sounds at all familiar. We don’t have a bar of soap in the start-up box, nor any A4 ring binders, and we have a lot more than 5 products in the box. We also don’t have any pressured targets to work to either.

  6. Col July 19, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    Great article Rhys and very intelligently written, these sort of products seem to be doing the rounds up in Scotland at the moment and clearly there are a few gullible people getting taken in by it, funny how aloe Vera is not mentioned in any credible exercise physiology textbooks. I will be referring the individuals here if they try pester me.

    • Brenig July 20, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

      Hi Col,
      You must have been very dedicated to read all of the credible exercise physiology textbooks! How long did that take you?

  7. iamtallonline April 17, 2015 at 8:11 pm #

    Oh thank god for you! I now have at least 3 “friends” on facebook trying to sell this stuff and far more taking it to “lose weight fast” and “release stored toxins” and it’s so obviously a terrible terrible scam. I was about to start researching it to write some blogs, but you’ve done a great job – I am going to share your post directly on their walls, sorry if this brings any negativity, I just want people to read your thoughtful post.

      • Scibabe July 26, 2015 at 9:57 am #

        Brenig, why are you putting yourself through the potential danger of ingesting garcinia (the evidence as to whether it causes acute liver failure remains equivocal, but why take the risk?) when the meta-analyses of all available evidence (including that seeking to promote garcinia) shows that it either does not help weight loss at all or that the positive effect is very slight? And why would you ingest aloe vera when there’s now been years of case reports of kidney failure? And the evidence for potentially dangerous hypokalaemia is clear? I guess you’re right, this is certainly not a ‘detox’ plan when the ingredients put your main organs of excretion at serious risk! And, why would anyone sell this stuff to others without warning them of the known risks? Do the promises this company offers really warp people’s ethics that much? I cannot believe so many people start out not caring about allowing the danger posed to people’s health by these products- many even promote bee pollen for hayfever when this has been shown to risk potenitally fatal anaphylaxis in these individuals! And, seriously, why are you terming this your ‘evidence’ when it doesn’t even compare what happens to weight when you change your calorie input/ output ratio in the same way without using the products- hardly evidence, now is it? Let’s face, even if you had that evidence, you’d still have to do more to show whether there was any increase in actual fat loss, given the known laxative and diuretic properties of aloe!

        • Brenig July 27, 2015 at 7:33 pm #

          Scibabe, why are you putting yourself through the potential danger of using wifi-enabled electronic devices, smartphone, computer, laptop, etc? The evidence remains equivocal, but why take the risk, eh?

          Citations to support your statements would be recommended when making formulating such a firm stance of opposition.

          The products sold by FLP have been given the seal of approval by all 158 countries in which the company operates; this includes the extremely strict regulations of the USA and Australia.

          Clearly you have dealt with every distributor in the UK and overseen their interaction with clients to be able to determine what may or may not be said when discussing products; that must have been a truly time-consuming and arduous task.

          What do you suggest I lost if it wan’t fat? A foot, perhaps? It seems obvious to me that you are embittered for reasons best known to yourself, and that’s fine, whatever frame of mind you choose to exist in is your decision.

          Quite honestly, whatever I say isn’t going to convince you of anything, not that I care, anyway. However, for the benefit of anyone else reading this, I donated blood three days after finishing the C9; my iron levels were “perfect” according to the nurse, my blood pressure was perfect and my general health was ideal. My blood sugar is normal, my lipids are good and my cholesterol has fallen a point to be within recommended levels.

          And for the record, in the year or so that I have been drinking aloe it has never caused laxative effects; perhaps you’re referring to a far less superior product which may contain the rind of the plant as well as other impurities?

          • Scibabe July 27, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

            Hee hee, why, Mr Brenig, with all these ad hominem arguments, you’re really spoiling us. Glad you want the citations, sorry to only be including a small sample (below) of those examples available, a basic Cochrane search or similar will reveal more. Oh, and, at the risk of hypocrisy, sorry not to be including a basic guide to the metabolism of adipose tissue. Oh, and I agree these peer reviewed published papers, at least the ones about aloe, don’t make it clear whether it’s the type of aloe as processed by FLP, but you know what they say about the relationship between efficacy and toxicity, so it’s probably a moot point anyway. Oh, and I now realise I originally mentioned aloe causing kidney failure when of course I meant liver failure, it’s the bee pollen which can cause kidney failure, along with the anaphylaxis, my mistake. Here are some citations, obviously the 3rd and 4th ones need to be read together in order to grasp the implications for atopic individuals, especially those with hay fever, taking bee pollen products.
            1. Yang HN, Kim DJ, Kim YM, Kim BH, Sohn KM, Choi MJ, Choi YH. Aloe-induced toxic hepatitis. J Korean Med Sci 2010; 25: 492-5
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20191055
            2. Ulbricht et al, “An Evidence-Based Systematic Review of Aloe vera” by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration of Herbal Pharmacotherapy, Vol 7(3-4), 2007http://www.researchgate.net/…/0a85e52ee41593278b000000.pdf
            3. Pitsios et al, “Bee pollen sensitivity in airbourne pollen allergic individuals,” Annals of allergy, asthma and immunology, (12) 2006; 97(5); 703-706,
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17165283
            4. Choi et al, “Bee pollen-induced anaphylaxis: a case report and literature review,” Allergy, asthma and immunology research, 10/2014http://e-aair.org/…/Data/PDFData/9999AAIR/aair-6-e295.pdf
            5. Akiysu et al, 2010, “A Case Report of Acute Renal Failure Associated With Bee Pollen Contained in Nutritional Supplements” Apheresis and Dialysis 14(1) 93-97http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/…/j.1744-9987.2009…/full
            6. Onakpoya et al, “The Use of Garcinia Extract (Hydroxycitric Acid) as a Weight loss Supplement: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomised Clinical Trials”; Journal of Obesity, 2011
            of Obesity, 2011
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010674/

        • Brenig July 27, 2015 at 10:52 pm #

          Interesting that none of the cited information relates directly to FLP ingredients. Interesting that the cited documents are at least four years out of date. Interesting that the bee pollen sensitivity test is rather rudimentary and completely inconclusive – “further studies are needed to evaluate the safety of ingesting large amounts of bee pollen”. Strong beers, spirits and wine contain a large amount of alcohol; further studies are not needed to establish that ingesting large amounts of beer, spirits or wine can cause death. Do you troll social drinking blogs, too?

          Why don’t you research how many people experience serious allergic reactions to pesticides and herbicides used on fruit and veg crops? Why don’t you research how many people have adverse effects after taking chemical-based prescribed medication. Better still, why don’t you research how many people have truly benefited from the use of Forever’s products with such conditions as fibromyalgia, Crohn’s, diverticulitis, colitis, IBS and many, many other debilitating illnesses?

          Clearly you know relatively little about Forever Living Products’ range of merchandise, and even less about their ability to bring relief. One can only assume, then, that your opposition is merely for the effect of scaremongering.

          All the best and kindest regards.

      • kevinbsullivan October 6, 2015 at 11:50 pm #

        Oh, you mean not eating anything for three days and then consuming 600 calories over the next six? What a wonderful product you’ve got there. Try the 5/2 diet, which is completely free and doesn’t cost you to eat nearly next to nothing. Nice one Brenig, you’ve been brainwashed by MLM too, you clown.

        • Brenig James October 7, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

          Oh, how very civil of you, Kevin. There really is no need for such rudeness, is there.

  8. pensilje April 9, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    Hi Rhys, thanks so much for this excellent piece. A few years ago a family friend was aggressively recruiting my dad to Herbalife and I was railing against it, but was only a pre-teen at the time so they didn’t listen. Thankfully my father isn’t a sales person at all and could only sell once to one friend and gave it up after a couple of months. It would have been great to have this to refer to back then 🙂 Anyway, the reason why I’ve been reading about these MLMs again now many years later is that a friend of many of my friends have become a Forever seller, and it is clogging up timelines and now many of my friends are trying to sell too. It annoys me but I thought it harmless, but then I learned that one friend has actually quit her job (as a nurse and she worked hard to get there) for this, and I decided I need to be more pro-active about this, not just annoyed. Anyway, sorryto blabber on, just wanted to say thanks for a great piece that I will be forwarding to others.

    • Brenig July 20, 2015 at 9:40 am #

      So, did your friend leave nursing the moment she started her Forever business? Or did she leave nursing because her Forever business had allowed her to do so due to it paying her more than her nurse’s salary? Some clarity here would be very beneficial to the argument.

  9. Ethan Vanderbuilt (@sabot96) September 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    MLM companies have started to promote themselves as an alternative to college. It is time for a showdown between these two. I put together a post and video that compares them.

    http://ethanvanderbuilt.com/2013/08/30/mlm-vs-college-showdown/

  10. Geordie July 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    Hi Rhys,

    Great work you’ve done with this. I too have Crohn’s, and am pissed off with people who believe quacks more than they believe their doctors. I’m also pissed off with the companies you mention, and with others: Bowen, to name one, which I know a lot about through a couple of Bowen evangelists.

    As well as the the government tackling child access to pornography, they should also make children aware of the lairs, thieves, and unscrupulous quacks who are out there to take advantage of the unwary. Assessing the truth of claims and arguments should be part of the National Curriculum.

    You know there are plenty of resources out there if people know what to look for and where to look, but there are too many people who don’t know what to look for. I suggest starting with The Skeptic’s Dictionary: http://skepdic.com/

    All the best,
    Geordie

    • Brenig July 20, 2015 at 1:19 pm #

      Hi Geordie,

      Why should YOU be pissed off with OTHER people who believe in “quacks”? What has it to do with you? If something other than modern chemical medicine works for Crohn’s sufferers or sufferers of diverticulitis, IBS, fibromyalgia, etc. works for them, why should it bother you? Shouldn’t you be pleased for them that they have their conditions under control?

      I’d like to share something with you: I have clients whose testimonials state that our products (Forever Living) have helped them regain their lives from the problems of chronic IBS, fibromyalgia and diverticulitis. Why would they make that up if it weren’t true?

      May I ask, have you actually tried any alternative, natural treatments?

      • Nina April 7, 2016 at 11:37 pm #

        You are just highlighting exactly what Rhys’s article says! This is a classic response from an MLM rep on a post like this!

        • Brenig James April 8, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

          Have you ever thought, Nina, that if it’s a “classic response”, perhaps it’s credible and true?!

          When things change for you, and they will, get in touch. http://www.liberty-grp.co.uk.

          Have a great day.

          Kindest regards. 😉

  11. hayley Stevens July 25, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    I have seen claims from people on those Facebook ‘for sale, free or wanted’ groups from people who are involved in these schemes and the claims are dodgy as hell. Great post 🙂

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