No such thing as a Free Lunch – When I worked for an MLM

I worked for a Independent Distributor of Herbalife. I did not manage the sales; at least not directly. The entire business model was to lure people in. I say lure because we could never say what we did. Either they came because they were promised huge sums of money or a ”free health scan” or ”free gym membership”. At no point did they mention Herbalife until you got there. How did they get there?

The company – and that was my job – had around fifty different websites. They had names like ”youaredying”, ”freehealthscan or ”make10000aweek”. All of them was made with pretty much one or two clicks then using stock images I sincerely doubt the company had a licence for and then over and over. Aside from me having to unlock each side individually(by asking my boss) since our customer roster was on the very same server (Yes, under the same FTP).

I was not provided with any equipment. I used my own personal laptop for my work, I was not paid to be there, the only thing I was provided – if you can call it that – was herbalife nutrition bars. This was the office fika. Eating anything that was not Herbalife at the office was discouraged. They even served us Herbalife stuff during the hiring interview! My contact from Lidingö Stad was with me during the first workday – to make sure everything worked out. He and me had bonded pretty well and that was the only enjoyable workday; because we sat and very quietly ridiculed most of the things we saw happen.

Not all of it was funny.

I saw people running for the door and they where the smart ones. They usually got pursued by another seller hellbent on making the sale or drafting them into the program. I saw a lot of diplomas promising rich rewards and I was subjected to a lot of propaganda from my boss who wanted me to start in sales.

He was not very good at it. He would send me stuff like ”look at this dishwasher who is now a millionaire by investing in Herbalife” and then he could not even answer the question where a dishwasher would find that money. He also claimed to be a part of the ”Executives team”, a meaningless title that pretty much showed what position he had in the Pyramid. I never found out if he was a part of it or if he did what many retailers do; put his Herbalife goal as his facebook job.

The health scan was a scam, pure and simple. It was a scale attached to a wire. In general, the person who asked for a health scan would be told stories of doom and gloom whereupon they would be recommended an ample supply of Herbalifes overpriced products. Many bought them, simply because they felt they had saved money on the health scan – and was told as much by the more experienced sellers.

One day, three weeks in I had enough. I sat in the same area as where the ”customers” were handled. An old lady held her ground, refusing to buy anything despite being shamed by the seller who kept insisting she ”owed” them for the health scan; a new recruit – a young kid, maybe 20-23 – came in, was introduced to me and my boss said ”this is Jonathan, he has only been here for three weeks but already doing great”.

He never said I was the one who made the website that brought that kid there.

On that day on the third week I walked away. I took my boss aside and said I felt this was a scam and I was unable to continue this line of work on the backs of other people. He tried to talk me out of it but I would not hear it. On my way home; I noticed they had not removed me as administrator of the social media so I revoked all the changes I made during my time there. They still use one of my ideas last time I checked; focusing heavily on Facebook Events. They still pretend they are simply inviting friends along to the gym. I hope it goes poorly for them.

When I had walked away, they tried to get me back. They called the unemployment agency and went on a twenty-minute long rant about how they were not a scam. After that, my contact there ceased to try and talk me into going back. I would never do it. I am not the kind of person who can rip people off and I am quite happy to work where I am currently – with honest work as a photographer.

If you want to know more about the bigger picture on Herbalife, Betting on Zero on Netflix is a good option. John Oliver also have a very good piece on the topic.