Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Wow, the mask really comes off on this one

Watch a few minutes -- at least a few minutes -- of this video, enough to get the general idea. Then check below the fold to find out what happened to that little nutritional supplement company called Nutrilite.






From Wikipedia:

Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos, friends since school days, had been business partners in various endeavors including a hamburger stand, air charter service, and a sailing business. In 1949 they were introduced by Neil Maaskant (Van Andel's second cousin) to the Nutrilite Products Corporation. Nutrilite was a California-based direct sales company founded by Carl Rehnborg, developer of the first multivitamin marketed in the United States. In August 1949, after a night-long talk, DeVos and Van Andel signed up to become distributors for Nutrilite food supplements.[8][page needed] They sold their first box the next day for $19.50, but lost interest for the next two weeks. Shortly thereafter, at the urging of Maaskant, who had become their sponsor, they traveled to Chicago to attend a Nutrilite seminar. The meeting was at a downtown hotel, with over a hundred people in attendance. After seeing promotional filmstrips and listening to talks by company representatives and successful distributors, they decided to pursue the Nutrilite business opportunity with enthusiasm. They sold their second box of supplements on their return trip to Michigan, and rapidly proceeded to develop their new business further.

In 1949, DeVos and Van Andel had formed Ja-Ri Corporation (abbreviated from their respective first names) for importing wooden goods from South American countries. After their trip to the Nutrilite seminar, they dropped[clarification needed] this business and Ja-Ri became their Nutrilite distributorship. In addition to profits on each product sold, Nutrilite also offered commission on the sales of products by new distributors introduced to the company by existing distributors—a system today known as multi-level marketing or network marketing. By 1958, DeVos and Van Andel had built an organization of over 5,000 distributors. However, following concerns about the stability of Nutrilite, in April 1959 they and some of their top distributors formed The American Way Association to represent the distributors and look for additional products to market.

Their first product was called Frisk, a concentrated organic cleaner developed by a scientist in Ohio. DeVos and Van Andel bought the rights to manufacture and distribute Frisk, and later changed the name to LOC (Liquid Organic Cleaner). They subsequently formed Amway Sales Corporation to procure and inventory products and to handle the sales and marketing plan, and Amway Services Corporation to handle insurance and other benefits for distributors (Amway being an abbreviation of "American Way"). In 1960 they purchased a 50% share in Atco Manufacturing Company in Detroit, the original manufacturers of LOC, and changed its name to Amway Manufacturing Corporation. In 1964 the Amway Sales Corporation, Amway Services Corporation, and Amway Manufacturing Corporation merged to form a single entity, Amway Corporation. Amway bought control of Nutrilite in 1972 and full ownership in 1994.
And if you'd like to learn a bit more about the nice people at Amway, check out this article from the nice people at Cracked.
We don't want to use the word "cult" lightly -- it's not like you'll get six meetings into Amway and find out it's all being done in service to the invisible space lizard Quixtar. But you've probably heard how groups like Scientology make their millions -- new members are roped in and told that the road to enlightenment runs through some very expensive course materials. Well, new Amway members ("distributors") are constantly promised there's a rocketship to success waiting just on the other side of the next $250 seminar. And then they're assured that those seminars are nothing without a $40 package of tapes and books to accompany them.

In both cases, the hook is the same, and it's targeted at the desperate: a little money now, a better life later. Only it's not "a little" money. As Kyritsis told us:

"The two years I was supposedly building my Amway business, I lost nearly $10,000 on tapes, seminars, books, gas, and traveling expenses for out-of-town seminars. My earnings? Less than $500 total. Since I was unemployed -- and pretty much unemployable for any nonburger-flipping job -- those $10,000 came exclusively from my grandmother, who was also my biggest (and only) Amway customer, buying expensive, 'concentrated' Amway products she didn't need, every month to support me."

Kyritsis got off easy. You can find stories online of people spending $192,000 to "make" $30,000 (shit, we think there are actual cults with a higher rate of return). It's impossible to know the exact "success" rate for Amway independent business owners (IBOs), but one case from 2008 showed that out of 33,000 IBOs, only 90 made enough money to cover the costs of their business. That's a failure rate of damn near 100%. But of course, to Amway, those aren't failures. Amway doesn't make its money selling the random household goods the distributors are handing out -- they make money selling a dream. Then once you've committed yourself and forked over serious cash -- and convinced friends and family to do the same -- how can you leave? At this point, you've got too much invested not to see it through.

We should also note that Kyritsis lives in Greece, a country just coming through the other side of an intense financial crisis (see: "targeting desperate people", above). Amway is based in Michigan, but they do about 90% of their business outside of the United States. It's not hard to see why: Amway is increasingly well known as a scam in the U.S., and American citizens have an easier time suing the company for unethical business practices. In 2010, Amway settled with disgruntled American customers for $155 million.

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