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Rant, rant, rant
DECONSTRUCTING A MULTILEVEL MARKETING SITE
If someone who believes in natural progesterone suddenly wants to be your friend, watch out...

I really, really loathe the peddlers of get-rich quick schemes who prey upon the credulity and cupidity of my fellow man. I freely admit: they get under my skin. Recently, on the newsgroup alt.support.menopause, I wrote, re one vendor's query about how I knew her pitch was a scam and a trap:

It's all there on your supplier's web site for anyone with half a brain to see.

Downline commissions, indeed. I hope you get fleeced, you obnoxious little greedhead.

Possibly it's not clear to a few people what I'm talking about, or why I keep calling her "pond scum" and "obnoxious little greedhead." So I thought I might take us all through the exercise of analyzing her supplier's web site, www.lifechoice-corp.com/ so that folks with half a brain or more but no inclination to repeat this exercise will have it in front of them. I call this exercise

Deconstructing Lifechoice

Let's have a look at the Vitality-Lifechoice web site, shall we? Our tour will start at the top, with the "hidden" meta tags that control how a page is indexed and described by the search engines.

First we have the "description" tag, which will control the way the page is described by such search engines as AltaVista. You'll see the URL and the words in quotation marks after "content."

<meta name="description" content="Vitality Corporation, Natural Health
Products, Herb and Herbal Remedies, PMS relief, Natrual Diabetes Control">

Nothing in the description hints at the real purpose of the site, which shows up in the "keywords" tag. This one will control how the search engine responds to keyword requests. Now, anyone looking for an MLM opportunity (gaaa) or home money making will get this page. (Of course anyone looking for natural diabetes control or nutritional supplements won't because the person who put the page together can't spell.)

<meta name="keywords" content="Herbal Health Nutrition PMS Natrual Health Products Nutritional Suppliments MLM Opportunity Home Money Making">

I've assumed that everyone reading so far knows what "MLM" means, but just in case: MLM stands for "multilevel marketing" and is the current buzzword for a marketing practice that is identical to or very close to a pyramid scheme. If you'd like further information on the perils of becoming involved with one of these, see any or all of the following:

Multilevel Marketing - the ugly truth  


But back to the vendor and her supplier.

They've just re-done their homepage, so it looks different now. But here's a snapshot of them when they were somewhat less sophisticated:

The homepage "Welcome to Vitality-Lifechoice (Better Health and Better Wealth)" offers one link to their products and three links to pages about how much money can be made selling/distributing the stuff. Across the bottom of the page is this continually-scrolling message:

Welcome to Vitality Corporation!...Better products for greater health and wealth...This Web Page has been developed to better inform our customers....Phone our 24 hour order and information hotline at 1-800-000-0000...Let Vitality show you the way to financial independence

But the real raison d'etre of the site shows up on the business opportunity page.

The "business opportunity" comes from signing up your "friends" to be distributors. You get a cash bonus for signing up a new distributor, and you get a cut of their sales henceforth and forever. You get the biggest cuts from inspiring your distributors to recruit more distributors -- the third line down in the profit chain. Of course, you need "friends" to do this, and the MLM folks recommend that you join organizations, participate in newsgroups, etc. to create these relationships that will result in more distributors. If this is setting off alarm bells in your head, it ought to.

If one of these vendors starts acting like your friend, hang on to your wallet. She'll get a bonus if she signs you up, and she'll get bonuses for every one *you* sign up. But don't take my word for it. Read the program, excerpted below, or go to the page for the full story:

  1. Retail Profits - 20%
    ...Products purchased at Distributor cost and resold at full retail will give
    a 20% profit.
  2. Fast Start Bonus - 50%
    Requires a valid Distributor I.D. Paid upon actual purchase volume. Each time you personally sponsor a new distributor into Vitality-Lifechoice, you will receive a 50% fast-start Bonus based upon their initial order-purchase volume....
  3. Downline Commissions
    ....
    Level 1: 10%
    Level 2: 5%
    Level 3: 20%
    Level 4: 10%
    Level 5: 5%

  4. Infinity Bonus
    Paid from your first level down to infinity! ...


Downline commissions, folks. That's where it's at and that's what the vendor wants to get. If she sidles up to you and wants to be your best friend, make sure it's not that 50% signup bonus and steady flow of commissions she wants.

[Update, April 22, 1999 --Vitality-Lifechoice has removed this page from their site, or at least I have not been able to find it. There is a business opportunities page, but it talks in generalities and encourages you to e-mail for more details.]

Laura's midlife rant on multilevel marketing
Updated April 22, 1999


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