Unfortunately, I have some personal experience with the quasi-religious corporate cult known as Amway/Quixtar. My ex was involved with it for roughly six months, about ten years ago. Sadly, Quixtar recruiters still use most of the same tired ol' enticements they were using over a decade ago, with a few new twists.
Initially, I didn't think Amway was such a bad idea. It's just like Avon, right? You sell soaps and baby wipes and whatnot, make a little extra money. Wrong. My first hint that something was horribly awry were the ever-growing piles of cassette tapes in my ex's living room, with titles like "Don't Dream It, Be It" and "Diamond Destiny". Why would one need 700 motivational tapes to sell some laundry detergent, especially if it's supposed to be primo stuff? So, I did some online research. What I found was both scary and profoundly pathetic. Amway is, as so many people have learned the hard way, a quasi-religious cult/pyramidish scam. I won't go into all the behavioral tricks, jargon, and moronic marketing strategies Amway (and its alter ego, Quixtar) use, but here's just a sample:
- Amway was very reluctant to continue using the name "Amway", and changed to Quixtar a few years back (around the time my ex was involved). But they're now reluctant to use the word "Quixtar" and are employing various fronts to hide it. Reps will avoid using the word until they are absolutely cornered and forced to do so. They will refer to Amway/Quixtar as "the business", "your business", or "the project". Many Quixtar reps currently prefer to call themselves Independent Business Owners (IBOs), or they refer to World Wide Dream Builders. There are reasons for this. No reputable business is scared of using its own name!! Amway/Quixtar has such a poor track record of failure, litigation, and shady tactics that it is known the world over as a cult-like corporation. Of course, the reps will tell you that Amway/Quixtar has an undeserved bad reputation - it's so powerful, successful, and innovative that its corporate rivals continually launch smear campaigns against it. Sure thing. They'll also tell you there's "a lot of silly, untrue stuff" about their business online, and they'll tell you to avoid it. "I'll point you to some good [Quixtar-affiliated] sites if you want more information," they'll tell you.
- Quixtar reps sucker you in by pretending the pyramid is a "unique opportunity", or "not for everybody", turning it into an alluring challenge. "Well, I'd tell you all about it, but I'm not sure you can handle it..."
- Amway reps invariably draw you in by asking you to describe for them your short- and long-term goals and dreams. Do you want to retire at 35? Buy an island? Feed the hungry? You can do it if you get into "the business."
- They'll tell you that real jobs are for suckers and losers. Why work for someone else? Never mind that Amway/Quixtar is someone else.
- Amway Diamonds, Emeralds, and Cubic Zirconias or whatever the hell they call themselves do not make most of their money from supervising their own private sales forces, nor from selling baby wipes. They make most of their money from sales of retarded motivational cassette tapes/CDs, books, and seminar tickets. At least one Diamond has admitted this. Amway/Quixtar isn't illegal, but it is a thinly veiled pyramidish scheme. Sure, you can theoretically get to the top - but how many people actually make it?
- The Diamonds who appear at seminars and on the CDs say things like, "I sold all my oil wells because Amway is a better opportunity" and "If it was between my wife and Amway, I'd choose Amway." (They only say this to people they've already initiated into the cult, of course, because they would never use the word "Amway" in mixed company.)
Mid-level Amway reps (Opals or Pearls or something like that) will tell you they're fabulously successful and well-off. The younger ones, like the former airline pilot who recruited my ex, will tell you they're close to retirement. But note that they never hold recruiting seminars in their own homes - they always ask you to do it. And they'll "suggest" you dress nicely and serve decent appetizers. ("Suggest" is the Amway word for "demand"). Also, they'll usually park a block or two away so you won't notice they're driving an '86 Chevy Nova crammed full of cassette tapes. If asked, reps explain the CDs and other motivational materials are being given to you "at a loss" even though you're paying retail price for each one.These materials are motivational aides commonly available at your local library and second-hand bookstores; you don't need to pay your upline full price for something you can use for free. But it you don't buy into the "tools" scam, they'll try to make you feel like you're not putting in an adequate amount of effort into "your business" (that's another Amway trick, by the way - referring to your portion of the pyramid as "your business", when it is clearly their business).
- Amway reps will prey on just about anyone, but they zero in on the young, the poor, and the religious. They'll tell you it's all about "faith", "morals", and the American/Canadian Dream, that you're not just selling toothpaste but actually upholding the capitalist way of life. Show me one Avon rep who talks like that.
- Once you're hooked, your upline will urge you to buy as many "tools" (CDs and books) as possible, and to attend as many out-of-town rallies as possible. They will continually urge you to bring your friends, relatives, neighbors, and everyone else you know into "the business", because the more downlines they have, the better. This can result in some very strained relationships, because few people in their right mind like to be badgered continually about a "business opportunity" that doesn't seem to be working out for you.
- The profit does not come primarily from the sale of (overpriced and overrated) products. It comes from having as many downlines as possible, signing up new people, and selling tools to them.
- This is key: In order to be wildly successful at Amway, you pretty much have to treat it like two full-time jobs. You have to be out there recruiting, holding home seminars, attending rallies, listening to and reading the motivational materials ("tools"), and trying to persuade everyone you know that it's a great idea to pay $10 for a tube of toothpaste.
- In addition to transportation and lodging and meal costs, rallies typically require you to pay for a ticket. It's another "tool" (read: profit-making venture). In a six-month span, my ex attended three of these rallies. His profit never exceeded his costs, though some Amway reps will try to tell you this is a low-risk venture or that you must spend lots of money to make money.
- Saturation can be a serious problem. If you live in a relatively small city or town, and there are already numerous Amway reps in your area, how much money do you think you're going to make?
- If you live in an economically depressed area, most people you talk to are going to be extremely reluctant to purchase the overpriced products or to pay the start-up fee to get in on "the business".
- As mentioned, Amway has such a dismal reputation as a cult-like and predatory corporation that many people completely avoid it as soon as they catch on to what you're trying to sell. Thanks to word-of-mouth and the Internet, more people are catching on to the scams than ever before.
Maybe Amway/Quixtar works out well for people who are in the right place and are willing and able to participate in a cult-like experience, if they have the skills to pull it off and the ambition to work long hours IN ADDITION to one or more full-time "Just-Over-Brokes". Some Amway/Quixtar reps and most IBOs are smart enough to realize that shelling out travel expenses for each and every rally is not going to get them where they want to go, and they invest only in the tapes that they actually plan to hear & the books they plan to read. However, only about 1% of the population fits into this category! The rest of the people inducted into Amway/Quixtar are not cut out for it, or any sales position for that matter. All the motivational CDs in North America won't make any difference.
Here's the heart of the matter: It's not just the Quixtar/Amway reps and IBOs who suffer. It's their children, their mates, their friends, and their families. I missed out on a lot of time with my ex because he was too busy with this nonsense in addition to a 60 hr/wk job, plus social activities. He never turned much of a profit, and when he did the money went straight back into tools, rallies, and gas to drive around recruiting others. The time he wasted at rallies and home presentations could have been much better spent. If you're single and have a lot of disposable income and time to spare, this may be ideal for you. But if you actually have to support a family or live a normal life, you're in for a world of pain.
I receive a lot of messages about Amway/Quixtar. I ask you, if Quixtar's such a solid business opportunity, as its proponents insist, why are so many people so deeply upset to see their loved ones involved in it? Why is it causing such anxiety and confusion? I'll say it again - Avon and Tupperware (etc.) don't do this!
Here's a painfully familiar comment from Anon: "A friend of mine and her husband are deeply involved in this terrible "business"...they have no lives now, they get no sleep, they miss days at their real jobs constantly...I'm waiting for one or both of them to be fired and then they'll be up a creek for sure...They miss important events like weddings and birthdays, family outings, etc, in favor of meetings and Quixtar seminars...The have been completely brainwashed...The Quixtar higher ups, so to speak, have told these poor saps not to watch tv, listen to the radio, etc to avoid anything negative getting into their heads...It is completely terrible...My friends have been involved for just over a year now and it was just revealed to me they get a 400 dollar check every month...Well, they put out 1000 dollars a month to start with and then pay all sorts of fees in addition for tapes, cds, admission to so called motivational speaker's seminars, gas and hotel costs and they're also told to leave obnoxiously large tips are these restaurants where they have these "night owls" meetings to discuss the business...They are constantly broke, constantly needing to recruit new people since the people they get never stick around once they've seen the light..."
And an even sadder firsthand account:
"My wife and I spend over 5 years trying to build this business. We love most of the products and will always use them. We did recieve some good insight and knowledge about what it is like to own a business, and we do agree with the principles taught, however.... We also figure between books tapes meetings, functions and overspend on products we didn't need just to have the PV/BV we needed to be "core" and set the right example for our downline we spend about $6,000/year much of which ended up on credit cards and we are still paying the price for this business. We loved it when we were building it we wouldn't miss any thing no matter how big or small or no matter how much the cost to get there.
We lost so much more than just money. We lost friendships and time, time that could never be replaced. I don't care if I do sit on the couch on a Tuesday night watching TV. My job performance has been better since I stopped building the business, no more long draining weekends and late weeknight meeting to make me tired and less prepared for my job. Now when I do sit and watch TV I feel refreshed and relaxed and ready to preform at my best the next day for work. Not to mention taking vacation days off for Quixtar... now I use my vacation days for guess what VACATION!!!
As for the cult thing, I believe it would qualify as a cult and I would be willing to debate this with anyone. I am ashamed that it took me so long and cost me so much before I realized what was going on, and that is why I shall remain anonymous."
Enough! Even writing about this stuff fills me with pity. For more info on Amway/Quixtar and its alter egos, visit http://www.webraw.com/quixtar/. This is a blog by a man whose wife was once programmed by Amway/Quixtar. Also check out the excellent blog Quixtar Cult Intervention.
OK, a quick Amway joke: When I told my friend M.J. and her husband, Phil, that I'm writing a book about Satanism, Phil said, "Some of our neighbours have a cult like that, I think! There are all these cars parked on their lawn every night, and the lights are never on!"
M.J. said, "Honey, they sell Amway."
M.J. and I looked at each other and said in perfect synch "Isn't it the same thing?"