Etiquette Fun: Friends with MLM Businesses

Friends with MLM Businesses2018 Update: We still think this is a great discussion about friends with MLM businesses — but you may also want to check out some of our more recent discussions on mom friends.

Do you have any close friends taking part in MLM businesses like Younique, Rodan + Fields, Beachbody coaching, or more? Are you doing it yourself, or would you consider it? Do you get annoyed when you meet a new person through a mommy group or kids’ activity and she immediately starts blasting you with suggestions to buy products, sign up for coaching, or come to what amounts to a Tupperware party?

I’m not sure if every woman, in every stage of her life, has friends with MLM businesses, but it certainly feels like the list of such acquaintances explodes once you hit the age range where many friends have babies and small kids. I see a lot of readers here and at Corporette expressing what I also feel, which is to eye every new program (and friend involved) with skepticism.

Part of it is the public nature of MLM businesses — it seems to be the modus operandi to blast your personal FB page and everyone in it. I’ve even been placed in a separate Facebook group for someone’s business (which I didn’t even know you could do). On the flip side, I have heard some customers really singing the praises of certain products, always caveating it with something like, “I don’t normally like these things, BUT… my skin has never looked better! / the mascara IS amazing! / I’ve lost 15 lbs!”

So let’s discuss, ladies — how do you view these companies, and friends working for the companies? Do you buy products just to be nice, or have you become a devotee of anything? What are the biggest pros and cons that you see to this phenomenon?

Psst: how to secretly unfollow people on Facebook so you “stay friends” but don’t see their blasts in your newsfeed.



  1. LeftAnon says:

    I have some friends who are politically active. Even when I agree with them, I have decided to put their requests for me to email/call/sign a petition in the same category as my MLM friends – it’s just business. It does not define how I see their issue, or how moral or ethical I am. “It’s just business”

  2. Betsy says:

    I don’t buy anything I don’t want. My biggest turnoff is when these women say, “I own my own business.” No, they do not! They aren’t meeting a payroll, answering to clients, wrangling deadlines or employees. They are a branch of a huge MLM; they aren’t a business owner. The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    • NewMomAnon says:

      I heard a pitch from a woman who sold “thirty-one” products and it sounded like much of her compensation came in the form of more bags (monogrammed with her initials, of course, so she couldn’t re-sell them). That left such a bad taste in my mouth with regard to the company, but didn’t taint my impression of the woman.

    • Agreed says:

      I agree and would extend this to when they say they “work from home.”

      I have a corporate work at home job in the finance industry – I do it while my baby is in child care and I have to be available by phone / IM / email during normal business hours, attend conference calls, and produce things all day, etc.

      Now when I tell people I work from home they seem to compare it to this stuff and think I work while the kiddo is napping and on weekends. I want to say, no I have a “real” job but it feels wrong for me to say this out loud.

      • I get this response sometimes too. I tend so say something like, “oh gosh, [kid] is in daycare full time! I could never do my job with her in the house!”. I try to keep it about me, and not about their “non real” job, but my ego won’t let people make that assumption about my work.

      • workingmomz says:

        I totally get it and feel the same way.

  3. NewMomAnon says:

    I had one friend who was selling MLM nutritional supplements many years ago. It was really awkward, in part because it made me worry that she was financially struggling and selling this stuff for the cash. I was also younger and still trying to be “cool,” and thought that hanging out with MLM folks wasn’t cool.

    Now….I have gone to some of the MLM parties, but only if (1) I am interested in buying some of the product; (2) I want to hang out with the people who will be at the party; and (3) I set a budget in advance. I ignore the stuff on FB (I have learned to make liberal use of the “hide these posts” option) and people at my office keep it pretty quiet.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I said point blank to my friend who sells candle crap “I don’t believe in supporting pyramid schemes.” She did not take kindly to that and I received a lecture about how it’s not a pyramid scheme. Whoops.

    • NewMomAnon says:

      Right, it’s not a pyramid because that implies antitrust. It’s more like a bunch of triangles acting as independent contractors, all selling at the same fixed price, and stacked against each other in an organized way that could resemble a pyramid but totally isn’t.

  5. lucy stone says:

    The only stuff I’ve tried and actually like is Jamberry and LuLaRoe. I like Jamberry because they actually last two weeks on me and I can’t get nail polish to stay on for more than a day, and LLR because the clothes are super soft for weeekend schlubby clothes. The next person who tries to sell me Shakeology/Herbalife/ItWorks! is probably going to get kicked.

  6. CPA Lady says:

    Warning: Diatribe ahead.

    I hate it. I hate everything about it. And the only reason I dont post a scathing facebook diatribe about how much I hate it before defriending every single person I know blasting me with that stupid crap is that one of my very good friends sells R&F and she is a delightful person whose feelings I dont want to hurt.

    Its awkward, its manipulative verging on predatory, its tiresome. I hate it. I dont want to buy a bunch of mystical healing power of crystals essential oils or some gross shake that is going to make me crap my pants or even a super cute necklace that is $79. I dont want any of it. Every time a friend of mine quits her job to have kids I get ready to start fending off the onslaught of cheesy facebook posts, high pressured “parties”, and repeated suggestions that I join the pyramid too. I just want to yell at those people to get a real job. I realize that half these women probably do want a real job but cant admit it to themselves or cant justify spending on childcare to work part time. So I just quietly grit my teeth, politely turn down every offer, and hide all those people on fb.

    (Diatribe aside, I do think the R&F soothe line is decent for my extremely sensitive skin. but there is no way i’m shelling out $175 for a two month supply. I will re-buy eventually to support my friend, but not on the every two month schedule they suggest.)

    • Agreed says:

      Love this comment!

    • D. Meagle says:

      This!!! Especially the part about the shakes that make you crap your pants.

      Thanks for making my day.

    • Onlyworkingmomintulsa says:

      I feel the exact same way! Also, what does it say about me when the majority of my social invitations are for candle/jewelry/skincare parties? Good lord, enough!

    • Beans says:

      Spot on. Many of the MLM companies are predatory and seek out vulnerable women. It is disgusting.

    • WorkingMom says:

      I realize I’m about a week late replying… but I could not agree more. I hate the MLM concept. I actually have a situation brewing with a very good friend who invited me to hang out at her house and catch up, arrive to find out it’s a sales party for her “new business.” She won’t apologize, doesn’t understand what she did wrong, and continues to ask me to support her new business. Nope. Nope. Nope. It’s a mess. I will say… I tried R&F Unblemish for a while and my skin was never better… which sucks because I couldn’t keep spending a student loan payment on face wash. So now I’m saving my money and my skin is crap. But whatever. I also cannot stand the “I own my own business” stuff – no, you do not.

  7. Anonymous says:

    On this topic, I read this lovely blog post the other week:

    I’m not the blogger, don’t know the blogger, but I was really impressed at how classy and easy all of the scripted responses on both sides sounded.

    MLM is not my thing, but at this point it’s prevalent enough that I’ve realized I have to live with it (but also, with myself).

  8. Clementine says:

    Ugh, I hate this MLM junk… I don’t want or need any of it!!! (Well, except for Pampered Chef… I got a few things as gifts that I really really like and would be willing to buy more.)

    I hate the guilt aspects that seem integral to all these MLM plans. I should feel guilty that I’m not helping you. I should feel guilty that I’m not ‘Making my family the most important thing by staying home!!’ I should feel guilty that I’m not ‘reaching for my dreams’ by not joining your team.

    I really try to be very ‘you do you’ about this, but seriously?? The oils and wraps and shakes and candles with costume jewelry in them??? Please stop. I want to see pictures of kids and catch up on what your vacation was like when I go on FB, not deal with all this junk.

  9. So, I left my job as a banking attorney after 8 years this past December to dedicate my entire time to my Direct Sales business with Beautycounter. I love it, have a team of 15 amazing women working alongside of me and LOVE helping women get successful businesses up and running – basically nothing that I got from being a lawyer. I have three children and this gives me much more flexibility.

    BUT, I must admit that even I was skeptical at first. I think it depends on the company. Beautycounter is an education first company with the mission of getting SAFE products in the hands of everyone. We’re trying to effect change in Congress to get stronger laws on the books making companies offer safer products (I encourage everyone to help by simply texting MARCHFORTH to 52886. You’ll receive a link to take the action immediately, which is an email to all three of your Members of Congress.) So I’ve found a product and a company I truly believe in and a business model that I love that allows me to continue contributing financially to my family! It’s a win all around for me!

    • You're blocked on Facebook says:

      I did this by working for an environmental nonprofit that created standards for products, including personal care products. Our customers were businesses getting products certified so that the government would purchase them.

      You totally just combined the MLM discussion and the first post on her political activist friends. Congratulations!

    • Anonymous says:

      I love Beautycounter products.

  10. Anonymous says:

    My mother has had so many MLM “businesses.” When I see these posts, I cringe, and I hide them. Most of them are pyramid schemes, and it makes me sad to see people fall for the schtick.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I block every single person on my facebook page selling this MLM stuff. I don’t go to the parties, I don’t buy the stuff. I think it’s a bad model and that it hurts women, and I refuse to participate in it. And I cannot stand the SAHM judgment that comes with it.

  12. Philanthropy Girl says:

    I have about a billion friends selling MLM. Fortunately, almost all of them are pretty low key about it. I only see it on social media, they don’t bring it up IRL, and none of them are trying to make a living at it. I tend to ignore in general, mostly because I can’t afford any of their stuff – with the exception of Usborne books (which I would totally sell if I had time). I’ve left a couple of groups I was added to, and hidden a few of the more annoying posts. I did try Shakeology for a short while, wasn’t impressed, and am now switching to something about 1/3 of the cost that I can get from Amazon without the frequent PMs asking why I haven’t re-ordered!

    Since none of my friends are obnoxious about it, it doesn’t really bother me.

  13. Lillers says:

    I have one friend doing MLM (Younique), and she is actually doing pretty well for herself. However, I think any business where your success/pay is measured by your ability to recruit a team and convince THEM to sell more is ridiculous. Also, the “marketing” on Facebook is just too much.

    Plus, truly “owning your own business” takes more than 40 hours per week. Your name is behind/on all the products, so you are invested in making sure they are great. All the complaints get funneled to you. All the rewards go to you – and the smaller your “team” is, the less people you have to pay! We have a family business (that I am not part of but have worked there part-time here and there), so I know firsthand that it is a LOT of work.

  14. Spirograph says:

    My friends who do these aren’t obnoxious about it except on facebook – although I did have a former coworker who brought up Jamberry almost every time I talked to her, and I wanted to scream.

    I block the facebook posts, ignore party invites, and don’t buy any of this stuff because I am not interested in the products, but I’m always kind of disappointed – for lack of a better word – when I find out a friend is in the business. I absolutely see most of the MLM companies as predatory schemes that primarily target SAHM and women in lower pay/lower responsibility jobs. The companies sell them the idea that they can own something, and make money off the women buying inventory (which the company knows full well most turn around for a profit in any reasonable timeframe because sales is not a universal skill). If the company were trying to make money from selling product to customers, they’d just have a direct-to-consumer website and a marketing campaign. Or price the stuff reasonably. Or any number of more effective strategies.

    • Meg Murry says:

      Yes, my biggest problem with MLM are the companies that require the sellers to buy a large stock of inventory themselves and the re-sell (and take a loss when those products are discontinued or don’t sell) and the companies that have really high minimums sales each month or quarter to remain an active seller. A family member tried selling Mary Kay, and first had to front hundreds of dollars in stock and to buy samples. When she gave it up 2 years later, she probably only had barely broken even or maybe even lost money, given the amount of makeup and skincare stuff she had left that she gave away or sold for less than she paid for it. Another friend/acquaintance was a Pampered Chef rep, and when she wasn’t focusing on selling because she was taking care of her dying mother for a couple of months, she lost her status and had to restart up as a new rep.

      Plus did you know most MLMs require their reps to buy a stack of the catalogs every quarter? I was horrified to find that all the catalogs I’d taken “to be polite” were costing the reps money.

      I think the major reason MLMs are so popular in my area is that we are pretty far from the really nice stores – the semi-decent large, well stocked department stores are an hour away, and it’s 1.5-2+ hours to the nearest Nordstrom, Williams-Sonoma, etc. So that Pampered Chef kitchen gadget or 31 bag or MLM skincare line is nicer than what you can buy in our area without a crazy drive. I’ll admit to having purchased a few items, but so many of them are just way overpriced to me now, and not worth it, or aren’t something I really need. There are a few Pampered Chef items I love though, and I’ve purchased replacement or duplicates on eBay for much cheaper, or waited until OXO or similar came out with a knock-off a year or two later.

      My dilemma right now is that a friend I’ve fallen out of touch with just invited me to an MLM party this week – and lots of other mutual friends I haven’t seen in years are going to be there. Is it totally rude to go to one of these “parties” and eat the host’s food and socialize with zero intention to buy anything? Maybe if I bring a really nice hostess gift? I really would like to get back in touch with some of the attendees.

      • MomAnon4This says:

        Yes, it is kind of rude if you know it’s an MLM party to not buy a thing. Browse on the website and make a list of something cheap.

        No one’s mentioned the s3cks t0y parties! I even bought some shaving cream there a few years ago… it does smell good…

        • But isn’t it kind of rude for the friend to reach out in this way? I would feel very slighted if the first contact I had with a girlfriend in awhile was an invitation to this kind of party.

      • Onlyworkingmomintulsa says:

        I don’t think its rude at all. I just went to one this past weekend (Stella and Dot and Rodan& Fields, a two-fer!) with the sole intention of catching up with some hs friends I haven’t seen in awhile. To offset my guilt, I brought the host a bottle of wine : )

  15. navyhawk says:

    I sell Thirty-One and the compensation is 25%. But I am super low key about it. I enjoy it yes, but I like my career better. It is what it is, I have no delusions that I will make tons of cash. For me it’s a little extra money and it’s fun going to parties.

    I have a business page (where I advertise) and a customer group (you have to request to join. I will not add you).

    I really try not to be obnoxious and I hate it when people are. I also love going to the parties of other DS companies. It’s a night out.

    AS for working from home, when I did work at home, we had a sitter come in so I could get work done. If you treat DS as a job, you certianly can gain some money. but you can’t “work only on the weekned” nor can you shove it down people’s throat.

    If I have a bag that I am wearing, and get complemented, I say thanks, I sell it. If they request more info, I give it. I don’t follow up, unless asked (probably why I will never be successful)

  16. I just got a private FB message from an acquaintance who I haven’t seen in years, saying she loves seeing pictures of my family and would I have 10 minutes to chat about her MLM business? I am grappling with whether or how to respond. I have zero interest in buying the product or selling it myself. I feel I owe her the courtesy of a response. But, ugh.

    • That happened to me recently, and I ignored it. We haven’t spoken in 15, and I didn’t feel any obligation to listen to her pitch.

    • This happened to me recently. I just said something like, “I’m glad X product has worked so well for you, but it’s not for me” and then typed a normal catch-up response (I’m up to blah blah. My husband is doing blah blah. We just did this fun thing together. Life is great. Hope you’re doing well. How’s baby Jane?). She responded with the normal catch up stuff for her as well and said if I ever change my mind to let her know.

      By the way, I don’t think you owe her a response at all. I think it’s kind of rude to not talk to someone for years and then only contact them when you want something.

    • “I’d love to catch up! But I have a personal policy not to purchase from any more catalogs, so unfortunately I have to pass on the MLM details. What else is going on with you?” and then gauge from her second message. If she stays away from MLM, great. If she can’t keep it out of her second message, then no need for a second response on your part.

  17. MLM has driven me nuts for years. I used to get approached by Mary Kay consultants on the street all the time; “I love your hair, do you work in this building; we should get coffee sometime!” blech! Like many others my FB feed is a constant stream of people pushing products or inviting me to private groups (which I know unfollow and uninvited myself!). I personally think “It Works!” is likely the biggest farce. Even worse, my MIL invites me to her friends’ parties. I never would never want to guilt my friends into paying me to support my “business.” I see a lot of old high school friends who are teachers get involved in these companies, and I get it–something to do over the summer that’s not too time consuming but still making some $$.

    I’ve bought a few things here and there in I’m interested. I like some of the 31 products (great for storage and organization), Arbonne (the skincare has really improved the evenness of my skintone), and Lia Sophia (RIP). I’ve even bought Shakeology because I wanted to get into the whole protein drink craze, but you have to add so many other things to the powder it loses nutritional value. I do like some of the Beachbody workouts, but you can find them for free on youtube. What I really despise is those who shill Shakeology more often than not have no background in nutrition or fitness. They’re just mouthpieces. Same thing w/skincare/beauty products. I have a friend who is an esthetician and these companies drive her nuts because the consultants have no clue about the formulations of the products and have no formal training as estheticians.

    Admittedly, I’ve been looking for a LulaRoe consultant bc the stuff looks uber comfortable!

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