Monday, August 4, 2014

The Jitters

You know, I ain't afraid o' nuttin' but I'm a little frightened right now.

About thirty years ago, my wife and I were Amway distributors with a fairly aggressive organization in California. We loved the people we were involved with, we loved the positive messages, and the positive thinking reading materials they promoted, and we loved the products! We did fairly well for a little while, but we eventually hit the wall when I realized I just wasn't willing to do what it took to be successful in Amway or, indeed, with any multilevel marketing organization. Nothing they asked us to do was illegal, immoral, unethical, or any of that - I simply was neither a salesman (someday maybe I'll talk about my disastrous career selling cars) nor a recruiter. Just not my style.

Fast forward a few years, and we had some lovely friends who were Amway distributors, too.We joined their business to hang around with nice folks and buy the products wholesale, instead of retail. Things went along swimmingly for a while until it became apparent to them that we weren't gonna move along with the train taking them to success, and when they moved to the big city to pursue their business and dreams, we never heard from them again.

Sometime a few years later, a customer came into the restaurant I was managing - couldn't even tell you his name today - and was really friendly, just a super fellow. We got to talking, and he asked about my family, and talked about his wife..I thought we really hit it off. A few days later, he even called me and invited my wife and I to join him and his wife at a banquet they were attending. It wasn't often I had an evening free, but this one turned out to be, and so my wife and I got all dressed up and went to the banquet, and met lots of people, and they were all so nice, and as the evening went on, it turned out to be a recruiting party for people to sell Foresters' insurance. And here I thought those folks liked me for my sparkling wit and boyish good looks.

My radar for that sort of thing was always on, after that, and so we never really fell for any recruiting pitches from friends or family for the next ten years or so. During those years, we managed to avoid buying a set of Cutco knives from friends and friends of friends several times, even though we'd let them come and make their hard core pitch, "just for practice".

In the meantime, we became good friends with the parents of one of our children. We went to football games together - our boys played on the same team. We had meals at their home, and they at ours, and we had a tradition of watching every Super Bowl together, having a huge family potluck and lots of fun. We went camping together, and I took them and their kids water skiing. They even surprised me with the tombstones and black balloons for my fortieth birthday. And then, one day, they invited us to come over to listen to a sales pitch for, if I remember correctly, a multilevel marketing way to sell phone service, before cell phones became so ubiquitous. We told them we weren't interested in being part of anything like that, and that was the last time we ever heard from them. They barely spoke to us when we saw them around the neighborhood for years afterward, and even to this day our conversations are brief and stilted when we meet in the grocery store or see them out on their morning constitutionals. We lost a very close pair of friends to network marketing.

So, when I got off the phone just a few minutes ago, you can perhaps understand my trepidation. We have a couple with whom we have been friends for several years. We met in a small group bible study, and have shared our joys and sorrows and lots of good times. They were there for I was getting ready for and recovering from back surgery, and at a time in our lives when both couples have caught the travel bug, we love the opportunity to get together and talk shop and share photos, and dream about retirement homes and all that sort of thing. BUT...we saw on Facebook the other day that they were at a convention back East for something that appeared to be multilevel/network/direct sales, and my radar began to ping. I got a text from my friend yesterday saying they wanted to get together with us, and asking when would be a good time to call. He called today, and they just want to come over and "run something by us". He trotted out all the familiar phrases, and swore it was "the opposite of Amway" (which may not be the best thing to say to me, if you recall, we loved our Amway experience), and I'm just afraid, truly afraid, that I'm going to lose another friend when I refuse to be part of their business. I'm happy to be a customer, should their product fulfill a real need for me, and not a imagined or manufactured one, as most of those plans seem to be.

1 comment:

ProudHillbilly said...

Well, that stinks. I tried to do MLM at one point but it's just not my personality.