The Network Marketing People Have Come A Callin'

This past week I was presented (read: accosted) with not one but two opportunities to join in network marketing businesses, commonly referred to as "pyramid schemes" by anyone other than those hawking their way to the pinnacle of said pyramid.

The first strong-arming came via cell phone from a former colleague who is now selling skin care products. After we exchanged pleasantries, which pretty much consisted of me whining that I still hadn't found a full-time job (a dubious attempt to lay the groundwork for saying "no" to purchasing a $45 mud mask), she proceeded to tell me how "awesome" things were going for her.

Thanks to this amazing company, she was already, "in just four to 10 hours per week," earning more than she had in a week at our former post. Within months, she'd risen to district manager status, she crowed, while I bit my tongue to avoid saying, "When you last saw me, did I look like a woman who cares about skin products? If they don't sell it at CVS, and I don't have a coupon for it, I'm not buying it." I also wanted to add, "And of course your skin is going to look flawless, you're 26!"

She continued on, breathless, telling me of her plans to be named vice president by summer and that's when it clicked. She didn't want me to buy her products, she wanted me to sell them. Yikes! I almost burst out laughing. Did she actually think I could convince strangers to believe in something when I can't even get my own family members to lift up the toilet seat or refill ice cube trays? (And that's after years of not-so-friendly requesting.)

I told her I was familiar with the company as my college roommate had been selling the products for years - true story. She continued undeterred, and I think even if I'd faked a seizure, nothing could have derailed her pitch. I told her I was glad that she was having such great success with it but I'd already tried sales and found it pretty exhausting. Again, it was as if I'd never spoken.

Thankfully, my children were whoopin' it up like they rodeo clowns they're someday likely to become (especially with their college funds now going toward important things like electricity and bread), so I told her I had to hang up and put them to bed. She repeatedly implored me to get in touch should I want to learn more about this incredible venture.

I suppose you could look at this as someone throwing a drowning woman a lifeline, but really, I can barely muster the strength to clean my dryer's lint trap, how do you expect me to show up in someone's living room and extol the virtues of rejuvenating body mists? When I'm invited as guest, I don't want to attend these things - and that's even with the promise of wine and hors d' oeuvres.

Later in the week a neighbor who knows about our "situation" told me he had a life-changing opportunity for me. Gun-shy from my near-initiation into the cosmetic cult, I said, "You're not going to ask me to sell skin care products, are you?"

"No! No!" he insisted, it was nothing like that. Until it was. Well, OK, not exactly like that...he conceded...I'd be selling a line of health and wellness products. Or, I could skip the selling entirely and just recruit other people to sell it for me. Huh. Now I can't be mad at this guy. He thinks he's doing us a favor (one which would ultimately result in him getting a small stipend on a regularly basis if I can find thirsty masses just yearning for wheat grass juice) and I admire his boundless enthusiasm, which he attributes to these wonder potions. (Though it could just be my old friend caffeine. He'd mentioned that he'd had five cups of coffee before he drove us - quickly, I should add - to the home of his team leader. So the jury's still out.)

It all sounded good in theory. Who doesn't want to simply drink a shot of something that tastes like a mixture of mulch and monkey semen and suddenly feel 12 years old again? But what I wanted to say to them was this: "I'm failing at so many other things already, I don't know if I can take on one more right now."

What really queered the deal, aside from the fact that I develop a nervous twitch when I have to speak in front of a group comprised of anyone older than third graders, was the almost-$2,000 investment I'd need to plunk down to buy in.

What part of "My husband and I were both laid off" makes you think I've got that kind of cash lying around waiting to be spent on these miracle elixirs?? I had to wonder.

But all this got me thinking, could we somehow pitch Bravo a reality show "Network Marketing: Salvation or Scam?" where we actually give it a go on someone else's dime? Surely, America wants to know if these operations can really help turn the beat around. Begging friends and family to host my facial and chia seed parties is but a small price to pay for the chance to meet Andy Cohen.


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