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By:  Steve Van Nattan, Editor:  Balaam's Ass Speaks

"If one holds the goose that lays the golden eggs,
one doesn't invite the entire world over for an omelet." 

What shall we say about pyramid companies?  

First, they are legal.  

Second, they are NOT the American Way (as claimed by one famous MLM soup peddler).

Third, the Fair Trade Commission is ALWAYS watching them.  Ever wonder why? 

In spite of all the red, white, and blue-- motherhood, and apple pie-- pyramids prey on victims like vultures.


Here is a real life story.  

I joined Amway in the 60s, and I was sold the idea that it was almost a Fundamental Baptist Branch of something or other-- maybe Davidians.  I went to meetings in posh homes with Hawaiian music playing softly, and they told me that if I sold the products and talked everywhere about Amway, I would be great and "direct" some day.  The lady of the house did most of the talking, while her husband watched over her shoulder with smiles of approval like Ricardo Mantalban.  He faithfully flashed his "direct" diamond on queue.  

I  also found lots of Christians at those meetings who were too wimpy to talk about Jesus, but they could blab ad nauseam about Rich De Vos and Jay Van Andel.  They told stories about how those two hard working Hollanders invented LOC in their basement on the order of Wilbur and Orville Wright's great example.  They told about how Rich De Vos still taught Sunday School every Sunday morning.  Oh, it sounded so sacral and pious, yah, und so wholesome already.  Even the refreshments were holistic.

Well, being a starving college student, I signed on the line.  I got a can of Shoe Glo and went door to door selling it.  I made a little cash.  But, I saw right away that the future was in signing up more new distributors under me--  "build a pyramid down line"  I preached the Amway "gospel," assembled a tidy little down line, and I dragged them  to training meetings and demoramas.  The month I got 21 distributors under me, down to four levels, I made a gross PV of $3.89.  Oh, but I had a handful of customers who used LOC for literally everything from washing the dog to fertilizing their house plants.  I had a Mennonite family with 15 kids who went through a 14 pounder of SA-8 about every four weeks.  

It really was a great product in those days, and may be still. But I needed a break if I wanted to ever "go direct."  I couldn't live on hubris alone.


Then I hit the big time.  

Jim C_____, my college buddy, said he could sell Amway's bar soap to the whole US Navy because the procurement man was his good friend.  I sent the Navy samples, and I got ready to go on vacation to the Bahamas with my cut from the first carload of soap I sold the Navy.  I could see myself walking the halls of the Pentagon selling soap to the Army, Marines, Coast Guard, George Bush, and who knows who else, maybe Lyndon Johnson himself.  Ah, but the plot thickens.

A Direct Distributor, who was going to the missionfield with Wycliffe Translators, supported by his profits from Amway, set a case of LOC in Jim C_____'s closet in the college dorm.  He had heard of the Navy deal, and he was using one of the tricks of the trade in Amway to pre-empt my budding entrepreneur.  He later claimed he had Jim C_____ because of the product in evidence in Jim's closet.  Well, we had a real corporate free for all.  An early version of a leveraged bum out, if you will.  A big Amway mover and shaker came into town, sat down with us all, and finally ruled that Jim C_____ was MINE.  Wow!  Hubris all around the place.  Anchors away....  Scrub those hands, Navy boy.

Jim C_____ messed up, the procurement man shipped to Hong Kong, and I again got a PV of $3.89.  Is this the American Way?  Yes, I'm afraid so, but it was not always so.


The more subtle approach of the 1990s.

Since the 60s Amway has kind of worn out its welcome in this country.  People have heard stories far worse than mine, and they avoid Amway like a plague.  Yankee ingenuity has come to the rescue, and Amway has learned to cover their reputation in a clever way.  So now, you get a call from what you thought was your good friend, Fred.  

Fred says something like this, "Hey, have I found something wonderful, Bill.  It has completely changed my life."

So you say, "Well Fred, I thought you were already born again.  Did you just get saved?"

Fred says, "Oh, yea, I'm saved, but this new adventure has given me real direction and I think I have finally found the thing God wants me to do from now on."  (Blame it on God of course.) 

You say, "Great Fred, are you finally going to go to Bolivia to be a missionary like you said back at the camp fire service?"

"Well, no," says Fred, "But this is just as good.  Could you come over tomorrow night for coffee and cake?  Ellen and I would like to tell you about it."

You agreed, didn't you?  What could be more exciting than going to the missionfield, right?  You sucker.  I feel sorry for you, but don't feel too bad, it's happened thousands of times by now.  Fred and Ellen want you to join Amway, right.  You don't have to sell anything like in the 60s.  No door to door.  Just sign up the rest of the USA, and you can earn a trip to Ada, Michigan to see Amway's New Jerusalem, stay at the Amway Plaza  Hotel, FIVE STAR rating, and see Mitzy Gaynor do a Christian Reformed strip act.  And if you sign up half of Germany next year, you can go to Hawaii.  How about it?  

Admit it, your eyes bugged out just a bit didn't they?  Hawaii!  Then it hit you how your friend had used you, and you wanted to throw up on his shoe, right?

And, they gave you this tape where a major hype man is bragging up existing Direct Distributors-- you know the one where he makes it very clear that anyone who doesn't sign with Amway is a wimp and a loser.  So like the Carpenter of Nazareth, right?

The facts are in friends.  In my whole life, I have not found an Amway distributor who had more zeal for the Gospel than for Amway-- with one exception-- that was Doyle Brewer.  He was one of the greatest and sweetest soul winners I have ever known.  Otherwise, Amway seems to suck the soul out of everyone that enters.  They stay to pray, and they leave to get rich on High Suds LOC.  

This is all based in the Western Michigan Calvinist Dutch Reformed theology of flaunting wealth.  If you've got it, flaunt it, and show the world you're right with God.  If you don't understand yet, drop by the bar / lounge of the Amway headquarters at Ada, and someone will be happy to show you.  Gin and tonic?  Sorry, Rich De Vos has moved to Florida, so he won't be there to glow on you.  He needs to be as far from Canada as possible.  Something about tax fraud.......?

By the way, Shoe Glo was a great product.  It was good for dozens of things.  And, they discontinued it.  I could still make pocket money selling the stuff.  I used to ask the victim to bring me an old abandoned shoe.  I would clean it, polish it, and then Shoe Glo it for them.  WOW!  Did it ever look great.  But, they had to buy a can to do the other shoe ;-)  Pretty good old fashioned American selling, right?  Not any more.  Just sign up people, who will sign up people, who will sign up people.  No selling.  In about six months you will "go direct," get your diamond, and own a mansion in Malibu.  If you believe that, I have this neat Bridge in Brooklyn I'd also like to sell you for $1585.99.   We take Visa and Mastercard.


Other Pyramids

In all fairness, there are one or two pyramids which are based on a down line AND product quality.  

Shaklee is one of them.  But it can still be very seductive.  You sell products instead of only signing up more stiffs under you.  You do both.  The product DOES do some pretty impressive things, but it can be a bit costly.  Shaklee's Herb Lax, for example, is the best thing to set you free that I have ever seen.  It can replace expensive and dangerous chemical laxatives, and it's just food grade herbs.  Look into it.  I get nothing for this.  We are NOT distributors.  Problem:  Shaklee can take you away from Christian victory even easier than Amway.  Why?  Because it is so clean ethically, and the product is great.  You can almost justify evangelizing with Shaklee rather than with the Gospel.  Be careful.

Tupperware is good stuff, but again, I find Tupper ladies love you to death until you quit buying, and I hate it when they come to church Sunday morning and distribute products out of the trunk (boot in England) of their car.  Gross, baby!  The product is great though.  Here's an inside tip.  Do beware of the temptation to "NEED" the round bread holder, and the square bread holder, and the tall bread holder, and the pretty bread holder, and the French bread holder, and the bread holder to use to hold your bank notices stating that your check bounced.  Marketing is a real art at Tupper-- CAUTION.

Mary Kay-  Honey, how do you think the nice lady got that pink Cadillac?  Answer:  Off of your face-- The same way the bank manager got the stuffed chairs which you cannot afford.  Mary Kay's clone did not get the pink sedan by giving you a free facial.  She got it by taking your cash away from you.  

Now I don't want to discourage you honey, but if your face is ruined, money won't fix it.  Take a look at those yellow rags at the end of the checkout counter. Did you see what the MDs did to Goldie Hahn's face?  It really is not funny.  Why don't you just leave well enough alone, and take what God gave you as a good gift?

Go to Walmart, buy a cart full of goop'em, rub it on, and take a look.  What you see ain't a bit better than Mary Kay can do it.  I was told by a friend of mine, who worked in a cosmetics factory, that most of that stuff comes from the same vat at Generic Cosmetics Inc, only the label is changed on the night shift to make Mary Key's special cream.  

Another fact is, you and your husband could have a nice day in the country, throw a steak dinner for the neighbors, and watch a Gospel preaching video-- maybe even get someone saved-- for the money you waste on your face-- the face God likes real fine just the way it is.  Think on it.

Watkins ought to be mentioned.  They have useful products.  We have used a number, and we never felt cheated.  I don't know much about their pyramid system.  Maybe that's because it is basically honest.  I think they give you a territory, which is nice ethics.  Thus, hard work is the emphasis.  Can anyone give us more light on Watkins?

A L Williams?  They have the best line I have ever heard to seduce a good preacher out of his pulpit to sell insurance. 

We won't discuss Avon.  Leave it to the Friday night auction house down by the railroad tracks.  "...whole box for one money... who'll start the bidding?  Who'll give me a dollar for the whole box?"  I bought it too, because there was an old zinc bucket with it-- at least forty years old!  Got the lot for a dollar!  Left the Avon for the boys to sell again next week.  I learned that trick from Larry Knoblock.

True confession time  

Did you ever hear of Unimax.? [ I hate to write this. It is so embarrassing! ] I watched a video about this gang, and my dear friends, I fell among thieves.  They told story after story about folks who "went direct" in under 25 minutes flat or something like that.  All pyramids seem to tell you about "going direct."  Those words must get to us Anglo Saxons through some genetic defect which we all carry.  I have met no Blacks, Asians, Arabs, or Jews who have "gone direct," and they are doing just fine in spite of it.  In fact, any Jew, Armenian, or Arab will tell you that the smart people OWN the company at the top.  

I thought the Unimax "product" looked pretty good, and the pyramid plan was straight forward-- Greed!  Well, I signed, and I ordered some "products."  For conscience sake, I wanted to be sure the stuff was good before I signed up all of Western Michigan.  Many months later, the tripod came.  It was the best engineered collection of soy bean plastic and chrome plated cardboard I had ever seen.  When I put my camera on it and set it on the floor, it did a high tech maneuver I had never seen before.  It slowly settled to the floor to the ideal position for photographing the cat and dust on the carpet.  

The battery charger I paid $10 for "wholesale" (because I was a loyal distributor and could use the secret numbers in the catalogue) can be still be bought anywhere for $3.50, or find it at a garage sale for 25 cants.  It still works though.

By the time the products got to me by "fast response time," I had talked up Unimax all over the area.  Did I feel like a fool?  Answer: YES!  I told the folks so, and I tell you here.  I pray, "Lord, deliver me from pyramids and my old nature."

Hey, I heard what you said--, "That poor preacher just has a weakness for pyramids."  Oh, so you don't ever think about making some easy money?  Never?  You liar.  Repent, and quit your lying :-)

Now, let me tell you about this fantastic plan for selling computer software to your friends.  All you pay is $90 for a starter kit, and.... ooooooops!



Since I wrote this article, a monumental phenomena has come about on the Web. You all must have gotten E-Mail by now telling you that you can built this massive "down line" by sending out the E-Mail message about building a "down line." They assure you that it has been approved by the Federal Government, was featured on 60 Minutes, and you are of the most honorable class of entrepreneurs if you take the dive.

If you believe this, I want you to buy my new secret on how to run stop signals and be paid $2.00 every time you do it. What a deal this is. Others may doubt this, but only a far sighted person like you would take advantage of this once-in-a-millennium offer. This is why I chose YOU very carefully, from my research of millions of Web users, to receive this E-Mail. You only have to invest $149.00 in my CD of instructions.