Guide ‘Hey, Hun’ exposes the ugly aspect of multilevel advertising

Guide ‘Hey, Hun’ exposes the ugly aspect of multilevel advertising

Guide ‘Hey, Hun’ exposes the ugly aspect of multilevel advertising

The day Emily Paulson was awarded her new Lexus — gleaming white, topped with an enormous pink bow and a conceit plate studying FREECAR — she was surrounded by greater than 100 ladies with their iPhones aloft, eagerly snapping images. Later, they’d publish them to social media with tags like #liveyourdreams, #successstartshere and #bossbabe.

She had reached the higher echelons of well-liked magnificence and skincare firm as a direct-sales marketing consultant: promoting the merchandise, but additionally the approach to life, to different ladies.

Emily was making making tens of 1000’s of {dollars} a month, continuously touring to conventions throughout the nation and seen because the mannequin success story by the opposite consultants photographing her and hoping to be identical to her.

The corporate automotive, nonetheless, wasn’t precisely free. Paulson was answerable for the down cost, title and registration. She had shelled out almost $10,000 of her personal cash for the celebration’s catering, alcohol and an Instagrammable donut truck.

And minutes after she pulled off that enormous pink bow and drove away, Emily was arrested for driving below the affect.

Guide ‘Hey, Hun’ exposes the ugly aspect of multilevel advertising
Paulson confirmed off the Lexus she “earned” from promoting a lot — however she really needed to put down the down cost herself.
Courtesy of Emily Paulson

For Paulson, now 43, that Instagram-versus-reality scenario is why she wrote the guide “Hey, Hun: Gross sales, Sisterhood, Supremacy, and the opposite Lies Behind Multilevel Advertising and marketing“ (Row Home Publishing, out now).

“There are lots of people on the market who really feel embarrassed at being part of multilevel advertising, who really feel managed and who really feel it was their fault that they obtained caught up on this, however they aren’t speaking about it,” Paulson advised The Submit. “For this reason I needed to write the guide.”

And whereas the DUI episode was the impetus she wanted to get sober, it wasn’t the impetus she wanted to stop Rejuvinat — the faux identify she offers her MLM employer within the guide.

In a bizarre manner, the DUI solely elevated Paulson’s motivation for promoting success.

Rodan + Fields product line
Rodan + Fields is without doubt one of the well-liked direct-sales manufacturers of in the present day.

“Whenever you get a DUI, it’s costly, and a few more money positive sounds good,” Paulson writes. “When your mates shun you for the antics you pulled whereas drunk, an ostensibly accepting group meets a key want!”

It was solely as soon as Paulson tried to promote whereas sober that she seen simply how a lot alcohol had fueled her MLM success.

There have been the limitless open bars at gross sales events and conventions — to not point out the glasses of wine drunk as she scrolled endlessly by her cellphone, texting her group, liking and commenting on different marketing consultant’s posts, and coaxing former coworkers, classmates and neighbors to buy merchandise.

Promoting merchandise to your acquaintances is a retail technique often called direct gross sales, which makes up a $40.5 billion trade within the US (up from $29.9 billion in 2012) and includes some 6.7 million individuals, in accordance with the Direct Promoting Training Basis.

Emily Paulson's image on a giant video screen facing an audience
Paulson often traveled the nation selling the model and her success at conventions.
Courtesy of Emily Paulson

Multilevel advertising, or MLM, is a technique of direct gross sales that not solely rewards commissions on product gross sales, but additionally supplies fee when individuals are recruited into the enterprise, forming a downline.

Among the many family MLM names are legacy manufacturers like Tupperware, Avon and Mary Kay, whereas modern manufacturers — often promoted on social media embody — embody Rodan + Fields (skincare merchandise), doTerra (important oils)  and Scentsy (wickless candles).

Essentially the most notorious instance stands out as the leggings model Lularoe, as exemplified within the scathing 2021 Amazon Prime documentary “Lularich” which uncovered how some ladies misplaced their houses, financial savings and marriages.

Women's legs clad in LulaRoe leggings
The documentary “LulaRich” uncovered surprising tales concerning the MLM leggings model LulaRoe.

The extra distributors on a marketing consultant’s group, the extra income they make.

“Most individuals have buddies or family who will purchase one thing from you,” Paulson defined. “However you’ll solely get a number of cents, possibly, of that $20 buy. And you’ll’t hold anticipating them to purchase.”

The place the actual cash comes from is then getting these preliminary patrons to turn into a part of your group, promoting to their very own networks. “Actually, the merchandise are only a option to get you into the corporate,” Paulson mentioned. 

Multilevel advertising is authorized, however this construction will get in comparison with Ponzi schemes as a result of the individuals on the prime take advantage of cash, limiting the quantity individuals who be part of later could make.

Emily Paulson holding shopping bags
Paulson began within the MLM sport as a result of she was bored as a stay-at-home mother of 5 in Seattle.
Courtesy of Emily Paulson

“There’s this phantasm that when you work arduous, the sky’s the restrict. You hear all these tales, ‘I used to be so unhappy, now I’m so glad.’ However they’re a lie. And so they’re not giving any of the actual story,” Paulson mentioned.

When she obtained her begin, Paulson was concurrently bored and exhausted as a stay-at-home mother of 5 in Seattle. She had given up work as a chemist when she had her first little one, and her husband made dwelling for his or her rising household.

When a good friend requested her to promote, she jumped on the likelihood. She had at all times been good at promoting issues — her informal feedback on social media advising on the very best boots, vacuums or skincare merchandise typically resulted in buddies buying her suggestions — and the concept of getting free merchandise and being paid for conversations she was already having appeared too good to be true. 

“MLMs will actually make themselves match no matter ails you,” Paulson mentioned. “It looks like the entire bundle. Cash, buddies, journeys, escape. The merchandise felt proper, and there was wine. It simply preyed on the hope I had that issues may very well be completely different or higher.”

Assortment of colorful Tupperware lids
Tupperware is a direct gross sales legacy model however earlier this 12 months was hit with rumors of closure.

And at first, Paulson’s life did appear shinier, sparklier, higher.

Inside one 12 months within the firm, she was making $4,000 a month. At 5 years, she was making $40,000 a month.

However so many individuals in her downline have been barely breaking even, if not dropping cash. And Paulson is fast to confess that her success seemed higher on paper than actuality.

Whereas the corporate would supply a $1,000 stipend for internet hosting occasions, she, like different reps, typically supplemented to current an phantasm of success.

Dressing up and searching glamorous at occasions was anticipated — it wasn’t unusual for Paulson to spend $250 or extra on a model new outfit, and he or she was anticipated to go to each occasion sponsored by the consultants inside her group.

Emily Paulson sitting cross-legged on the floor
Paulson mentioned MLMs have an absence of monetary transparency.
Emily Paulson / Miranda Kelton Images

After six years, Paulson certified as a part of Rejuvinat’s million greenback membership, she writes, “$1 million divided over that point is a mean of $166,000 a 12 months … however after taxes and bills, minimize that in half, and you’ve got round an $80,000 earnings.”

Paulson believes that the dearth of monetary transparency is a unclean secret that harms ladies probably the most. As a result of her husband did properly, Paulson had the sources to spend cash on stock, host occasions and canopy the down cost on her “free” automotive. However many ladies didn’t, and Paulson feels MLMs prey on probably the most susceptible individuals, together with minority ladies.

The monetary buy-in, she explains within the guide, helps create a tradition of supremacy throughout the organizations.

“Race, sexual orientation, economics and lots of different components affect our lives, but they’re absent within the MLM house,” she writes. “That is no mistake; males didn’t begin MLMs to empower ladies of all backgrounds. They began them to get wealthy.”

Cover of the book "Hey, Hun," by Emily Paulson
“Hey, Hun,” Paulson’s guide, is out now.
Row Home Publishing

Paulson additionally provides that, whereas variety is mentioned in MLMs, she didn’t witness any manner during which variety, fairness and inclusion was thoughtfully mentioned, and that the shades within the make-up line she bought solely had one coloration — midnight beige — made for darker pores and skin.

In response to statistics from the Direct Promoting Training Affiliation, 83% of direct sellers are white; solely 9% are Black, and three% Asian.

“This can be a system that upholds supremacy,” Paulson mentioned.

Right this moment, she lives in Bend, Oregon, and works as a sober coach for ladies. Whereas she would have counted her fellow Rejuvinat consultants as a few of her closest buddies a number of years in the past, Paulson mentioned she now not talks with them.

She has phrases of knowledge for anybody approached by a “good friend” promoting a product.

“You assume you’re supporting a good friend by shopping for a product. However you’re actually retaining them roped into this insular world or system,” Paulson mentioned. “And only a few {dollars} are going into her pocket.”