The Wages of Unemployment (Or How I Almost Became an Amway Rep)

On Monday I met with someone I thought was a potential client.  His name is Will (not really).  This is a rough sketch of the meeting.

Will is talking a stream of consciousness about time and money as he draws a circle around a dollar sign and another around the word time.  “Time is the most expensive thing we’ll ever buy…”  I guess this is his way of paraphrasing Loverboy’s Working for the Weekend.  I’m nodding along, wondering what I’ve gotten myself into when Will asks what at first appears to be a non-sequitur, “would you say you use twenty dollars of product each day?”

“Sure”, I say.

“Do you think if you asked twenty people the same thing, they would say yes?”

“It depends, but sure.”

Will helpfully does the math and says, “Well that’s $90K a year”, as he writes the words “$20 dollars” and “20 people”, drawing an arrow from one to the other.  He writes “$90k, 5 to 8 hrs above” the arrow.  Then he draws a pyramid with the web address FTC.com underneath.  “This is not a pyramid”, he says, “the FTC specifically defines a pyramid.  There is someone on the top and someone on the bottom and the person on the bottom can never make as much as the person on top.  This is a multi-leveled program.”, as he draws a curved arrow from the bottom to the top of the pyramid.

_______________

How did I end up being recruited as an Amway Rep?  I never say no to coffee.

I left my full-time job back in June.  I was looking for more responsibility and more opportunities for leadership, but had hit a wall.  It wasn’t going to come.  So I took a leap.  During the worst recession in my lifetime, and that of my parents.

Since June I’ve been volunteering with various organizations and taking every informational interview that I can.  During the mid-terms I volunteered for a couple of candidates.  I even went on a rock tour for three weeks with Rock the Vote.  I’ve picked up contracts as I can and am setting up a new media and online communications firm.

I met Will in the elevator of my building.  I am not an “elevator talker”.  I prefer to awkwardly shift my gaze from the ceiling to the floor to the door to the control panel.  Will said hello and asked if I was one my way to work (I was wearing a tie, which is not abnormal for me).  I said “sort of”.  He asked what I did and told me he owns a firm that is “like eBay, but local”.  He asked if I was “looking for additional opportunities” and I said yes.  I put his card in my wallet and moved on.

A few days later Will called and we set up an appointment to talk.  I Googled his company.  I found the address, an office building downtown.  That was it.  No website and very little publicly available information.

_______________

Now Will was drawing two stick figures.  One for me and one for my lovely partner.  He said ” I normally don’t like to present to couples separately.”  He drew a dollar  sign on one side of the figures and puts a box around it.  “This is the money that you spend on products at the store.  It’s a very high overhead model.” He writes the letter H.O. above the square and draws a line to the word “debt”.  He writes “job” above the box.  “You need the job to buy the products, so you incur debt”.

On the other side of the figures he draws another box with a dollar sign.  He adds “35%” to the box.  “This the money that you spend on the same products at your website.  It’s a very low overhead model.”  He writes “debt-free” and 9.2 billion” and draws a line to the box.  “We have access to 9.2 billion products and since you buy from yourself, it’s debt free.”  He looks up.  “Do I have your attention?”

I still had half a coffee left and nothing else to do. “Sure”.

_______________

Will has obviously done this before.  He showed at least fifteen minutes early because he was sitting with his tea when I showed up ten minutes early.  He sat at a table for four in a seat facing the door.  That way I wouldn’t have to walk past him to get to my seat.  It was difficult for me to see his portfolio and the boxes of materials, which were on the chair next to him.  In fact, I didn’t see them until mishandled some of the glossy materials and they fell to the floor.

He began the conversation by asking where I was from.  “Boston”, I say.

“Oh really, I’m from Connecticut”

The conversation moved into why we each moved to Seattle, the differences in mentality and collective personality between the two regions (i.e., Seattle’s famous passive-aggressiveness), and what we like to do in our free time.  He asked me, more specifically, what I do.  After I answered, he continued, “If money was no issue, what would you do”.  Smiling the whole time and keeping eye contact, he made the conversation about me.

_______________

Will pulled out two pieces of collateral: a glossy, folded third sheet with a symbol on the front that looks like a wi-fi logo and a sheet that has been folded in two to make an 8″x11″ brochure.  He used the smaller piece to cover the bottom of the larger piece, but I’d already seen the Amway logo.

Flipping the smaller brochure over he starts with the back.  There is a screenshot of a  sample webpage from Jane Smith, an Independent Business Owner from Your City and State.  Jane started her own business because she believes “in the quality of the products that I use and sell”.  I can only assume the picture of the generic couple is Jane and her husband.

Will explains that the website is fully supported and opens the brochure to continue.  Inside I’m asked, “what if you could develop your own online mall?”  I learn that I would have access to exclusive products and 600 affiliate partners and services.  Will points out a few.  “Shop.com was started by Bill Gates.  There’s Barnes & Noble.  We’re also working with Apple.”  He stops and seeks recognition in my eyes, which I guess was there because he continues.  “I’m highlighting those stores because these people and companies are smart.  They don’t partner with just anyone.  They wouldn’t get in with a pyramid.”

“Uh huh.  Sure, I see”.

He puts away the smaller sheet and finally addresses the Amway logo on the large brochure.  “People see the logo and say, ‘Amway, really?’  I’ll say, I don’t work for Amway.  I work for myself.  Amway is just a supplier“.  I nod.  He goes on, talking about goals and successful people “duplicating themselves” – he’s speaking about mentoring.  “You talk to any successful person in the world and you’ll find out that they had a mentor.  Someone they attached themselves to and said, ‘how did you get where you are?’  That’s what were about and that’s where the real money is”.

“Oh?”

Will opens the brochure to a survey and asks me to take a few minutes to check off each product that I use everyday.  It’s broken into categories like Health, Beauty, and Home & Personal Care which are further divided into sub-categories.  This is where we begin to talk about the money and mentoring.

“Now I’m not a numbers guy”, Will says.  There is a formula on the bottom of the survey.  The formula is this: A picture of a family + a picture of a laptop = $.  There are more formulas under the pictures: “100 PV/$290 PV” under the family,  “50 PV/$145 PV” under the laptop and “150 PV/$435 PV”.  All of this, as Will explains is to show how much money can be saved and earned through the program.  He also mentions (and not for the last time) that these numbers are only the minimum, “because that is all the Government lets us tell you”.

“O.K.”

He flips to the next page, which is all about my financial independence.  But first, he pauses briefly to pursue another line of conversation.  “Are most of your friends from the east coast?”

“I have friends from all over.  Some grew up here, some didn’t”.

“I have a harder time talking to people who are from here.  It’s strange.  I’m not sure what it is.  Just to talk about myself briefly, I’ve found if I don’t smile enough I intimidate people.  I don’t get it.  I try to meet people, because that is what this is all about.  If I do three to five meetings a week, I have my five contacts.  Some people will cancel.  And that’s alright.  Some people will listen to me and that not call me back.  Which is fine, but you’ve wasted my time.”  I see now, this is the part with the subtle pressure to make me feel bad if I don’t follow-up with him.

I’m not going to feel bad. “Sure.”

Step 1: Will tells me that we’ll open two bank accounts.   A personal checking for me and a personal checking for my business.  I’ll also hopefully find one client.  He’s drawing boxes with arrows to visually explain everything (he likes to draw).  “You’ll buy your products at wholesale and sell them to yourself at retail.  For example.  If you buy something for $2 wholesale, you’ll purchase it for $4.  The $4 will move from your personal account to the personal account for the business.  Amway then takes $2 from the business account for the product.  That leaves $2 that will go back into your business.  It becomes self-sustaining.”

At this point I’m fighting the urge to shout down my better angels, “Right, that makes sense”.

Step 2: We’re back to mentoring.  I’m supposed to “help” six people achieve Step 1.  That way I achieve at potential of $101.50 in savings per month and $337.85 in earnings.  That’s if I do the minimum and don’t really help anyone.  This is why the mentoring is so important.  “It takes trust and people will have to show that they can be accountable to goals.  I don’t know you, but I have to trust that you’ll do what you say.  We’ll work together.  I’ll mentor you and you, hopefully, will do the same to others”.

“Of course”.

Will goes on, “Now you might come to me and say, ‘I’m spending more than I’m taking in.’  Well we don’t want that, so we’ll take a step back and find out what we can fix.  That’s how things grow.”

Step three.  This is where I really start to make money.  I’ve got clients and I’m saving money by buying wholesale for myself.  I have also “helped” six people achieve step two.  They are helping people achieve step one.  Now I get 4% of their sales.  As Will would get 4% of my sales and 4% from the other people he’s mentored.  His mentor does the same thing.  And so on.  I’m making something like $80K per year at this point.

The next two steps are the Double Eagle Ruby (First Vision) and Diamond (Second Vision).  At Double Eagle I am making $150-$180K per year.  I’m earning even more of my own money and still skimming 4% from my ever-growing list of mentees.  At Diamond I’ll have “changed my families financial world” as Will tells me.  He says, “You’re making a minimum of $627,000.  But, remember, that’s all the government will let me tell you.  The minimum.”

“That’s uh.  Wow.  Right”

We’re getting close to the end.  There is a flap on the big brochure that Will opens.  He ignores the side with the disclosure that says “The average monthly Gross Income for “active” IBOs was $115 (U.S.)/$181 (Canada)” and moves to the other side that list each step with its supposed annual income.  At the top there are two circles.  One is smaller and contains the words “Present Income” which points to a phrase, “Lack of time of money or both”.  The larger circle contains your Dreams:  “Debt Free”, “Spouse’s Freedom”(?), “Savings Account”, “Private Education for Children”, “Family Legacy”, “Early Retirement”, etc.

He asks, “Are you interested?”

“Sure”.

He grabs a 8″x 11″ and one-inch thick blue box from the chair.  “Now, you’ll talk to your partner about this.  She’ll probably be skeptical.  In fact, she’ll probably tear it apart.  Ask her to keep an open mind.  We can get together, the four of us (his partner is also a rep) and talk.  I’ll go over everything again.  It’s all about financial security.”

He opens the box and flips through the materials.  There is a DVD of his mentor’s mentor.  “He makes $330,000 per week”.  There is a DVD from the author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  There are product catalogs, information about the group, motivational booklets, and ads.

Will turns the brochure to the back.  It lists the options for membership.  There are a few generic, positive quotes and a place for Will to book the next meeting.  Before he does, he points out the section for more information.  “You’re a smart guy, you’re going to have questions.  Check out these sites.  Don’t just Google Amway.  You’ll find plenty of negative information if you do that.  You’ll probably find a blog that says ‘Amway sucks’ and so on.  I’ll bet you anything that it’s from a guy who, excuse my language, didn’t have the balls to go out and do it.”

“Alright, thanks.” There are nine sites listed.  Eight of them are, in some way, associated with Amway or it’s parent.  The other is the Better Business Bureau.

Will tells me that he’ll need the box back in two days, which means another meeting.  I’m busy on Wednesday so we push it back a day.  He says, read the materials and think about “14 or 15 people who use products everyday and would like to save money.  Think about it and write down any questions.  If you’re not convinced we’ll go over everything again, if we have to.”

As we say goodbye, Will is not getting up.  I see materials on the chair and he says  “I have two more today”.

 

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Comments
2 Responses to “The Wages of Unemployment (Or How I Almost Became an Amway Rep)”
  1. Daniel says:

    The drawing and number crunching sounds an awful lot like the time we almost bought a Vegas timeshare.

    • Michael Edward Kelly says:

      Oh, you have no idea. The only thing missing was the”closer”. Though, getting Amwayed didn’t have the bonus of show tickets that the timeshare did.

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