Friday, April 16, 2010

I LOATHE Pyramid Schemes

Okay, so I was going to write a blog about copyright law since so few people on the Internet seem to understand intellectual property rights.  I'll probably still do so shortly, but in the meantime I finally listened to a CD I was given the other day and I absolutely MUST rant about this first, because these types of schemes piss me off more than you can possibly imagine.

A couple days ago while at work (I'm still not rich and famous enough to quit the day job, alas), I was approached by one of our regular customers.  His name, I have learned (it was printed on the CD he gave me, but we'll get to that in a moment) is John.  The only thing keeping me from publishing his full name and contact information is that he's still a regular at my place of employment and I don't need to stir shit up over there right now.  Anyway, John said he sees me there a lot.  Well, yeah, I work there.  Not exactly a big revelation, but I assure you I maintain professionalism and wasn't the least bit snarky.  He asked if I'm going to school while working there.  No.  Actually, I'm working on starting my own business.  After a bit of back and forth about what I'm doing (close-up magic, and I also write on the side, hoping my books will start selling soon), he asks if I'm looking for other ways to make money.  Oh boy, here it comes.

Look, I do my job well.  I'm friendly to customers and coworkers, I work hard, I maintain professionalism, I try to do everything right.  It's not the first time someone's approached me and asked such a question.  I've had people ask me if I want a job working at their financial planning firm, and someone who claimed to be a friend of a regional VP of a large national bank wanted my contact information.  I'm not really looking for that type of work right now--I'm trying to get my business running--but I'm always friendly, and I always give the same answer: "I'm not looking, but I'm never closed to possibilities.  Give me your card, and if I'm interested, I'll send a resume."  I leave it at that.  It's polite, and when I don't, in fact, send a resume, they get the point.  Nothing irks me more than someone walking into a place of business and trying to recruit the staff.  It's unprofessional, it's lazy, and with so many people looking for jobs these days, it reeks of something sleazy (after all, if it's a good job with decent pay, it ain't gonna be too hard to fill in this economy).  So I leave it at that, and go the other direction.

Well, John mentioned that he's involved in his own business.  I asked what he did, just to be polite--I really don't care what my customers do unless they want me to sell them a book about it.  He said "internet distribution."  Okay, that's somewhat non-committal, but no matter.  He said "I have some information, if you're interested, I could give it to you."  Well, at this point, I'm none too happy about being put on the spot, but I agreed in the least enthusiastic voice I could mutter.  I figured, he'll give me some pamphlet, and then he'll go away.  He goes back to his car and comes back in with a CD.  He says, "It's a fifteen minute audio CD.  Listen to it, and if you're excited about it, my number's on the back.  Give me a call and we can move forward with this."  Of course, I wasn't going to call, but I'm still being polite.

He asked for my contact information so he wouldn't have to call me at the store (how nice of him).  I gave him one of my cards.  I figured, the worst that happens is I'll say no, and try to sell him a magic show for his next business affair.  Of course, I'm sure he wouldn't be able to afford my fee anyway, but no matter--one has to be a little bit of an opportunist to get a business started (plus, I just got an order of two thousand cards in, so I'm not exactly being stingy with them).  He then goes on his way--without, I might add, buying so much as a paperback.

Well, when I looked at the CD, my stomach sank a little.  It looked suspiciously like a sort of business propaganda I've seen before, and I immediately began to suspect what this was.  The CD is called "Fun and Freedom" by Wade Simmons.  John had affixed his own contact information to the back.  Well, this isn't the way business is traditionally done, so red flags are flying left and right, but ever the skeptic, I reserve judgement until the facts are in.

This evening, I finally got a chance to listen to the CD.  I popped it in, and this Wade Simmons character started talking about how bad this generation has it with the costs of education and what have you, and promising to generate enough profit to have "fun and freedom" through whatever system he's pitching.  He doesn't go into any great detail through most of the ten minute (John lied when he said it was fifteen) talk, but refers cryptically to his organization's "team of entrepreneurs."  He talks about eliminating middle men, and buying direct from manufacturers.  Basically, he drops all the right words to confirm exactly what this is: a pyramid scheme.

Specifically, this scheme seems to be targeted to young people.  I'm fairly young myself, but I'm extremely well-read and quite knowledgeable about scams, so he won't get me.  But this is meant to sound extremely attractive to college students or those who've recently graduated.  He addresses this market specifically in his speech!  Older folks have seen these scams before, and now know to stay away from them (who doesn't remember Amway?), but many students may be suckered in.  Whoever this Wade Simmons is, he appears to be the scum of the earth.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.  After finishing the CD, I went online to do some research, see if I couldn't find more information about what this company is doing (their website, perhaps, would offer some clues to the specifics).  So I googled Wade Simmons.  All I could find was information about a mountain biker from Canada.  Wikipedia gave me the same results.  So Wade seems to be a dead end.  I looked closer at the CD and found the copyright information.  It tells me the copyright is held by "TEAM INA."  There we go!  That's what I was looking for!

First thing I found was a website, www.ina.net.  This was a dead end, too.  All that's on the website is a "username and password" field to log in.  No information about the company, no contact information, nothing.  Just a way to log in.  Most curious.  I suspect this is the same INA, but I can't be 100% sure.  I also found this from Yahoo Answers, apparently confirming my suspicions that it's a pyramid scheme.  Gasp!  Shock!  Horror!  But I kept looking.

I found another man who was assaulted with the very same propaganda CD while shopping at a Home Depot.  His rant made a fan out of me, as he referred to the person who sent him the CD thusly: "Jeff, you're despicable, and if it existed you would burn in a very special level of Hell.  A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater."  This is, of course, not only an accurate description of the quality of character of those who involve themselves in pyramid schemes (John, I'm talking to you too, motherfucker), but is a clever reference to the television program, Firefly.

Then, I found this.  This is legal documentation of a class action lawsuit against "Quixtar."  Wanna venture a guess who that actually is?  Well, that's what they're called in the U.S. and Canada.  Around the rest of the world, they're known as "Amway Corp."  Dun dun DUNNNNNN!  Yes, Amway, the most infamous pyramid scheme of them all.  The entire document makes for interesting reading, but you should pay particular attention to paragraph 38.  For convenience, I shall copy it here:

38. According to Quixtar's website, there are currently sixteen lines of sponsorship:

a. World Wide DreamBuilders;
b, Yager (InterNET Services);
c. Britt;
d. Network 21;
e. Team;
f. InterNet Associates (INA);
g. eFinity;
h. International Connection;
i.International Leadership Development (ILD);
j. MMP (MarkerMan Productions);
k. proalliance;
l. Interbiz;
m. IBO Alliance;
n. GlobalNet;
o. ProSystemOne; and
p. GBO Alliance,

Of particular interest are lines (e) and (f).  "Team" and "InterNet Associates (INA)."  Most curious indeed.  In fact, as far as I can tell, what our old buddy John was trying to rope me into wasn't just any pyramid scheme.  It was fucking AMWAY!  The worst of the worst of pyramid schemes!

People, take it from me, stay away from these people.  They're not just poor business men who made a mistake.  They're the scum of the earth.  They made a mistake, sure, but now they are trying to rope YOU into it, because that's the only way they'll ever be able to be even close to profitable--by suckering other unsuspecting individuals to open their pocketbooks and become involved in this corrupt and possibly illegal business (pyramid schemes are illegal--multi-level marketing is not necessarily, but it's certainly unethical).  Stay away.

And also stay tuned, because next up, I'm going to tell you how pyramid schemes actually work.  Most people understand that the phrase has become synonymous with "bamboozle," but fewer know why.  I'll explain it to you, and that way you'll be able to watch out for these scams yourself, just in case they surface under a different name and no one's been able to warn you about them yet.

As for the CD I was given, I'm not quite sure what to do with it at this point.  Should I send it to  the media, so they can warn others?  Should I break it in half and send it back to John?  Should I keep it in my files (since I keep damned near everything anyway)?  I must think on this for a while and determine the course of action most likely to either shut the scam down, or at least do the most possible damage to the kingpin's bottom line.

And what will I do if John does call me?  That's another decision I have to make, because I suspect he probably will.  I'm either going to explain my refusal to participate in a pyramid scheme...or I'm going to try to sell him a magic show anyway--but I'll sell him my special "pyramid" magic show, where (for those of you who've seen The Prestige) I charge my standard fee for the Pledge, double for the Turn, and $5,000 for the Prestige.  Paid in advance, of course.  No 50% deposits allowed for con men, thank you very much.

Bob

9 comments:

Brady said...

I have a lady coming to get her "Fun and Freedom" cd at my house in about 40 minutes. After I did my research I let my puppy Siberian Husky play with the CD and became very irritated at the fact of what this middle age woman (ealry, mid 50's?) tried to pull on me at work while working my register at Sam's Club.

Granted I hate my job, with a burning passion. I am very rude and get at least 1 complaint a day on how I am rude, don't say I, smile exc, Its a struggle for me not to quit every day but alas I have a car and a home... Nothing was new with this lady as she bought one cheap useless item, I said "Hi how are you? Do you have your card?" In my normal flat, unenthusiastic, hateful muttering and irritated tone. She says "how are you?" I said "Great" in the same way I did before. She says "so just working away, you don't seem so happy, you like working here" I said "No, I just do it temporary until I find something else." She says "Yea I understand that "I have something for you if you would like to take a look at it." I said "Uh ok" to be nice and speed the process of getting another customer out of my face. Thinking it would be some pamphlet I would disregard into the trash. It was a CD and she proceeded to say "I can give you my number and we can arrange for me to pick it up" I was thinking "Ok... this is awkward but now I have a line of people waiting and this woman pitching some BS to me." So she says "Actually just give me your number so I can call you." I was like "umm ok..." So I give it to her and I am planning on not listening to the CD and just hoping it will all go away..

Not so fast! She comes in the next day to talk to me at work on the register, next to me while I am helping people... She says "hey did you listen to the cd do you have it on you so I can get it back" I was like "Uh no I forgot it.." she says ok well I will call you later and we can meet up on your day off so I can pick it up and we can talk about it." I am like "uh ok ya that sounds fine." Again I am hoping it will all go away...




I am 23 years old which mean I must be dumb enough to not do my research and fall for this bullshit. I also am upset because she is older, I expect kids my age to try and scam people for a dollar but she knows what she is doing and was basically calling me stupid by presenting me this amazing "business opportunity."

I shall invite her into my home and discuss my amazing business opportunity she presented me with and it has been about 40 minutes since starting this review and is now 12:58, almost time to tell her my opinion, I shall report back with what happens.

Brady said...

Next day she calls, and the next day, leaving 3 voice mails about how she really wants to meet up and get her cd back. and finally yesterday at work she calls me (keep in mind i have been waiting for calls from a couple job prospects so I answer thinking it was one, I didn't save her number in my contacts.) Ugh and I hear her voice and I know exactly who it is "Hi this is blah blah we met at Sams club and you have my cd and wanted to meet with your to get it back and talk about it, what did you think of the cd?.." I moan and utter back "ugh ya I am at work right now, I don't really have time, and I didnt get a chance to listen to it all the way I need to listen to it again.. but ya I will call you back..." she says "well do you work tomorrow?" I say "NO" she then says "well will you be available to meet me somewhere around 1:00 or I can drive to your house, you told me you live in lincoln so do I so..." so since I am lazy I say ya just meet me at my house (why waste the gas money?) I give her my address (keep in mind I have not even listened to the cd for the 2nd time to even know what its about but I have a feeling)

So I put it in again to actually listen to it and it is what I thought... buy some useless crap at "wholesale" and resell and make tons of money! So I do the research and type in "Wade Simmons" ok a Canadian rock climber, not it... apparently he doesn't exist, I happen upon this article and the one attached to it about the guy "burning in hell where child rapist and people who talk in theaters lie" or something along those lines, very funny.

Anyway I did my research and read more closely bout pyramid schemes and trust me I have had a couple of my friends try to talk me into them and infomercials.. SMC, Primerica, Doba, and more recently pre-paid legal (you know the amazing 24 hour contact with top lawyers in the country.) anyway I must admit a couple years ago I tried Doba and after wasting a few hundred bucks I have stayed far away from anything promising millions with their "Just recruit this many people and BAM you have xxx amount of money, its so easy! And those 10 people and so on!" If it was so easy everyone would be doing and just about everyone has heard, read and tried and failed at it also. Sure a small SMALL amount of people have made good money doing some of the programs listed about... about 1 in 10 million.

Brady said...

Sorry I wrote too much my 2nd post continues after the 3rd paragraph from the bottom!

Jon Kalnas said...

brady... lol great write! Maybe you should start a blog and make money that way!?

Reed Holmes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Callista Z Maris said...

Thanks for you post. I work part-time at Home Depot and just had a guy named Jeff give me a short spiel at a marketing job that's work at home, gave me a business card with proalliance.net on it and I had a feeling it was suspicious. Thanks man :)

Bobbie said...

Possibly actually doing your research would be better than commenting without real information, or preconceived thoughts - but this is America so you are entitled and if you actually did your research you would know the difference between a ladder concept and a pyramid (93FTC618 - is the Federal Trade Commission Ruling it Anit-Pyramidical -)

Unknown said...

Amway is NOT A PYRAMID SCHEME AND IF IT IS THEN ANYONE OF YOU KNOW IT ALL'S ON THIS DUMBASS BLOG WHICH THE GUY WHO WROTE IT IS CLEARLY MAKING THIS STORY UP. HOW CAN AMWAY THE #1 HOME BASED DSC IN THE WORLD WITH 12.8BILLION/YEAR DEBT FREE AND OVER 50 BILLION PAID IN BONUSES TO EMPLOYEES OVER ITS TIME. THEY JUST PASSED AVON, ALSO WHEN SOMEONE ASKS YOU IF YOU WANT TO MAKE MORE TIME AND MONEY OR MORW ANYTHING AND YOU GIVE THEM YOUR CARD THEN THAT SHOWS THAT WHEN YOU SAY NO, IT'S NOT TO THE PERSON OFFERING, IT'S TO YOURSELF. MOST PEOPLE TALKING SHIT ABOUT ANY BUSINESS OR ANYTHING AT ALL IS USUALLY VERY UNEDUCATED ABOUT THE BUSINESS OR SUBJECT ANYWAY. HEY PYRAMID SCHEME SKEPTICS JUST SO YOU KNOW YOUR FUCKING JOB IS A PYRAMID SCHEME DUMBASS YOU TRADE TIME FOR MONEY AND CAN NEVER GET TO THE TOP! DUHHHH YOU MAY WANT TO EDUCATED YOURSELF ON AMWAYS LEADERSHIP BONUS OF 4% A WILLABLE AND INHERITABLE RETIREMENR. BECASUSE IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT IS, THEN YOU'RE BLOGGING FALSE INFORMARION THAT COULD BE CONSIDERED DEFFAMATION OF CHARACTER
HOWEVER SINCE THE Americanway association (hence name, before the products and the business it was the PEOPLE) AKA AMAWAY is debr free they probably do not care what you say. Shit we are all ignorant just in different sets of subjects

Plan B said...

Amway is NOT A PYRAMID SCHEME AND IF IT IS THEN ANYONE OF YOU KNOW IT ALL'S ON THIS DUMBASS BLOG WHICH THE GUY WHO WROTE IT IS CLEARLY MAKING THIS STORY UP. HOW CAN AMWAY THE #1 HOME BASED DSC IN THE WORLD WITH 12.8BILLION/YEAR DEBT FREE AND OVER 50 BILLION PAID IN BONUSES TO EMPLOYEES OVER ITS TIME. THEY JUST PASSED AVON, ALSO WHEN SOMEONE ASKS YOU IF YOU WANT TO MAKE MORE TIME AND MONEY OR MORW ANYTHING AND YOU GIVE THEM YOUR CARD THEN THAT SHOWS THAT WHEN YOU SAY NO, IT'S NOT TO THE PERSON OFFERING, IT'S TO YOURSELF. MOST PEOPLE TALKING SHIT ABOUT ANY BUSINESS OR ANYTHING AT ALL IS USUALLY VERY UNEDUCATED ABOUT THE BUSINESS OR SUBJECT ANYWAY. HEY PYRAMID SCHEME SKEPTICS JUST SO YOU KNOW YOUR FUCKING JOB IS A PYRAMID SCHEME DUMBASS YOU TRADE TIME FOR MONEY AND CAN NEVER GET TO THE TOP! DUHHHH YOU MAY WANT TO EDUCATED YOURSELF ON AMWAYS LEADERSHIP BONUS OF 4% A WILLABLE AND INHERITABLE RETIREMENR. BECASUSE IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT IS, THEN YOU'RE BLOGGING FALSE INFORMARION THAT COULD BE CONSIDERED DEFFAMATION OF CHARACTER
HOWEVER SINCE THE Americanway association (hence name, before the products and the business it was the PEOPLE) AKA AMAWAY is debr free they probably do not care what you say. Shit we are all ignorant just in different sets of subjects