My Amway Story
People have asked about me and my story and this site.
My time in Amway was brief. I had seen the plan for the first time in 1988. The office manager from my apartment complex must have been prospected and hosted a meeting for residents. There was another follow up at somebody's house. I was invited to a regional rally in Williamsburg, not really knowing what it was all about. I drove up to the hotel and walked into the rally. I felt quite out of place since I was not told to wear a suit, and they wanted a $10 admission fee. I was also not informed about the entrance fee before I drove there. It was supposed to be a business meeting but it appeared to be more of a pep rally with people wearing suits.
At that time, I was able to get the distributor to leave me a catalog. The distributor who was trying to sponsor me was inexperienced enough at the time to have given me a catalog. After looking at a few prices I decided the prices alone made the business uncompetitive
My second exposure to the business came in 1993. I had just returned back to Charleston, SC from my first overseas work assignment in Germany. A buddy of mine and I would occasionally go to the Irish pub in downtown Charleston for a beer. My friend knew the woman at the bar, Jennifer Smith, and we struck up a conversation. Her husband Brad also worked the bar there. They were both school teachers making extra money bartending. He came over and started talking to us. He was very interested in me and my experience working in Germany. Brad grew up in a little Indiana town, which by chance I knew, since it was in the region where I grew up. He was the home town basketball star. His father was a minister too. Well you can guess what happened next.
On one Sunday night Brad calls me up saying he was expanding his business and was looking for a few "sharp people". So later that week Brad and Jennifer come over and showed me the plan in the kitchen. They got me to go to an open meeting in Summerville, SC to hear Emerald Jamie Nettles show the plan. Jamie said that one could save 30% buy changing your buying habits from discount stores to Amway. Amway would be the next Wal-Mart since they cut out the middle-man.
All this time I was trying to get some catalogs and the rules for the business to see if things had changed from 1988. I ended up buying a kit so that I could finally get the catalogs, prices and rules. I paid for the kit in cash with a $100 bill. You should have seen Brad and Jennifer's eyes. I guess they were used to dealing only with people who were financially strapped. They tried to get me on Amvox and Standing order tape. I took the free 30 day Amvox trial subscription. I read over the rules, but I did not have time to check out the prices. The Amvox was a bit strange. You had to dial long distance to get your messages and the upline, Chad Connelly would read passages out of a book onto Amvox. I know now that it was all to jack up the distributors' phone bills since they all had MCI and that would generate points (income) for them. This would not be the first time that there was no emphasis on trying to save money on business expenses. I learned the more money you could get your downline to waste on their business, the more successful you would be!
By this time, they had told me about the Florence Spring Leadership in Gatlinburg, TN. They got me to buy a ticket and they found somebody to share a room with me. The guy I shared the room with was really "core" (in to it). He had brought all his own "Amway" food to eat at the conference, so he could save money on meals out and get "points" while attending the Amway conference.
Chad and Michelle Connelly were the official Ruby upline Directs (last I heard he was elevated to "Emerald") . One Sunday Chad's group was going to meet up in Columbia to see the new Disney movie "Aladin". After the movie there would a meeting and a small dinner. I was going to ride up to Columbia with the Jennifer and another couple. Even though I was on time, we got a really late start. Brad was always having to stop to find a pay phone and call someone. As it turned out they did not know where the movie theater was and we ended up driving around Columbia for a while and missed the movie. So we got to the dinner in the basement of some golf club and by that time I was a little grouchy. I felt my time was being wasted due to the delay in leaving and then them not knowing where the theater was.
A few weeks later I rode with the Smiths to the Spring Leadership function. We left Friday afternoon. Brad had taken the whole day off to prepare for the function. I'm not sure what there was to prepare for, but he took the whole day off. When we got to the hotel, Brad cornered me in the elevator and told me that my "attitude" at the Sunday dinner was not welcomed and that I should apologize to Jennifer for not being happy about the Sunday outing. I thought it was a bit strange that I should to apologize for my attitude due to their screw ups.
The following morning we gathered in the Smith's hotel room before going to the auditorium. I was giving Brad his car keys back, as he was nice enough to lend me his car to go get a morning swim in at the Gatlinburg swimming pool. Brad got on the phone and called the principal at the school where he was the gym teacher. As it turned out Brad had not called in sick or had officially taken the day off. So he was on the phone apologizing for not calling in sick. I thought this was a bit strange and he was not shy about telling this lie in front of his downline. It was obvious Brad was burning his bridges behind him at the Charleston public school system. I thought it was rather irresponsible for him to have blown off school and leave his class hanging with no time to arrange a substitute. It was very ironic because on all the tapes he had loaned me, they preached about integrity and taking responsibility for one's actions.
So we go off to the function as a group. Boy, everybody is so friendly and excited. Even though they said the function would sell out, there were plenty of seats left. People were selling tickets at the door. No doubt they had bought too many in advance and were now trying to unload them. As I was to later find out, getting stuck with function tickets is a common problem since they had no refund policy and they encouraged you to buy as many as possible in advance in case your downline grew before the next conference.
I was one never much for PEP rallies, and this appeared to be the mother of all PEP rallies. Over ten years later the function is just a blur. I remember Fred Harteis was a guest speaker as well as Ron Ball. I remember the video of Fred Harteis showing all his toys, which included a Lamborghini Countach. I must admit, these people are expert motivators. By the end of Saturday I was feeling pretty confident that this business would be a piece of cake if they were cutting out the middle men and being able to offer a more efficient method of distribution.
I had made a few interesting observations while at the function. I had asked about the "Retail Sales Rule". My upline said not to worry about this rule, as Dexter's group was "exempt" from it. Also My roommate, for the weekend was somewhere crossline, and this his guy was flat broke. He worked for the Evergreen shipping company in Charleston. It was obvious he was buying everything he could through Amway. He laid out all his Amway stuff in the bathroom to show his loyalty. I had my Crest toothpaste...go figure.... What was even more interesting is that he had brought all his meals with him, and they were Amway prepared meals that did not need refrigeration! I guess he needed to save money and was not going to eat out in a restaurant.
Sunday morning I got up to go for a run. I usually don't let anything stop my exercise program. I ran into Chad and Michelle Connelly in the lobby. They were going to the church service. Little did I know that not being a religious fanatic or at least acting like one, would dim my prospects in the business. Not attending the Church service was already a secret black mark against me.
Now that I look back on the whole thing, it is amazing how carefully choreographed the whole thing was. Just before everybody broke to go home, they made a push to buy tickets for the next function and sell prospecting tapes in the form of "Ad packs". Of course everybody is pumped up from this function and what better time than to sell the tickets to the next function. Additionally they had the "Ad packs" on hand for sale. They were moving dozens of recruiting tapes to the small group I was in.
I came back from the weekend PEP rally pretty motivated. I was so motivated that I started my price study. I wanted to verify to myself that this thing was the new, more efficient form of retailing that would put the Wal-Marts and Sam's Clubs out of business. I was not going to put my reputation on the line and I wanted to have the back ground proof. It took me several weeks to finish the prices study but in the end out of about 150 items (about $10,000 basket of goods) the Amway products were on average 40% more expensive than what I could buy them for elsewhere. About 25% of the items were cheaper, and there were mostly the cleaning products. After doing my prices study I knew I had been lied to.
The next Sunday they were have a get-together in Mt. Pleasant. We met at some woman's home who was divorced and obviously looking to Amway to provide income. They were cross-line somewhere and Brad invited me. The house was filled with Amway people eating and trying new Amway products. After a while we all sat down and told each other what we wanted from the business. Then we had a question and answer period. I submitted my question: "How do you handle people when they say the products are more expensive"? Chad had his pat answer: "If you owned a Wendys you would not eat at McDonalds, would you?" The broke guy from Evergreen asked the question "The phone at home is in my roommate's name, and he does not want to use MCI. What should I do?". Chad said he should get his own phone line! Wow that floored me. Here we have a broke guy being told by his successful mentor to spend $50 to get a second line in the house and then pay for his own line, which would cost another him at least another $10/month just to get a few measly PV/BV points from his MCI long distance. It was clear he could never make up the extra costs. MCI pays 3%PV/6% PV. Even if our broke friend was at the 25% performance level he would need to spend $666/month on MCI to recover his extra $10/month to Bellsouth. Clearly Chad was giving bad financial advice.
After the meeting I got a look into Chad's trunk at the "tools". Oh, yes, Chad was driving a used Cadillac from...Florence Motors in Athens, GA. Florence was the upline diamond. Wow, he had every book and tape you could think of in his trunk. I asked how must of that stuff he moved a week and he said $6,000-$7,000 a week. A quick mental calculation told me that Chad moved as much if not more tools than he did Amway product as a Ruby distributor.
This got me thinking. I was told we needed to buy $200/month in product. Yet it seemed the average person was being told to spend an equal amount or more on tools, promotion, and travel. If one subscribed to the full program you could easily spend $200/month on the system and other expenses. The average distributor would surely lose money with this plan. The only way to make money was to recruit more money losing distributors. This plan made no sense to me and on top of it they were lying to prospects about the 30% savings.
The more I thought about everything I had observed, the more I saw that they were pumping everybody to spend their way to success. This was not a business; it was a spending club! It all began to fit together. From the purchase of 1st night bags, loaded with product samples, to books, tapes, seminars and Amvox messages (only obtainable via long distance calling with MCI for which you got points) to Chad reading pages out of a book over Amvox, probably to rack up long distance charges. There was no regard to running the business like a business. The whole point was to motivate the distributors to spend as much money as possible in the name of expanding "their business". It was no wonder the majority of the people who were doing this were financially strapped. Few had any business or financial common sense, and they could not see they had fallen into a trap.
So now came the time for me to get out. There was going to be a Leadership meeting in Columbia and Billy Florence was "flying" into to do the meeting. Brad had invited me so I went to his house before he drove off to the meeting and confronted him about the results of my price study and the constant lie of "save 30%". I distinctly remember telling Brad, that I can't say that and that it is a lie. He said "I don't have a problem with it". At that time I knew his dream was bigger than his integrity. At this point I knew they knew what they were doing and the whole thing was a scam.
Like a lot of site visitors, I had trouble getting a refund for tapes I had purchased. Chad gave me $1 per tape for opened tapes, even though many of the tapes I got from Brad were already opened and cost $5 each. I got a full refund for all the tapes not yet opened and some Amway promotional flyers.
For about the next six months I wrote numerous letters to Amway legal, and the FTC about the blatant lies being told. I even sent Amway Legal recordings of Jamie Nettles saying that you can "save over 30% where you buy now". Amway Legal told me that I was misinterpreting them.
On one occasion, I also left copies of my price study on the windshields of cars at the Summerville open meeting, which one night led to them chasing after me in the parking lot! The next Saturday morning Chad calls me up to talk. He threatened to "take care of me" if I did that again. He was going to "report" me to Amway! Boy I was scared now (not!). He asked me how many price study flyers I had put out. I asked him how many he had collected! I was on to their practice of answering a question with a question! Then he chastised me for ordering 50 promotional flyers "the power of concentration". At one time I had thought of retailing to elderly people in downtown Charleston via Amway's new Priority Service program and I had ordered these flyers for a retailing business. Chad said that was not following the "plan or the system". I then made the comment that the business was nothing more than a "bunch of zombies buying everything just to get points", and Chad said, "and what's wrong with that?" I knew Chad new what the scam was and he was pumping if for everything he could.
Now fast forward to 1998. Why a web page? Firstly, I wanted to learn about WEB sites, the technology, and WEB page programming. I needed an application. I thought people could learn from my experience and save the time and money I spent learning about the very real and poor business and economic aspects of Amway. I had read the information on Sidney Schwartz's site. The scam was bigger than I ever thought it was. I figured I would never have as much information as Sidney and I would just debate the poor economics and lies of the business. At the time the site was called "The Amway distributor's little white lies".
The Amway v. P&G lawsuit came in 1999. Schwartz was named in the suit. Eventually Sidney closed his site, but after many people mirrored it, and Sidney retired from the being the Internet's chief critic of Amway. At the same time a couple of other sites go frustrated and close down due to legal cost fighting Amway subpoenas in the Amway v. P& G case. I too was subpoenaed in the case. I had nothing to hide and let them copy my hard drive. Amway got nothing and spent a lot of money flying someone down to do the hard drive image. After the other sites closed down, my site was one of just a few left.
The more site visitor feedback I got from people really burned business, the more important it was to tell their stories. My site has so much contributed by site visitors I can hardly take credit for the site. All I've done is basically take information and documents sent to me and created a clearing-house for all of it. I've been able to take site visitor tips and then do a little research. One case in particular is the Don Storm's 4Nexchange scam. I was able to find this case on the Federal Courts data base (Pacer) and I was the first to break the story. Ironically, I only obtained access to the Pacer database system so I could track a SLAPP suit filed against me in Charleston, SC by a Diamond distributor there. Little did he know that Pacer would turn out to be a great tool. In most other cases, however, site visitors have sent me everything including newspaper clippings or court documents.
Despite the rumors in the Quixtar business I am not paid to run my site and I'm not a homosexual. It is funny the rumors that are started in the various lines of sponsorship to discredit the business's critics.
Through scouting and earning the rank of Eagle Scout I was taught character. Having been involved with Junior Achievement (JA) in high school I learned about business and received much help from uncompensated, volunteer business advisors. In both groups I was taught to be curious and learn new things. Scouting taught me honesty and credibility. JA introduced me to business. I was involved in JA for three years. In 1978 I was president of "X-10-Tion" and our JA company won the National company of the year competition.
I see great deception and lack of integrity in the way the Amway/Quixtar business is marketed. The business model they teach assures failure for most.
My website site is my way to help total strangers understand the deceptions and real motivations in the business. It is to help site visitors make a better and more informed business decision. In this way I do Scouting's "good turn daily". If you want to teach your children character, values, self reliance and to also be a curious, continuous learner, consider involving them in Scouting. If you want them to learn more about business, economics and free enterprise consider involving them in Junior Achievement. Ironically Amway and Quixtar are also supporters of Junior Achievement. Ken McDonald is very active in Junior Achievement, yet I guess he believes "free exploitation" is ok in the name of "free enterprise".
The problem I see is that Amway/Quixtar does not teach an ethical or moral business model. It is my belief they should teach a model that breaks even on average via retails sales servicing customers, like Rich DeVos long ago preached in Directly speaking. The current "buy from yourself" mantra is nothing more than a product pyramid scheme, where the majority of participants are lured in with false information and expectation, only to have the king pins fleece their pockets with their "systems". Sure, I guess you can call it "free enterprise" but one needs to also remember "buyer beware" and that wolves run around in sheep's clothing.
Some people have asked what my qualifications are to write such a page.
First of all I am only presenting information, which to the best of my knowledge is true and can easily be substantiated. I'm not telling anyone not to get in the business. Everyone needs to make their own decision. If you want somebody to tell you what to do, you will always be at the mercy of people who want to take your money from you in one way or another. Secondly it does not take qualifications to post facts. "Qualifications" are only need when there are not enough facts available and people must rely on expert opinion. I do not pretend to provide expert opinion on the topic of Amway/Quixtar or their motivational organizations. I only present my observations from what I have seen in the business. On those pages that I do write an opinion, I provide the backup data and references that helped me formulate my opinions.
If people are still curious about me, then here you go. I am an engineer with a large international automotive parts manufacturing company and I now live and work in Germany. I have a master's in business administration (11 month accelerated program). My elective courses were in strategic management and finance. I have a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, where my non-technical electives were in micro and macroeconomics, as well as advanced microeconomics.
Contrary to IBOs assumptions that I am a "democrat" and "a pinko commie", I am a free market capitalist, and believe success in the market place is awarded when a business provides a service or good the economy values. I believe in Free Enterprise, but don't believe in "free exploitation", which many in Amway/Quixtar practice with their tools businesses.
I am avid cyclist and swimmer so I am not a computer nerd as many people might think, but via working on my site I have learned a lot of computer tricks and it has also helped me in my job.
So where are the other people today? The Connellys are still only Emerald after probably 14 years in the business. He still lives in the Prosperity South Carolina area and has written a book "Freedom Tide". What happened to the Smiths? A wife of a friend worked with Jennifer in the Charleston school system. She said Brad left the school system and was selling business equipment for a while. The Amway business had come between Brad and his career as a teacher and he had to make a choice. Of course he chose Amway. He probably quit before he was fired. They had three kids and eventually packed up and moved to Florida. I remember telling Brad that I would never sacrifice my exercise program for Amway. I guess Brad did. Last seen the trim high school basket ball star was said to be extremely overweight. I feel sorry for the Smiths. They worked hard and never had the sense to know they were reproducing an immoral and unethical business model. The dreams of the people like the Smiths financed the "free" lifestyle of their upline via all the tools they purchased.
Sadly, Michelle Connelly died of a fatal head injury, shooting herself in the head with Chad's hunting rifle at home on July 30, 2006, while Chad was at Church.
Back to the home page