What has happened since Amway.
A site visitor's recollection

Scott,

 

I was surfing the internet the other day and was surprised to find that you still maintain and update your site.  I was in the business over a decade ago and did a brief write-up of our experience, and more revealing, I think, was happened in the decade since we left the business to us and our upline. 

 

1.      We were in the business from 1995-1999.  It was a tumultuous and life changing experience.  We were recruited by a young couple whom we admired and had much in common.  They were ambitious, driven, highly personable, and funny.  We jumped into the business right away and much of that period is now a blur.  We replaced everything in our house with business products: food, light bulbs, toothpaste, toilet paper, mouthwash, personal hygiene products, cleaning products.  We attended almost all major business functions-sometimes this required flying or driving halfway across the country.  I wholeheartedly embraced the motivational side of the business-purchased and listened to hundreds of tapes, read several motivational books, attended functions, made the phone calls, and listened to a Christian, business rock band for motivation.  I operated on about 4 hours of sleep a night and contacted hundreds of people, including friends, family, casual acquaintances, and complete strangers.  I operated with an uncanny level of confidence and nerve during this period, using creative reasons to contact just about anyone.  Although professional and courteous, it’s amazing in retrospect that I was never punched in the face for the unmitigated gall I sometimes exercised during that time.  I was a true believer.  My spouse and I swore an oath to each other that we would put off all travel, luxury, or major purchases until we were financially independent Emeralds or higher in the business.    

 

2.      We sponsored a handful of people into the business, moved product, and received a few business checks, none totaling more than about $50.   At that time, in our state of mind, each check we received was a milestone-we weren’t far removed from framing them on the wall.  This was the end product of driving hundreds of miles, hundreds of cold calls, contacts, and giving up about 3-4 hours of sleep every night.  It was ultimately the internet which exposed the truth about the business to me.  I was driven there by some serious, unanswered questions about the business.  For all appearances to our upline, leaving the business was without drama,  but personally it was an intense, emotional turning point for us.  I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that on some level, I did feel like a complete failure when I stopped building the business. 

 

3.      One key factor that drove me out of the business was information about the income derived from the motivational side of the business.  I’m not petty-if the Diamonds and Emeralds earned 10-15% of their income from the motivation business, I would think “Gppd fpr them-well deserved.”  But learning that MOST of the income (up to 70%) was derived from the motivational side of the business changed everything, and is probably the strongest testament of a flawed business model couched in deception.  I think if someone accepts this fact and still chooses to build the business, God bless them, but they'll get what they deserve, good or bad, regarding the business.  But for me, it changed everything.  When I asked my upline about this years later he said “You weren’t ready for that information at the time”, which was a typical, cryptic, business answer. 

 

4.      In retrospect, if the business products were cheaper than the products at Walmart, the business model would be valid-it’s really that simple.  The high prices prove that either the business model is flawed or is driven by greed at the highest levels.  I can remember showing the plan and talking about the cost efficiency of cutting out distribution middle men, yet I was still paying $12 for 9 rolls of toilet paper from my upline.  When I asked about this I’d receive answers like “When’s the last time Walmart sent you a pay check?” or “What’s more important-the financial freedom of your family or the cost of toilet paper?”  I think my favorite, knock-off, overpriced, business product was the failed attempt at Cheetos.  Only those who’ve been in the business can truly appreciate what I’m saying.  I remember sharing a bag with a  co-worker and in retrospect the look on his face after tasting them was priceless.

 

5.      So ten years later, what happened to us?  Like most people, we left the business in debt.  We’re not from wealth,  but have some education and a solid, work ethic.  For about a 3-year period after leaving the business, we lived in a small apartment, shared one vehicle, both worked full-time, and lived a lifestyle that consisted mostly of watching rented movies on the weekend and eating a lot of tuna fish sandwiches.  We paid off our debts, started saving and investing again (I didn’t mention that we had liquidated our meager savings and investments to build the business) and slowly started to put our life back together.  In my estimate, we lost about 9 years financially because of our involvement in the business: 3 years building and going into debt, 3 years to get even, and 3 years to replace what we had failed to do initially.  It’s probably accurate to say most do not aggressively save or invest while building the business.  

 

6.       We have a beautiful daughter now, six-figures in both savings and investments, zero debt except for one credit card at a very manageable level, and conservatively have traveled to about 20 countries.  I’ve also been able to contribute both time and money to taking care of my elderly mother and my younger, adult brother, diagnosed with a type of mental illness.  I should probably emphasize we live a modest, low-maintenance lifestyle, which made most of the above possible.  As opposed to the business, we have tremendous freedom from having to appear wealthy, entertain downline, have no liens on our religious, political, or social views, and can go anywhere without the pressure of contacting every stranger we meet.  This is the true freedom, what we had originally wanted from the business.  No contacting, no cold calls, no functions, no fake enthusiasm, no tape or book of the week, no more operating on 2-4 hours of sleep a night, no more bad knock-off Cheetos!  And probably most important, virtually nonexistent debt.  I count my blessings that we were relatively young and without children at the time.   I can easily see me blowing our entire life savings if we were involved now and I had that same level of belief.  And I’ll never forget how great it felt to chuck cardboard boxes full of hundreds of motivational tapes into the dumpster outside of our housing area. More than a few years ago I saw a Dateline special about the business and although nothing surprised me I found it amusing that almost 10 years later they were still pushing the same motivational junk-cassette tapes in 2006?

 

7.      What happened to my upline?  From what I know: 2 Diamond high-profile divorces, 1 Emerald upline who was driven out of the business based on a dispute over money which resulted in a lawsuit, and a major fall-out and business split between our upline Direct and Emerald based on a “lifestyle” choice.  What happened to the charming, young couple that originally sponsored us?  They have seemingly fallen off the face of the earth.  I can’t find them through any number of internet search engines, social media, or profiles of success newsletters from the business.  It’s very strange and I hope no great misfortune has befallen them. 

 

8.        In retrospect, what did I learn from the business?  I’ve developed a sixth sense for scams, con artists and confidence schemes.  This includes sales opportunities from ” Christian businessmen”.  I think I  learned the true value of money and can spot “fake wealth” quite easily, including those living pay check to pay check or on credit to finance a flashy lifestyle, with no savings and at best questionable investments, those who couldn’t even buy you lunch.  I learned that “delayed gratification” doesn’t matter to a child.  They need your time and attention now.   I learned to be wary of those who combine their religious beliefs with business opportunities.  And most importantly I learned I married a wonderful woman who is not only capable of great frugality when required but would follow me to the ends of the earth.           

 

9.        What advice would I pass on to those currently contemplating leaving the business or have recently left the business?  Swallow your pride and live below your means.  Do this to the extreme until you pay off all of your debts.  Get mentally strong if required to do this-disdain materialism.  The best things in life are free or nearly free: exercise, the outdoors, time with family, good books, music, and movies.  The best books that helped me reestablish financial reality were The Millionaire Next Door and Get Rich Slowly.  After we were financially back on our feet it was The 4-Hour Workweek-not for the goofy business model but the philosophy about mini-retirements NOW and why delayed gratification is probably the worst way to live your life. 

 

10.    All that being said, it’s been a long journey for us.   I wish the best to you and your family if you’re reading this and currently contemplating leaving the business.

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