will it hurt my career to work for a slimy company?

A reader writes:

I’ve recently progressed pretty far into the hiring process for a job — good compensation and environment and in my field. However, this job is for a professional role in the corporate headquarters of a company that sells their product through multi-level marketing (think Herbalife, etc. — individuals are branded as “consultants” who buy the product on their own dime, resell it to their contacts, and get bonuses for enrolling more consultants into the company).

I know that listing multi-level marketing work on your resume is generally frowned upon if you’re a consultant. But what impression would it give if you work on the corporate side in a professional role (think doing something like operations, business development, accounting, and the like)? I know there are ethical concerns with companies that operate this way, so would having this company on my resume or LinkedIn cause colleagues or hiring managers in the future concern or raise eyebrows? Would it give a vibe of unprofessionalism, a disregard for ethics, or anything else that might not come if the company sold their product in a traditional retail role? The job is intriguing and seems great, but I’m employed right now in a good job and relatively early in my career — I don’t want to make a move that could jeopardize my future.

Don’t do it.

Those companies prey on people who aren’t savvy enough to know that they’re very unlikely to ever make the kind of money the company promises them, and their business model often means that the people who sell for them spend huge amounts of their own money buying products and never recoup that investment.

They have a shady reputation for a reason.

So yes, it will reflect poorly on you to work for their corporate operations. At best, it’ll make you appear naive; at worst, you’ll appear unethical.

And appearances aside, do you really want to work for a company where the whole business model is to take advantage of people? Hopefully you do not.

Updated to add: There’s been some debate in the comments about whether working in the corporate headquarters of Avon would be seen in the same way as, say, Herbalife or Shakeology. I don’t think that Avon, and maybe also Mary Kay, would be seen in the same way as I describe above. I don’t know if that’s a legitimate way for people to feel or not; it might be just because they’re more established institutions. But I do think most people won’t have the same negative associations with those companies.

{ 443 comments… read them below }

  1. RobM

    It has to be one’s own personal decision but there are some employers I simply couldn’t bring myself to work for, and this kind of company is one of them. And I would certainly notice it on a potential new hire’s resume.

    1. Big Hat No Cattle

      Completely agree with everything RobM said. I was in a similar situation right before I graduated college – I was offered a fantastically paid job with a major tobacco company. My dad was suffering from emphysema at the time (and has since passed), and I have major issues with working for anything tobacco-related. I declined even though I really could have used the money.

      I also worked for an ad agency early on in my career that potentially could have landed a tobacco product as a client. My supervisor asked everyone on our team how we felt about working on a tobacco account. I shared my background with my supervisor, and he was exceptionally understanding. Apparently everyone else on the team had similar concerns, and our company declined to work on the account.

    2. Charisma

      The only thing I have to say is that I would actually feel more sympathetic towards hiring someone who put down that they were a consultant for an MLM on their resume than someone who worked in corporate. Many people who work as consultants in MLMs fit into a third category… desperate. They are people who didn’t have the best foundations or opportunities in life. They may move a lot because of a military spouse. They may be a single parent and not be able to afford to have someone at home watching them. They may have not been able to pursue higher education. For all these reasons and more, I am way more willing to look past MLM consultant experience on someone’s resume. MLM corporate experience on the other hand, not so much.

      1. fposte

        I’m leaning the other way, in that I don’t think that belongs on your resume at all most of the time. Most people in an MLM don’t gain any transferable experience, and the stigma against claiming that you do would need a lot of proof to overcome. It’s more like volunteering, but with taint attached.

        1. Charisma

          Oh I agree, I’d rather not see it at all. But if I did see it, I would more likely give the consultant an opportunity to explain themselves. I honestly have not come across this scenario yet. But I have come to understand, very recently actually, how many people (mostly women) who have no “real” job experience and then take a chance on MLMs as their first job do so because they are viewed as a little too old for a more traditional first job, or are constantly moving because of their spouse and live in areas that they aren’t allowed to work traditional jobs at all. I’m not completely knowledgeable about the situation, but I’ve heard enough arguments about why a good someone might legitimately be in a situation like that and need a chance to escape that I would give them an opportunity to wow me. If this someone was still actively doing MLM consulting and planning to keep doing it while employed, that would be another story. That would actually directly conflict with my business and be a huge no-no. I see the person working for corporate as having a choice, they are choosing to work for an abusive system.

          1. Anxa

            I think this is an interesting viewpoint. I know a few people who did know better and still pursued it. One of them admitted that they knew they’d probably lose money, but they couldn’t stand not trying and just accepting their unemployment.

            I think it’s a dangerous byproduct of American culture around employment and work; that if you just keep trying or try harder, it’s going to get better.

            1. I'm a Little Teapot

              This is a really great observation – people do things that are actually hurting them because there’s such a stigma attached to failure and giving up and not working hard enough and lacking gumption and all that crap.

            2. Charisma

              That is really sad. The bootstrap mentality is an especially toxic one. Coming from a lower income background and being lucky enough to somewhat get out of it (although my husband and I still work three jobs between the two of us to make ends meet) just makes me sick. I think that’s why I am more willing to be more sympathetic towards people in this position.

          2. fposte

            But most of the time it isn’t a job, from my hiring standpoint. If it’s not quantified in a way that makes it clear it’s a job on the resume, I’m going to count its inclusion against the candidate–it’s not a neutral.

    3. WhichSister

      That’s a good thought. Ask yourself is working here consistent with my core values. If its not, you are going to be miserable no matter the pay and the benefits. My father was in law enforcement and was very much not stereotypical. He hated the NRA and supported stricter gun laws. He raised us the same way. So when one of my sisters, who lived in Northern Virginia at the time, applied for a position with the NRA I was surprised. My mom quickly defended it saying “it would pay the bills.” But it was a PR role and I couldn’t imagine being able to spin something again my core values. The application never went anywhere but it did have me look at my own views, and the importance of being somewhere consistent with my values. If you can’t reconcile why you work there, how can you expect a potential employer too?

  2. TotesMaGoats

    This is much like how in some circles of higher education working at some of the for-profits is an instant disqualifier. Is that fair? No but some for-profit colleges have given the rest of the field a really bad name and so all of them get painted with a really broad brush. I’ve actually seen this happen where a solid candidate was removed the hiring pool by the VP (against the hiring manager’s wishes) solely based upon working at a for-profit.

    1. Laurel Gray

      Totally. It would be like beginning your career in food chemistry working at Monsanto for a few years and then trying to apply for a job at Annie’s or Amy’s.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          I was thinking this, too, but unless it’s very early in their career and they weren’t there more than a year or two, they should have known that the model was predatory (talking about MLM scam and for-profit colleges and the like here) after gaining some experience in and knowledge of the field.

          1. Yup

            I mean but directly talking about Monsanto to Annie’s or something – that could be due to a change of heart. “I made it to management level and then realized exactly what we were doing to people – previously I’d just been doing research in the lab and that was exciting and fun! I’d like to apply my scientific research abilities towards researching how to make organic foods taste excellent now!”
            *This is posted by someone who doesn’t personally have an issue with Monsanto, but I know plenty of people do, so leaving could be due to a change of heart.

            1. fposte

              These transitions are pretty variable. I think the Monsanto to Annie’s thing is a hurdle but negotiable–people do have changes of hearts in that direction, and it’s reasonably possible that there’s something other than expedience in both directions. The for-profit to non-profit is really tough to surmount, because the entire mindset is different and there is too much likelihood that this is a change of heart dictated by the pocketbook.

              MLM isn’t really even a parallel track, though. It’s just what it is, and everybody of an age to work at headquarters knows what it is. While I think it’s possible that us non-profit and academic types may be more concerned about the industry rep than some of the private sector would be, I think at best it’s still limiting. I also think that there’s likely to be corporate classism–where the problem isn’t the scamminess but the low-browness of the profile. (I can’t imagine L’Oreal being excited about a former Mary Kay exec, for example.)

              If I were serious about pursuing this, I’d check with a couple of people, maybe through the alumni network, in industries you’d like to get into, and ask them what they would think of an applicant with this history. But I think most companies really like to think of themselves as very different from MLMs, so this will feel like a taint to them even if the skills are transferable.

              1. Anxa

                This wouldn’t even be a change of heart for many people, though.

                Plenty of people would rather work for a lower salary in a company that aligns more closely with their values, but those companies may not be willing to hire someone until they have experience. Experience they can only get at companies that may negative reputations.

            2. Caddy

              The problem is that just having it on your resume might be an insta-reject for some hiring managers, so there’s no chance to explain the reasoning behind the decision to move on.

              1. Emily

                There is also the issue of optics. I work for a non-partisan advocacy organization and we have donors, staff, and board members who used to work in industries that we usually work in opposition to. I have met several of them personally and can tell you, they are people who had a come-to-Jesus moment where they realized their job was evil and it wasn’t enough for them to just leave the industry, they felt they needed to do something to counteract all the bad stuff they had been a part of. They’re invaluable because they know the industries inside and out and can provide us with an insider perspective that helps us be more effective when we’re up against those industries, and because as a former industry exec they’re judged in certain political settings to be less biased and give us more credibility to have our ideas endorsed by someone from “the other side” as feasible, and not the industry-destroying job-killer the rest of the industry is claiming it will be.

                But in other political settings, we periodically have people who don’t like the fact that we’re nonpartisan and willing to work with businesses and conservatives instead of being diehard anti-Wall-Street lefties, and they “discover our ties to the enemy” in the form of having these people on our staff and board, and accuse us of an elaborate smokescreen where we’re *pretending* to be doing good while providing cover for bad actors.

                Anyone who is considering hiring someone who had a change of heart needs to realize they’re inviting a potential PR issue and be comfortable with that possibility/think the person’s expertise is worth that reputational risk.

                1. Charisma

                  Yeah, the way so many people see things as black and white just kills me. They just REFUSE to believe that people can make mistakes/change/learn/grow. And you know what, I think that reflects way more on them than it does on the people they are judging. We just love to see the boogeyman everywhere!

                2. Jesca

                  Well i also believe that anyone who is “die hard” anything could really benefit from a different outlook just in general.

        2. Laurel Gray

          Good question. I would assume they would be crossing that bridge with every cover letter they sent out for jobs at companies like that,.

        3. neverjaunty

          Then you’d probably have to accept that you’d need to build up a record of having had a ‘change of heart’ – say, having had other jobs in between, or involvement in organizations that were consistent with that ‘change of heart’ – or you’d need to be such a strong candidate that a skeptical employer would be willing to interview you and find out why you’re suddenly switching tracks, as it were.

          1. Laurel Gray

            Such a good point. When you apply this to the other examples (like switching from for profit to not for profit) you realize it is definitely easier said than done.

            1. neverjaunty

              It’s sad sometimes. I work in an area of law that’s very polarized and has conflicts – it’s very, very difficult to ‘switch sides’ – and I know there are people who would rather be on my side of the fence, but started out on the other side, and now they’re stuck. On the other hand, there’s good reason for that skepticism beyond the issue of client conflicts. I’ve worked in the past with people who have tried to ‘change sides’ and it just didn’t work – their mentality was such that they really struggled with seeing things from their new POV and were overly sympathetic to the ‘other side’ way of viewing things. It just didn’t work out. People often have a lot harder time really changing their hearts than they would like to think.

              1. Putting Out Fires, Esq

                One does not simply go from public defender to assistant district attorney. Though I know people who have.

                1. neverjaunty

                  Interesting, because I thought that was one of the areas of law where people do switch with some regularity? Or maybe it’s just that a former ADA who wants to make more money can go into private practice as a defender, but there’s no way to be a private DA.

                2. Sigrid

                  I was talking with my brother-in-law about this subject just a couple months ago! He’s a public defender and the son of a public defender, and he said that surprisingly, it’s not that uncommon. In his experience it’s because lawyers who go into public defending/prosecuting usually share a passionate belief in the right to a fair trial for everyone — after all, if they cared more about money or about keeping score, there are far more lucrative and successful areas of law. So if that’s your driving passion for your work, it’s not that difficult to switch sides, because you believe that people should have a fair defense *and* a fair prosecution.

                3. Blj531

                  In my experience it tends to be DAs going private after they have trial experience. It’s been known to happen, but it’s pretty rare for a defense attorney (especially a public defender) to go DA.

                4. Putting Out Fires, Esq

                  We have two people I know of who left our office for the DAs. One is still a DA (and apparently wasn’t very happy as a PD) and the other stayed for a hot minute and is now a private defense attorney.

                  Going private as a defense attorney is quite common after serving in either capacity, because the money you can make doing DUI defense is absurd. Most of us leave for private at some point (5-10 of service is typical) even if it isn’t criminal defense work. After all, we get the most trial practice out of any attorneys out there.

                  My boss, however, would not hire someone who worked as an assistant district attorney unless it was only in law school and they’d had a change of heart. To be a good PD, you have to *believe* in your clients or in the inherent inequalities in the system. We’re standing up for people accused of some nasty things, things we ourselves might have personal problems with, but unlike private attorneys, we can’t turn down clients because we’re icked out. “You take the cases assigned” is the governing motto, whether you like the person or not, whether you think there’s any hope or not, whether you are personally offended or not. And that requires a very certain mindset to do right. We maintain a real attorney-client relationship: they get to decide the course of representation. We can’t push a deal on someone because we think they are guilty. We can only give them an honest appraisal of their options and advice on what we think would be the best course of action. The good attorneys in my office fight for their clients no matter what. If they want to take an absolute loser case to trial that will only haunt the minds of the jurors when they take 10 minutes to determine guilt, we’ll be working for weeks to make the best defense we can. It means you basically have to check your overall sense of societal justice at the door and focus on justice for one person and one person only.

                  Not that good private attorneys are always running from clients they don’t want to represent. But we don’t have a choice to pass anyone off or turn anyone down. If you are indigent, you are mine.

              2. Manders

                Interesting–in personal injury law, I’ve seen attorneys use that change of heart narrative as a selling point. I switched from defense to plaintiff side (on the admin side, not as an attorney myself) and no one seemed bothered by it except for my old boss, who had a reputation for being a crank anyway.

              3. jane don't

                Jumping in to say that law is one of those areas where a professional “change of heart” can be more common, though that does vary based on community and area of practice. When I lived in a more suburban/rural area, the attorneys got along on a personal level much better than they do in the big city I live in now–which I think is just a matter of having to see each other all the time and not wanting to burn bridges in a smaller community. But yeah, plenty of places actually see working for “the other side” as a bonus. Means you know your stuff.

          2. Bwmn

            This is a really good point – that the change of heart story doesn’t always have the time to get through the “when we skimmed your resume, we saw this and immediately said no”.

            If someone has been a really amazing accountant for the NRA, has a vastly comprehensive knowledge of tax law and regulations as they relate to nonprofits, and all of that – there will likely be many other cause nonprofits that will just immediately reject the candidate or be skeptical of the change of heart. I saw one boss interview two “change of heart” candidates, and both times she believed that they were just too close to that change to trust. I don’t know if anyone ultimately took a chance on them.

            1. Anna

              It seems like you’d have to make a really compelling case in your cover letter if that’s the situation.

    2. Yup

      I worked as a recruiter before and often candidates who had degrees from those ‘for profit’ institutions were automatically ruled out by the hiring managers. Some of them are good, I’m sure, but many of the hiring managers had the thought that the person obviously wasn’t ‘smart enough’ to know not to get a degree from a predatory institution. (this is despite the fact that I’m sure they had to work hard to actually complete said degree)

    3. MsChanandlerBong

      I worked for a for-profit school for five months right after college. There’s a reason they have a bad reputation. I left so soon because I didn’t feel comfortable doing unethical things to con students into enrolling. Plus, it was really hard to convince people to enroll in a $20,000 program when the community college 5 miles away had the same thing for $600.

    4. Laura

      Well said. I also work in higher education and generally, people who have any kind of contact with for-profit schools on their resumes (degrees OR employment) are not considered for positions. It’s sad because some of them are genuinely good, hardworking people. But for-profits are so taboo that it’s better to leave them off resumes altogether.

      The same must be true from MLM companies. I certainly wouldn’t want to work for one due to ethical concerns, just like I wouldn’t work for a for-profit college.

      1. MsChanandlerBong

        Fortunately, my stint was almost 10 years ago, so I can leave it off my resume without it looking too suspicious. I almost had to testify in a lawsuit against my former employer because of their shady practices, so I don’t want anyone knowing I worked there!

    5. Pam Adams

      I have been on multiple hiring committees in my state university where candidates with for-profit backgrounds appear. I have hired a couple, but they certainly got an extra level of review before making that hiring decision.

  3. Katie the Fed

    Yep, agreed. Plus, I generally assume that people who work in MLM schemes have no grasp of math or social norms, because there’s something fundamentally rotten about trying to sell you friends on this stuff. (Looking at you, Shakeology “coaches”!)

    1. TotesMaGoats

      I have one “Friend” who does this and hashtags everything with #girlboss. No, you aren’t anyone’s boss. This doesn’t give you supervisory experience or hiring/firing ability or anything like that.

        1. Big Hat No Cattle

          I had no idea why the term #girlboss has always bothered me so much, and now I see why it does. It is gross and really makes women seem less serious about their careers (I’m probably not saying that correctly, but I think everyone knows the point I’m trying to make).

        2. TotesMaGoats

          The thing that baffles me is that she has a full time job where she is an actual boss. Director level social services/counseling role. We went through grad school together and she’s almost done with her PhD.

        3. Anonymous Educator

          Yeah, I can’t imagine a single male salesperson hashtagging as #boyboss. Not that everything in gender has to be exactly equivalent and interchangeable, but in this case… no.

          1. literateliz

            Haha I think I have seen @manwhohasitall on Twitter use the #boyboss hashtag… which of course is only further proof of your point.

            1. Sassy AAE

              This is fantastic!

              “Wife back on the Xbox? Kids asleep? Now is a good time to curl up on the sofa with a good book & 5 hazelnuts. Daddy heaven.”

              Oh man, insta follow.

      1. Juli G.

        Girl Boss sounds like a great live-action Nickelodeon show starring the younger sister of a twenty-something actress.

        1. bridget

          Who has managed, through a string of zany coincidences, to be put in charge of a major corporation at only 14, a la Maebe Funke in arrested development or the evergreen “a KID managed to win the mayoral election in this quirky town!”

          I’d watch that.

        2. Mookie

          I hear “girlboss” come out of somebody’s lips and I immediately think they’ve swallowed hook, line, and sinker the ahistorical myth that women earning a living is somehow a modern invention such that we need to distinguish between Real People and Novelty Humans Who Think They’re People (Their Paychecks Are So Cute and Small). “Girlboss!?” they want somebody to scream halfway through an enormous, attention-seeking faint, “I’ve never heard of such a thing!” Cue a popped and scandalized monocle and a stern tut-tut at such wickedness.

      2. Kirsten

        My pet peeve is when people claim to be a “business owner” when they are a “consultant” for this kind of scheme. /eye roll

          1. Wendy Darling

            Every time I see “Executive Director, Myname Consulting” or something I cringe a little. A bunch of people who graduated from the same UX program I did and couldn’t find a job right away pulled that one. The thing is as far as I can tell none of them actually do any paid consulting, just personal projects.

    2. The Other Dawn

      I have no idea what Shakeology is, but I have a Facebook friend, formerly an elementary and high school classmate, and this is her new thing. Last year it was that eye lash stuff (Lash Crack maybe?) and before that it was Party Lite. Same thing for another former classmate, but she sticks to all the nutrition products.

      1. B

        It’s obnoxious. I’ve had SO MANY “Beachbody coach” Facebook friends try to sell to me. Why would I spend $120 0on a bag of protein powder!??!

      2. BananaPants

        My cousin is a very high-ranking Beachbody coach. She quit a really good paying job in IT and now shills expensive shakes and exercise videos and earns more money than she did before. Actually, she spends most of her time cultivating her downline rather than actually being the one selling much.

        She brags a lot about how she left behind a corporate career and gets to be a SAHM and work from home. It’s all about cultivating an image – she specifically targets women, often with young children, who are stressed out at work or don’t like their jobs. She sells them the idea that they can be successful and stop working outside of the home, too. The thing is, none of her downline is as successful as she is…

        1. 2horseygirls

          I got suckered in by Pampered Chef 16 years ago. I did it half-assedly for a couple of years, but it never took off. My people don’t cook, and friends were either just out of college or still living with Mom & Dad.

          I try to be supportive, and buy something from someone who starts out in this. Silpada jewelry – check. Premier Designs (more jewelry) – check. LipSense – check. Tupperware – check. Young Living Oils – check. Mary Kay – check. Avon – check. Tastefully Simple – check. Stella & Dot – check. Thirty-One – check. I have horses, so there’s no point in even trying Jamberry.

          My college roommate/BFF just started either the Shakeology or Beachbody thing. I haven’t seen her in person, and I’m glad it’s working for her, but my certified executive chef husband will divorce my sizeable behind in a second if I start with that, when he’s been telling me portion control for 12 years ;)

          And I do lovelovelove my Scentsy dealer . . . er, independent consultant. :)

          1. superblarg

            I’m NOT a fan of buying this kind of thing from my friends, it’s too uncomfortable (‘come to my house for a “party” that is an extended sales pitch!’ Whee!).

            But for the record, Jamberry nails will totally stand up to anything your horses can bring on.

            I actually had to peel the things off* because I have a baby and a hubby with a rule against me coming to bed smelling like nail polish remover. (So no time in the morning, day, or night that worked, and weekends were busy.) These still perfect, gorgeous nails grew down to halfway on my nailbed by the time I accepted that I wasn’t going to find 10 minutes to soak them off.

            But you can’t half-a$$ putting them on: wash nails with Dawn then isopropyl, cut them to fit, heat and apply, pressure, nail file, gel topcoat, light to bake the gel. I would say it took 2 hours all told.

            Anyway, not the point, but just saying..

            *Do not peel them off your nails! I took off a layer or two of nail, and they only just grew out the damaged parts.

    3. Beezus

      I assume they are the kind of people who will expect friends and family to make unfair, unreasonable sacrifices in the name of friendship and family. In my experience, they’re also the kind of person who wants us all to be faaaaaaaamily at work, so the above winds up applying to colleagues, too. Their sense of professional boundaries and normal work relationships is off, in my experience.

      One of my former coworkers is an exception – she sold MLM jewelry out of financial desperation after a divorce. I think she realized it wasn’t for her almost immediately, she was pretty apologetic and not at all pushy in her sales pitches, and she sold enough to break even on her initial investment and then bailed. (I’m also dead certain that she does not list it on her resume, lol!)

    4. Stranger than fiction

      I was actually quite shocked when a former coworker who was seemingly quite bright and great with customers told me she was a rep for prepaid legal on the side, and when I asked isn’t that an mlm she said no. I looked them up online and it definitely is.

        1. Stephanie

          Sort of. From what I remember, it sounded like you had a lawyer on retainer for a certain amount of hours with the package. I imagine if you had anything more complicated than a DUI, speeding ticket, basic divorce, etc., you quickly maxed out your benefit.

      1. Stephanie

        Oh, it is. When I was still in law, a family friend tried to get me to join (she invited me to lunch under the guise of catching up and then hit me with the Prepaid Legal pitch) and said it’d help my then career in the legal field. She kept bugging me about it. What stopped it was when my dad was visiting. We all went out to dinner and she’s like “I told Stephanie about it and she just hasn’t followed up! It’d be a great asset to her career.” My dad was like “Stephanie’s not interested in that sh*t.” That stopped it.

    5. Mick

      Here is an exception–I have worked with Beachbody on the corporate / video production side, and there are a lot of great people there who I would hire/recommend/work with again. Perhaps if I worked directly with the MLM portion of the business I’d feel differently, but the departments I work with are first rate.

      1. Nancypie

        I’m a huge fan of T25 and would 10o% not have a bad reaction hearing you worked for BeachBody. I think it’s just the coaching/shake aspect, which to me seems secondary to the awesome workouts.

  4. ThatGirl

    Related, what do people think of companies like Pampered Chef? There’s still direct selling and probably some MLM style stuff, but to me it doesn’t seem quite the same. But maybe it is?

    1. New Girl

      I see Pampered Chef and even Avon as different than companies like ItWorks. I think ItWorks is terrible and way too many people I know have gotten wrapped up into it.

      1. Allison

        Right, I think they’re in the same category as Tupperware. Yes, they’re MLM, but they’re products people actually want, so you generally don’t need to be annoyingly pushy to get sales. Still, I think they’re best for stay-at-home moms and people who want to make extra money on the side, not a reliable source of income.

        1. ThatGirl

          Right. It’s just that I’ve seen ads for jobs at Pampered Chef HQ that actually sound really cool, but I wonder if other companies would frown at that down the road. I agree in general that it’s more socially acceptable to sell. I have had friends do Avon and Pampered Chef and 31 and while I don’t go for those sorts of parties, I can see more of the appeal.

          1. Allison

            I’ve been to a couple Passion Parties (adult toys), those were really fun and there wasn’t any pressure to buy anything. At least, I didn’t feel any pressure to buy stuff.

            1. Kelly L.

              I got invited to an adult toy party as a bridal shower for someone I’d never met. I was cordially invited to come to this party and buy a bunch of things for the bride, again, whom I’d never met. When I declined, I was guilted for not wanting to “wish this total stranger well” with my money.

              1. Gabriela

                I went to one of these parties where the bride-to-be’s sisters, mother, and mother-in-law were all in attendance. It was the longest, most awkward party I’ve ever been to.

                1. Big Hat No Cattle

                  That happened to my friend too! My friend was pretty young when she got married, and these parties were a relatively new thing. Her future sister-in-law hosted the party, invited a bunch of family members, and then pressured my friend to buy a bunch of stuff. (Apparently the guests had to buy a certain amount.) Anyway, my friend didn’t buy anything and her future sister-in-law had to buy a bunch of stuff. It was so awkward for my friend at the time, but now it’s a funny story.

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          I agree there are some of these like Pampered Chef and Stella & Dot where I actually like their products.

        3. Kate M

          I mean, they might be things people can use or work as advertised, but things people actually want? I still find the friends trying to sell to me schtick really pushy. They’re the same type of stuff you can find in regular stores for much cheaper. It still relies on guilt or pressure to sell things to you, which is always skeevy to me. And it’s still the same MLM scheme where you’re probably not going to make the money they suggested you could. I mean, how many times can you invite the same friends to a party? That’s the problem – most people have a limited enough social network that it ends up just bugging the same friends over and over again to buy things. (I know some people are going to say that they don’t bug people, they just let people come to them, but in general I think that’s how it works).

          Not that I’m not sympathetic to the people who sell these. I understand that a lot of times it’s SAHMs, military spouses, etc who don’t really have a ton of other “work from home options.” But I still never think this is a good one, even with stuff like Pampered Chef and Mary Kay.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger

        There are companies that use forms of MLM compensation but also actually have decent products. It’s too bad, I still won’t support them, but I don’t think less of the few people I know who sell Avon on the side, since they’re not pushy about it. (At least, I try not to.)

      3. Kelly L.

        Oh yeah, I have a special disgust for the MLMs where you don’t even get a useful product. Sure, if I buy Pampered Chef or Mary Kay, I’ve bought overpriced kitchen tools and makeup, but I still get actual kitchen tools and makeup. It Works is just selling snake oil.

      4. Mando Diao

        ItWorks is terrible. I’m not triggered by much, but I’ve had to unfriend a lot of people who were constantly pushing weight loss products in a way that made me feel terrible. Lots of ItWorks sellers are encouraged to stand outside restaurants and basically shame people into buying these products right after they’ve eaten.

          1. Mando Diao

            ItWorks definitely targets women who have eating disorders or suffer from body image issues. “These wraps will make you look slimmer instantly!” “These capsules help you burn more calories!” It encourages waist-measuring and calorie counting in a way that really isn’t okay or safe.

            1. BostonKate

              A former friend from college kept harassing me to try it. She made me feel like she was only asking me because she thought I was fat. Another friend felt the same way. We’re no longer friends haha

        1. Crazy Dog Lady

          Shortly after I got engaged, an old acquaintance reached out on Facebook and pushed me to buy ItWorks. I apparently needed it to fit into my wedding dress! I hate it when people prey on the fact that brides already feel the need to be skinny on their wedding day, and it especially bothered me because I eat healthy and exercise, and this seems to promote the opposite.

      5. Zillah

        Ughhh. I know someone who’s gotten caught up in ItWorks. After 2-3 posts on twitter in a day and a half, I could see the writing on the wall and muted her. (I think that’s what it’s called.) It’s definitely affected my opinion about her judgment.

        1. Rob Lowe can't read

          I had to do that for someone who sells Thrive products. Every single one of her Facebook posts was about Thrive, which was super annoying, and she also got a ton of our mutual acquaintances from college (professional women with advanced degrees and good jobs!) to shill for Thrive as well.

    2. Anon MLM Moonlighter

      I am a rep for an MLM on the side, and …. I love it. Granted, before I found my product, I hated home parties, hated MLM, and I still think there are a ton of bad ones out there that I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole (and actually, not to knock Pampered Chef, but I recently went to a Pampered Chef party and had a really poor experience). For as many people that these companies hurt, there are some of us out there that love some of the products, have no grandiose delusions of making it rich, and are actually happy doing what we’re doing, and we’re not bugging the crap out of our friends in the process. Also, my company doesn’t require or even encourage you to have stock on hand (some people do, but I’ve never felt pressure in any way, shape, or form.)

      1. Yup

        Yes but for every one person who doesn’t bug the crap out of their friends there are 4 more who do. I was new to a city once and got invited to a ‘party’ by a lady I really wanted to be friends with. I showed up and it was a S&D party – my SO and I were strapped for cash at the time but I felt pressured to buy something so that she’d be friends with me…. we didn’t become friends.
        Additionally, I started a new job and about a month in an older woman in the office, who wasn’t particularly nice, invited me to lunch. I went, and turns out she wanted to sell me some skincare products – and when I declined based on the outrageous prices (I buy drugstore skincare products) she asked me to join her team! When I declined THAT she asked me to ask my SISTER (whom she’d met when sister came to meet me for lunch one time) to join her team! It was just icky all around and I still have to work with her every. single. day.

        1. Callie

          Oh yeah… “I would never actually invite you to a real social event at my house but I’ll invite you over to buy tacky overpriced crap from me” REALLY grinds my gears.

          1. Kelly F

            There were a lot of things that people in the past got wrong, but whenever I get an invite like that, I wish we could have some old fashioned manners again.

          2. Alli525

            Or “We are friends and you have visited us in our home… and now I’m going to fundamentally alter our friendship by bringing ‘business’ into it.” Arguably worse.

        2. AFT123

          OMG THIS. I have also had the experience of being being “preyed upon” as the new woman in an office. An MLM seller invited me to lunch and then proceeded to not only try and get me to become a consultant, but also pester my family and literally give her my family’s contact information to try and set up parties. It was bizarre and very slimy – she had started by asking my about my family and siblings and stuff, and I was talking about family events coming up, and she used that information to basically say “Wow that is so exciting, I bet your sister would love being able to make a little extra money on the side, and you could get some free stuff too – why don’t you let me reach out to her about hosting an xyz party?” I refused, she literally wrote down my sister’s name anyway, but didn’t end up trying to contact her. I assume she was going to look for her on Facebook or something. She never talked to me again after I wasn’t cooperative with her. Nobody warned me either.

          1. Crazy Dog Lady

            I mistakenly attended a party where we were pushed to give contact info for our friends and family, and I flat out refused. Another friend said that she didn’t feel comfortable listing people’s information without their permission, and the consultant said that she could list it for now, but she wouldn’t contact anyone until my friend followed up with her. Sure enough, she contacted the list anyway.

            I’ve been listed as a contact before, and I was not pleased. It was someone who I hadn’t spoken to in years, and after she let me know that she gave a consultant my phone number, I was inundated with texts and phone calls. I do have friends who work for MLM companies who do it on the side, and they have never been pushy, but this behavior just turns me off altogether.

      2. CMT

        I don’t know that you can say with 100% certainty that you’re not bugging the crap out of your friends.

        1. Anon MLM Moonlighter

          That’s fair. I will clarify and say that I’m extremely conscious of it. I mention it to my friends, but if I don’t get any interest back, I don’t bring it up again. I don’t add people willy-nilly to Facebook invites or groups, I ask people if they want to be added. Have I annoyed someone? Maybe. But I am confident that I haven’t lost friends over it.

      3. neverjaunty

        You’re not the type of seller the business model is based on, though. That’s the issue.

        1. Anon MLM Moonlighter

          I guess that’s where I feel torn. I don’t want to start a huge debate, because, ultimately, I agree with a ton of stuff that’s been said here. I’ve been overly pressured by people (I’m looking at you, PartyLite lady, that tricked people into hosting parties and still won’t stop sending me e-mails ten years later….), I’ve had friends swindled (including a sister that lost a ton of money through Mary Kay and got stuck with product she couldn’t get rid of), I’ve been to terribly awkward and miserable parties and felt forced to buy overpriced crap that I didn’t want, and my husband lost a friend over being pressured into some pyramid money-making scam that his friend was a part of and would stop bugging him about it. I don’t agree with the predatory practices of a lot of these companies, either.
          But, at the same time, it makes me sad that people would think less of me because I’m a part of something that has largely been a great experience for me just because it’s MLM. I guess what I’m saying is take a look at the company and the practices as well as the people that are a part of it rather than the overarching “MLM” label.
          A lot of people here are saying that they would think more highly of Mary Kay, and IMO, it’s one of the most predatory.

          1. neverjaunty

            But there’s a difference between ‘yes, my company uses the MLM model, but it does so in an ethical way and it is not sleazy like other MLMs’ and ‘yeah but it’s been a great experience for me personally, so don’t judge’. It’s like the difference between saying that Fergus is actually a good guy despite his reputation, and saying that Fergus has never been a jerk to me personally so it’s not fair to judge him for how he acts towards others.

            1. Anon MLM Moonlighter

              I agree completely. I guess I feel like we don’t get to even have the chance at the first because of the MLM stigma. I get why it’s there, but I hope that changes because I do think that there are reputable MLM companies that are working to change that.

              1. GovWorker

                Can you name some? Have you made a profit? I have studied MLMs extensively and they are money losing propositions except for the creators. Scams.

              2. MindoverMoneyChick (formerly_Chris)

                Anon MLM Moonlighter – I know you are staying anon for this but would you be willing to email about your experience. I have some clients in MLMs and often do financial strategy sessions for people who I find out are in MLMs. My positive experience with Cutco knives notwithstanding, I have trouble with the business model and have read thepinktruth.com

                But talking people out of MLMs is very hard. They are good at getting people emotionally invested. So I would love to hear about good experience so I can learn to evaluate when people can actually make money and how they can track how much their making. Seems like this should be straightforward but I haven’t been able to make sense of the compensation models in most of the one-off sessions I’ve had with folks.

          2. Faith

            I wouldn’t say that I think more highly of Mary Kay than any other MLM type company. However, I do think of working for corporate Mary Kay as having a legitimate job that gives you experience that would be applicable elsewhere. I know several people who work or have worked for Mary Kay in the past in various fields – accounting, finance, tax, engineering, etc. I wouldn’t think any less of their professional qualifications just because they happen to work for Mary Kay. I mean, their financial reporting and tax filings have to be as complex as any other company’s of their size. Same goes for their R&D, etc. When I think of most other MLM companies, I just get a feeling (maybe not rightfully so) that their entire corporate structure is just smoke and mirrors, just like their product.

            1. Lily in NYC

              NO! MK is awful – one of the absolute worst. Please check out the website I linked below – it’s written by a professional fraud investigator and talks about shady MLMs, and Mary Kay is their main target (pinktruth.com). I am not affiliated with it in any way, I just find it interesting to read.

          3. AlterMeh

            If there’s something I see from an MLM, I check eBay. I’ve gotten really pretty Silpada jewelry at 25% of the catalog cost. Maybe your sister could unload her Mary Kay stuff the same way? I buy all my Meaningful Beauty from eBay – I’m really mingy and use the bare minimum of product, so even the longest replenishment period was way too frequent for me. I’ve gotten the cleanser (at Ulta for $30) off eBay for $11, etc.

      4. Swoop

        I’ve a friend who is an Avon rep, basically because she kept buying the stuff anyway :) I suspect mutual friends who were already buying Avon things now buy them through her but I honestly couldn’t tell you because it’s come up that little – if that’s about what you’re doing I think you’re doing it perfectly :)

    3. Kelly L.

      There are varying degrees of sliminess to them, but they all fundamentally depend on salespeople buying a bunch of inventory from the company and taking advantage of their social contacts to sell the stuff. The problems are:

      (a) that the salesperson is the real end customer, the company doesn’t care if nobody ever buys the product from the consultant, as long as the consultant keeps buying from the company, and

      (b) there’s nobody left to sell to, once you (general you) exhaust your social group. Yeah, your mom and BFF will buy your stuff because they love you, but they don’t need another pizza stone after they buy the first one, and most stuff you can get the same quality cheaper anywhere else, so nobody else is going to want to buy it. The MLMs try to spin this as “our stuff is better quality,” but it’s not–the higher prices are actually because of all the layers of markup.

      There are different levels of upline-worship and emotional manipulation, sure, but the whole model is fatally flawed.

      1. Edward Rooney

        In my wife’s case, yes she is the customer for a certain percentage of her orders, but that is because she liked the product well enough to want to buy it even if she doesn’t sell as much as the big name people. It’s a product she regularly used competitors of until she found the brand. That is the type of MLM that should be ok. The product is a similar price as other competitors with a better quality and manufacturing materials.

        1. Kelly L.

          She’s still paying too much, because her “wholesale” price includes several levels of markup so the upline can get a kickback, but if she’s OK with paying that for the product she loves, great! I have some “vices” that cost too much too. We all do! :)

          But, a lot of people start out wanting to be “personal use consultants” and just use their consultant discount to buy for themselves, but generally the quotas are too high to keep doing it. You get to a point where you don’t need any more makeup (or whatever) for a loooong time, but you have to still shell out a minimum order every month or 2 months to keep that discount, and the stuff keeps piling up.

          1. Edward Rooney

            The quotas are really reasonable and are close to what she would end up using in a month by herself. Also, I don’t know what LLR is, but it’s not that.

        2. Rhiannon

          Let me guess…LLR? My sister is a consultant for them. Thankfully she’s not annoying and the clothes are cute.

      2. GovWorker

        +100. Friends and family are the “warm” market, then you move on to anyone that breathes. Avoid these scams like the plague.

    4. Laurel Gray

      Once you advertise whatever you are selling as something I can do too (I have no interest in sales), it is MLM. One of the reasons why I ended up permanently in the land of Ulta/Sephora/Dept store beauty counters is because I go and buy when I want to/need to. I used to enjoy Mary Kay’s Satin Hands but I can’t buy it from someone without them trying to sign me up to sell and even the website does the same when you order directly!

      1. Kelly L.

        Yep. It doesn’t benefit a consultant one bit to recruit other salespeople. If my mom sells MK and recruits me, then she’s just removed one of her most likely customers, and replaced her with competition. Competition for the same customers, even, because we know a lot of the same people. If my sister subsequently wants to buy MK, does she buy it from Mom or from me? And then we’d be pushed to try to get my sister to sell it too!

        It benefits the upline, who gets a kickback when the new recruit buys products, and it benefits the central company, who gets the profit when the new recruit buys products. Meanwhile the market just keeps getting more and more oversaturated on the ground.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Oh, yeah! My MIL got pressured into filling a small room of her home with stock, and by the time she realized that selling MK wasn’t for her, she just wanted to get rid of the stuff and salvage a minimal amount of what she’d put into it. I bet a lot of people feel the same way.

    5. AF

      Yes, they all are. I have lots of friends who sell Thirty-One and Mary Kay. They try to push their friends into having parties by saying, “If your friends buy stuff, you get discounts or free items.” So my other friends are subsidizing my shopping experience by paying full price so I can get the discount? If I really want something, I’ll buy stuff directly from them and say, “I’ll buy from you directly. I’m not having a party.” It ruins friendships when they badger you into buying things because they’re basically begging you to pay their salary. And I always wonder how much of a price mark-up they have because of the profit the “consultant,” their team lead, and everyone in the pyramid makes.

        1. TootsNYC

          So is the stuff you buy from the drugstore; doubling the wholesale price is SOP (standard operating procedure)

          1. Kelly L.

            But MLM has even more layers of people in there getting a cut, so the consultant isn’t really buying it at wholesale. The consultant is buying it at what would be a more normal retail price, though they call it “wholesale,” and then the consultant doubles that to sell it to you at about 2x what products of the same quality would cost you at the drugstore.

      1. Guinness

        I struggled with Thirty–One when it first came out because, although I like the product, EVERYONE started selling it/having parties at once, and at the end of the day, I only need one lunch bag….

    6. WorkingMom

      I agree that companies like Pampered Chef with a good reputation for quality products is different. Anyone who has bought anything from Pampered Chef knows their products are good quality and last forever. (I do not sell it.)

    7. BananaPants

      My parents co-sold Tupperware when I was a baby. My dad was apparently very good at it, and they sold enough Tupperware that mom could be at home with me until I was a year old. I would happily go to a Tupperware party today because in my experience they’re really not very high-pressure situations.

      Things like Pampered Chef, Tupperware, Thirty One, and maybe a few others are at least products that a lot of people want to buy – they tend to be lower pressure than the more scammy MLMs like Thrive, It Works, Amway, and that beastly spider-looking mascara. I have a friend who sells Thirty One and another who sells Jamberry and they’re both very low-key about it.

      1. GovWorker

        I have Tupperware I bought thirty years ago that is still going strong. Direct sales is different than MLM. Money is earned by product sales in direct sales, and by recruiting in MLMs. Some MLMs give you the product free if you recruit, that’s what makes the company money.
        99% of MLM “consultants” lose money and those who don’t make a pittance. I would look askance at anyone working in the corporate offices of one of these horrible companies. They should be against the law.

  5. animaniactoo

    Will it hurt your career? Probably. But, for me, the bigger impact is the one Alison ended with: It will hurt your soul. Don’t purposely, voluntarily, sign up anywhere you will hurt your soul (for reference, by “soul” I mean the core of you that makes you who you are, regardless of religion or religious definition).

    1. Ashley the Paralegal

      +1000 This comment is spot on. If working somewhere is going to make you compromise your values and make it hard to look yourself in the mirror, don’t do it! You can’t (and shouldn’t try to) put a price on your integrity.

      1. SusanIvanova

        Remember Annoying Mall Surveys? I worked one day as an Annoying Mall Survey Questioner one summer in college – the person in the back room after the AMS procurer has snagged you. Didn’t mind asking people how well they liked their sample Hot Pockets (which were brand new!), but when a high school dropout making minimum wage said she really did believe the ad that said a shampoo costing 2x minimum wage would make her beautiful, I decided I couldn’t be a part of that.

  6. rahab

    Ugh. I’ve had several close friends get swallowed up by a trendy MLM. It’s so depressing. The husband of one of them quit his job to help her with her “business” full-time. Their posts on social media almost sound like they’re in a cult.

    1. Judy

      What I don’t understand, if the product is so good, why not just sell the product. More than half the posts are trying to sell working for the company, not selling the product. You’re not selling work-at-home jobs, you’re selling [things that are more expensive than I can get at a store, with no proof they’re higher quality].

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Because they actually make their money from other people selling beneath them.

      2. WorkingMom

        That’s what I always think too. If the product really were THAT good – a larger corporation would buy it and sell it in stores traditionally!

        1. Laurel Gray

          Yes! I always think this whenever I am invited to an MLM themed party. Most recently I was invited to something selling products similar to ones I could go to Lush (at the mall!) and buy.

        2. Kelly L.

          Yup.

          And I think there was some usefulness to these companies in, like, the 1950s in small towns. Women didn’t get outside the home as much, and there might not have been a store anywhere near them selling makeup or what-have-you, and there was no internet. But now anybody can buy anything from anywhere, without the MLM markup or the MLM annoying sales tactics.

          MLMs also pretend the internet doesn’t exist in another crucial way. They’ll tell consultants they need to stock up on huge amounts of product (i.e. buy it from the company) because people won’t wait a few days or weeks for their stuff. Ha, I buy stuff I have to wait for all the time, and so does everyone else I know.

          (They’re often stuck in the idealized 50s in other ways too, like requiring women to wear a skirt, not pants, with nude hose and closed-toe shoes and other dress standards that aren’t really current in most fields.)

      3. rahab

        YES. And anyone with an internet connection can do a little comparison shopping and find reviews and competitor’s products so easily. It’s like you have to have a willing suspension of disbelief to buy into an MLM now.

        I specifically dislike the essential oils MLM’s. I have nothing against essential oils and have used them for years (very sparingly!), but I buy mine online or in places like Trader Joe’s. My beef with EO’s is how MLM’s push using large quantities of them, both internally and externally. There isn’t a lot of information available about the safety of using EO’s this way, and it worries me.

    2. FroggyHR

      Trendy MLMs are absolutely a cult.

      A college friend of mine got swept up in Beachbody last year. All of her social media posts are essentially massive over-shares about how being a Beachbody “coach” has changed her life, plus plenty of gratuitous pics of her in skimpy workout gear. She even sent me a direct message (note: we haven’t spoken in 7 years) asking if I was ready to take a step in my spiritual and fitness journey. Umm, no.

      She has to attend massive conferences with other “coaches” where from what I can tell they all just sing kumbayah and do super special workouts with the company’s founder.

      All this to make what I can only imagine is chump change…She still has two regular jobs ;)

      OP- don’t do it!

      1. Snargulfuss

        I had a college roommate that became a Mary Kay consultant and it got super weird and annoying. She posted a list of mantras in the shower and would stop people in stores to try and sell to them. It was embarrassing to be around her. She was even considering changing her major to something less demanding so that she could focus more time on her “business.” I heard she saw the light and quit Mary Kay a few months after I moved away, thank goodness.

    3. Collarbone High

      I’m friends with a couple that has a shared Facebook account (which I LOATHE, but that’s a whole other topic) and the wife has gotten way into an MLM. I don’t want to hide them, because the husband works in my industry and posts some cool and useful info, but the wife is posting 6-7 times a day about her MLM and I don’t know how much longer I can stand it.

      (The other day, after one of the “MLM is soooo great” posts, an elderly relative of the wife posted “I think your account got hacked” and I had to go sit in the stairwell until I could stop laughing.)

      1. Anon Moose

        Oof. If she’s reposting stuff from the MLM itself or affiliate sites, I would go to the FB “hide” button and choose to hide all from the source of the posts. I’ve been able to stay FB friends with someone who did Jamberry that way.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          I’ve been able to stay Facebook friends with many of my own family by being able to hide the sources of their posts. They post tacky, vulgar things from radio station shock jocks, for example, and I can just choose to hide all from that radio station instead of hiding my family member.

  7. Former Diet Coke Addict

    This is great. I could write a noble on how MLM and home sales products are terrific at preying on people (almost always women) who tend to be undereducated, underemployed, and feel like they have very few options. Not all, of course, but a huge percentage, and it’s toxic. I would assume that anyone working at a corporate level in any of these companies would therefore be at the very least neutral about these predatory business practices, if not actively encouraging them. I don’t think there’s any way to get around that.

      1. LQ

        As long as it made you laugh and then made you think. I feel like it would be hard to write something with humor about MLMs but I would read that so fast!!

  8. grasshopper

    Working as a rep for a MLM makes you look like you gullible. Working in the offices of a MLM makes you look mercenary. Neither one is good for career development.

    1. themmases

      To me even working for the company would make you look gullible… Part of these companies’ marketing is to give inflated corporate-sounding titles (e.g. “consultants”) to their victims and encourage them to style themselves as the owner/executive of their own little head of the Hydra. I wouldn’t at all assume that someone whose resume said Marketing Manager at Shakeology had worked as a real marketing manager. For an early career person, I’d probably think they had done some legitimate work in that field before putting a pretentious title on running the blog for their MLM business or something.

      I agree that if it’s clear it was a good job it does make you look mercenary. I know some people who got sucked into this. As annoying and rude as it can be (it is totally over the line to tag your overweight friend in a FB photo shilling for weight loss body wraps… A real thing I see regularly), they are mostly SAHMs who very understandably want to support their families and feel like they have a career and a contribution to make other than homemaking. It’s wrong to take advantage of anyone but I find that particularly wrong.

      1. JMegan

        (it is totally over the line to tag your overweight friend in a FB photo shilling for weight loss body wraps… A real thing I see regularly)

        Wow. That is SO out of line. The first time anybody did that to me, would also be the last, because I would unfriend them on FB so fast it would make your head spin. And it would put a serious chill on our real-life friendship as well, if not ending it entirely. Yikes.

        To answer the OP’s question: I think if you were really desperate for a job, it might be a different calculation, because sometimes people do have to work for slightly shady companies in order to put food on the table. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case for you, especially since you’re currently employed. I would hold out for a good job with appropriate compensation etc in your field that *doesn’t* involve working for a company with “ethical concerns.” Those jobs are out there, and they’re worth waiting for.

      2. Alli525

        Good lord. If someone tagged me in a photo and tried to sell me their weight-loss whatever, I would never, EVER speak to them again. That’s so far out of line that you can’t even see the line anymore.

  9. Allison

    You may get lucky and end up applying for a job where the recruiter and/or hiring manager have never heard of that company, or are forgiving enough to look past it if you have the skills they’re looking for, but I’d say it’s not worth the risk.

  10. JustaTech

    So, a related question: if the company you work for gets bought by another super-evil company (say, triples the prices of AIDS medications), does this still apply? Or can you say “I worked for [original company]. We were acquired by Evil Corp in 2014.”

    1. Yup

      I think yes the latter could work IF you left the company soon after the acquisition. I have two companies who’ve been acquired on my resume and I list them as “ABC – acquired by XYZ in 201X” Generally they’ll see that my departure was 201X-1 or -2 so they know I don’t have the association with XYZ.

    2. Noah

      I actually left my last job when a company in our industry with a horrible reputation acquired it last year. When current job asked me why I was leaving I simply told them that Company A was acquired by Evil Corp. They smiled, and we moved on to the next interview question.

    3. Bookworm

      I think it really depends what you mean when you say “evil” company.

      Most MLM companies aren’t making any purchases. And when it comes to other “evil” industries, like banks or pharmaceuticals – yes, there are some moral issues there that people rightly throw light on, but it’s also understood within the industries that many of their branches and departments aren’t necessarily involved in those.

      1. JustaTech

        Bookworm: It’s evil for the industry, not an ‘evil’ industry. But my company is still doing good work and I’ve got a degree to finish, so I haven’t left yet.

    4. BRR

      I’d do something like list it on my resume as (assuming my role didn’t change):
      -Evil Company (acquired Teapots, Inc in April 2016)

      If the company you work for no longer technically exists, I wouldn’t say you work at it. Picking an acquisition at random, if you worked at Continental Airlines and now you work at United Airlines, I would just say United.

      1. Liza

        But if you worked at Continental Airlines and left while it was still Continental, you shouldn’t put United on your resume. Use whatever name was accurate at the time you worked there.

        1. neverjaunty

          Right, but I think the issue is trying to signal to employers “I only worked for EvilCorp because I was employed at Virtuous LLC, and then EvilCorp bought us”.

          1. BRR

            I interpreted the question as your company was acquired by evil company and you still work there. That you want to show you started with not evil company.

      2. Noah

        Ummm…I actually interned at Continental Airlines. Now I’m wondering if I should change my resume.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          No! You put the name of the company as it was when you worked there. If the company name later changed you could add something like “(now Teapots Inc.)” but in your case keep it as is.

        2. Anon ex-Co

          There is no way in heck I will ever put United on my resume. (Although my continental days are long enough behind me that it won’t be an issue for much longer, it’s still the principle of the thing)

      3. 2horseygirls

        I seem to have a knack for leaving positions 6 months-1 year before they are acquired, so I have several of these on my resume.

        I usually list the original company I worked for, and then the status.
        *Marketing Coordinator, Company, 2000-2004 (Company was acquired by Bigger Company in 2006)

  11. Anonymous Educator

    I have a friend who has been quite successful (a</em as in one and absolutely not more than one) with her MLM thing, and I have mixed feelings about her success. On the one hand, she’s able to provide for her family financially. On the other hand, most of her success hasn’t been about pushing product but just recruiting other “consultants” underneath her (who, in turn, need to recruit more consultants).

    The weird thing is—my spouse is a customer and actually likes the product. But, since it is a good product, why can’t they just sell it through traditional means instead of using a pyramid scheme / MLM approach? I feel they’d sell just as well (if not more, by being less shady).

    1. TotesMaGoats

      I know someone who has done Pampered Chef for like 10 years. She’s made it way up the chain to the free trips, paid cash for all the kids to go to college, that sort of thing. Yay for her since she could be a stay at home mom and what not. But A)doing it that way is a FT job. It takes so much work. B)You are now getting paid for the work other people are doing while you do none. Are you really cool with that since those other people are probably your friends?

      My sister told me that to become a LulaRoe consultant they suggest your initial inventory purchase be $7,000. If you sold it all, that’s the amount you’d have to outlay to make money. That makes for some really expensive leggings.

      1. Edward Rooney

        For smaller companies, it can make financial sense to do direct sales due to the prices, rules, regulations, etc of selling to big box retailers like Walmart/Target. Also, the physical costs of opening your own stores and paying employees can be very expensive and hurt margins. To me, the difference between scummy MLM and unscummy MLM relates to the upline commissions. The unscummy require a certain number of dollars you actually sell along with the number of new reps to receive your commission, and then limit said upline commission to a small percent, max 5-6%. This method puts the focus on actually selling product beyond building an empire and depending on those lower levels to earn your money.

          1. B.

            How so? I always thought they were the same and companies used “direct sales” because it has a less sleazy connotation.

    2. Cochrane

      Sometimes the appearance of success is the entire point to entice followers to join. In Merchants of Deception, the author and his wife were pressured by uplines to buy designer clothes, fancy cars, and go into debt to give the appearance of MLM high living. When the time came to quit their day jobs to work the MLM full time, it was couched as a “retirement party”, complete with cake, balloons, and triumphant limo ride into the sunset. A diabolically brilliant bit of stagecraft that transforms a questionable career move into a potent recruiting tool.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        In this particular case, I know this person quite well, and she’s been legit successful, but the success is almost entirely in recruiting new “consultants” and not as much in selling product directly.

  12. Erica

    Don’t do it. In a fit of insanity, I took a job at an ethically … questionable company. Think sweepstakes and big checks at your door. I’m getting out, and every potential employer has been like “what were you thinking?”

    (They’re not actually shady. Lots of people do win. But …)

    1. justsomeone

      Yes. I have a job at a company that isn’t actually horrible, but lots of people think our industry is evil. It’s been challenging to get out. I’ve been looking for 1.5 years for the right door out.

    2. Big Hat No Cattle

      I would love to hear more about your experience working for this company, if you’re willing to share.

  13. neverjaunty

    LW, you realize that your letter illustrates the problem you’re worried about? As the last part of AAM’s response kind of alludes to, you don’t indicate that you’re bothered by the company’s practices or concerned that you’ll be enabling their sleaze. What you’re really asking is “will future employers correctly infer something negative about me from my decision to take this job?” and the answer is yes, they probably will. (Though of course, if you later work for companies or managers with a similar mindset, your career won’t take as much of a hit.)

    And while likely fair number of commenters will (correctly) point out that people sometimes have to choose putting food on the table before a sense of discomfort about their employer – one of the factors you take into account in that choice is the long-term effect. Sometimes keeping the lights on right now is a decision you have to place above ‘what will a future employer think’, it’s true. But if you have any options, avoid selling your future as an emergency measure for the present.

    1. Doriana Gray

      Sometimes keeping the lights on right now is a decision you have to place above ‘what will a future employer think’, it’s true. But if you have any options, avoid selling your future as an emergency measure for the present.

      This is where I come down on this issue. It would be nice if we lived in a perfect world where everyone could work at jobs that perfectly aligned with their beliefs, but we don’t. Some people have very few options and need to do something, anything to survive. However, OP says she’s currently employed so unless she’s in dire financial straits or is about to be laid off, I too say stay far away from this gig. You’re not desperate.

      And I say this as someone who’s made a career of working in questionable ass industries. I worked at a for-profit school after a year of unemployment post-undergrad, and was let go after four months because I kept telling people that if they were smart, they’d use their financial aid to go to a community college instead and get an associates degree instead of the certificates we were offering (at associate prices no less!) – employers would be more likely to hire them with an actual degree. Apparently, that was not the thing to say.

      Then I worked in the foreclosure and bankruptcy industry representing the banks. I lasted at that law firm almost three years, but started my job search a year into it because the firm was highly dysfunctional and our clients were some shady mofos who were always thisclose to getting us sued by the federal government (looking at you, Chase and BOA).

      Now I’m in risk management and insurance – people hate insurance companies, but I’ve been at my company for almost three years, and this is the most compliant and ethically run place I’ve ever worked. So you’re not necessarily doomed to work in hellholes for the rest of your career if you take this job, OP, but it may take you a long time to dig yourself out of that hole. Don’t risk it if you don’t absolutely have to.

      1. neverjaunty

        Sound advice. I personally know people who, like you, took jobs at questionable law firms because they needed a damn job, and now they’re effectively barred from the kind of law jobs they’d really rather have taken.

        1. Doriana Gray

          That really sucks. I worried about the attorneys who worked at my former firm for that reason, but the good ones landed in pretty nice gigs after either quitting or being laid off (boy, did our firm love layoffs).

        2. Ashley the Paralegal

          I’ve really worried about this as I start to search for my next job. I would love to eventually get into the type of firm or non-profit that focuses on social reform, but while I work on getting the experience I need for that type of law I don’t want to get type-cast into only a certain legal field. Right now I work for a solo practitioner who does mostly business law, real estate, and estate planning and administration so maybe I’ve already hurt myself in that regard…

          1. neverjaunty

            Probably not? Working for someone who does more general legal work isn’t really typecasting yourself or planting a flag. But if, say, you want to get into labor law, you really wouldn’t be doing yourself any favors working for a big management-side firm.

          2. Doriana Gray

            Yeah, I’m in agreement with neverjaunty here. I don’t think you have anything to worry about. The kind of law you’re in doesn’t have the same stigma that foreclosure or insurance defense has.

        3. Buffay the Vampire Layer

          This is me now. But I needed a job, I don’t regret that choice, I would have defaulted on my loans otherwise.

      2. Dorothy Lawyer

        Good advice to OP here.
        I worked for a firm who represented payday loan companies… Our client base was broader than that, but we did represent some payday loan companies. It always made me feel skeezy, and I was glad to get out of there. Would never represent one again, unless I was truly desperate.

      3. anon for this comment

        Sometimes a bad rep may not be deserved. I work for a Big Pharma company, and I know that’s an area many people consider ethically dubious. But although I don’t know what’s going on at higher levels, down here in the trenches it’s all “make people live longer happier lives! cure diseases! develop new drugs that work better than the old drugs! help humanity!” It’s made me rethink things a bit.

        1. Brooke

          I hear ya.

          I work for a defense contractor. People assume I must be a war-hungry hawkish Republican when I’m pretty much the opposite.

          It’s called “defense” for a reason.

        2. NPanon

          Me too. There are a few companies I would personally avoid working for, but would not hold it against candidates who had worked there (especially since one of them keeps gobbling up companies so many people wound up there). We’re not in a price setting function, but in R&D, where the skills are transferable and have nothing to do with CEOs’ decisions.

  14. K.

    I was part of a group walkout for something advertised as a marketing job that turned out to be an MLM scheme. There were about a dozen of us in a group interview (we were unaware that it would be a group interview ahead of time) and as soon as it became apparent what was happening, we all left at once. It was very satisfying.

    Don’t work there, OP. It’s not a good look.

    1. Allison

      Good! It steams my clams when these sales jobs are advertised as “marketing” jobs. Sales and marketing are NOT the same thing, and to use “marketing” to attract people who aren’t into sales is just mean.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ooooh, tell us more! Did one person stand up and say something and others followed, or how did it happen? And what was the response of the person running it? I’m always dying to hear about this happening.

      1. K.

        This was in the winter of either 2008 or 2009 in NYC (I remember it was snowing), so a really bad time to be looking for work. I can’t remember where I found the ad or what it said, but I do remember that it was billed explicitly as a marketing job – I never would have applied had it referenced sales of any kind. I got a call from someone a few days after applying that sounded the same as every other call I’ve gotten for an interview – “Hi, I’m calling from Chocolate Teapot Enterprises, we received your resume and would like to bring you in for an interview.” So we set it up.

        When I got to the site, there were about a dozen people milling around and we all kind of looked at each other like “Are you here for the interview too?” My spidey sense started tingling – I’ve been a part of legit group interviews but that fact was made very clear up front, and there had been no mention of that when I was scheduling this. We all sat around a conference table with one guy at the head of it, and he started in on his sales pitch. We all looked at each other like “Oh shit” when we realized what was going on. I started packing up my stuff; my plan was to just leave without speaking and if called on it, say something like “This isn’t what I thought it was, so I’m no longer interested.” As I was doing so, one woman interrupted him and said something like “So this isn’t a marketing strategy job?” The guy in charge started spinning about how you’d market the products you had to sell. The woman was like “But there’s no actual marketing strategy job, with benefits and all that?” Everyone else was gathering up their stuff at this point. The woman said something like “I thought this was a strategy job,” and left. We were all right behind her. We stood around in a group “WTF!”-ing for a few minutes before going our separate ways – I remember one guy being FURIOUS. The person running it kind of meekly said ” … ok …” as we left. There really wasn’t much else he could do; we were all bent on leaving. I’m sure he assumed that the desperation that a lot of people were feeling at the time would be enough to snag some of us.

          1. K.

            Oh good! It really was satisfying, and I actually think the timing of the recession made it MORE satisfying. There was very little we could control – the economy was garbage, there were SO many people out of work. So to take back a little bit of power, like “Yes, it’s really bad out here, but that still isn’t enough to get us to scam people when you lured us all here under false pretenses” felt good.

        1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva

          This is fantastic – thanks for sharing the story. Bravo to all of you! I got scammed like this while looking for a summer job early in my college career, but we didn’t rise to the challenge as you and your group did. I sat through the whole thing and was pretty meek, and then when I left, it turned out my mother’s car battery had died while I was in the session (let’s be honest and not call it an interview)! When I recounted what had happened when I got home, my mother was more upset about the potential of me taking this crazy job than the car issue. It’s good to talk these things out (or have other people voicing the same concerns going through your head), isn’t it? :)

        2. Anna

          I got snagged by a similar ad and phone call. It was billed as marketing and turned out to be a sales job. It was for a big box store that let a company set up inside and sell cabinet refinishing. they didn’t tell us it was a group interview, and I was the oldest person in the group. I was in a desperate spot so I thought I’d give them a bit more of my time. When we went to the big box store and the guy we were with showed us what we were expected to do, I stood up and said I didn’t think it was the right fit for me. Now, despite how stupid the whole thing was, he gave us a chance to back out, but I doubt he expected anyone to actually take him up on it.

        3. AlterMeh

          I just had this happen with Lloyd Agencies in the Chicago area. RUN FAR AND FAST if you get a call. Or just Google them. Unfortunately, I had just been terminated from a toxic workplace, so if someone had yelled at me for not doing jumping jacks in a meeting, it would have ended well.

    3. Guinness

      I got scammed like this right out of college. My spidey-senses went up a little when I got a request for an interview within a day of submitting my resume, and, I spelled the recruiter’s name wrong in my e-mail reply. Still, I went for the interview and I’m so glad I turned it down. But, I learned a ton from the experience!

      1. matilda

        Oh my gosh, so did I. I actually worked as a “model scout” for about a week when I first moved to New York in the summer of 2005. We convinced people to show up at the studio, which was fancy and looked legit, to have test photos taken. The owners were just trying to sell headshot packages to these poor, unsuspecting people — no one was ever going to get a modeling job through that agency. It wasn’t a modeling agency. I can’t believe it took me a whole week to figure that out.

        1. Allison

          When I was in middle school I wanted to be an actress, and I heard about an open call at this place downtown. So my parents took me, and there might have been some kind of “application” process but I can’t remember, but we were there and first we had to sit through a presentation about the classes the agency offered, and then we went and read a commercial pitch for a camera, and then met with an agent. Later, they called my parents and said I had good instincts but needed classes. Well, while most actors do need to develop their craft, my parents saw right through the BS and realized this whole thing was a way to sell classes to young people with big dreams, and they were having none of it!

          It really sucks how many people try to take advantage of young, naive people trying to break into acting, modeling, singing, etc.

          1. Mona Lisa

            Oh, was it John Robert Powers? I had similar interests and convinced my mom to take me to the open call, which sounds exactly like what you described. I was really into acting, but they wanted to sell me classes on runway and modeling because I was so tall and skinny. Between that and my mom talking to someone at our church whose daughters did some modeling, we realized that it was a scam and didn’t end up participating.

            1. Allison

              Yup, that’s exactly it! I didn’t know if I should name the “agency.” I guess they may be a real agency, but I’m assuming they only represent their students.

              1. Leslie Nope

                This explains so much.

                I had a close friend in high school who wanted to be an actress. We were both in the drama club and did school plays and theater festivals, etc. I loved it but never wanted it to be more than a hobby. For my friend, though, acting was her life. She lived and breathed Hollywood — which would have been fine, except she was Not Good at acting. At all. Well, our senior year, she got suckered in by John Robert Powers. Her parents dropped so much money on classes, headshots, you name it. I remember wondering at the time why an “agent” took her on when she didn’t have much raw talent. Now I know — it was a scam.

                (As I wrote the above, I realized I sounded like a horrible person. I swear I was always supportive and kind to her! I guess it just seemed fishy to me, even at 16, because it really was.)

          2. I'm a Little Teapot

            Ugh – my mind went to… even worse, really horrifying ways people try to take advantage of girls who want to act….

            I’m a (very obscure) fiction writer and you see a lot of this kind of crap in publishing – scammy operators who try to get writers to pay them money to be published, or insist on outrageous contract terms. Nope nope nope – a legit publisher pays the *writer.*

        2. Alli525

          I feel like that’s how so many MLMs operate! I remember reading YM and CosmoGirl back when I was in my early teens, and one thing that always stood out was the blanket advice to Never Ever Pay For Headshots. If it’s a legit business that will be good for you and your personal bottom line, they will invest in you, not the other way around.

    4. Liane

      Not quite as dramatic as K’s story.
      When College Son was about to graduate high school, he got a letter from the company that tries to get people to sell knives (probably a subsidiary of EvilCorp). He read the letter, thought it sounded good. I started to tell him it sounded like a shady job that would cost him money. Before I’d finished the sentence, he’d googled the company and decided to stay far, far away. I was so proud of him.

  15. DeskBird

    The entire business model of companies like that is to get their ‘consultants’ to push peoples boundaries – to push the boundaries of their friends in order to sell product. I would 100% not trust them to have a healthy work culture in a place like that. I feel like they would encourage pushy behavior – ignore worker’s boundaries – maybe some really uncomfortable “team building” events – and I would not be surprised at all if they asked you to promote products on your own Facebook page. To make a long story short (too late) I feel like this kind of place is ripe for you writing back into AAM for help on your crazy new workplace. I would take a hard pass. A company founded on such bad principles isn’t going to be a good place to be at any level.

    1. Aurora Leigh

      This. A friend of mine got involved with a company like this in college (they sold knives). After graduation she took an office job with them and ended up working 12+ hours a day 6+ days a week for crap pay. She got out in less than a year. Run, OP!

      1. Triangle Pose

        Was it Cutco? I had never heard of it until recently but apparently a lot of guys my age signed up for this MLM.

        1. Aurora Leigh

          Yes. The whole thing seemed really shady to me, but she was kind of desperate. Thankfully it didn’t keep her from finding another job.

        2. heatherskib

          I had a boss who tried to threaten my job unless we listened to her son’s cutco presentation. I just laughed and walked out of the office.

          1. Alli525

            I’m finding some dark, ironic humor in the juxtaposition between your comment and the forced organ donation letter from yesterday… What is it with the crazy bosses?

        3. Noah

          My sister actually worked in their office setting up these scammy interviews. I have no idea how she did that job. She was only there for about 6 months. She says they actually paid her really well and it was normal office hours unlike retail or restaurant work. She left because while she needed the money then, she didn’t want to stay in that environment.

        4. CheeryO

          Ugh, Cutco. My parents’ neighbor’s 18-year-old kid came to the house to “practice” her presentation and then got furious when my parents wouldn’t buy an expensive knife set. I know she was young, but it wasn’t a good look. If they’re telling people to trick their friends/family/neighbors like that… ick.

          1. Kelly L.

            Oh yeah, the “practice interview.” I know MK does this too. The consultant will say they need to practice, oh just put your info down on this form don’t worry we’re just pretending, and then at the end tries to get them to buy stuff and/or sign on as a consultant for real.

            1. Mookie

              Oh my god. I’m so green, I’ve never even heard of that before. Yuck. Blech. No.

          2. MindoverMoneyChick (formerly_Chris)

            For the record I got Cutco knives for my wedding and they are a good product. They were a present from a friend who grew up in the town with the factory that makes them. She could buy from the factory store at a steep discount. Neither here nor there I suppose but they were the first good knives I ever used and I was quite in love with them for a while. Eventually also bought my parents a few through the catalog at full price and they loved them to.

            I guess all that is to say part of the way that particular business is run is legit. Nothing wrong with catalog sales. I had no idea until much later that they were normally often sold through the MLM model. I think it’s safe to assume a great many business have some shady aspect to them but other legit aspects. So is raises and interesting question of how much weight do you need to place on the shady aspects when deciding whether or not to accept a job?

            1. superblarg

              Yeah, my gifted Cutco knives are my favorite (my other knives are top rated, and the Cutco ones are just better)… But I would never buy from their people. I knew someone who was really good at selling them, but he’s always been a smarmy snake oil salesman. I trust him as much as I could throw his BMW. (Yes, he did really well for himself later on in life – I guess people like smarmy?)

        5. Allison

          Yup, they almost got me too. I even accepted when they offered me the “job” but my parents shut it down when we realized I’d need to drive to people’s homes to pitch the product, and I didn’t have my own car. I also think they were wary about me doing that kind of sales work, but I’m glad they put a stop to it because at that point I felt like I had to accept whatever job I could get, even if it was commission-based sales, because “a job is a job, and work is work.”

  16. sam

    Pure curiosity, do you think it makes a difference if the company is one that is actually like Avon, which makes real products that a lot of people not involved in the marketing of said products use, and has actually branched out into real stores in some locations (I used to go to one here in NYC when skin-so-soft was the “thing”), versus one that is more clearly only selling products to “insiders”?

    (quite frankly, Avon is the only one I can think of that has a decent reputation, but there may be others).

    1. Kelly L.

      I’ve heard that Avon has gotten pushier in recent years. They were on the somewhat less slimy side before, I think, just because their products were actually decent and because most people “sold” by leaving catalogs lying around, which is pretty low-pressure. Everything I’ve heard lately is that they’ve been pushing the more “opportunity!!!1111!!!one!!” model lately, though.

      1. Laurel Gray

        This doesn’t surprise me. So many beauty companies and lines (non MLM) have popped up over the years. Stores like Sephora and Ulta are like Avon/Mary Kay parties without the sales schtick: you can sample products before buying, there are consultants to answer questions, and you get free samples with purchase. I can get the same experience without the pressure to buy what I don’t need or turn around and become a salesperson myself. I’m more surprised they haven’t gone under by now.

        1. Allison

          And I really like how the people at Sephora are helpful but not pushy. They don’t follow you around and try to sell you on every product you touch, like at some other stores . . .

          (I’m looking at you, Body Shop! I know the tea tree oil stuff is good, now leave me alone!)

          1. Kelly L.

            Bath and Body Works! Especially at the holidays! Ugh! One time I went there and was gushed over by at least six people. They asked me at the counter if anyone had helped me, and I managed to wearily say something like “…everybody?”

            1. Allison

              That too, I love their products but hate going into the store. I’ve been using the stuff religiously (and buying strategically) for 5 years, I don’t need everyone in the store telling me what’s on sale and what to buy.

              1. Katniss

                Lush started selling this way at some of their stores in the last couple of years, too, sadly. Now I hate going into their stores.

                Though credit where credit is due, this high pressure tactic is how I found a replacement for my beloved Flying Fox perfume when they discontinued it.

              2. MsChanandlerBong

                My strategy is to wait until the day after Christmas and shop online. Full-size tubes of body cream for $3! I bought one two or three years ago, and I’m just getting to the bottom of it. Kind of bummed because the scent is amazing (mango mandarin), but I think it’s been discontinued.

                1. Allison

                  Check the website, they often bring back old fragrances online. Also, I wait until November to place a bulk order of Christmas products, including the VIP bag, then I place another order when the semi-annual sale starts. I love ordering online, I can take my time and no one bothers me. Plus the stores near me are a pain to get to.

    2. ThatGirl

      I sorta wondered this too because I’ve seen cool sounding jobs at Pampered Chef HQ, but there’s a bit of discussion upthread.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      I do think it’s different. I think working at the corporate headquarters of Avon, and maybe also Mary Kay and Pampered Chef, wouldn’t be seen in the same way. I don’t know if that’s a legitimate way for people to feel or not; maybe it’s just because they’re more established institutions. But I do think most people won’t have the same negative associations.

      1. it happens

        I’m glad to read this – I was thinking the same thing. Maybe worth amending the original answer since it’s likely to keep coming up otherwise.

      2. Guinness

        That’s interesting to me, because I feel that Mary Kay is one of the more predatory MLMs (heavily pressuring you to buy stock, heavily pressuring you to recruit people under you, rigid quotas, promising glitz, glamour, and a full-time income). I know it’s a well-known name, but I don’t think they have a good reputation.

        1. Liana

          Mary Kay is SO sleazy. My parents’ next door neighbor (who I grew up knowing as well) sold for them for awhile and even got to the point where she got to drive a company car, and she still ended up losing money. They paint themselves as being so empowering for women but they’re really, really not. For anyone who’s curious, I highly recommend reading the PinkTruth website.

          1. Former Avon Sales Rep

            +1 on the Pink Truth website – it’s very enlightening!

            A person who is in my weekly book group just started selling Mary Kay. She works full-time, already has another (legit) side business, and two small children. I’m honestly in awe of how she juggles everything.

            Anyway, she just hosted her first MK party which thankfully I couldn’t attend because I already had tickets for something going on at the same time. She keeps pressuring me to buy, buy, buy and I just don’t have the heart to tell her I don’t buy from MLMs.

          2. KK

            I agree. I’ve been approached while pumping gas, interrupted while shopping at Target and cornered by a consultant at a bridal show. I won’t buy Mary Kay out of sheer principle. One of the most predatory MLMs out there.

          3. Cleo

            And for marketing themselves as being so empowering for women, almost all of their executives are men. I’m not saying it should automatically be a woman, but I just find it a little humorous.

      3. TotesMaGoats

        Agreed. It’s something about the longevity of those companies that reads as legit on the corporate side as well. Kind of a gut reaction for me that I can’t quite explain.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I think, too, that Avon, Mary Kay, and Tupperware were the only games in town for so long (or at least the only well-known ones) that they acquired some legitimacy, and haven’t been as tainted by the MLM stain of those that came after them.

          1. Kelly L.

            Yep. Everybody has, like, a mom or grandma who dabbled in it a bit, and since mom or grandma probably didn’t go in for the mega-pushy stuff and probably didn’t stay in long, people have vague warm fuzzies about That One Time They Went to Grandma’s Tupperware Party.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I have extremely fond memories of these little corn on the cob holders that my mom got at a Tupperware party when I was a kid. They looked like miniature ears of corn themselves, and you put one in each end of the cob, and held those as you ate the corn. I think she still has them. I’m going to email her right now and tell to leave them to me in her will.

              1. Alli525

                I love those too! We definitely had several sets and I had no idea they were Tupperware. I think they’re made by multiple manufacturers now, though – I’ve seen them at dollar stores… Don’t know if they’d be the same quality, but it seems like it would be pretty hard to F up a corn-shaped piece of plastic with two metal sticks in it. (I hope this doesn’t doom me to faulty corn holders for the rest of my life.)

              2. Liane

                We had those when I was a kid too! You can now get similar ones at Kroger, Walmart and other places. (Must add to grocery list!)
                And yes, Tupperware lasts. In my cabinet right now are several tall, plastic Tupperware tumblers in faded pastel colors that date from the 60s (if not the 50s, before I was born). Some of them were from my family when I was a kid, and the others are from my husband’s and are still used.

            2. Allison

              My mom used to sell it, so I grew up in a house with a kitchen full of Tupperware plates, cups, bowls, and of course plenty of great food containers! The stackable pizza containers were the best. I took that for granted, man, now I bring my lunch to work in cheap Gladware knockoffs.

            3. ThatGirl

              You can also just buy Tupperware off their website now. Do they even still do parties? Those were conceived to get the word out back in the old days, which is not as necessary now. But yeah, I have some ancient Tupperware that’s still good.

              1. Zahra

                Oh yes, they still do parties. However, I called a consultant to get the modular collection (to store flour, pasta, sugar, etc.) during their yearly sale (December or January during the last few years, with a good rebate, over 20% for sure, maybe more). She came in, we didn’t have a party, we just sat, her and I and checked what I would need and what I was ready to buy.

          2. Laurel Gray

            Not only were they the only games in town, but they were around before social media. The invites were “old fashioned” and the individual consultants had to have a strong network or be pretty creative to be successful. Like others have said, MK has received bad press in recent years and I bet they hit some walls with trying to find new ways to keep up in the changing times.

          3. Zahra

            And there’s the fact that higher levels (manager and higher) get 6-12% of return on their team’s sale, IF the team sells over a certain threshold. We’re far, far from a model where your return on sales is piddly but referring someone (just the fact that they come in, not their sales) is the biggest money-maker.

            As far as I know for Tupperware, enrolling a new consultant doesn’t profit anyone unless the consultant sells products. It encourages managers to actually coach their teams so the sales reach that threshold and so the money coming in makes it a continuously profitable enterprise. I think it’s a decent model, and you can always buy products from their website.

      4. Liana

        I don’t know – MK has gotten some really bad press in recent years. Maybe it’s because I recently spent several hours poring over the PinkTruth website, but if I came across a resume that listed work with Mary Kay in any capacity, I’d give some hard side-eye. They’re definitely more established, but they also have a reputation for preying on women.

        1. NPanon

          I’ve known people in R&D/product development there. No one that in aware of has thought any less of them, nor has it prohibited them from moving to others product development jobs.

      5. Applesauced

        Weird fact – the HQs for Avon and Mary Kay are directly across the street from each other. (At least their New York HQs with the big logos)

        1. Kelly L.

          I’m imagining them having big pink cannons pointed at each other and periodically firing blasts of makeup.

      6. K.

        Now that I think about it, I did know someone who worked as a brand manager at Avon corporate, and I didn’t think much of it. She was recruited out of business school (we went to the same business school but she graduated a number of years before I did; she was a networking contact when I was still in school); she had no affiliation with Avon before working for them. No idea if she sold Avon as an employee on the corporate side; she certainly never tried to sell me any.

  17. Ann O'Nemity

    Besides all the concerns already listed, would you really trust an employer whose business model is based on tricking and taking advantage of its employees? I wonder what other shady policies they have that hurt their employees – even the corporate employees.

  18. LQ

    I once, when I was out of college and desperately looking for anything, had a similar situation. I finally decided that a company that builds their entire business on screwing people over wouldn’t feel any hesitation to screw me over. There was no way that everything would be great at the job. It took me longer to find a job but it was honestly so much better. If you currently have a job I’d say don’t do it!
    If you were I have to take this job or loose my house I’d say take it, but it doesn’t sound like you are in that situation.

  19. Daisy Steiner

    In a more general way, even if your reputation is not on the line, it can be really tough to decide how far / whether to compromise your principles when you need paid work. I worked for a company that is not generally considered ‘evil’, but which had a very anti-union stance. As a strongly pro-unionist, I felt uncomfortable with this and was glad when I was able to move on – but it didn’t stop me taking the job in the first place, which paid well and I really needed. To me, it was a necessary evil. On the other hand, I know a friend who works in the online gambling field – and THAT is something I could never do. It would be a bridge too far for me. It’s interesting to see where people draw their individual lines.

  20. Roscoe

    “And appearances aside, do you really want to work for a company where the whole business model is to take advantage of people? Hopefully you do not.” I think this is a bit judgmental. Let me be clear, fresh out of college, I worked for one of these type of companies as a “consultant”. It sucked. However, if someone is a CPA or something doing something totally legal and not unethical, I don’t think you should judge them personally based on that. I may not like Wal-Marts business practices, but if I met someone who did IT for them, I wouldn’t think less of them. Its a tough economy and people have to eat. If they aren’t doing anything shady, you shouldn’t look down on them.

    With that said, I do agree that what “should be” and what is are different. While I don’t think anyone should be looked down on for working for certain companies, I also know it happens. So it should be taken into consideration. I remember reading a story written by a guy who worked for Monsanto. He was doing great work on research on things that could really help with world hunger, but people judged him super harshly based on what they heard about the company. Whats funny is most people didn’t really have any facts, just knew that in our society Monsanto = bad. Its a really bad thing when people are judged like this.

    1. Bookworm

      I think generally on this site we assume a certain level of choice, unless the letter-writer says otherwise.

      I also disagree a bit with your characterization of questionable companies. Sure, Walmart and Monsanto are controversial – but they’re also selling a legitimate product and are HUGE corporations with plenty of people involved who aren’t working on those areas of their work that are controversial….And anyone working in one of their more controversial departments should absolutely be able to speak about why they made that choice and what they were thinking.

      On the other hand, MLM are slimy based on their whole business scheme. They’re generally not actually making money from their alleged product. That’s a little fundamentally sneakier.

      1. Kelly L.

        I also think part of it is that people don’t know the inner workings of a MLM the way they know about Walmart and Monsanto. I mean…pretty much everybody knows about Walmart, that it has cashiers and accountants and janitors and IT people and all sorts of types of workers who don’t personally do anything unethical. People don’t know what kinds of jobs are in MLMs, and MLMs like to have inflated titles too (as someone mentioned elsethread), and if you put on your resume that you were a Senior Project Manager at ItWorks, hiring managers might just think you sold the stuff.

        1. neverjaunty

          Right. The business model of Walmart is a large discount store; the business model of Monsanto is a biotech company. Those are not inherently unethical things, and the companies do not need to be unethical to make money. MLM companies are built on variations on a pyramid scheme.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with forming judgments; that’s what hiring, for instance, is all about. You also can’t talk about ethical behavior without bringing some judgment into it. There are consequences to decisions and behavior.

    3. Ann O'Nemity

      I would certainly hesitate hiring someone who had worked for a notoriously shady company. It would make me questions their ethics and wonder what sort of unethical practices they would ignore or even engage in if I hired them for my team.

      It wouldn’t be an automatic disqualification, but it would certainly give me pause. And I would give preference to any similar candidates who hadn’t worked for a shady company.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        And that’s probably the reason my nephew is still working at one of those shady cash advance places — why would a good, upright person do something like that? I know him and I still question that. But I guess when he wanted to survive and feed his family, he ended up taking any job he could get, and that was it. The OP isn’t desperate, but desperation does make people do things they wouldn’t otherwise.

    4. neverjaunty

      Why is it always a bad thing to judge someone’s decision to work for a particular employer? Yes, there are circumstances where it’s unreasonable to do so, or where there are nuances – the IT guy probably has little to say about Walmart’s union policies, and the woman who worked at Monsanto as a receptionist for one year likely isn’t an advocate of its approach to patents – but you seem to be taking a, dare I say it, rather judgmental stance that people’s past employment decisions are never relevant and say nothing about their character or their approach to work.

      1. Roscoe

        I think it depends on what they do. I’ve worked at places that organization’s like PETA would find “unethical”. So I would hate for a potential employer who is a member of PETA to see that on my resume and judge me harshly because of it, without even meeting me.

        1. neverjaunty

          You might hate for them to do it, but the fact that you wouldn’t like it has nothing to do with whether PETA would be correct and reasonable in making that judgment call.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          As someone who actually did work for PETA early in my career, I’ve interviewed and hired people who worked in industries that animal rights activists object to. I and other animal rights supporters are perfectly capable of understanding that the whole world doesn’t operate the way we’d ideally like it to, and we obviously have loved ones who regularly do the very things we worked to stop.

          That said, I’d feel differently about someone who was actively and enthusiastically promoting animal abuse — like I wouldn’t hire Ted Nugent, for example. But he’s a pretty extreme case.

          1. neverjaunty

            But that’s also different than what the LW was talking about. The LW is asking about taking a job in an industry and at a company that is widely regarded as being sleazy, which is different from “will this job/political affiliation later turn off employers with opposite views?”

        3. Colette

          Presumably you’d disagree that the places you worked were unethical, though. Personally, I’d much rather work for a place I’m comfortable with and defend that position to future employes than to work somewhere I believe has questionable or wrong policies and try to defend that.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Er, no? They use stunts and media attention to draw attention to very real issues of animal cruelty that don’t get press otherwise. They’re willing to look silly in order to get things like footage of abuse on factory farms and circuses aired, because it’s nearly impossible to get those issues covered otherwise. But that’s not a debate we’re going to have here.

          2. DMC

            No debate, but PETA is publicly and openly for the euthanization and elimination of all Pit Bulls and mixes, so they are an organization that I steer clear of since I happen to volunteer with Pit Bull rescue.

          3. Episkey

            And that’s what I was going to say: There are also animal rights orgs and many animal rights supporters who feel PETA is distasteful and would look down on someone who worked THERE. So it’s all a bit of a crap shoot.

    5. themmases

      It is such a bizarre attitude that passing judgment is wrong (especially since you have to make a judgment on others to even hold it). Having values and standards for yourself and the people you work with implies judgment both positive and negative. What is the alternative– mindlessly approving of one another no matter what we do?

      If you really cared about animal rights and your values lead you to want to work for PETA one day, it’s pretty unlikely that you would choose to apply for a job at Tyson or something just to make ends meet. Avoiding that type of work would be a normal expectation in your career path, and for most people it wouldn’t even be much of a sacrifice because they wouldn’t want to do it. If you did it anyway, it would be fair for PETA to prefer those whose careers reflect an actual commitment to animal rights according to their lights, over you, whose career does not. Unless you work in an isolated area dominated by one industry, you do have choices other than working for a company that is totally opposed to your values. And no one ever *has* to do MLM to make ends meet because as has been pointed out, these schemes are not even profitable for most of their sellers.

      Your example about Monsanto illustrates that it’s a bad idea to judge others with incomplete or inaccurate information, not that it is wrong to ever judge anyone. It would be perfectly legitimate to disapprove of someone whose research could harm others, or someone involved in making corporate strategies with negative social effects. By the OP’s own description, they know the company they are interested in harms others, they don’t need the work, and they are considering taking it anyway. It’s normal to judge a conscious choice to benefit from harming others; the alternative is just amoral.

  21. Joseph

    The LW seems to draw a distinction between being a salesman/consultant/product rep/etc for an MLM and being on the pure business side. But if I saw it on LW’s resume, I’d doubt I’d really consider the difference. Yeah, I’d see your title is, say, “Human Resources Manager” and figure that was your primary duty, but I’d still assume you were still part of the MLM sales chain in general.

    It’s also worth stating that if you’re not in love with the product itself (doesn’t seem like it), that could be a huge right-now problem with taking the job. MLM’s make their living off pushing people to sell and I can’t imagine they’d accept an employee (even on the business side) who wasn’t all-in. “As a manager here, we expect you to be enthusiastic about our Life-Changing Product”, “You might manage HR, but have you considered also doing sales for a few extra bucks?”, “I’m not only the VP of HR, I’m also a client! If you ever want my job, you should be too!”, “How can you understand the challenges of our representatives if you refuse to do any selling yourself?”, and so on.

    1. K.

      Yeah, I would assume that you’d be required to push the products if you worked for corporate. I can’t imagine that those companies would let you get away with not doing so. I can hear refrains of “We need to set an example!” at every corporate meeting. I’m sure that starts at the top and permeates throughout the company.

  22. NoFightLeft

    Oh god OP please don’t do it.

    I work in a difficult office but one of the few things that keeps me getting up in the morning, cleaning my gross self up, and going in to try and do my job and be professional every day, even if the interpersonal stuff is toxic (especially if you’re “abnormal”), is that my STEM company does good work and treats the people it does business with on the strict level playing field. By which I mean, they don’t ever shaft anybody and refuse to take interns and take only paid co-op students; it makes me just a little happier being able to tell people this, even if it’s a kid seeking an internship (I feel really terrible for them but at least I know I work somewhere that doesn’t exploit the vulnerable???)

    The kind of company OP is talking about WILL take your soul @animaniactoo and leave a skidmark on your resume; the PT Barnum Principle is not what you want in a career goal, and that’s what people will think when they hear who you work/worked for. I know guilt by association is gross but that’s how it could well play; for me, I would feel like I’d been helping them prey on vulnerable uninformed people who did nothing to deserve this but be unemployed or underemployed. (I actually had a job like this once…I was 15 and selling what we’d been told were “lottery coupons for charity” which turned out to be utterly bogus…quit three days in when my trainer tore me a new one for not hard-selling a visually impaired senior on disability benefits. This was in the pre-Internet 2.0 days when you couldn’t look up shady companies like this and find out their reputation…don’t be 15 year old me, please don’t do it.)

  23. KarenT

    My opinion will probably be unpopular, but I wouldn’t see it as an issue at all if someone was working in the office of one of the more reputable MLM companies. I know a lot of people who love Avon, Arbonne, Stella and Dot, Pampered Chef and a few others. I think the sketchier companies certainly mislead people into thinking they’ll soon be millionaires driving the company grand prize BMW, but the ones I’ve mentioned (maybe less so Arbonne) generally seem to be providing some side cash for their consultants. My mom’s best friend has been selling Avon for 20 years and all she does is put her flyers in her neighbours mailboxes and people phone her with their orders.
    I do find that Facebook has made it all much more annoying–I’m constantly being invited to Jamberry and ItWorks parties (and I totally agree with whoever said Itworks is snake oil), and the one with the mascara and something about essential oils.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      I am in agreement with you, Karen.

      As a hiring manager, it would definitely depend on the company for me. Working at the corporate office of Mary Kay vs. Herbalife is very different.

    2. LawCat

      Yeah, I love Stella and Dot. I’ve never been to any sort of party (or even know if that’s a thing for Stella and Dot). A colleague who sells it as a side biz wears the pieces to work and will tell you about the pieces if you ask (I had never heard of the company before). She also would alert me when the company would be having a new collection out soon (so deals may be coming on pieces exiting the collection). It’s never felt icky to me at all and I love the pieces I have.

      Total contrast to Mary Kay where I ended up at a basically BS icky sales pitch and. My eyes almost rolled out of my head by the statements the presenter was making and I could not imagine how anyone could believe what she was saying. It’s too bad because I like their skincare stuff.

      1. Sparky

        Parties are a thing for S&D. My sister-in-law is a stylist and I’ve hosted several parties and gotten many, many things free or half-price based on party sales. I’ve exhausted my friend list at this point, so no more parties for me.

    3. The Alias Gloria Is Living Under, A.A., B.S.

      I somewhat tend to agree. Pampered Chef is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, I’m not sure Warren Buffet would buy into a snake oil company.

      1. neverjaunty

        I will not get into the specifics to avoid derailing the thread, but based on direct experience, to me “Warren Buffet’s companies own it” says absolutely zero in favor of a company having sound or ethical business practices.

        1. Stephanie

          Yeah…he’s in it to make money. Being high up in an MLM (or the investor in one) is a guaranteed way to make money.

    4. LawLady

      Arbonne and Stella & Dot definitely mislead their sellers into thinking they’re going to be successful entrepreneurs and encourage a cult-like devotion to the company. Maybe the friends of yours who sell aren’t as gullible as mine, but my Facebook feed is a testament to the sleaziness of those two. Arbonne is about as bad as Advocare, to my mind.

  24. Rhiannon

    Would this advice apply for a company like LuLaRoe? They are MLM but it’s basically like an online clothing store (and sometimes in person at popups). If someone interested in fashion was offered a job at their headquarters would you advise against it? It’s not like it’s that awful Shakeology crap.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I have and love a pair of LuLaRoe leggings, but it’s exactly the same as the other MLM businesses – just with a product that I happen to like.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        But I think for a lot of people, what icks them out about MLMs isn’t the quality of the product but the sales tactics and pushiness/sketchiness. Many MLMs have legitimate products—they just choose to sell those products in sketchy ways.

        1. Ann O'Nemity

          Yep, I agree with this. I’ve been gifted several MLM products that I really liked, but I wouldn’t buy them myself because I disagree with the sales practices.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          Right, that’s my point. I like LLR leggings but the business model is still shady. I don’t see it as different.

          1. KarenT

            Interesting–I thought LLR was just sold online like Fabletics. I didn’t realize it was MLM.

            1. Rhiannon

              Yeah my sister is a consultant for them. She had to pay $5k in product to get started and hosts parties on FB. She also recruited a cousin to work under her. But it’s not that bad because if you don’t want to buy stuff then you just don’t join the FB party. And if you do wanna buy the stuff there’s a bigger group that you can join that has lots of consultants and they just post pics of their inventory and you buy or don’t.

  25. Chickaletta

    I think that there’s two types of workers out there: those that do MLMs and those that don’t. People either love them or hate them, it’s not exactly neutral territory. It’s kinda like working for Monsanto or Lockheed Martin: you can’t just move over to a green non-profit later on and not expect some eyebrow raises.

  26. Lily in NYC

    There is a great website that goes into incredible detail about these scammy MLMs – http://www.pinktruth.com. It’s geared towards Mary Kay, but also has a ton of articles and information about other ones. I have never even come close to joining an MLM but the articles are fascinating to me – I went back and read everything in the archives. I agree with everyone else here that it’s probably a good idea to avoid working at the HQ of one of these places.

    1. Bookworm

      I’ve also not really been involved with an MLM – I did get invited to a “job interview” once about the knife deal…which confused me a bit, but even at my young age I was able to suss out that something wasn’t right.

      Still, I find them (and lots of schemes and fraud) oddly fascinating. The level of gall they must have! It’s mesmerizing in a way.

    2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night

      I found Pink Truth after a friend of mine started drinking the Mary Kay kool-aid hardcore. She became a completely different person and it was amazing to me how common my experience was!

    3. Rachel

      I love Pink Truth, even though I’ve never joined an MLM (and never will). I found the site after a friend of mine quit Mary Kay. She’d been in it for a few years and was really beating herself up that she couldn’t make it work. (Mary Kay is very big on “if it is to be, it is up to me” – if your business doesn’t work out, it’s all your fault, you didn’t work hard enough, blah blah blah. She took all that to heart.) I wanted to find something to make her feel better about herself, so some Googling brought me to the site. : ) (And it really did help her put things into perspective.)

  27. The Alias Gloria Is Living Under, A.A., B.S.

    This reminds me of the scene in Clerks where they are discussing the contractors who were working on the second Death Star when it was destroyed.

  28. Paul Z

    I can give a little insight on this, I spent 2 years doing E-commerce marketing for a MLM. Companies in undesirable industries know they have a hard time attracting talent in semi-competitive fields. They compensate through some other means for competitive advantage. Some hire less experienced people who wouldn’t be in those roles in any other companies as career boosters. For me, it was that they overpaid me by around 30% comparing to local market rate, and they work was easy and relaxing. I moved to a smaller city 90 minutes away from my home-city for the job, so it’s almost like “moving back home” and a 2 year semi-vacation for me.

    I can’t speak for all MLMs, the one I worked for had huge management problems. But the company was able to continue on due to its size. It’s been years since I worked there and that job has moved WAY down in my resume. But when asked on interviews, this is my response: I worked for their online division. “They had an ambitious goal to be the next Amazon. Well, the more realistic goal was to be in the same space as Amazon, Shopzilla, Bizrate, along with other Ecommerce shops. Offline I think they ran a different operation to support their ambitions, but I didn’t really do much with aspect of the business or knew much about it”.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Laura

      Interesting. It sounds like you have a solid answer for when you got questions about that stint, but did you ever feel like interviewers were judging you for having worked there?

      1. Paul Z

        I don’t think I was judged, or judged so little that I never noticed. I talked about my responsibilities and my accomplishments from an E-commerce perspective. I try to bypass the MLM aspect and spend less than 3 seconds mentioning it. I don’t know what field OP is in. But if s/he accomplishes things from a “corporate” perspective besides “laid out plans to get additional people to join”, I think it should be fine.

  29. greenbeans

    Congrats on getting so far in the hiring process. That could be a good sign you’d get that far in other jobs you apply for, ones for which you don’t have concerns like this.

    Good luck.

  30. Thyri

    I got sucked into buying products from one of these “consultants” a few years ago and never once did I think of her as a legit business owner. I had a bad taste in my mouth from Day One. I had contacted her for a completely unrelated reason and she invited me for coffee. OK. Then she showed me her office, which happened to be a block away from the coffee shop. She pitched me on the products. I thought, Huh? This isn’t why I’m here… I just nodded and smiled until she stopped. Then a few months later I was dealing with a health issue and she had been posting on Facebook about her clients and how her products had helped them, so I stupidly contacted her. She wanted to set up a time to meet. I asked her to please just email me some info. She insisted on meeting in person (red flag #675) and brought her partner. I felt tag teamed. She even used phrases like, “I’m glad you’re sitting down, Thyri, because the sign-up fee is a whopping $20!” meaning, it was cheap, ha ha, yuk yuk yuk. She feigned (in my opinion) concern about me and my health issues. Right, you’re concerned about your commission, not my health, thanks. I felt pressured so I continued to place my orders every month. The first few months were OK, but after about six months of buying things I didn’t want just so I could meet my monthly minimum of “points” (red flag #546) I cancelled. She started blowing up my phone saying she was “concerned” and couldn’t believe I cancelled and spouting off retention rates and telling me nobody ever cancels. I texted her back and said I couldn’t commit to the monthly minimum for financial reasons. Luckily that was the end of that.

    TL;DR: OP, use your skills at a legit company. These people are not business owners, they are shills for a shady corporation. If your products are so good, sell them in stores like a normal company and skip the psychological manipulation.

    1. Gabriela

      I think this is why MLM companies leave such a bad taste in people’s mouths. There are SO MANY stories that are just like this. I had a very close friend who fell completely out of touch with me for mental health and substance abuse issues (it was totally her choice, she cut off all contact). Now she wants to reconnect to recruit me to her MLM company and her messages became increasingly manipulative as I repeatedly told her that I wasn’t interested (“I just thought you’d trust my judgement…”) Rightly, or wrongly, this is the association I have with MLM companies.

      1. Thyri

        Yes, and I have to admit it’s disappointing/bitterness-inducing when a friend or acquaintance sends me a friend request on Facebook (oh, cool, I haven’t heard from this person in years, how nice that they want to get back in touch with me! *imagines rekindling a friendship*) only to pitch some MLM product scheme (be it buying the products and/or joining their “team”). Talk about using and taking advantage of people.

  31. Annie

    Unrelated, but I’d like to chime in that this is the first time in some weeks that I’ve been able to read the comments without my browser crashing (Firefox on a Mac). Instead I’ve been printed pages to PDF so I can read without the ads. I noticed some discussion yesterday of addressing issues with the ad network, and those changes might be working. I’d guess, Alison, that you’re more likely to hear when there are issues rather than when things are going well, and that can make it hard to pin down whether changes are helping!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh, interesting — complaints actually went way up in the last two days, so it’s interesting to hear you had the opposite experience! Thank you for letting me know.

      1. Annie

        Oh, to be clear, the last ~half hour is the first time I haven’t had an issue. Yesterday was bad. It seems to vary quite a bit, honestly. Sometimes the site loads and within 5-15 seconds I have to close the tab, sometimes it’s a few minutes.

  32. Lily Rowan

    Assuming the applicant is personally fine with working for the company, and is just worried about future potential employers’ reactions, I have to think that the more technical the job, the less it would matter. Marketing vs. accounting, say. The person hiring an account has got to be more concerned about hard skills, right?

    1. neverjaunty

      Why would you assume this? It’s probably true that certain jobs, like marketing, would show more buy-in to the company’s ethos and message, but then you’re just arguing about the size of the skidmark (to steal a great phrase from upthread), not whether there is one.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        Yeah but someone upthread also said something about you wouldn’t want to work for Monsanto or Lockheed Martin if you were interested in a green job. I’m a long term member of Audubon and also a former LM employee. Where I live, I don’t think that would count against me for any other job.

        If the person is working at the MLM headquarters, where many other locals work, it could be considered a good employer, and a good thing to have on their resume.

        1. neverjaunty

          But you’re talking about something entirely different – which is when an employer isn’t considered sleazy or controversial at all, for the reason that everybody in the entire locate also works for them.

  33. Florida

    Tupperware corporate headquarters is located in my city. If you worked in finance, marketing, HR, or something similar at the corporate headquarters, no one would think less of you. In fact, it would be viewed as a good job with a brand name company.
    I can’t say the same for all MLM companies, but I know if you worked at corporate Tupperware it would not look bad on your resume.

    1. LQ

      This makes me wonder if it would be a local thing as well. If the HQ was in your town and employed a lot of people at HQ and (on the chance that they weren’t pushy about HQ people doing sales) everyone knew someone who worked at HQ it might not be a big deal. But it might be in another location.

      1. Kelly L.

        Yeah–this goes with my theory that people just don’t know about the inner workings, actually! People in the same city as HQ probably know more about how a company works and/or feel more affectionate toward it.

  34. Former Jewelry Lady

    This post and the comments make me sad. I worked for a jewelry direct sales company for two years and loved it. I had lots of loyal customers, made some amazing friends, and did, in fact, make good money.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      One of my sorority sisters sells Stella & Dot, and honestly, it’s been such a great thing for her. She was a bit of a wallflower and you can see a change in her personality and confidence level.

      It probably helps that she is not pushy and prefers people buy her products because they actually like/want her product.

      1. Former Jewelry Lady

        I didn’t recruit. I just did it for myself and never pressured anyone to join. If people showed interest, I sent them to my upline (who was wonderful and one of the best “bosses” I’ve ever had!). When I joined, she paid for my starter kit, so I never lost any money.

        Direct sales really isn’t always as evil as everyone here is making it out to be.

  35. Former Retail Manager

    Yeah…I wouldn’t work for this company either. And despite many of their statements to the media, I would question the overall financial health of some of these MLM companies. I feel like many of them are a house of cards. If the new blood stops coming, the house of cards crumbles, and you are left without a job, typically very abruptly.

    On another note, I disagree with Alison about Avon and Mary Kay and other more established companies having more legitimacy. I personally view them as all the same and I wouldn’t work for them either. Just because they’ve been at it longer, doesn’t make them any better. I’ve known people who were Avon “consultants” that got suckered the same way that It Works people got suckered. Neither here nor there…just my two cents.

    OP….use your talents at a more ethical company who you won’t have to make excuses for a few years down the road.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      I feel like many of them are a house of cards. If the new blood stops coming, the house of cards crumbles, and you are left without a job, typically very abruptly.

      A pyramid scheme, by definition, is a house of cards, isn’t it? I have a feeling a lot of MLMs get their primary revenue from “consultants” having to buy their own products or recruit more “consultants” underneath them, instead of from actual non-consultant customers buying the product.

      1. Zahra

        It definitely depends on the company. As far as I know, for Tupperware, bringing in a consultant does you no good at all (as in, you don’t get more cash than your commission for selling the start-up kit, which actually a good value for what you get in it) unless the consultant actually sells products. You don’t go up the chain with more revenue, unless your team sells products for a certain minimum, consistently, over a set period of time.

        1. Anonymous Educator

          Yeah, I guess the business model can vary from MLM to MLM. I think the more their revenue depends on your actual sales instead of downline sales, the less shady it is.

          1. Zahra

            For downline sales, my thinking is this:

            IF:
            – You have to make a certain level of sales yourself to get a “promotion” and be eligible to earn revenue on downline sales
            – Your team must meet a minimum threshold for you to get the maximum return
            – Gaining a new consultant helps your bottom line only if they sell products
            – You do have some stuff that you need to do to keep your manager/director level (whether it is team training/coaching, selling a minimum yourself instead of relying on your team’s effort only, keeping a certain team size, etc.)

            I’m okay if 90% of your revenue comes from downline sales. In most businesses, you’ll have some form of middle management whose compensation is tied to their team’s performance (partly or completely, directly or indirectly, for example by implication that a poor performing team needs a new manager).

      2. Former Retail Manager

        Indeed they are houses of cards. I have just been annoyed in the past at many of their claims at being financially stable companies that can weather economic ups and downs even if sales drop drastically. I will say that the people running them are great BS artists.

    2. SystemsLady

      The main difference is that with Mary Kay and Avon the sellers seem to focus more on actually selling the products.

      It Works! very clearly wants you to focus much, much more on selling the act of selling the products to others.

      1. Lily in NYC

        That’s not even close to true for Mary Kay. Their emphasis is on recruiting new naive consultants and convincing them to front-load inventory. They don’t even track sales – they only track the amount of inventory bought by their consultants. They are complete liars – they say that they are the #1 cosmetic brand in the US. How the heck could they know that if they don’t track sales! They also say their business model is studied at Harvard as an example of good business. But that’s another lie – it’s just used as a case study when the class talks about how no one profits in MLMs except the people who got in at the very start.

        1. Laurel Gray

          #1 cosmetics brand in the US is definitely a stretch. In 2016, if you took a sample of 50 regular cosmetic wearing women each from a large city, a metro suburb and a small rural town and asked to see their make up collection, Mary Kay would not be the majority.

    3. SystemsLady

      Granted Mary Kay is still pretty bad, and it’s probably just the people I’ve run into doing each.

  36. That Marketing Chick

    I’m really surprised at all the negative reactions. OP says it’s for a job at corporate headquarters, which I’m sure is run above-board. My company has a very large MLM as a client, and it seems to be a great company to work for – all the staff we deal with like working there. Great benefits, salary, etc. I would not look negatively at someone who held a corporate position at an MLM.

    Say what you will about MLMs, but I made 5 digits a couple of years ago with an MLM – in my spare time. I knew when I started that I would ride it as long as I could and then get back to real life, and I still use the products because I love them.

    1. LawLady

      Tell us more. The statistics show a teensy, teensy percentage of people who start selling make this much money. What product did you sell? Was what you made primarily from direct sales or from your downstream? I am legitimately curious.

    2. neverjaunty

      “Yes, but they don’t screw their own employees” is probably not as great a counter-argument as you meant it to be.

  37. voyager1

    I am really surprised at how much people judge a person by the company they work or worked for. I work and banking and my job has little to no bearing on my views or values.

    1. neverjaunty

      Why would you find this surprising? Do you also find it surprising if people are impressed on learning that you work for a prestigious, well-regarded company?

    2. Allison

      You’d be surprised. When I source candidates for jobs, I usually look at skills and experience, and sometimes industry if the recruiter says they need tech or security experience, but one of the recruiters I work for will reject a candidate if she doesn’t like the company and feels they’re too different from the kind of company we are. Sometimes she only wants me to source from a specific list of companies, because she feels anyone from anywhere else would be a waste of time to talk to. I get where she’s coming from sometimes, but I do think it’s silly to disqualify a candidate with the skillset we’re looking for just because of where they’re currently working.

  38. newlyhr

    This is tricky because it isn’t just MLM companies that might have a negative connotation. In my area there are a number of addiction recovery treatment centers, some of which hire former clients of the centers, and there are some corporate HQ for internet marketing companies that sell ‘questionable’ merchandise. (not to mention some lobbying groups that lobby for things I find offensive. I have to admit that I have some questions when I see those companies listed on somebody’s resume.

    But my job is not to judge where they worked, it’s to determine what they did at those jobs adn their skill set. Turns out that one of those “questionable merchandise” companies has some of the most professional and skilled employees I have ever seen.

  39. LawLady

    When I was doing some recruiting for my consulting firm before law school, we had a candidate for a summer internship who had done an internship the summer before in the corporate offices of a big predatory payday loans outfit. We interviewed him anyway, because the economy had been rough, so it seemed possible that the kid just took the only internship with a financial institution he could get and didn’t realize the ethical implications.

    But, no, he was just evil. When we asked him about his experiences there and referenced that payday lending is controversial, he told us that he really enjoyed changing algorithms to better target people at high risk of default. We were all speechless.

        1. Chickaletta

          Tell him he’d do great at Lockheed Martin. Their CEO made a statement in January ’15 that they are working to expand their international munitions revenue from 20-25% and view the Middle East, North Korea, and other warfare zones as business opportunities.

          1. ThursdaysGeek

            As a former employee of LM, it was* considered a good local employer, providing the computer infrastructure and software for environmental remediation. I don’t think it will hurt to leave it on my resume.

            *I say ‘was’ because they are getting out locally, probably to focus more on the evil elsewhere. But no large company is a monolith, and you can probably find pockets of good, and with a good reputation, in most large companies.

    1. The Alias Gloria Is Living Under, A.A., B.S.

      Huh. That reminds me. My husband took a job at a Payday Loan store in 2008. Bad economy, first thing he was offered. Hasn’t hurt him. But he’s also not evil. I’m glad he got out, I was always worried they’d get robbed, other branches did while he worked there. That branch did get robbed, but after he left.

      1. LawLady

        Eh, that seems to me to be a different beast. This guy was working in the corporate office, working on the algorithms that determine what amounts get loaned and what interest rate is charged.

        Your husband took a job as a storm trooper in a bad economy. This kid interned for Darth Vader and came out saying how much he enjoyed the substantive work.

  40. Alli525

    As someone who has worked on Wall Street, I can tell you that others will absolutely judge you for where you worked. I had a family member (a great uncle or something?) once ask me what I did, and when I told him, he took a physical, involuntary step away from me. That sticks with you, I promise. These days, it doesn’t seem like you can just take a job for the work you’ll be doing – you take the job because you “believe in the product” or “align with the culture” or whatever… even if it’s not true, that’s how it’ll be perceived in many circumstances.

    Good luck with your decision!

    1. neverjaunty

      Without making any judgments about your work in particular, it’s never been true that jobs in the past were always ‘just a job’ or that nobody had any ethical qualms about people who did particular work.

      1. Juli G.

        Agree but I also think with the internet, business practices are more transparent to the general public than ever before. I think that drives the “these days” comments.

        And I’d be interested to know from someone with more experience than me – was “corporate social responsibility” a thing 30 years ago? I’m sure some did it but was it valued/focused on like it is now?

      2. Anonymous Educator

        I didn’t read Alli525’s comment as “No one in the old days had ethical qualms about what they did.” I read it more as “These days there’s a lot more pressure to find a job that fulfills you or that aligns with your personal beliefs.” I definitely feel that pressure as a Gen X’er, and I’m sure Millennials feel it even more. Ethical qualms aside (i.e., the company you work for isn’t sketchy or overtly exploitative), people will still complain (yes, even an Ask a Manager) about not finding their work fulfilling instead of saying “At least I have a paycheck and my work isn’t unethical.”

        1. neverjaunty

          That pressure wasn’t new when you and I (also a GenXer) were the hot new hated bunch of young’uns. Exhortations to find right livelihood and the color of your parachute and ‘do what you love, the money will follow’ were an ongoing thing when we were kids, too. I think some of it got drowned out by the whole 1980s greed is good thing, but it was always there. I do agree there’s a lot more transparency and information available about corporate conduct now than 30+ years ago, though.

  41. Greg

    I think there are really three separate questions here:

    1. What would you personally do if it was your own career?
    2. How would you react as a hiring manager to a candidate with experience at a company whose business model you considered unethical?
    3. How do you think hiring managers in general would react? Or to put it another way, what would you advise a job seeker in the OP’s position?

    For the first question, I would focus mostly on my opinion of the company’s morality. There are legit MLM companies, and there are also roles working in completely different capacities (I’m thinking less of the IT guy for a sham company as I am someone who worked at Kraft when they were owned by Phillip Morris.)

    For the second, I might ask about it, but I wouldn’t make any snap judgments, because I think it’s dumb to do so based on incomplete information.

    For the third, it is tricky, because there are employers who will make snap judgments. I’d like to say manage what you can control — ie, your own conscience — and let the rest take care of itself, but I do admit there might be times when you should consider how something might look to future employers.

    Then again, you never know. I once had a candidate who had interned at Playgirl. I asked her about it (partly to see how she would react, but mostly because I was just curious about that place) and she gave a great, funny answer that made me like her more. I ended up hiring her. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, yes, it is targeted toward gay men. Obvious in retrospect, but I had never really been sure.)

  42. art_ticulate

    In addressing why Avon may be seen differently, I admit that I’m biased, because my mother sold for Avon for most of my childhood (although not as her primary income, as a side gig– I suspect it would be difficult to do as your only income), and she loved it. It’s not like some of these companies where you have to recruit more sellers to be successful. Plus I got to help her with ordering and fulfilling, so I have fond memories of bagging up orders with her and delivering them on weekends.

    Compare it to all my friends on FB who are independent sellers for everything from weight-loss wraps to kitchen goods to nutritional supplements and who I had to either mute or unfriend because I was tired of being spammed with requests to come to product parties or to buy-into their pyramid scheme. There’s an aggressiveness to them that is very off-putting.

    1. Regina

      I had a friend from high school years back who for whatever reason unfriended me and all her non-religious friends, noticeably. About a year later she requested to be friends again, accompanied with a sales pitch for some sort of herbal tea. Thanks but no thanks!

  43. Ornery PR

    Haha. No one would have a job in Utah County if everyone avoided working for an MLM. They are rampant in Utah.

    1. Stephanie

      LOL. I don’t live in Utah, but live in another area with a large Mormon population. I don’t even notice the window stickers anymore.

      1. Ornery PR

        I think there’s something about missionary work that primes people for these types of jobs. I guess if you’re able to confidently confront strangers to convince them of your beliefs, MLM is a breeze :) When I was in high school, I interned for the PR director at a local news station. She sold candles on the side for an MLM. She actually ended up quitting the tv station job to do that full time because she was so successful! But that’s one person out of dozens I know who do it. My sisters get wrapped up in all that and all I can do is shake my head. I truly don’t understand.

        1. Stephanie

          I always just figured it was even more prosaic than that. I figured there are lots of social and religious pressures to be SAHMs and people want the (purported) extra money.

          1. Kelly L.

            There’s also a lot of religious window dressing to some of these companies. I say window dressing, because the company isn’t really living up to the tenets of the faith, but they talk a good game.

            1. Kelly L.

              But I have no idea how anyone makes any money in social circles where every single woman sells. You might make $50 on your bags by selling them to Beth and Suzanne, but now you feel obligated to buy candles from Beth and essential oils from Suzanne, and there goes your $50. It would be more efficient to sit in a circle and pass dollar bills around.

  44. Jthmeow

    Ugh….MLM is so insidious hate it. It is disheartening to be friended by someone on Social Media and then realize very quickly that the only reason they did that is because it’s something someone in their “upline” told them to do. One “friend” in particular posts a picture of herself with a shake every morning, and posts a picture post workout every night. It’s overshare to the extreme. I only realize it was something the company tells you to do to “promote the lifestyle” after I saw her liking other people in the industry.

    Incidentally, I worked for a “legitimate” company that, in my opinion operates to some extent as a MLM (without all the family pressure and stuff) . It’s a car rental company that is so considerate they will “Pick you Up”. After years of being told you “can run your own business one day by becoming a brand manager” and many other lines I realized it was just a corporate cult. They take in 100’s of people right out of school and burn them out so quickly. Sale numbers are the #1 priority in promotions, not performance. It was pretty disgusting. BUT, it did make me very, very, very wary of any companies operating like that in the future. After I left that job (without another job, bad idea, long story), I was called in for an interview. It was in the technological center of my city which is notoriously difficult to navigate. For the life of me, I could not find the building and I was freaking out and sweating bullets and panicking. This was an interview and I was going to blow it, and I really needed a job. After finally finding it I walk in and it turns out to be a pitch to sell insurance. It took me about 10 minutes to figure it out and I was pissed and walked out. Mostly it was frustrating because I expended so much energy on something that was just bogus, and I was kind of desperate. Now 7 years later, happily in the same job, I wish that I would have stuck around and seen what their plug actually was for, but at the time, it was the WORST.

        1. Bowserkitty

          I just got pitched for that the other week. One of the gym instructors, a woman I really get along with, had a flyer posted for what I thought was an exercise group. And it said something like “Get paid to exercise!” so I thought it was a wellness challenge, especially because I was just ending up my current one and will be getting my registration fee back for doing it all 10 weeks. When she added me on Facebook and told me I could “make six figures” I knew I’d gotten myself into something horrible. Luckily I had the confidence to say no, and she was nice enough to not push it any further.

          Moral of the story is….sometimes they get you sneakily.

        2. Batman's a Scientist

          Ugh. a not very close friend from high school started doing that 10 or so years ago. I had to unfriend her because I couldn’t deal with the posts. I just looked and she’s still at it, so I guess she’s at least somewhat successful. But her page is hypocritical. She has posts about working out just to feel good next to posts showing how much weight she’s lost in the past 10 years.

      1. The Other Dawn

        Advocare is the one with the patches, right? A Facebook friend was selling that for a while, and then it was on to the next MLM. I got so tired of seeing her posing with her patches on!

        1. Thyri

          OMG! I forgot about JuicePlus! One I met was such a vulture! “You need this, I’m going to sign you up.” Um, no I don’t and no you’re not.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Sale numbers are the #1 priority in promotions, not performance.

      Sadly a lot of corporations operate this way. Yes, of course, for-profit companies are supposed to make profit, but emphasizing only sales and don’t pay any attention to performance is very short-term thinking.

  45. LGull

    Literally as I was reading these comments and agreeing with everyone’s frustration with MLMs, a girl I went to high school with that I haven’t seen or heard from in nearly 10 years added me to her Facebook group to launch her BRAND NEW BUSINESS! And won’t I just love this new line of products sweeping the nation that I can only get through special consultants?
    The only thing saving it from being annoying was it’s impeccable timing. But I left the group immediately.

    1. Thyri

      I admit not long ago I helped a friend out by making a group of some of my Facebook friends so she could have a makeup “party.” I still feel guilty.

    2. Kelly L.

      I woke up one morning to my inbox being INUNDATED. WTF, was I hacked? Nope, an old high school acquaintance had added me, without permission, to some “sales fair” Facebook group where she and all her MLM friends were teaming up to all sell their stuff. I think there was going to be both a physical event and online sales. And of course they were all posting up a storm.

      1. LGull

        I will never understand the mentality that Uplines share. It’s like they all take a class on the theory that, if you annoy the daylights out of people you only tangentially know, they will buy from you just to make you stop. Who needs friends when there is so much money to be made?!

  46. De Minimis

    There was a This American Life a while back about a MLM company called Wake Up Now–the crazy thing was they had a hard time even finding out what the company was trying to sell…they were trying so hard to be low-key and different. I think they were trying to lure people in by being mysterious. I believe they finally went under.

  47. Cucumberzucchini

    I haven’t read all the comments, but enough to get a general sense of the responses. I’m not surprised by the MLM disgust. It’s not unjustified, but I am surprised by those that would negatively judge a candidate that worked at the Corporate Office.

    I’d like to share my experience actually working at corporate for an MLM for several years. It many ways it was no different than working at any other company. I mean, it was horrible but the horribleness didn’t have anything to do with the fact is an MLM (for the most part). MLMs are definitely cult-ish. I actually have always had a pretty side-eyed view of MLMs. But my husband and I had both been laid off from our jobs and this job paid really well so I took it and stuck with it. And I’m really glad I did despite what in some regards was a truly hellish experience (again for reasons unrelated to the MLM thing).

    There’s various shades of the MLM industry. So the OP should really consider the specific MLM she’s considering working for and how working at that one might be perceived. Working at corporate of an MLM is completely different than being a Sales Rep. I can’t speak for all MLMs, but for many you actually can not be a Rep if you work at corporate because you would have too much inside info and it would be a huge conflict of interest.

    I always thought people who got sucked into MLMs were being taken advantage of, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be a part of a Pyramid Scheme. After my experience working at one I see it a lot differently. I still would never be a Rep for one but I learned that for a lot of people, MLM is a hobby. Of course many people do get sucked into because they think they may make a lot of money. But working for one, I got to know hundreds of Reps. And by and large, the vast majority of the Reps that didn’t earn much didn’t really expect to. It was their social group, it was a hobby that they spent money on how some might spend on motorbiking, or season tickets to a sports team, or horseback riding or whatever. MLMing was their hobby of choice and they’d go from MLM to MLM. They loved selling, they loved going to the conferences, they loved being a part of their downline. I don’t get it. But for these people who viewed it as a hobby, they weren’t getting taken advantage of.

    After leaving that job, I’ve not experience any stigma for having worked at one. In fact I’ve been actively headhunted based off of the great results I had in my role and my experience gained working there. In fact I recently turned down a $150k job offer at a very prominent local employer ( I’m happy in my current role.)

    So OP, your mileage may vary working at an MLM. Just one person’s experience to consider.

    1. LawLady

      This is fascinating. Thanks for chiming in. If you don’t mind, could you give us the general tier of MLM you worked at? I see Avon/Mary Kay/Tupperware as high tier, Scentsy/Stella & Dot/Thirty-One as mid-tier, and BeachBody/Advocare/ItWorks as low tier.

      1. Cucumberzucchini

        Umm… bottom tier? lol, I’m pretty sure bottom tier.

        What a lot of commenters might not realize, is a lot of people don’t even know what MLM is. 99.9% of the job interviews I’ve been on since, when I explained to them what the company was had no idea what an MLM was. (And until I read this comment thread, it didn’t even occur to be people might see me having worked at one negatively, so I typically explained as, “You know, like a pyramid scheme.” I guess that was a bit naive of me.) But seriously, all of my job interviews went really well and they were all really impressed with what I accomplished working there.

        I don’t anticipate going on any interviews in the near future, but maybe I’ll downplay the MLM thing if I do – or at least not draw attention to it.

        1. LawLady

          Interesting! I’m sorry, I’m fascinated by this. How long ago was this? I feel like there’s been a lot more pushback to these schemes in the past 5 or so years, so I’m wondering if maybe this same question in 2006 may have gotten a totally different answer.

          1. Cucumberzucchini

            Oh it’s totally fascinating if I do say so myself. I could write a novel. It’s a fairly recent experience.

            One thing I learned that I was completely oblivious to until working at one, is MLMs are extremely religious in general. Maybe not every single one, but A LOT of them are. Utah is a big mecca for MLM, it’s very entrenched in Mormonism. The one I worked for was not Mormon but it was very Christian. Like overwhelming so… which for me as an agnostic was not super fun but I did a lot of internal eye-rolling to get through it.

            1. LawLady

              I have noticed that amongst my MLM friends! Like, my friend who sells Advocare. It’s not actually a religious product. But she’s always posting about how being a successful entrepreneur via Advocare is part of the Lord’s plan for her.

            2. Bowserkitty

              Count me as another one fascinated by this side of things. I’m happy we have your perspective and maybe you could post stories in today’s open thread if you feel comfortable!

  48. GovWorker

    Mary Kay is one of the worst MLMs, check out the website, “The Pink Truth”, it’s an eye opener.

  49. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    In my field – IS/IT , some years back a resume crossed my desk. Someone had worked for a company that used a bunch of fancy terms like “consumer market-driven integration for web user applications” or some malarkey like that.

    The guy worked for a scumware company.

    http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/scumware

    I also had a niece who, after getting her M.B.A., was interviewing with a large firm under fire for various activities – I advised that she NOT take it, the aroma will follow you, even if you did nothing wrong. Thankfully she didn’t.

  50. Sammi

    What about working for a Title Loan company? I am currently looking for another job because I don’t like this job.

  51. Rick

    I’m astonished at AAM’s level of negativity in the response. There’s a wide range of reputation among direct sales/MLM companies.

    Even then, corporate work is different. A couple commenters have identified Amway as a less favorable direct sales company, but the corporate headquarters is very well regarded in the area. It’s a major manufacturing employer and the company and founders contribute heavily to the community.

    1. LawLady

      But the range is from bad to terrible. And even if the corporate offices don’t do scummy direct selling, they’re still directing scummy empires and taking advantage of people. It’s like, if you’re in the finance department of the Empire, figuring out how to more efficiently build the Death Star, that doesn’t read a whole lot better. (Even if the Empire is a manufacturing employer and contributes to one community.)

  52. stevenz

    Being in the corporate offices is worse. At least the poor (often literally) people struggling in the field have been duped and don’t know they’re being used – yet. But you would be going into it with eyes wide open, for a job to facilitate the fraud.

    Note: Mary Kay is the same model. There was an article about them in Harper’s a couple years ago. Essentially, they make money by selling their products to their dealers/consultants/whatever, and the stuff ends up in
    basements, closets, storage lockers, never to see the light of day. But the company made money.

  53. Joanna

    Something else to consider here is the possibility of the company’s reputation getting worse thus damaging your employability even further. They might not attract masses of controversy now, but they might in the future. Of course this is a possibility in any company, but I think a company moving from mildly disliked to vehemently hated by many is more of a risk when they’re built on an ethically dubious business model.

  54. ran4fun

    Regarding your update about Avon or Mary Kay perhaps not being seen in the same light as Herbalife, etc… There is no difference, at least for Mary Kay. The consultant is the only customer MKCorp. has. They do not track retail sales. Commissions and prizes are awarded based on what consultants buy, not sell. 99% of people in any MLM, including Mary Kay either make no money or go into debt. Mary Kay Canada’s web site has an earnings representation that clearly shows how little most people make, and their expenses and chargebacks are not revealed. I wish the US Federal Trade Commission would require MLMs to disclose earnings reps. At least Canada does. Go to pinktruth.com to learn the real truth behind the pink curtain.

  55. Former for profit educator

    I followed the link posted on the discussion board at Pink Truth (anti Mary Kay) and what a lucky find! The comments and content are great! I was downsized in a massive corporate restructuring at a major for-profit university in Dec. and because I held a leadership position, I thought I would be an attractive prospect for other colleges/universities. NOW, after reading these comments, I know why I wasn’t probably even considered. My separation agreement was the longest and most specific my attorney had ever seen :( Working there was sort of one of those times when I had to spend time trying to make it work in my head. I was fairly confident that the students were getting a good education/experience in the programs I managed, but still. There is the slime/exploitation factor, the bottom line was always money and frankly it sometimes felt as though we were stalking the students to make sure they did not drop out.
    Anyway after 4 months I landed at a do-good mom-profit with a staggering salary cut. But, I am sleeping at night now too. Thanks for letting me vent!

    (PS I did list my MK experience on my resume, or there would have been a significant time gap between jobs, and when I discussed it, I told the interviewers that I was wildly successful for 4 months, it is a scam, and I really don’t want to talk about it. When this is done with a smile, it goes over well. )

  56. LaLaCage

    I was the receptionist for a building that rented out offices to individuals & businesses (less coworking space & more like a warehouse with rented rooms for companies that needed very little office space or where planning on moving after growing).
    One of the businesses turned out to be CutCo – they went by ‘Vector marketing’ after purchasing the company to my knowledge.
    We had to kick out the ‘regional director for the lower southwest’ who rented the space after we were innundated with calls & complaints about the behavior of the company & experienced verbal abuse from the endless ‘consultants’ that were never refunded money, training costs, etc.

    It was an all around terrible experience & I am so glad that company is not on my resume.

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