Saying No To Your Friend's Online Sales Party Doesn't Have To Be Hard

MLM companies are often a controversial subject to discuss with friends. Some people are staunchly against them and feel that they are amoral business structures that take advantage of their recruits. Meanwhile, others have been involved with one MLM or another for many years and swear by the benefits they've received. So what exactly is an MLM company?

MLM stands for multilevel marketing, and companies that utilize this business structure work by encouraging existing members to not only sell and promote whatever products the company focuses on, but also to recruit more and more members to sell the product underneath them (via Investopedia). Members are not only paid for the product they sell, but are also given a percentage of their recruits' sales as well as bonuses and other benefits for adding new members to their team. This means that members don't only make money by selling their inventory, they also make money by recruiting more and more people underneath them and encouraging those "downlines" to sell inventory.

While MLM is considered a legal and legitimate business strategy, it very closely resembles a highly illegal one: the pyramid scheme.   

Why are MLMs so controversial?

Because members of an MLM make more money the more people they recruit to sell underneath them, many people point out that the sales hierarchy looks a whole lot like a pyramid. What differentiates an illegal pyramid scheme from an MLM, however, is that where it comes to MLM companies, members are selling an actual product or service, not simply being paid to recruit people underneath them. 

Even though it is legal, MLM gets a bad rap for a pretty good reason; not many MLM sellers ever actually turn a profit (via Fundera). Those who work for MLMs are always touting how they get to make money on their own time and that they use their MLM business as a "side hussle" or to bring more money into their households. But the truth of the matter is, according to a study by AARP, only 25% or people who sell for MLMs ever make a profit. And only 27% break even after selling the inventory that they have to buy upfront. Meanwhile, a whopping half of MLM sellers actually lose money while working for an MLM because they never sell enough product to make up for the startup costs and up-front inventory purchases that are often required. 

For this reason, many people feel MLMs are unethical and are not upfront and honest about the very real financial risk involved with joining a sales team. 

What to say to your friend who's having a sales party

For those involved in MLMs, hosting events and sales parties is an essential part of the job. These events not only allow the seller to move merchandise, but also serve as a recruiting opportunity to get others interested in joining their sales teams and becoming a "downline." As such, you might have very good friends who send you invitations to either in-person or, more commonly these days, online sales parties for their MLM business. Examples might be Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Monat, and Color Street. 

If you're interested in joining in on the party and supporting your friend, certainly do so! But if you are tired of drowning in notifications inviting you to these sales parties, you should feel very comfortable turning down the requests in a polite fashion. The Penny Hoarder suggests a very simple statement like, "Thank you for including me, but I'm not interested," or "Good luck with your event, but I can't attend." It's also not a terrible idea to be very honest if you are someone who does not support MLMs on principle by saying something like, "Thank you for inviting me, but I don't buy from MLM businesses. Thanks for understanding!" 

If, however, your "no" is not being heard, you should also feel free to unfollow the event or even to remove yourself from the guest list and associated chat. No means no, and you should not feel guilty or pressured.