Like many others, we enjoyed some early success when we first got started in 91. The first two people we took to a meeting signed up. Over the next few months we signed up three more people. We were real excited about this and felt that at that rate, we would be direct by end of the year. But then we hit the proverbial wall. Everybody we showed the business to wasn't interested. The people we sponsored, and the ones they sponsored, gradually disappeared. After our first year in the business, we were back to square one. Just us.
We attended all the functions, read the recommended books, was on standing order tape. We kept showing the plan and every once in awhile we would sponser a few people and have a little success, which would keep our excitement up. But, they too gradually disappeared. We even had one person buy a kit and then move the very next week. He never told us his new address and he got an unlisted phone number!
We did some very stupid things along the way and I want to share these with you so that you don't make the same mistakes.
At the end of the month, if we were within 50 points of a performance bracket, we would end up spending a $100-$150 on stuff just to get to that performance bracket and make sure our PV check was an additional $30. This only made it harder the following month to make our "100".
We could always come up with the money for the tickets to a function, but the hotel bills and some of the meals almost always went on a credit card. This is okay a few times, but function after function it does start adding up.
After the weekly opens, there would almost always be a nite-owl at a local restaurant. And since "successful people meet then they eat" we just had to get something to eat, along with everyone else. This is a GREAT way to get a pot belly and love-handles! There was one month that I figured out that when you considered the $6 per week for the Opens, the gas going to and from, and the extra meals we were spending an additional $100 a month just by going to the weekly opens and nite-owls. When you start adding in the fact we were spending $200-300 a month on products, another $50-60 for the monthly seminar/rallies ($24 for tickets -- the rest in meals and gas) or the $200-$300 it took to attend the quarterly functions (tickets, hotels, meals and gas). It was no wonder we were out of money by payday and hitting our credit card for normal living expenses. And I haven't even touched on the expenses to actually "Show the Plan" and really build the business.
There was also several team meetings that you had to qualify for. The qualification was showing like 15 plans in the month, sponsor 2, or do 300 personal PV. And you just HAD to be there to get all the valuable information that would be shared. Many times, we ended up buying products we didn't need just to hit the 300 PV so we could "soak up all the good information" which in reality, was the same stuff you hear over and over again. Although we were with good friends, I have to be honest and say that most of the time these activities were rather dull! Pictionary and card games are interesting for only a short period of time.
I will admit that there was some success locally. In two years, one person built his business to the ruby level. Another person built his business to direct, accepted an early retirement program from the company he worked at, and then built his business to the Pearl level. Several other people hit the 7500PV level, but wasn't able to hold it for six months out of the year to qualify as a DD.
Regionally, there were a few new directs, a couple who built their business to Emerald, and an Emerald who had been full time in the business for years, finally made it to Diamond.
But for the most part, the people who really knew how to build the business, wasn't advancing to higher pin levels. A Pearl in our area, who when we first met him was a "Mr. Hard-core un-employable -- If I want more money I'll just sponsor a few more people" type of person, had to get a job. With the exceptions noted above, all of the other directs and above in our area, including our up-line direct and Diamond, never advanced to the next pin level. These people were actively building their business. They weren't just sitting on their butts waiting for success to happen. They all have been in the business for years and know how to work the business. And yet, after seven years of hard work, they haven't advanced.
I began to question the value of the functions. If you haven't heard this you will "It will set your business ahead six months if you go", and I began to realize that what I heard was pretty much the same thing that I heard at the last weekend function. Sure, there were different stories, often humerous, sometimes putting jobs and people down, but nothing really different. Then a few months later, I had the privilige of buying a standing order tape with the very same speeches I heard at the function. For every monthly Seminar/Rally, I was always told how awesome the couple was and how "we would learn a lot from them". The first thing they would say to us is that they were not going to teach us anything new.
At some point, it did cross my mind that someone was making money off the functions, but it wasn't until after I saw Sidney Schwartz's site that I realized the extent of the profitibility of the "system". Now I will always wonder if their primary interest in my going to a function revolved around me or their income. I'm not trying to imply that they weren't sincrely interested in my success, but I feel that the encouragement would mean more if they weren't profiting from it.
There is a saying in the business that if you want to find something negative about the Amway business, you can find it. And I certainly started doing that. I heard many things on tapes I started disagreeing with. The subtle and not so subtle attacks on the negative influence of family and "ex-laws" wasn't so funny any more. The biblical justifcations for wealth lost it's appeal. The constant barrage of negative statements about jobs and other ways of generating income seemed excessive from people who were supposed to "uplift" people.
Finally, at a Free Enterprise Day weekend, five new diamonds came on stage. Each and every one of them talked alike, walked alike, dressed alike, and I realized that I just didn't want to be like them anymore. That FED is when my interest in the business, which had already weakened, disappeared. I walked away from the business and never had any regrets.
I don't have the expertise to say that Amway is a cult. Many people who have been involved in certifiable cults have stated that many of the activities are "cult-like". There are many links about this subject on Sidneys's Amway - Untold Stories Page and I know several other people have discussed this issue and there will be more discussion of this during 1997.
The one thing that really bothers me is that people are encouraged to turn off all other sources of information, such as family, friends, television, and newspapers. Instead, they want you to rely on books, tapes, and your upline only. They want you to believe that everybody that you have known, loved and trusted for your entire life all of a sudden have less interest in you than your sponsor.
It is always dangerous when a small group of people "know the truth" and become the sole information source for a larger group of people. History has shown this over and over again. I don't care who it is or how noble their intentions are. This type of system is ripe for abuses, and if you take the time to read some of the stories in Sidney's comment files, and mine, you'll see these abuses occur over and over again with different people and many different lines of sponsorship. I don't mean to imply that everyone abuses the system, that is certainly not the case. I'm sure the majority of distributors do care about the people in their downline.
But does the end ever justify the means?
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