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An Open Letter to Pyramid Scheme Salesmen Everywhere

An Open Letter to Pyramid Scheme Salesmen Everywhere

Recently, I met a [pyramid scheme organization] salesman at church (though I didn't know it was a pyramid scheme at first). He was older and combined an interesting history with an easy-going personality. I asked him what he did for work, and he began telling me about an opportunity to make money.I eventually met with him to talk, and he laid out [pyramid scheme organization's] business plan. His presentation lacked detail and focused on the low effort and high returns that depended on me introducing him to my friends so we could get them to become salesmen too (see:  pyramid scheme). When we finished, I told him I'd think about it and respond.

He tried to message me twice more, and then I wrote him (a slightly different version of) the following letter:

Dear [First Name],

I got your text last night, and I realize that you may not be expecting this lengthy e-mail, but meeting with you has gotten me thinking, and I decided it wasn’t fair for me to believe that what [pyramid scheme organization] is doing is wrong without saying something to you. That being said, you’re free to ignore me, but I encourage you to listen to what I have to say.

While I'm partially motivated by anger and annoyance, I want the purpose of this e-mail to be love for you. I want what’s best for you and by telling you what I think is wrong with [pyramid scheme organization] and things you said in your presentation, I hope that I’m acting toward that goal. That’s also why I’d like to invite you to dinner at the Depot Grille at your earliest convenience (though not this weekend as I will be out of town). My treat! More details below.

While I tried to be polite when we met to talk business, my experiences during that meeting were negative. When I first met you, I didn’t know what [pyramid scheme organization] was and was interested, but I quickly learned how the company operates. During our meeting, you said and did things that caused me to doubt your honesty and your disinterested care for me. Whether you are a Christian or no, you must accept the importance of love for others. If you are not a Christian, I apologize, and I’d love to tell you about how God has provided for me—just some simple stories—when we meet at the Depot Grille.

Since I met you at church—and a good church too—I think there’s a chance you may already know Jesus as your savior. If you don’t, I’d only encourage you to read on if your personal philosophy believes in the overpowering importance of loving others. If you are a Christian, please take this list of reasons I think you should stop working for [pyramid scheme organization] as a humble admonition from your son-in-the-faith.

1. [Pyramid scheme organization] is a “legal pyramid scheme that favors early adopters; it does not “create wealth” as you tried to convince me it does. Based on what you told me, [pyramid scheme organization] is 90% encouraging potential salesman to pay startup costs and only 10% connecting people to products. As the Federal Trade Commission says, "Steer clear of multilevel marketing plans [the technical term for {pyramid scheme organization's} program] that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors. They're actually illegal pyramid schemes [though I realize that in 1979 the FTC ruled {pyramid scheme organization} and multi-level marketing as not “illegal per se”]. Why is pyramiding dangerous? Because plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors inevitably collapse when no new distributors can be recruited. And when a plan collapses, most people—except perhaps those at the very top of the pyramid—end up empty-handed."

2. When I told you that I had heard “that it costs money to invest in [pyramid scheme organization],” you denied it. But then during our meeting you told me about an approximately $200 registration fee and the need to purchase $450 of merchandise from [pyramid scheme organization] to begin earning a certain percentage (a percentage that increases with even more purchases), which seemed to be the primary way money is made in this model. While this may not be “investing” per se, you attempted to deceive me based on a technicality when you knew what I meant, which leaves me less able to trust you and unlikely to do business with you.

3. You spoke of mentorship. At first, I was excited by this. I’ve been praying for mentors both in business and in my Christian faith and felt that meeting a man older than I at church who valued this was wonderful. I envisioned us learning from each other and possibly building a strong friendship. But the reason [pyramid scheme organization] and you insist on mentorship is because you want me to introduce you to my friends so that you can sell to them too. Mentorship seemed to be an excuse to use me as an address book to meet my friends. I have to believe you and your company want to mentor me because you stand to profit from my friends. They are my friends, not assets I will monetize for yours, your own mentor’s, [pyramid scheme organization's], or my own gain. I want to love them disinterestedly, and I want joy for them, just as I want joy for you—joy I think no one will gain by taking part in this program.

4. [Pyramid scheme organization's] sales program is not like any of the divine tasks God gave to mankind—to tend the earth (Gen. 1:28), to know Him better (John 17:3), to love others (Matt 22:37-39), etc. If the focus had been on directing people to the products [pyramid scheme organization] offers, your job would be regular sales or an affiliate program, but because, as you told me, the majority of your job is convincing others to sell [pyramid scheme organization] with you and to pay start up costs, your job isn’t about helping people or making the world a better place. It seems to be about syphoning money from others using the power of the promises of insane and easy wealth—a model that the Christian idea of work doesn’t allow for.

5. An easy life and wealth, ideas that permeated your presentation, should never be our life’s goal either. I think it’s okay for anyone to be rich and okay for him or her to work hard, but get-rich-quick schemes like this that promise large amounts of wealth with little work based on getting other people to pay start-up fees are neither honest nor profitable in an eternal sense. Relationships and love and community are better. And this isn’t a matter of preference. This is about loving others more than ourselves (Matt. 22:39) and not falling prey to the allure of wealth (Heb. 13:5, 1 Tim. 6:10). I fall prey to this desire all of the time, and I have to repent consistently.

6. The point at which I knew none of this was above board was when you advised me not to talk to my fiancée (or any other friends) about [pyramid scheme organization] until I could attend your group's weekly meeting. You mentioned “the girls being nervous” or “too worried about the wedding.” I was hurt that you called into question my future wife’s emotional and general intelligence; I respect her decision-making ability far more than you know. Trying to encourage me not to talk to her is you trying to separate us so that you can sell to me without me having a friend to compare notes with. This unwillingness to let me talk to someone of a possibly opposite persuasion not only suggests that you were trying to manipulate me, but also shows how weak your business model is if it’s too afraid to stand up to simple scrutiny. A truly courageous and real business would welcome all challengers. Don’t you want to work for someone who’s doing something real and is proud of it? Someone who's not trying to divide and conquer possible buyers? A business that’s actually helping customers and not simply helping early-adopters and itself by profiteering from those at the bottom of the pyramid?

Pyramid Scheme Salesman, I really like you. You’re a friendly person with an interesting history and good things to talk about—I’d love to hear more about other things you've done, but I’m afraid that if I try to learn more about you, you’ll ignore relationship and instead try to sell me [pyramid scheme organization]. And this is my biggest problem with the entire program: when one sells for [pyramid scheme organization], friendships seem to become means to profit, not means to spread Christ’s love and to learn truth from others—often the first cancels out the other two.

If I sold [pyramid scheme organization], life, for me, would become about leveraging people for money instead of building up the community of believers or discipling others. I didn’t fall prey to [pyramid scheme organization's] promises of wealth, but what about others who don’t have the experience or friends that I have? What about those who get taken advantage both through a loss of money and a loss of integrity? Please think about them. You may not live your life this way in general, but your presentation and the company’s strategies tried to persuade me to do so. You’re such a warm, persuasive, and friendly person that I think God would do wonders through you (and He probably is in other areas of your life) if you diverted the energies you spent on me from making money to spreading love.

I appreciate the food from McDonald’s, the free samples that you gave me from [pyramid scheme organization], and the time and persistence you’ve exerted in working with me. You are an impressive person, and I admire your dedication and energy.

And I’d still like to meet with you at the Depot Grille sometime this week or next. I’ll pay, and let’s just talk and enjoy time together. Let’s be friends! Oh, and your wife’s invited too. I’d love to talk with her more. I may bring a few of my friends as well. I’d love to learn from you both and am even curious to ask questions about marriage since you two seem so happy together.  It’ll be great.

Please know that I truly care about you and really do hope to spend time with you soon.

God Bless!


Clifford Stumme

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