As I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across an article that REALLY spoke to me. As I quickly read it, I felt myself nodding along and actually saying “YES that’s it!” out loud.
And that’s because almost every time I scroll through Facebook, I see another sales pitch for a direct sales company, like LuLaRoe, Scentsy, Beachbody, etc etc etc. I have nothing against people (women, almost exclusively, and in my case, military wives) trying to make money for their families, and I’ve definitely bought from some of these companies, but it still just blows my mind how so many military spouses seem to get sucked into these multilevel marketing schemes. Can they really be making much off of it? Are the products worth their value, or even safe? Is it worth all of their time and effort? It sometimes seems like an “easy” way to make a few bucks and stay at home with the fam, but if you even start to scratch the surface of these companies, it can start to sound like they’re taking advantage of these women.
And to quote the article I came across, “To me, on the outside, it looked like overcompensation. It seemed like they were selling out and settling for a job that could potentially steal away time and money without much to show for it. I thought — perhaps narrow-mindedly — that they could do better than a kit and a sales pitch.” (yeah, get ready for me to quote entire paragraphs in place of my writing because the author just put my feelings into words SO PERFECTLY)
I can understand the feeling of wanting to settle for a job that’s not necessarily using all of my abilities, and wanting to get a paycheck with minimal effort. Especially as a military spouse, it can be hard to find a job right away after you move across the country, with few connections and a job market that might not be calling your name. Admittedly, I’ve considered taking up one of these direct sales gigs, as an “on the side thing” or until I found a “real” job, and because the discounts once you become a seller sound pretty appealing. But the more I thought about all of the time you put into social media and (sometimes aggressive) recruiting of your friends for sales and the money you have to sink into it, the less appealing it began to sound.
But the draw is very real for many military spouses. I don’t have kids yet, so I can’t speak to that aspect personally, but I think it’s wonderful to have the choice to stay at home with your children and be there for every bit of life. If you have the ability to be a stay-at-home-mom and it’s your choice, then go for it! At the same time, the fulfillment of a career and the ability to contribute to the family income can be extremely important, if not necessary, for many women. But there can be societal roadblocks upon roadblocks for civilian wives and military spouses alike. As the author wrote, “I’ve met wives who intended to become teachers, researchers, realtors, and nurses but ended up as housewives or stay-at-home moms due to military moves.” I’m worried about becoming one of them, but that’s another blog post.
Then in come the direct sales companies, with their alluring calls of “a sense of achievement, mentorship, community, or purpose,” and on top of all of that – $$$.
The article goes on to reveal that hey, there’s really not that much money in it for the people doing the selling and the women that sell for these companies are barely compensated for all of the work that they actually put in. Some companies even give retail credit instead of actual money! “The MLM industry can be a wake-up call to communities and companies. Women are so motivated to work that they’ll do it for next to nothing and will bring their friends, relatives, and neighbors into their businesses. Imagine how successful they’d be if they were given the adequate support, flexibility, and training to do it in your office.” I couldn’t agree more.
So with all of this in mind about the sliiiiightly shady aspects of these companies and how they miiiiight be taking advantage of some groups of women, why do I still click on their sales pitches and go their parties and browse through their catalogs? Why am I in Facebook groups made for these women, my almost-friends, to sell me products? Just like the author experienced, who is also a military spouse, after I did my first PCS to Ohio and was looking to connect with spouses and make friends and build relationships – and if listening to their sales pitches was a way to at least dip my toe into their circles, then I figured I should hear them out. It’s women helping women, right? “Psychologists would probably say that some of this impulse was due to my gender; women who want to protect relationships often avoid the disruption of saying no.” Will I come across as rude if I remove myself from this Facebook page, or say no to an event? Will people look at me differently if I write this blog post, or feel uneasy around me? Will I come across as a rude outsider who puts down their lifestyle? Will I lose friends? (and when I say friends, I mean acquaintances who might not consider me their actual friend, but who I can talk to at spouses events and whose posts I like on Facebook) I debated whether or not I should actually write this post, let alone share the article on its own.
To each their own, I guess? I’m glad that these direct sales companies allow women to get a sense of fulfillment from this type of work, that they can contribute to their household income and make connections with other women. Our society tends to make it hard for women to have families and work and keep their sanity all at the same time, so many women have found direct sales as their way around that obstacle. But it’s hard not to feel skeptical and wary, and even concerned that these women are not only selling themselves short, but losing money in the process. I’ve got a lot of feelings about this, and this article REALLY brought them out!!! And it expressed those feelings much more eloquently than I could. So go read it. Merp.