|Style over substance|
Market America (aka Shop.com) is a multilevel marketing (MLM) business in which participants pay substantial fees for training materials to supposedly learn how to sell overpriced products in exchange for a very skimpy commission. Like most MLM's, the products are irrelevant, since the "business" is actually an endless-chain recruitment plan. And that means distributors recruiting new distributors ad infinitum so that money flows upward in a distinct pyramid shape. Fittingly enough, their CEO bears a striking resemblance to Jim Jones.
In 2017, Market America faced racketeering charges in Federal court for operating an illegal pyramid scheme that targeted Chinese immigrants.
Prospects are recruited to attend small regional meetings or large national events where they are subjected to an unending barrage of motivational speakers and glitzy media presentations designed to create feelings of excitement, overconfidence and greed. Success stories and testimonials are showcased that portray ordinary people rapidly ascending to happiness and riches thanks to the remarkable opportunities provided by Market America.
Their message is that regular jobs are for suckers. Prospects are told that a traditional career on a fixed salary is a formula for disappointment, and only by becoming an independent Market America distributor will they get on the fast track to earning the vast rewards they so obviously deserve. During these vigorous indoctrinations, the term multilevel marketing is studiously avoided in favor of buzzwords such as "unfranchise", "product brokerage", "one-to-one marketing", and "mass customization." The products consist of various dietary supplements, cosmetics, weight-loss programs, and household cleaners that are touted as high value items that practically sell themselves.
After paying a joining fee and being compelled to purchase expensive training materials that consist of instruction in recruiting new distributors and generic believe-in-yourself hype, members are billed in advance for 3 months worth of product inventory, and for every month thereafter. They quickly discover that trying to sell products that are similar to those available at local retail stores (but priced a bit higher) is a losing proposition.
Like Amway, Herbalife, Scentura, and many other MLM's, what Market America's "independent business owners" really learn is that it's not about selling the products, it's about getting others to join the system. In order to make any significant amount of money, they must convince others to become distributors like themselves who have paid fees for training materials and get billed for monthly shipments of products. They are then able to receive a regular "share" of monies received from the new recruits. Critics call this a pyramid scheme, and have pointed out the sobering fact that out of every 100 people, 98 will lose money (some will lose a LOT of money), 1 will break even (more or less) and 1 will make back a little more than they invested.
Knowing that people are justifiably skeptical of Market America's claims, shills have set up a number of scam websites and YouTube videos designed to mislead people into thinking they have found an independent evaluation of the business. For example, Googling the phrases "Market America scam?" or "Market America legit?" results in a majority of sites that initially appear skeptical, but quickly segue to glowing testimonials for Market America's legitimacy.
- This "business opportunity" will cost you big bucks. Ethan Vanderbilt.
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver features a sampling of CEO JR Ridinger's onstage antics.
- Market America faces federal racketeering suit CBS News
- CEO JR Ridinger compares people with jobs to hamsters on a treadmill YouTube
- "Market America's Dream Machine" Businessweek
- "Market America Scam"
- Typical blog shill
- Typical YouTube shill
- The Truth Behind the Smoke and Mirrors of Multi-Level Marketing and Network Marketing by Winston Wu