Reader Report: Mesha’s Story on the TEAM LIFE Scam
MLM proponents like to attack their critics with quotes like, “You can never believe everything you read on the Internet,” or, “why would you believe someone who posts anonymously?” What would these proponents say about the LIFE testimonials on the web or the proliferation of LIFE TEAM cheerleadership blogs? Should a prospect instantly believe what he or she reads on those sites just because there’s a photo or name behind the article? What if the LIFE TEAM testimonials are being fabricated or embellished? We’ve already shown on this site how supposedly “job-optional” leaders within TEAM had filed for bankruptcy or initiated strategic defaults on their mortgages, or had their own anonymous blogging efforts revealed.
With that in mind, here’s another reader story from new commenter Meshai (Mesha), which I am sure many people will be able to relate to. I suspect many people within the LIFE TEAM, R3Global, WWDB, or any other MLM are experiencing the same things that Meshai went through. The cognitive dissonance is strong, and the only way to break through is to take a step back (get off the tools) and realize, “What the heck am I doing?” or “What the heck is going on here?”
Hello, it’s “Meshai” again. Here and ready to share my story… and try to keep from rambling too much. I will admit, after reading a lot of the stories on this site from people that have been with TEAM/Amway/etc. for years I feel slightly silly for even writing on this site. I was with TEAM for only a few months and did not recruit a single person into my down line (Thank God). I haven’t suffered the betrayal, or financial losses that so many of you have here. About a month into TEAM, I read some of the stories on this site. I kick myself that I didn’t run for the hills screaming, but I guess I have to see them ‘proven’ through my experiences. It’s better late than never, right?
I feel a sense of loss since I quit, but I also feel like a great burden has been lifted from my shoulders. No more having to make excuses for Orrin and Co., no more cognitive dissonance, no more worrying that I am going crazy, and no more stress over how to afford all this crap. I have the posture that I know that what I am doing (quitting) is right 🙂
I am still trying to sort through all the noise in my head… the confusion… the mixture of events… the anger…. guilt. Feeling like an idiot…. and the yearning for something I know I can never have. This experience has been akin to an adult not believing in Santa; then letting their guard down and saying what if… just to realize he really really isn’t real! Writing helps me sort through my feelings. As I write, I discover. Knowing that I can share my thoughts with others who ‘understand’ and have some background knowledge about the business is good. It feels good to vent. My friends don’t get it. All they see is that one moment I was all gun-ho about this opportunity, and the next I just abruptly stop doing it. They are supportive, and kind of thought the opportunity was questionable the whole time, but don’t really understand why I am so upset. They tell me to move on, and I will…
How I joined
Some background info about me: I am young, idealistic, and was looking for an opportunity to make money and make a difference in other people’s lives. My college degree wasn’t cutting it. I was broke, in a ton of debt, and half the people I knew fit the TEAM stereotype of overworked, underpaid, in debt, TV watching 95%-ers.
I had never heard of TEAM before or even knew what mlm/networking was. I had zero business knowledge or background. I did not understand much of anything about the business except that it was supposed to help me make money. I asked a ton of questions but most were just answered with more questions. (That should have been a warning sign… Duh!) I wasn’t too convinced but just thought ‘what the heck… I don’t have much to lose… I’ll give it a try.’ After all, the friend that invited me had a pretty good head on her shoulders and didn’t fit any crazy mlm/salesperson burnout stereotype.
Because I was curious, I did some web searches at first and didn’t find anything but Orrin Woodward websites. I thought that was kind of odd, but was able to brush that aside. I read the first night pack and remember thinking it was kind of wordy but was really impressed with Orrin’s system. I thought he invented network marketing. Ha!
The idea of TEAM sounded really good. I was always a little reluctant in the back of my mind because it sounded almost too good to be true, but I really brought into their idea of creating a residual, B type income. I have always yearned to make a difference in the world, to set myself apart, and not do what everyone else was doing. I never considered just not working but I have never wanted to work in the same job until retirement. Nor did I want to have as much debt as my parents. Every time I saw the plan, it was like I signed up all over again. I didn’t want to have my life sucked out of me by a job. It didn’t help that I have never had anything but crappy, low wage student jobs.
I liked the idea that I would only be making money if I helped others make money and improve their lives. I loved the uplifting and positive environment. I felt happier when I first became involved with TEAM. Things started to look up and my pessimistic attitude was improving.
A funny thing happened, though. The longer I was there and started to treat ‘the business’ like a business, the more I wanted to make sure that the business was solid. I saw that TEAM was a bigger commitment of time and money than what I had originally thought. I started to take the business more seriously. This wasn’t just going to be some thing or hobby. I saw the potential that was presented, but still didn’t understand how the business really worked. I tried asking my up line, but everything he said sounded like gibberish…or was answered with a question and a CD. I started to get slightly irritated and looked for more info online. I found this site. I read some stories. A lot of it didn’t make any sense, especially sense I didn’t know who half the RT members were or anything about the lawsuit. I was just confused. From this site, I was able to gather that TEAM had screwed a bunch of people over, though. Some stories were so bad that even though they made me want to throw up, I had a hard time believing them. But, the seeds of mistrust had been planted. I was a bit more cautious. I thought I could handle it. I believed that if it was really a scam that I was too smart to get sucked in (oh geez).
I had a hard time believing them because… well… everything seemed so normal. I decided to continue with TEAM after seeing this site. It was my friend who I could see standing in the flesh in front of me vs. ‘anonymous’ people online I had never met. I figured that the possible gain that I could get through TEAM (money beyond my wildest dreams) was worth the possible risk. Ehhh… I know, I know. I had already established a relationship with my friend’s sponsor and the whole group of people they were working with. I am a very loyal person and felt that in some way by going to this site that I had betrayed people I cared about that only wanted to help me. I told them about some things I have heard online and they told me that ‘That was Amway’, that ‘I can’t believe everything I hear online’, and that ‘the internet is like the bathroom wall.’ In general everyone seemed so normal, they went to church, had regular jobs outside of TEAM, and had families. I felt silly for even wondering if this was a cult.
But, I could not deny that something didn’t feel right. I can be a very detailed person, and not having things make perfect sense will drive me mad. Inconsistencies and contradictions were aplenty and the longer I stayed and started to understand LIFE, the more they jumped out at me.
A few of the things that irritated me:
Why was the business so expensive? I just could not fathom why majors were $125 or why I ended up forking over $35 for my first seminar. 😦 I felt like I was being itemized for EVERYTHING. They say they care about and want to reach the world with ‘life changing information’ but that’s only if you can afford it. And now that TEAM has their own mlm based on CDs/books there was no denying that more profits would go back towards TEAM. Would it go back to the average distributer?
How come there is not an income disclosure statement for profit sharing? When I first joined I assumed that I would make money off of the system as well as the LIFE Program. What? How can you tell me that no one makes money off of the system?
How can you loan me old CDs where Orrin and the PC are talking about MonaVie like it’s the cure for AIDS when now the tide has turned? How can I trust you about this LIFE opportunity then?
How can there be LIFE testimonies online before LIFE has even begun?! I understand that some of those testimonies may be for systems CDs before they were moved over to LIFE but the testimonies specifically say LIFE. If they are the same thing and you just changed the name of it, then why do I need to be on system too? How come a lot of the CDs seem to be from seminars that are talking about how I need to be on system? Since I was already on system I didn’t need to hear about getting on system!!! This business seemed to be a never ending circle. Just like the ones I had to draw…
How come Orrin and the PC seemed to think that they were doing us a favor by attending majors and seminars? Sure, Orrin ‘made it’ and doesn’t ‘have’ to be there, but it’s not like they are not getting paid for it.
Cult like Business: I never understood why my upline and the occasional speaker would make jokes about brainwashing. Could you make this business sound anymore cultish? I enjoyed listening to CDs and reading, but it freaked me out to have everyone telling me to listen to more. Every time I had a question, I was always told that it would make more sense after I’ve ‘studied the system’ more. I was told I needed to think about the business in the right way, be more positive, and feed my mind the ‘right’ information… blah, blah, blah. The more CDs I listened to I discovered that every TEAM person I met kind of sounded like a CD.
It also made me feel very, very uncomfortable the way people would edify Orrin.
TEAM started to seem like more than just a business to me, but, rather a lifestyle, a community, a movement. Almost an ideology. Even according to my up line TEAM was a social cause wrapped around a business. We were going to ‘Take Back America’ and restore it to what the founding fathers wanted. We were fighting a media war. What exactly we were aiming to take back America for was so vague that it could almost mean whatever the individual distributor wanted it to. This bothered me. How could we save America through one CD at a time? Freeing up families financially so they have more time to stay at home and raise their children right and turn the tide of this country? Even if this business was a legitimate, working model it doesn’t seem possible for half the country to do MLM. Obviously there needs to be people working JOBS in other sectors of the economy. Of course they may argue that not everyone is called or wants to be a 5%-er, but if TEAM is the only way to make money and free up time, then does that mean that people in unfortunate financial circumstances are just not meant to be 5%-ers or that it is their own damn fault?
Learning how to bring others into the business was probably the most damning thing for me in the business. In my short time here I of course knew that people would at times quit the business. Now, I wanted to have that type B residual income that was promised to me but did not see how it could really be passive income if I kept on needing to recruit people to make up for ones that left. For every question I had the system was usually the answer. “How do bring people in?” The system. “How do I keep people here?” The system (!)… Excuse me while I go throw up.
When I learned about ‘recruiting’ others I felt excited to learn how to build a big business but this led me to reflect on how I was prospected. This edification BS was the weirdest piece of crap I have ever heard of. I remember thinking how cool it was that all these successful leaders were praising my friend when I first started and I wanted a piece of the action… ha-ha… if only I knew that they are supposed to say that things. *Sigh*
And then there’s that whole crosslining rule. What do you mean I can’t talk to someone on a different leg without my upline present? And I’m supposed to be an Independent Business Owner?!
Also, what do you mean most of the PC were there from Amway days?! That’s not very encouraging.
When I think about all the things my up line said to me when I was in I wonder why I didn’t just bounce right then and there. All the mind games… *sigh* I was told that the more ‘information’ I had the better I would feel, that I wouldn’t have as many doubts the more time I spent here with ‘ the association’ and that ‘ the fog would be lifted’. The CDs emphasized the importance of being a ‘rascal’, not caring what others thought, doing the right thing, and being transparent but then I’d see the opposite going on. People who quit were said to be lazy and not have a big enough dream. It was never the fault of leaders or the system.
When I came back to write on this blog I about had it. After all that I wanted to quit but felt like I couldn’t. I will never forget this experience but struggle with explaining it. Here is my best attempt at explaining what happened:
I WANTED to believe that life was as simple as rotating the pattern and becoming rich by helping others become rich. If only all I needed to do in life to have success was follow a system. Sometimes it is easy and less scary to not make choices and just let others make them for us BUT the price to pay is high. I enjoyed the instant community and friends, especially when my personal life outside of TEAM was rocky. The positivity was contagious, and even with all the bs going on felt happier than what I felt in a while. I felt that TEAM helped me make some positive personal choices and I was scared that I was going to lose all that if I left. I had a lot of fear. I was afraid that I was letting my own pessimistic attitude and mistrust of others ruin a good opportunity. I questioned my understanding of the business. Were things really that bad? Did very few people really make money from this business? I was afraid of losing my friendship with my friend as well if I quit, All my childhood fears about people disliking me came back with a vengeance. I knew what ‘Teamers’ felt about people who left the business and couldn’t stand the thought of all my new ‘friends’ thinking I was an idiot either. My friends outside of TEAM thought the association was questionable but supported me either way. When I told my parents about TEAM they looked at me as if I had just told them I was joining the circus… but… supported me as well. It was the people in Team I was worried about. I wanted to quit but just couldn’t bring myself to say that powerful, terminating word. No.
And then there were the CDs. They are addictive. I can see why some people on this site say they are so dangerous. I think listening to them gave me a false sense of history with Orrin and the rest of the PC and RT. So many emotional stories. All the times I remember hearing Orrin speaking things that resonated true with me. I just had a hard time believing that the business was so flawed or that Orrin could do so many horrible, gut wrenching things. Though I had never met most of them up close and personal I felt I had a bound with them.
I didn’t have anything else to offer. If I knocked TEAM, what other solution was I going to come up with that offered the same kind of opportunity? Could TEAM really, really be that bad? Would my friend and the people I’ve developed relationships with really lead me astray? They seem smart. Many people I’ve interacted with in TEAM have been here for a few years. It’s unthinkable to think they are all being scammed… but even more unthinkable to think they may be trying to scam me. But if they are trying to scam me and know what’s going on than they are also scamming themselves? WTF.
Deep down I knew that I just couldn’t do this. How could I look anyone in the eye and say that I was going to help them make money like this? But that’s what I needed to do if I was going to make any money at all with TEAM. I couldn’t do it, but was angry with myself for getting tangled up in this mess. Damn. I was disgusted with myself for caring so much about what other people thought that I was willing to perhaps even invite others to a business that may cause them to lose money. I don’t know why this made me feel so conflicted but I felt so torn that I was about to break. I hated my confusion, but all these overwhelming feelings died down a little into a quiet simmer. I could live with it. I could function with it.
The CDs talked about doing the right thing even when it’s hard, and having exceptional character. It was strange but I felt convicted by these CDs for the very fact that I was still in the business… and yet, somehow after listening to one I always felt better about the business and myself. WTF. The more CDs I listened to, the more I desired to be a person of strength, character, and perseverance but how could I go against the very source that was sending me that message? Was I somehow mistaken? Maybe I was looking for problems. Maybe subconsciously I didn’t want to do the work that this business required. Could it possibly be that I am ‘despising the business I cannot build?’ Did I really want to have a JOB until the day I died because of my stubbornness? Can all these people be wrong? Would Robert Kiyosaki lead people astray??Maybe I am the one who is brainwashed by watching too much TV and being in public school.
I was in a catch-22 so I took the path of least resistance, and I just kind of stayed and kept on going to opens, house plans etc. I started to feel both guilty for going because this business seemed ‘stupid’ but also guilty for the ‘negative thinking’ and doubts I was harboring when I was with them. Whenever I was with TEAM people though, all my beefs with the business seemed slight petty. When I was with them it was easier to believe it was real. I kind of hated the business, yet was running towards it.
I wanted to have this be right. So in order to make it right I came up with all these justifications in my mind for things that I saw wrong with the TEAM. They basically sounded like this. (A bunch of incoherent ramblings going on in my mind):
- I told myself that though the stories on this blog sounded convincing, so do Orrin and the rest of the TEAM… Who am I going to trust?
- If Orrin really did all those bad things he would have been caught by now
- Do I really have the right to be critical? I don’t have ‘fruit on the tree’
- Maybe some people lost their teams because they broke some of the rules
- Orrin has a right to make money
- If I don’t want someone to make money off of me then I shouldn’t even get up in the morning
- This business is the cheapest provider of leadership materials in the country and they even give me a chance to earn all my money back and then some
- What does it matter if only a few people at the top make money? It’s the same way in acting or sports
- Why shouldn’t I encourage my friends to do this? If they get in I’ll help them make money and I won’t until they do
- It’s not a pyramid because the person below you can make more money than you
- What’s so bad with having a business built on belief? If people didn’t trust the banks and took all their money out today then the economy would crash
- How is this business a cult? Because they want me to believe in myself?
I was able to think of rebuttals (not very good ones, mind you) for every previous argument that I had. The system created the perfect environment for me to do this as well. For a very short period of time the business seemed to make perfect sense to me and I became actually pretty excited, but then finally I kind of realized in horror what I was doing to myself and everything came tumbling down with a hard, loud, thud. (I still need an aspirin… or hard liquor :))
I was confused again but in my confusion I knew that I needed to — no questions about it — run.
I decided that even though I would miss the business and mourn the death of an ‘opportunity’, a lifestyle, and a way of thinking, that the best thing for me would be to quit. I know I cannot go back to this mind f*ck. Even if it meant me scrubbing toilets a minimum wage for the rest of my life (I don’t think that’s very likely though). The crazy thing was, I realized what Orrin had been saying all along was true. If I REALLY studied the system and did EXACTLY what Orrin did, then I might just be on my way to having that kind of wealth, but I can’t do that because I didn’t create the system. Is that how he justifies screwing people? Some of his quotes make me think he wants to see how obvious he can make his scam and get away with it.
In the end the business was too questionable and I could not, in good faith, be involved with it. I needed to choose doing the right thing… even over friendship. I just pray that my friend gets out soon. I realized that TEAM could have me, someone that cared so much what others thought; out there doing God knows what- all for approval. I feel like I am a stronger person for having to make this choice, for sticking to what I know is right in my heart. For being able to find my north star… ha-ha. For doing the right thing even though it hurts.
And lastly, Thanks to each and every one of you for posting your stories here. Your stories have posted those seeds of doubt which caused me to question the way things appeared, as well validated things I already noticed. You are the real heroes.