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Cincinnati Enquirer Article on Vemma and the Promise of the Youth Market

July 13, 2014
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Amber Hunt from the Cincinnati Enquirer has published a new article on Vemma, a multi-level marketing company that recruits younger, college-age people to hawk energy drinks. The report provides a good introduction to both Vemma and the MLM industry and solicits input and quotes from both critics and supporters.

While the article states that the emphasis on recruiting young adults is unique to Vemma, there are signs that other companies are shifting their focus to do the same. LIFE has its EDGE-series, which targets youths aged 12 and up1. MonaVie recently launched MonaVie Mynt which goes after those in the connected-generation, Generation C. In the late 1990’s, Amway changed its name to Quixtar in the attempt to distance itself from its controversial history and appeal to those growing up in the early years of the Internet.

This demographic is impressionable and ambitious, yet they lack wisdom and experience when it comes to identifying illegal pyramid schemes and dubious business opportunities. As a result, they may be more easily swayed by stories and promises of being financially free in three to five years. The statistics show that the majority of MLM participants do not make much money, let alone enough money to become financially set for life. What happens when these people find themselves years later in greater debt and with the emotional baggage that comes from participating in a business where they are led to believe that they are losers for quitting or that they didn’t succeed because they didn’t work hard enough?

If one has any experience the multi-level marketing companies, one might not detect anything terribly new in the two articles. Many of the quotes that were solicited about Vemma could apply to any number of MLM’s in existence today. Still, it’s important for MLM critics to urge news agencies to continue investigating and reporting on companies that are preying on consumers. An informed consumer is a smart consumer, one who will be less susceptible to the slick presentations and false promises given by many MLM participants.

Finally, contacting the Federal Trade Commission and your local attorney general about MLM’s in your area is another option that concerned consumers should consider. In recent years, a number of companies have been shut down by the government for being scams, pyramid or ponzi schemes, in part based on complaints filed by the public.

For more on the Cincinnati Enquirer articles and Vemma, check out The Revanchist on his anti-Vemma blog, YPR Pariah.


1 These kids can’t have a business until they are adults; that doesn’t stop LIFE from getting them hooked on to its products from an early age.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Melanie Morgan permalink
    July 13, 2014 8:45 am

    Great write up Amthrax. I find it tragic (but oh not surprising and mostly desperate) they are targeting the “young” and impressionable for the simple fact that once they are sucked into any MLM, so many “buy into” the false promises, rhetoric, indoctrination and continue (for many) a life time of being churned through the MLM scams and end up being yet another die-hard, annoying MLMer.

    I am finding the Herbalife unraveling is getting quite interesting to say the least.🙂 Seems to me as they say: “You can’t stop something who’s time has come.”🙂

  2. Melanie Morgan permalink
    July 13, 2014 8:50 am

    I just saw this quote: “Let’s raise children who don’t have to recover from their childhoods.~ Pam Leo….How fitting.

  3. July 13, 2014 9:47 am

    Brutal! Like student loans don’t put you in enough debt in college. Ugh! I’m glad the kid in the article listened to his parents and got out after 6 months, hopefully he can keep others at his school from falling into the same trap. So sad!

  4. Melanie Morgan permalink
    July 14, 2014 7:59 am

    Katie~

    Yes and worse by targeting the young,it compounds so many more losses. For them and their families. If they become cultish, weird & annoying “recruiters” then their so called ‘friends’ will become limited to (business only and then they will only be able to talk to those ONLY on their team).That is not free….the other kids will find it weird and think they are in a cult and eventually avoid them like the plague! Their language and thinking will also become limited to the dogma and same old repeated quotes….

    But they will argue.. they are teaching these kids the best information in the world and “changing the world”…teaching them how to be “winners”, “successful” ( according to their definition of fruit on the tree..materialistic) The environment is very controlled on what to read, think, and say…they think they have all the answers and are the only ones in the world who have “right thinking.”

    It is so easy to see this now, but while in you are convinced everything outside of them is inferior, breeds the arrogance and they end up ‘hating’ on others outside of them and nothing, because they are so full of themselves they believe nothing is as good as them….

  5. July 16, 2014 3:40 am

    I am curious as to how you all would respond to this question. We have researched “Life” , and Amthrax and other MLM sites and commentaries/blogs extensively. In light of the truth that 99% of people will never make any money, and more than likely will be losing money, and we have even read that only 1 in 4,000 people will make any appreciable income working for this organization, would you all consider it wrong (or a sin) to be promoting a company as a viable business in the face of this fact. Would be very interested in your response to this, especially after reading the above article where these products are being promoted by young people through the vehicle of MLM. Very disturbing!!

  6. freedomhaha permalink
    July 17, 2014 7:39 am

    Jemily52- It is unquestionably wrong in my eyes to promote one of these companies.

  7. July 17, 2014 9:05 am

    @jemily52 – I’m more interested in hearing what MLM proponents have to say when posed your question. It’s safe to say that long-time readers of this blog — like @freedomhaha — will say it’s wrong.

  8. freedomhaha permalink
    July 17, 2014 11:33 am

    Amthrax and Jemily52- I would like to amend my previous statement. It is unquestionably wrong in my eyes to promote one of these companies if you are doing it KNOWINGLY.

  9. exTEAMster permalink
    July 18, 2014 4:46 am

    I believe it is wrong for an individual to sell someone on the idea of how much money they can earn when that individual has yet to earn anywhere near those amounts in the MLM being discussed. In fact I would like to see the FTC require all of these companies to include income disclosure statements as part of any material that is distributed regarding potential earnings in that venture.

  10. July 18, 2014 6:35 am

    It’s my understanding that this is required by the FTC: http://www.business.ftc.gov/multimedia/videos/business-opportunity-rule

    The problem is that consumers don’t understand or are not shown the truth behind the figures. This is why analyses of IDS documents are useful, because they show the math and percentages behind the lofty numbers (i.e. the majority of MLM participants do not make any money in the venture, and the money is primarily going to those at the top of the pyramid).

  11. July 18, 2014 9:37 am

    Thank you so much for your responses. I was beginning to hear crickets and wondered if I had crossed the line by posing an honest question. I know there is a Bible verse that says ‘ To know to do right and to do it not, to him it is sin.’ I believe that a person should always consider others in the choices that they make and to do a great deal of homework before ever asking someone else to join them in an mlm endeavor, esp. when the law says they are 100% responsible for the success of their down line. Would a responsible person allow someone else to fly an airplane that was 99% likely to crash after takeoff? Or do we just shrug our shoulders and let them find out for themselves?! My ‘mother heart’ for these people says we need to warn them that it does not end well for people that are involved in this for any length of time. My husband spoke to a man last evening that was involved in Life who lost $2,000 in a very short amount of time. And over and over we read story after story of those voices ‘crying in the wilderness’ because of lost time with family and broken relationships, not to mention lost money. So grievous and preventable if educated about these schemes. I still want to hear from others on this issue. Please, please please let us know what you think. Thank you!! Not to mention the ‘den of theives’ who are waiting at the other end….

  12. exTEAMster permalink
    July 18, 2014 11:56 am

    I can’t speak for anyone else but I know that during my time with LIFE (especially the early years) I approached prospects with the genuine belief that what I was offering them — be it the products themselves or the business — was something they would truly benefit from. Thats because early on I enjoyed the products and believed the opportunity was truly unique. The longer I was in it and started to question the benefit I was receiving, particularly in light of the time and money invested, the harder it became to ask others to do something I was becoming less enthusiastic about doing. So I’m not sure I would categorize the typical MLM participant as being guilty of a ‘sin.’ But I believe many who leave MLMs feel remorse for those who followed them and had similarly outcomes.

  13. exTEAMster permalink
    July 20, 2014 7:25 pm

    Add the ARIZONA REPUBLIC to the list of papers examining the validity of Vemma’s marketing efforts

  14. Brent Hansen permalink
    July 22, 2014 8:29 pm

    @exTeamster, I experienced the same fading enthusiasm you did. As the luster begins to fade, and you realize exactly what you are part of, shame and guilt begin to take over.

    I remember a particular point (after about 9 years of working my ass off), when I sat across the table from a couple, looking in their eyes and thinking that there was no way in hell that they would ever be able to do what I had been doing for nine years, with no profits to speak of.

    That was the moment I knew I couldn’t continue living the lie, when I stopped believing the crap that they had been shovelin for almost a decade. That was the moment that I began to free my mind from the horrible fog that had enveloped it for years.

    I look back on that moment and thank God that I stopped believing, otherwise I would be absolutely destitute right now.

    People don’t understand how powerful of a grasp that their “dream” has over them, it’s really quite sad.

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