Too good to be true? Probably

by Cory Pfister

Since they stared in the early 1980’s, multi-level marketing (MLM) businesses, also known as “pyramid schemes,” have plagued, exploited and either helped people make or lose money fast.

Some of these companies, such as International Dynamics out of West Des Moines, have advertised part-time marketing jobs to students at Simpson.

Freshman Sean Taylor eyed one of these advertisements in Barker Hall at the beginning of the year. He contacted the company and set up an interview with the hopes of making some extra cash.

He was met by an enthusiastic woman telling him about the “amazing products they were offering for an amazing price.”

“When I was brought in for the interview, there were about 30 people there all interviewing for the same thing,” Taylor said. “They were very vague about important details, like what we were actually doing for them.”

After the interview, Taylor was approached by a distributor for International Dynamics, Leo Zebol. He offered a trip to Chicago to educate the new members on the products they would be selling.

“There was a $60 down payment I made with my bank card,” Taylor explained. “If I didn’t want to go or if I didn’t like the trip, I’d be reimbursed the rest of the $250.”

When Taylor later explained he would not be able to attend the trip, he was surprised to find the whole cost of the trip charged on his bank card.

Senior Ryan Schmitz also received a call from Zebol, offering an interview as well.

“[Zebol] said he wanted to have an interview. When I walked in, it was a group interview,” Schmitz said.

Schmitz realized during the pitch that International Dynamics was a MLM business and skipped out during the interview.

“I thought it was funny that they never asked me what my major was or what I was interested in,” Schmitz said.

MLM programs are mostly made up of sales pitches and marketing.

“It’s like trying to get someone to buy detergent when they’ve been buying ‘Cheer’ for years,” Senior Ryan Schmitz said. “It’s hard convincing people to buy a brand they’ve never heard of rather than buying a name brand they’re familiar with.”

In some cases, MLM programs can be good for sellers and their distributors.

Companies like Amway offer distributors many benefits, according to their web site. Some are financial, others are intangibles, such as “peer recognition, pride in achievement, the joy of helping others, working with family, and the esteem of owning your own business.”