The Atlantic

Beware of Selling Yoga Pants on Facebook

Is the social-media gig economy a form of entrepreneurship, fraud—or something else entirely?
Source: Brittain Peck

“Hi! I noticed you posted about your cold today. It sucks to be sick. I thought maybe you’d like to try some greens! I love them; I swear, you’ll never get sick again!”

I did not want the greens.

This was the third time my friend from college had tried to sell them to me online. She also did things like post statuses about “That Crazy Wrap Thing” that her friends were supposed to pretend were not advertisements. My aunt who homeschools her seven children sells organic cleaning supplies. A poet I know says she sells online for the community it gives her. A young college administrator likes it for the freebies and the friendships. A stay-at-home mom said she was using a lot of makeup anyway, so Younique only made sense.

Multilevel marketing goes by many names. Those being propositioned often think of multilevel marketing as a pyramid scheme or scam; those selling believe the business model is a straightforward way to earn extra income from home. Here’s how it works: “Consultants”—sellers for a direct-sales company—solicit new recruits to sell products online, and, in addition to their own sales, those consultants then earn a percentage of their recruits’ sales. Those recruits, in turn, then sign up still more online sellers and earn a percentage of their sales, and so on. It’s “Avon calling!” for the internet age. And as was the case back in Avon’s heyday of the 1950s and 1960s, the vast majority of sellers are women—many of them stay-at-home mothers.

While there isn’t any precise data on how many mothers moonlight as salespeople, websites promoting MLM work seem to be everywhere online—including one site called Stay a Stay at Home Mom. Kristen Duvall, a self-employed ghostwriter and multilevel-marketing retailer in California, sells both Jamberry and Perfectly Posh products online. She says she makes a few hundred dollars of income each month. Duvall said selling for Jamberry, which sells trendy nail wraps, is fun for her. “It’s this community of collectors and fans that swap wraps like baseball cards,” she said. It’s true: Collectors can trade a limited-edition wrap pattern for double to triple the amount they originally paid. The same goes for the clothing company LuLaRoe, another multilevel-marketing operation, where limited prints can sell for hundreds of dollars in profit.

The sellers find out about the newly, and they talk about it nonstop.”

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