My MLM Was Racist

I left an MLM because of the culture as much as the bad business model

Regina Rodríguez-Martin
9 min readApr 7, 2020

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I’m a failure as a multi-level marketer. This failure happened with Arbonne International, a multi-level marketing company (MLM, but it’s also called network marketing) for which I was a “consultant” for about five months in 2014. You might already have heard how exploitative MLMs are and how they rely on recruiting new sellers more than on selling product. Here’s the Chicana experience I had.

Your typical body care product goes from the manufacturing plant to a warehouse to a distributer to the customer, increasing in price at each step. Arbonne cut out most of those parts of the chain and has their consultants sell directly to consumers. And that would be fine if most of the money came from consumers in exchange for products.

But according to Jane Marie in season one of The Dream podcast, MLMs are just one step up from pyramid schemes. Pyramid schemes — which were big in the U.S. in the 1970s and 80s — required participants to constantly bring new people into the pyramid. The new people gave money to the current participants, and the new people only got money when they brought in even newer people. In a pyramid scheme, there is no product. It’s just a bunch of money going around that mostly benefitted the people who joined earliest. Pyramid…

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Regina Rodríguez-Martin

Mexican American. Chicagoan. Generation X. Relishes questions of human behavior. Nobody’s mother and nobody’s wife. Blog: https://www.reginachicana.com.