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Introduction Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Epilogue


The Perils of Amway, continued

At this point it is important that I once again qualify my information by saying that I never signed up as an active distributor for the Amway Corporation. The arguments in here are my own opinions, based on a summary of what I've read and understood. By this time there are a good many pages written by former distributors, and if you're looking for more hard evidence (financial statements, statistics, testimonials, and so forth) please be sure to check out my links.

Although I am not an expert, I feel entitled to present this information because I had some very strong personal experiences with Amway before reading these documents, and everything I read tended to be exactly on target when I compared it to my own observations. Whereas it had taken Ted two weeks to break down my natural skepticism and get me to trust him and Amway, it took about thirty seconds of reading to spin me around 180 degrees, because all the new information struck me as obvious right away. So if you skipped directly to this page, you might want to consider reading my story later after you've heard all the information. That way, you can have the benefit of my experiences without having to go through them yourself... or worse, learning the hard way after spending a few years as a distributor.

"Make something of your life, boy, let me into your mind."

-- Queensryche Operation : Mindcrime

Part 2: You will be assimilated.

Here's the first thing I concluded: the distributor game, as a rule, simply does not make you rich. You might think you could still break even, but you'd be wrong. Remember now how I said that there were over a thousand tapes to be listened to. Five dollars apiece. And there were also lots of motivational books to be read. And there were Amway meetings, several times per week, which were not free either; Ted had been paying my way because it's such a "people helping people" business, but once I signed up I naturally would have had to pay for everything. A small event costs you $10, a large event costs you maybe $50, and one of the nation-wide conferences can cost $100 a ticket; factor in travel and lodging, and you could be looking at around $500 or more. Obviously travel is a necessity since not all the meetings will be local, and there's also the kind of errands for each prospect that Ted was running for me: driving a half hour to my house, giving free goodies, and so on. (One guy claimed that his biggest expense was gas mileage, $2000 in one year for doing Amway-related traveling alone.)

Can you get by in Amway without listening to tapes, reading books, and going to conferences? Why sure; nobody's forcing you to do all that. But this is what I want to stress here: everyone from Amway tells you unequivocally that you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT SUCCEED without buying the "educational" material which is at the core of Amway. Well, sure enough, my experiences tended to confirm that. You can't succeed without the motivational materials. The problem is, your chances of succeeding WITH the motivational materials aren't so hot either. (Amway will not release information that flatly states how many people turn a profit; however, some very good calculations have been done on this page and this page which both estimate that less than one percent are earning any money whatsoever, even a very small amount.)

SO, your upline will tell you that you can't be successful without tapes and so forth. But I told you (and many other people also feel) that I found all the tapes to be repetitive, vague, and unhelpful! So why do you need them? Why is it urgently fed into your mind that you must listen to the tapes every day, and read all the books, and go to every meeting you can? I'll tell you why, and the reason is devastatingly simple: the guys on top are making their millions of dollars off of book, tape and ticket sales. And that is the only money that constitutes a positive cash flow through Amway.

Hey, don't leave yet! I'm just getting started.

The core of the business

What material is actually contained in these motivational items? Amwayites may be a captive audience, but even they could recognize it if they were listening to the exact same message word for word a thousand times. So obviously something meaningful must be contained in there, right? You bet. Amway propaganda is designed to tell you the following things, and tell you them so often that you get them drilled into your mentality:

  • The world of work is futile. You cannot succeed in business. Holding down a job or even being president of a normal (non-Amway based) corporation is for idiots and losers who have no direction in life.
  • Trust your upline. The higher the better. Diamond-level distributors are rich because they know everything. Every moment that you spend speaking to a Diamond is a precious opportunity that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
  • You hate your job, and so does everyone else in the world.
  • Amway's policies do not always make sense to you, because you aren't in a position to understand yet. Trust your upline. You may lose money for a short time, but you must take it on FAITH that the wealth will come soon.
  • Amway people are your friends. People who knock Amway are not your friends. Trust your upline. Speak to them not only about "your" business, but also about your personal life. They can solve anything, even your marriage problems.
  • Make a permanent commitment to buy only Amway products for the rest of your life whenever you can. Amway sells everything you need: soap, food, clothes, cars, computers, sex (just kidding), appliances, business supplies... everything. By buying only Amway, you will be saving money; you will also be giving a small bonus to yourself and a large one to your upline. Helping your upline indirectly helps you. Trust your upline.
  • Amway is for winners. Once you have seen what Amway can do for you, if you back out then you are a loser. It is FEAR and fear alone that prevents anyone from succeeding in the Amway business. People who don't have the guts to make it in Amway deserve to be mocked and ridiculed; not necessarily as individuals, but as a collective group of weaklings.
  • Use whatever tactics you can to acquire a large downline. When you go to meet potential new recruits, play off their hopes and fears. The most popular technique is to make them trust you so that they'll tell you what their "big dream" is for future success. Then use it against them, constantly.
  • At no time should you mention to recruits that your "business opportunity" is really Amway, because they might have heard negative things. Ideally the word "Amway" should never pass your lips until you've spoken to them at least three times and you think they're already being reeled in.
  • Trust your upline.

Cult classic

Those are the main doctrines of Amway. According to information gleaned from the Cult Awareness Network in Chicago, obtained via Sidney Schwartz's web page, the following are primary characteristics of a cult:

"Destructive cults fall into several different categories, including: 1. Religious, 2. Therapy/Self-Awareness, 3. Political, 4. Commercial, 5. New Age, 6. Satanic/Ritual Abuse.

    Marks Of A Destructive Cult

  • Mind Control (undue influence): Manipulation by the use of coercive persuasion or behavior modification techniques without informed consent.
  • Charismatic Leadership: Claiming divinity or special knowledge and demanding unquestioning obedience with power and privilege. Leadership may consist of one individual or a small group of core leaders.
  • Deception: Recruiting and fundraising with hidden objectives and without full disclosure of the use of mind controlling techniques; use of "front groups."
  • Exclusivity: Secretiveness or vagueness by followers regarding activities and beliefs.
  • Alienation: Separation from family, friends and society, a change in values and substitution of the cult as the new "family;" evidence of subtle or abrupt personality changes.
  • Exploitation: Can be financial, physical or psychological; pressure to give money, to spend a great deal on courses or give excessively to special projects and to engage in inappropriate sexual activities, even child abuse.
  • Totalitarian Worldview (we/they syndrome): Effecting dependence, promoting goals of the group over the individual and approving unethical behavior while claiming goodness.

Techniques Of Mind Control

  • Group pressure and "Love-Bombing" discourages doubts and reinforces the need to belong through the use of child-like games, singing, hugging, touching or flattery.
  • Isolation/Separation creates inability or lack of desire to verify information provided by the group with reality.
  • Thought-Stopping Techniques introduce recruit to meditating, chanting, and repetitious activities which, when used excessively, induce a state of high suggestibility.
  • Fear and Guilt induced by eliciting confessions to produce intimacy and to reveal fears and secrets, to create emotional vulnerability by overt and covert threats, as well as alternation of punishment and reward.
  • Sleep Deprivation encouraged under the guise of spiritual exercises, necessary training, or urgent projects.
  • Inadequate Nutrition sometimes disguised as special diet to improve health or advance spirituality, or as rituals requiring fasting.
  • Sensory Overload forces acceptance of complex new doctrine, goals and definitions to replace old values by expecting recruit to assimilate masses of information quickly with little or no opportunity for critical examination.

NOTE: Not all of these features need to be present simultaneously for a mind control regime to be operative.

Harmful Effects

  • Loss of free will and control over one's life.
  • Development of dependency and return to child-like behavior.
  • Loss of spontaneity or sense of humor.
  • Inability to form intimate friendships outside the cult or enjoy flexible relationships.
  • Physical deterioration and abuse.
  • Psychological deterioration (including hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, disorientation, and dissociation).
  • Involuntary, de facto servitude or exploitation.

    NOTE: Not all of these harmful effects will be experienced by everyone who has a destructive cult experience."

NOTE: Not all of these harmful effects will be experienced by everyone who has a destructive cult experience."

A bit more than a passing similarity, I think you'll agree.

A call to action!

I went on to read a number of stories from people claiming they had lost all contact with their friends and families, and had no social ties outside of Amway. Why? Because they had become salesmen and saleswomen, not just as a job but ALL THE TIME. Everybody they met off the street was a potential recruit, and they couldn't be in a conversation for five minutes without going into a pitch. Gradually their personalities had changed without them realizing it, until they realized that Amway members were, in fact, the only people left in the world that they could relate to.

What have we learned so far? That Amway bankrupts people by forcing them to pay money for reeducation, which profits no one except those at the highest levels. That Amway uses said motivational materials to crush your spirit and make you dependent on them for all your needs in life, be they financial, emotional, or spiritual. That Amway demands fundamental changes in your personality which wreck your personal relationships. Is it overreacting to think that Amway is an honest-to-god cult? I'm not so sure. It's up to you to make the call.

Well, I was sickened by this information, but at the same time I felt elevated and much stronger than I had in a long time. It is said that the truth will set you free, and I felt very much like that. I could feel my mind growing clearer as I read more, as I shook out the mental acid which had been eating at me for two weeks.

And I felt a wide variety of other emotions as well. First I was really mad because I knew I'd been manipulated. Then I realized that being mad was useless, because the people who had manipulated me were themselves being manipulated! Yes, Ted seemed to me like an unprincipled salesman who had preyed on my emotions to get my cooperation, but he didn't realize he was doing so. He really and truly believed that he was offering me a legitimate business opportunity, which would help both him and me to become rich and happy. But Ted had been in the business for a year, and he only had four people downline. (That's pitiful!) And chances were, few people in Ted's upline knew what kind of bad things they were doing either. For most of the higher-ups, it was obviously too late. But Ted was getting swindled worse than I was.

And what about all the innocent people who got into it every day? They weren't to blame for letting their greed and their imaginations run away with them; after all, I was almost one of them. Wouldn't more people profit from this information? Hey, the world wide web is a fantastic forum of knowledge, and it's unique because everybody has a fair chance to speak; nobody can dictate what gets published. But most people don't use the web.

I was out. I knew in a moment that I would never join the Amway sales force. But later that night I asked myself, was it enough? I was developing this Lone Ranger complex, struck with the idea that I'd like to make a difference in some people's lives. How could I do that? What would you do if you were in my shoes?