Last night I was bathing my 3-week-old daughter and she was screaming like a banshee. The shrieking was similar to something that Mary Murphy would do while judging a routine that she loved on "So You Think You Can Dance?" If you don't know who she is, just watch this video and you will get the picture. It gets really good at the :45 second mark, so hang in there. (And yes, I watch SYTYCD? with my wife even though most of the guys on the show make me feel a little bit awkward and everything I know about dance was learned from "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo". Guys, you are completely justified in calling me a sissy right now, but what else is there to watch until the NFL season kicks off? I am a sucker for reality television and spending time with the Normal Mormon Wife, and this lets me do both. Am I the lone man watching SYTYCD?, or do other guys watch this estrogen-rich show as well?)
Anyway, the phone rang while I was bathing the miniature human noise maker and it was for me. My wife handed me the phone and said, "I don't know who it is, but they asked for you and they have an 801 area code." The mystery voice on the other end of the phone played the whole, "Do you recognize my voice?" routine with me. After a few failed guesses on my part, I concluded that it was either going to be a very good call (e.g. reconnecting with a long lost friend) or a really, really bad call (e.g. a shady figure from my past attempting to extort money from me because of something dumb I did when I was eleven).
In a way, I guess it was both.
You see, it actually was one of my long lost friends who called me out of the blue to reconnect. I had not spoken with this person in about ten years and was thrilled to get a call from him. In order to protect the innocent, I'll refer to my friend as "Eddie". Eddie and I spent about 15 minutes just rehashing old times, talking about work, family, church and how our lives have changed over the years. We both probably said, "Man, it's great to talk to you!" about a dozen times.
After we caught each other up about our lives there was a slight lull in the conversation. Eddie broke the silence with the dreaded line that we have all heard before - "So anyway, the reason I called is because I have a fantastic business opportunity that I would like to share with you..."
I have had this exact same experience happen three or four times over the past two years and the "business opportunity" angle has caught me by surprise every time. I feel like a total chump (I accidentally typed "chimp" instead of "chump", but I guess either word would suffice) because I am always thinking they are going to say, "So anyway, the reason I called is because I still consider you a good friend and I want us to keep in touch. I would also like to give you four thousand dollars and a lifetime supply of free Slurpee coupons for being such a great guy." I'm still waiting for that call to come through.
I politely told Eddie that I appreciated the call, but that I am not currently interested in leveraging the power of "compounding wealth creation". We then awkwardly ended the conversation and promised to keep in touch. He asked if he could email me with some additional information about the business, and I agreed to let him. I hope we do keep in touch, but I feel pretty used right now. If he never contacts me again because I took a pass on becoming a distributor of the product he was offering, I will feel like the whole "Hey, remember what great friends we are?" conversation was somewhat disingenuous. My previous experiences lead me to believe that I will never hear from him again. Nor will he offer me friendship Slurpees in the year 2012.
It is important for me to note that I have absolutely nothing against multi-level marketing. In fact, I am grateful for it. I worked at NuSkin's corporate offices for four years and my salary was paid because hard-working distributors went out and sold our products. I also learned during that time that I do not have what it takes to be a distributor. The NMW and I have several friends who have done quite well by selling everything from skin care products to food storage to deregluated electricity. If you are among that group, good for you! I wish you nothing but success. Those of you who organize candle, Pampered Chef or scrapbooking parties are not lumped in with the MLM's because your friends know in advance that you are going to give them appetizers with the hopes that they will buy a $47 candle. There is nothing disingenuous about that.
There is also something inherent in our Mormonness that attracts us as a people to multi-level marketing. After all, many of us have spent two years going door-to-door sharing something that we firmly believe in with complete strangers. I think our pioneer heritage leads many of us to be fiercely independent, hard working and self-reliant. We believe that we will eventually reap what we sow and to never expect a handout. These qualities make for good multi-level marketers. It is probably not coincidental that NuSkin and Tahitian Noni have ginormous corporate offices in Utah.
After thinking about this for a day now, I am proposing that when multi-level marketers call a long-lost friend to "reconnect", they have to follow a few rules, including:
1) Under no circumstances can you mention the "business opportunity" until you have called your friend at least three times in the past year. Bringing it up on the first call makes us feel like chimps.
2) When telling your friend about the business opportunity, get to the point. Just say, "I want you to sell Tahitian Noni in my distributor group. I will get paid on your sales. You will get paid when you recruit people to join your group." Avoid doing what Eddie did to me, which was asking me to sit through a 36-minute online video that did not even mention the company or product until the 24th minute. Since I only had about 12 seconds to watch it, I skipped past the 24 minutes of "wouldn't you like to drive your Ferrari down to your private yacht? Well, you can!" so that I could finally find out what product I would be selling.
3) If we are obviously not interested, please do not ask us for the contact information of any of our mutual acquaintances. Giving out their contact info makes us feel like Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" when he tells his mom that his friend Flick taught him how to swear. Ralphie knew he was throwing his buddy under the bus, but he was backed into a corner and had no other choice. Please, guys, don't back us into the corner.
I am sure there are other rules that should be out there, so please post some comments with the rules you would like to see put into place. This is also a good opportunity for those of you who have been on the receiving end of these awkward phone calls to vent a little bit, if you feel so inclined. Also, if there are any MLMer's out there, please share your side of the story with us. Is it hard for you to make the, "Hey, remember me?" calls? Do you worry about how it may impact your future relationship with the person you call? What kind of gas mileage do you get in your Ferarri?
While you are typing your comments, ask yourselves if your hands feel dry. Because if they do, I have the best hand lotion in the world for you. Seriously, a group of independent scientists proved that it can reverse the signs of aging by 9,472%! It's a revolutionary product from NuSkin called Revitalotion. Now, if you have 36 minutes, I can tell you all about it...