The scam on the scam: My experience with Amway and BWW

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Amway scam

So perhaps you’ve stumbled across this article because someone has contacted you trying to get you involved in Amway and/or BWW. Well I had an experience with Amway and BWW and eventually decided it wasn’t for me. But since I myself went online to try and read what other people were saying about Amway and BWW to help me make my decision, I wanted to share my story so others can make their own decision about whether or not they want to join Amway and/or BWW.

My experience

I was contacted by a lady on LinkedIn who said she ran her own online company and was looking to expand in my area. She said that I may have some of the qualities that her company was looking for and asked me if I was interested in hearing about new opportunities at her company. Since I am in my last year of college and I am looking for a job, I said yes and we arranged a phone interview.

During the phone interview she asked me about what my interests were and told me more about how she ran a network marketing company in the Madison area and was looking for someone like me. Notice how she didn’t once mention Amway or BWW at this point. She said she had her own company with their own LLC. which later I came to find out that she and her husband had branded their Amway site very successfully so that one would believe they were running their own online company. So after the phone call we arranged a meeting.

I met her and her husband at a coffee shop downtown near my school. They once again gave me the speech about how they ran their own online company and their goal was to help other entrepreneurs run their own company and develop assets so that eventually they wouldn’t have to work anymore. Now on the one hand, this made me really excited because I consider myself an entrepreneur and my ultimate goal one day is to not have to work. However, on the other hand this raised a red flag in my mind because it all sounded too good to be true. But hey, at this point I still had nothing to lose so I figured I would keep going with it. Also, I should mention that whenever I asked them specifically what I would be doing at their company they said “Oh we’ll teach you how to do it later” and “There’s different levels of understanding to the company” and apparently once I signed on for a mentorship between them they were going to show me how to make money. So this made me even more skeptical because they wouldn’t exactly say what I would be doing, however at the same time I currently work at a company that does digital asset management, and it took me a while to understand that, so I thought why not I’ll give this a chance.

So then this lady gave me a book to read, it was called “The Business of the 21st Century” by John Fleming and Robert Kiyosaki. The book was about network marketing, which was the industry in which this lady and her husband ran their company. I was supposed to read the book and then I would meet with her and her husband a week later to discuss what I thought about the book. After reading the book, I felt more confident about this experience. I thought wow that makes sense, network marketing sounds like the way to go, it’s an industry where you can start your own company and you don’t need to have any money to start one up. So I was like wow maybe this is just my chance to start my own company and make my own money.

So I was excited to meet with them next and at our next meeting they shared a little bit more about their company with me. And just to throw it out there, they still hadn’t mentioned that their company was affiliated with Amway or BWW. Afterwards, I started to think that the reason they didn’t mention it was because they didn’t want me to Google the company (since many negative things come up with you do that). So then they told me that their company helped big name clients like Apple, Best Buy, and North Face, switch their consumers’ purchasing power to online shopping. They said the way you make money off of this is because when consumers shop online, the product makes more profit because the company doesn’t have to pay for upkeep of the store or as many employees. And supposedly, these big companies would let us keep the 35% extra profit from selling products online if we helped the consumers go online and shop.

To me, this sounded reasonable, so I agreed to go to an event that these people were putting on at a hotel downtown in my city. They even said I could bring my boyfriend and he could get started in the company as well. This kind of raised a red flag in my mind too, because they hadn’t even met my boyfriend at this point, but they were willing to give him a job at their “company”. However, at the same time I would love to work with my boyfriend so I was excited at the same time. Now, looking back on all of this, I think it is funny that I kept on going back and forth in my mind about whether all of this was a scam or not.

The event

So my boyfriend and I went to the event and this is when we found out the name of the company, Amway. At the event, there was a keynote speaker who was had been an engineering student at UW-Madison (the same school I went to) who was introduced to Amway during this senior year (also just like me) and is now making a ton of money with his online company. He explained how we would be selling products and making 35% profit on the products and if we taught other people how to set up their own website and sell their own products then we would also make money off of their profits as well. But hey, don’t worry it’s not a pyramid scheme! They said that at one point and said the reason that it wasn’t a pyramid scheme was because you didn’t make money off of the next guy, Amway gave you the money, so therefore it wasn’t a pyramid scheme. I understood this, however it didn’t really fully convince me that Amway wasn’t a pyramid scheme. He also showed us what types of products we would be selling.

The products

The products really didn’t impress me honestly. They showed this great promotional video talking about their stats about how their brands were the top brands globally, but the funny part was that I had never heard of any of the brands. The main brands that we would be selling were an energy drink brand called XS, makeup products from the brand Artistry, a supplements and vitamins brand called Nutrilite, and eSpring and Legacy of Clean which were cleaning products. I had never heard of any of these brands before, but I thought I would still give it a chance, they couldn’t be lying about their stats right? Why would they say they were top brands globally if they weren’t?

Oh and after the event they gave us five audio CD’s that we needed to listen to and two books to read. Each audio book was over an hour long and the books were about 100 pages each. So we spent about 5 – 10 hours diving through these CD’s and books so we could advance our knowledge before the next meeting. We didn’t learn much about the actual company or what we would be doing in the CD’s, we just heard a bunch of success stories of people who had started their own network marketing company or their own Amway company. It seemed like a bunch of promotional crap, but at the same time it also seemed inspiring. One of the success stories was about our mentors and how they started from the bottom and made this multi-million dollar company and they didn’t have to work corporate careers anymore, they have a nice house, and now they’re happily ever after. So you can see how this seems like a scam but at the same time this was what my boyfriend and I wanted to obtain, so we decided to remain hopeful and just kept thinking they haven’t asked for any money yet, so what did we have to lose? So after this event we set up a follow up meeting with our mentors and were supposed to talk about the event and they were going to show us what our Amway website would look like.

The next meetings

So at the next meeting they showed us the website and explained more about how we would be making money. They said that we would make money when we bought products off of our website and when other people bought products. We could also go to partner shops such as Gap and North Face (and many more) and we would make money off of those purchases as well. We would also make money by teaching other people how to have their own company with Amway or to be an IBO (an independent business owner). So would make money essentially by growing our network and helping others to become successful entrepreneurs as well. My boyfriend and I were thinking wow what a great opportunity where we can work together, make a lot of money, and help others along the way! But we were also thinking, where’s the catch? Well there were a few catches.

The catch(es)

So the first catch was that, the products were extremely expensive! For example, it was $47.30 for laundry detergent! Granted it was a pretty big bottle and it was a natural laundry detergent, but still! My boyfriend and I were just thinking, who the heck am I going to convince to buy $50 laundry detergent?! Not to mention, the shipping was average, 5-7 days for the shipping rate. So there wasn’t really any benefit to buying from Amway, the stuff was expensive and it didn’t even get to your house that fast. I was looking at the products thinking I would rather order from Amazon with my Amazon Prime membership. And if I was thinking that, who’s to say other people I tried to convince wouldn’t be thinking that? How could I convince people to buy from a company that I didn’t really even want to buy from myself?

The second catch was that we had to give these people $300 a month. About $150 of it was going to BWW, which was this entrepreneurship network that was going to educate us on how to be a successful Amway IBO. So we had to spend this $150 to get audiobooks on CD and a book every month to read. Also, we would now have access to the business materials that we would need that would be required to be successful. These business tools included a powerpoint presentation that we would show potential IBOs and a special app that we could call people through. And then another part of this $150 was that we had to save up some money each month so that we could afford to go to the 4 required BWW conferences a year. We had to spend $270 for each conference and they were required. I was just thinking 1) I can get business books for free from the library 2) I can watch free business seminars online and 3) why do I need to spend $50 a month for an app that provides me with a powerpoint presentation and a calling app? I have a phone that can do all of these things already. It’s also worth mentioning that it is not required by Amway for you to join BWW as well. BWW is just there to help you along the journey to have a successful IBO with Amway, according to these people anyways.

The other $150 would go towards our company. We would be buying our products through our website so that we could make money on our purchases and keep our business thriving. Once again, this was not something that was required by Amway, but just by these people. And since you make money off of the IBOs you teach how to sell Amway products, this made sense that they wanted us to spend $150 a month in our own online store, because these people would get kickbacks on that.

So in order to start an Amway company and enter into a mentorship relationship with these people (who would teach us how to have a multimillion dollar company) we just had to adhere to these “partnership responsibilities”. The partnership responsibilities were the following:

  • Attend 4 BWW conferences a year
  • Spend 15 minutes a day reading BWW books
  • Listen to a BWW audio CD each day
  • Watch BWW online seminars each day
  • Attend a local Amway event once a week (like the one we had attended earlier) – which by the way you had to pay $10 for every time you went
  • Meet with your mentors once a week
  • Spend $150 a month in your own online store
  • Show the business plan to 5 people a week

This was all starting to sound like a lot of work. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that running your own business requires a lot of work. But for some people who were promising more freedom, they sure had a lot of requirements and structure. Additionally, after some research we found out that you could start your own business with Amway for only $150 start up fee and you didn’t have to spend $150 a month on BWW materials or conferences. And there was no requirement of monthly spending in your own company. Now once again don’t get me wrong, it would be nice to have mentors to show you how to have a successful company, but at the same time they sure required a lot. Additionally, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to convince people in my network to sign up for Amway and BWW and adhere to these crazy partnership responsibilities.

Furthermore I was thinking, “how the heck am I going to spend $300 a month on this?”. My boyfriend and I didn’t exactly have all the money in the world. I was still going to school full time and only working part time on a student salary. My boyfriend was at an entry level job after finishing college. We didn’t exactly have loads of extra money. And when we brought this concern to our mentors they said “they weren’t worried about that part, they would help us find the money, as long as we could adhere to the partnership responsibilities we would be fine.” This didn’t really convince me. How were they going to help us find money? We already budgeted our money every month and we knew we didn’t have that much extra. So how were they going to help us find it? Any concern we had they just kept saying “we’re not worried about that, as long as you adhere to the partnership responsibilities, you will make money with your company”. At one point this lady’s husband actually said “$300 a month is easy, you could donate plasma and make that much”. Umm, I’m not donating plasma every month to join this crazy company!

Our decision

After we saw all of this, we went home and thought about whether or not we were going to start our own IBO with these people. We talked about how these people’s story was so similar to ours. They were a couple who went to college and graduated and wanted to start their own company rather than working at a corporate career for the rest of their lives. They became successful with Amway and now didn’t have to work, they had a nice car (which we saw) and a nice house (supposedly) so they couldn’t be lying about that. Maybe they really could mentor us to have our own successful company with Amway and we could be living like them, where we didn’t have to work for someone else but we could work with each other!

But after some deep thought we decided against it. We decided that we didn’t want to commit to spending $300 a month on something that we weren’t sure about. Especially when you Googled Amway and a ton of articles came up talking about how it should be called Scamway and that Amway had many lawsuits against them claiming they didn’t practice ethical business practices and what not. We decided that it wasn’t a waste of time though, because now we learned about a new company and a new industry. We could start our own business with Amway if we really wanted to. We learned we had the spirit and we would be willing to start our own company (something we always knew, but this just reassured us). So ultimately, we decided against this because it just wasn’t for us. Maybe it would be for you if you think you can convince someone to buy $50 laundry detergent and adhere to the partnership responsibilities.

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Hi, I'm Nora Gehin! I'm a student at UW-Madison currently studying Journalism & Mass Communication. I also write for a top tech company. I enjoy enlightening the world with my writing.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great read. If that man would have opened with his “$300 a month is easy ” comment I would have laughed in his face. There is a woman involved in a multi level management (MLM) company in my gym now. She drives a Lexus with her company name plastered on it and implies that she won it for selling product. With 10 minutes of googling I discovered that she must lease this vehicle in her name and the company makes the monthly payment IF she stays at her selling/purchasing level during that month. Basically she buys $400 worth of their overpriced vitamains every month and hopes to sell them instead of making a $400 Lexus payment each month. Eventually she will not be able to park that Lexus in the garage because it will be filled with product she cannot sell. John Oliver did a great piece on MLM companies last year. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s6MwGeOm8iI