MLM itself is a legitimate business strategy. However the subject of ethics can be rather vulnerable. The pyramid scheme, unlike MLM, is clearly a scam. In a pyramid structure, a member pays a fee to join. A portion of the money will then be remitted back to them when they bring a new member into the scheme. No products are involved in this scheme, simply get more people to dump in money for your chance to make more money.
You are right in that most MLM have monthly dues and have high entry fees to be distributors or consultants. You are also right in that most MLM companies focus on recruitment and not product sales. I’ve been working with Arbonne now for quite a while and none of those comments apply to this company, which is why I believe they have survived and are only growing at this point, despite some people’s opinion that they will soon be relics like Mary Kay. To become a consultant is a mere $75 dollars, the kit is involved with all free samples and material. Product loading is prohibited. Each event we host regularly ends with most if not all attendees becoming a preferred client for $20 joining fee for the first year and a $15 renewal every year with no monthly expectation and a guaranteed minimum of 20% off of all stock at all times and 40% off of all packages at all times. Not only that consultants can will their business down 6 generations, and the Mercedes incentive is for a purchase, not a lease. We do look to grow our network, but we emphasize this takes hard work and is not a get rich quick scheme. While you hit the nail on the head with most MLM businesses, there are MLM businesses like Arbonne who are a cut above the rest and who are in the habit of not putting pressure on anyone attending to either purchase or join as a consultant. We only want the best in our network and we have thousands of examples of very successful men and woman to show for it. Great article!!!
It is almost impossible to stop the industry because of the amount of investors and lobbyists who are profiting from them. “During the Obama administration, the Federal Trade Commission made its biggest-ever effort to curb this industry when last summer it slapped nutritional supplement–seller Herbalife with a $200 million fine and, as part of a settlement with Herbalife, demanded it restructure its business so that it would “start operating legitimately,” as FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez put it.” (Slate) The current administration under President Donald Trump will be a completely different story and may very well be a boon for the MLM industry. Let’s start with Trump himself. In 2009, he licensed his name to an MLM, which eventually went bankrupt, along with many of his participants. Many in Trump’s cabinet have strong ties to MLMs as well: Betsey DeVos (whose husband is the president of Amway — by the way, DeVos family has donated $200 million to the Republican party over the years), Ben Carson, Carl Icahn (a billionaire who is also a major investor in Herbalife and holds five board seats at the company), and Charles Herbster.
Amway stresses that the main difference between a legitimate MLM business model and a pyramid scheme is that a legitimate MLM is focused on selling products, not recruiting more salespeople. In a legitimate MLM, it should be possible to make money by simply selling products directly to customers. With that main criterion in mind, here are some other ways to identify product-based pyramid schemes: 
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