Jason – I think you have to be more than careful in evaluating an MLM. I’ve researched around 50 and 60 and each and every one of them have turned out to be bad. Maybe one like Pampered Chef might be good, but I haven’t looked into enough. A more accurate statement would be that MLMs are like prisoners, there are some guilty people and some innocent ones. Also, there are some winning lottery tickets and some losing ones. I think you get the point.
Although each MLM company dictates its own specific financial compensation plan for the payout of any earnings to their respective participants, the common feature that is found across all MLMs is that the compensation plans theoretically pay out to participants only from two potential revenue streams. The first is paid out from commissions of sales made by the participants directly to their own retail customers. The second is paid out from commissions based upon the sales made by other distributors below the participant who have recruited those other participants into the MLM; in the organizational hierarchy of MLMs, these participants are referred to as one's down line distributors.
Pyramid schemes are not a simply exchange of money… MLMs with products can be illegal pyramid schemes. One example of an MLM – pyramid scheme with products that got shut down by FTC is JewelWay: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/1997/11/jewel-2.shtm. The FTC says nothing about product being reasonably priced. That’s a slippery slope when people will pay thousands for a fashionable handbag.
MLM has stretched its sticky fingers out into just about every product market out there, so it’s kinda hard to do something new nowadays. But Jamberry Nails did it. Their adhesive, custom nail designs BLEW UP when they hit the direct sales floor. They built up an army of over 100,000 consultants in the time it takes most people to get a mediocre pay raise at their 9-5.