John Oliver has a pitch for you. Yes, that’s right. In last night’s Last Week Tonight, he asked for just 30 minutes of your time to sell you on something that will change your life forever: an exposé on Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) schemes.
You may have seen the informercials but more likely, you’ve seen your friends on Facebook trying to sell you on them. The companies and products run the gamut from stalwarts Amway and Mary Kay to internet-driven newbies like Jamberry and LuLaRoe. If you’ve seen Herbalife, Rodan and Fields, or Avon products being shilled (or if you’re shilling them) on your Facebook feed, MLM has touched your life.
MLM companies promise to make you money in two ways. One is through the actual direct sales: you buy inventory for one price, and then sell it to your friends and family for a slightly higher price. But the real money for MLM sellers is bringing more people in under them. Each individual makes money when they bring in more individuals below them, and when those individuals then recruit more individuals below them, and so on.
The industry is indeed huge: it brought in $36 billion in sales in 2015, Oliver reports.
Discussing the settlement Herbalife made with the FTC earlier this year, Oliver highlights a clip of FTC chair Edith Ramirez saying that the word “pyramid” doesn’t appear in the legal complaint, but that it’s “not not a pyramid.”
“It’s not a pyramid,” Oliver enthuses about MLM companies, “it’s just pyramid-shaped! Like a Dorito, or an Angry Bird, or just a pile of bulls**t.”
So to teach folks how to avoid pyramid schemes, Oliver — who has in the past made his points through becoming a debt buyer and his own sub-prime lending commercial — decides to spread the news in the most efficient way possible: a pyramid scheme.
Using the hashtag #ThisIsAPyramidScheme, Oliver gushes, “If someone you know is thinking about joining an MLM, this is a huge opportunity. And let me show you how it works.”
Oliver then steps out onto a stage alight with pyrotechnics, lasers, and flashy graphics, to tout a “fantastic product for you to share with friends and family.”
And what is this fantastic product? “This entire video about why MLMs are f**king awful.”
In short: Oliver is trying to sell us all on the MLM scheme to very literally end all MLM schemes.
“Let me break it down for you,” Oliver explains. “By sharing this, you can be an independent distributor for a leading web video about the dangers of MLMs.”
“You can do this full time or part time and give your family the lifestyle they deserve, which is frankly not getting caught up in this bulls**it.”
“Here is how it works: simply watch this video, and forward it to five people. And then instruct them to send it to another five people, and so on and so on. Within fourteen cycles, every single person on Earth will have seen this.”
And because MLMs target the Latino population specifically, Oliver and his team also uploaded Spanish-language version of the entire 30-minute segment, which you can watch in English below.
by Kate Cox via Consumerist