Your second cousin’s all over your FB feed—she has the “lipstick of your dreams.” Your sorority sister is hawking protein shakes on Insta. And that girl from preschool’s here with an email blast asking you to splurge on her new line of herbal supplements (wut?!).
Millions of peeps globally are into this hustle, officially called direct sales or multilevel marketing (MLM). Here’s how it works: People looking to make money sign up to be sales reps for brands that don’t necessarily have physical stores. They pay an up-front cost—anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars—for a whole bunch of merch...that they then try to sell to make back their money and turn a profit. MLM employees can also get paid extra for recruiting other salespeople (you??).
The sad news: 99 per cent of people involved in MLM actually lose money, according to recent research. But while you can’t blame your girls for trying—or for hitting you up on your channels—things can quickly get awk (or annoying), especially if you’re just never gonna buy those leggings. Here’s how to dodge the overenthusiastic sellers in your life.
Beware of “party” invites
Kate, 32, says about half her friends from high school are involved in some kind of MLM company and frequently invite her to buying “parties,” where guests are expected to fork over cash (typically around Dhs100) for, say, a random perfume. Usually, Kate bails by shooting a quick “Sorry, I’m busy, can’t make it!” text or DM.
But then there are the sneak attacks, like when she was invited to a baby shower and then found out the host planned to sell skin-care products at the event. “I didn’t go, but everyone else went and had to buy makeup in addition to giving the baby gifts,” she says. “Half our group isn’t sure how to deal with the fact that our friends keep trying to sell us shit.” Some succumbed and bought things. Some did not. (But they were all probs jealous Kate skipped out.)
Play the money card
Amanda, 36, gets invited to these kinds of parties all the time. “A lot of my friends are stay-at-home moms with young kids and they’re just looking for a little bit of income,” she says of the selling boom on her Facebook feed. When people ask her to spend, she replies that she just can’t afford to buy anything right now, eek, sorry. That’s worked well with her closest girls, she says. “They go into this whole thing knowing that a certain percentage of people are going to turn them down.”
Amanda’s other favourite way to box out sellers is simply to claim brand loyalty (“I really only buy this one mascara, sorry, bb”). Smooth, Amanda.
Tell ’em the cold, hard truth
Lexie, 27, uses this go-to line when she’s on the “no, thanks” grind: “You know I appreciate your entrepreneurial spirit, but I don’t really have use for essential oils right now.” It pulls double duty in that it not only compliments your friend’s hustle but also lets her know you’re currently closed for business.
That said, if what a friend is asking you to buy is totally whack, feel free to be real. At a party a few years ago, one of Amanda’s friends approached her about getting some weight-loss supplements. “I told her, ‘Actually, I’m really happy with myself,’” Amanda says. “She has never asked me again.”
“My boyfriend’s sister sells kitchen products, and the last time I was at her house, she demoed a bunch of products and made me a grilled cheese in one. It was a good demo but, like…the whole thing came out of nowhere. And I def didn’t buy one.” -Anna, 25
“This girl who dated my ex DM’ed me to get coffee, which was weird because we weren’t friends. She ended up being sweet, but when I got up to leave, she pulled out a bag of lotions and brochures. She kept me there forever trying to sell me stuff!” -Sam, 22
“My best friend’s lame boyfriend called me out of the blue one day. I assumed my friend was in a terrible accident—why else would he be calling?—but then, bam, he tried to sell me life insurance. I hung up.” -Ashley, 25
“I had a close friend who started selling lip colors and plumping products. I wanted to be supportive, so I spent more than Dhs200 on lipsticks. But when I put them on, they nearly burned my lips off! I told my friend, but she’s still selling them.”