Author’s Note: I’ve seen more than a couple of articles on “mom blogs” condemning Lularoe and other home-based businesses (which are, statistically, more often than not run by stay at home moms) – someone even likened it to a cult. Ouch. There’s a fancy acronym for them but I don’t really care to look it up – you know exactly what I’m talking about if you’ve been on Facebook for even five seconds. What prompted the article I’ve written below was partially current events in my own life and partially because it’s just been on my mind in general. I wanted to give a moderate view of things and yesterday’s encounter gave me some perspective; after that, I ruminated on it a little to really cement and centralize my thoughts. Voila.
Maybe I’m just going to stop complimenting random people. Probably not but I was tempted yesterday.
At the grocery store parking lot, I told a lady her dress was nice. That immediately turned into a sales pitch for Lularoe. I even got a business card. Unbeknownst to me, I meant “nice dress and also tell me about how your home based business can change my life” when I literally said “I like your dress, ma’am.” Also, use “sir” or “ma’am” – it’s just good manners. While she wasn’t exactly harassing me and I was polite, I couldn’t get in my car fast enough.
The people selling the products aren’t demonic and I’m not trying to demonize anyone but it’s starting to get overly saturated to the point of annoyance. There can, in fact, be too much of a good thing. But does it merit the ire I’ve seen lately? Probably not.
Psychologically and in a business context, it’s brilliant – who honestly wants to not support their friends’ success? That’s the bread and butter of the pyramid model and no, that’s not an insult unless you choose to view it that way. Lots of businesses use that model. Not all, but lots. If it failed all the time, no one would use it. It combines people’s loyalty to their friends and family with commerce. Sometimes business and friendships/feelings can coincide well but must be handled with delicacy. When you have everyone and your mother doing it, there are obviously going to be some bad apples that take things too far (turf wars, broken friendships, passive aggressive Facebook postings, etc.).
The model is kind of manipulative in a fundamental way but if businesses were completely altruistic, they’d just give their stuff away for free, which is the opposite of capitalism. I’m a capitalist but I’m also pragmatic – which is why I don’t treat car salesmen like human beings anymore. That game plan might seem cruel but it saves me a lot of emotional devastation down the line when I buy a car, it sucks, and the “best friend” I’d made at the car dealership doesn’t remember my name when I call about said sucky car. Ouuuuuuch. I should have watched “The Godfather” and replayed the line “it’s not personal, it’s business” over and over before ever stepping foot on a car lot. Lesson learned.
But these pyramid companies marry business and personal relationships as a matter of their standard practice, which can be effective (or they’d have crashed and burned years ago), or it can go very, very wrong because human beings are involved and their fallible “humany human-ness” is a key factor in the sales. This isn’t just a car salesman conning someone into a fake friendship/establishment of trust but rather previously established relationships. Eventually, you branch out to other clientele but your first customers are likely friends/family. People should have a reasonable expectation of what might happen from doing business with friends before entering into it from either side and I think a lot of these “at home” companies don’t explain that very well.
This is, as you can tell, a very multi-layered issue (get it? Because the LLR clothes have layering techniques? Ah, forget it). It’s possible I’m either reading into certain aspects too deeply (because I personally know/care about friends who have these businesses) or not really delving deeply enough in some aspects due to lack of insider knowledge (not being a consultant/psychologist/economist myself and merely observing others). This is all just the outside moderate perspective of a layman.
I’ve seen someone say, “Well, aren’t all businesses pyramid schemes then?” in defense of home-based businesses. That statement is not only false but blatantly illogical. To be a pyramid model business, you have a major distributor that asks people to “buy in” to a company as a stakeholder and be responsible, as a consultant, for sales, public relations/marketing, distribution, and also anyone else that signs up “under them”. You go back to the “mothership” (or top) for supplies. Hence, pyramid. Walmart doesn’t do that, last I checked; I’ve never seen anyone run a “Walmart Popup Party” on Facebook and please, if that’s ever happened, let me know because I hate going to Walmart. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have to sit in my car and listen to music I enjoy to mentally prepare for a Walmart trip. Damn you and your low prices, you demonic big-box sons of bitches! No one is putting a gun to my head and making me go in but damned if I’m not a fan of rollback prices or whatever gimmick they’re using now. What’s their slogan now, anyway? I think it should be “where else are you going to go and find these prices, bitches?”.
Aside from the “no online shopping under a party” argument, Walmart sells a myriad of different products – not just their own like the aforementioned home-based businesses. The employees of Walmart don’t have to buy into the Walmart company unless they want to buy stock as private citizens, which doesn’t mean they own a portion of the store they work in with their bannerhead – they just own shares of stock. They are paid employees and their wage is based upon hours worked and any increase is based upon (ideally) the good/decent quality of their work and longevity in their job. Economics 101 – and this is from someone who largely finds economics dull outside the basics. Ergo the assumption that “all businesses are pyramid schemes” is false. Simple logic with simple economics. Boom.
Where the pyramid model fails after some time is that it gets to be “too much”. Oversaturation. Either the product gets old or everyone starts selling it and using interpersonal relationships as a selling point. It kind of makes you question a friendship if all the conversations and interactions revolve around buying something. “I’m your friend so I wouldn’t steer you wrong” becomes the pitch. It’s easy. It’s convienient. There are parties! Socializing while shopping! Woooo! Except, if you’re like me and don’t like socializing a lot because of anxiety, it gets to be overwhelming. I love people but I can only take them in small doses. Being an extrovert with social anxiety is pretty ironic so I know I don’t represent the majority there – just myself. Here’s my idea of an awesome party: food in a centralized location.
In any case, this shit has been going on since the age of Tupperware and it’s not going away. I’m not going to say “don’t support these businesses” because that would be a. Wrong and b. Not in line with my ethos. I love my friends and I want them to do well. When I see them posting about their pop up boutiques, I see it as a way for them to supplement income or actually generate a sole income. They want to feed their families, pay the mortgage, and save up for luxuries, which is not unlike why most people work a job in the first place. So no, I won’t say I’m opposed and if I have the disposable income (and it’s something I want/need), I’ll buy it. I know where to go.
Pro tip for consumers: Learn about the nature of the business and its products before you buy from people. If you’re like me and it’s gotten overwhelming, you’ll be polite and just scroll down if you see another ad from a friend or like a page and turn off the notifications. You can be supportive and not go hog-wild; you can also manage to not be a fan and not be a flaming dickhole about it, either. Today, I went to birthday party of a good friend’s twin boys. I wore Lularoe leggings and a “classic” t-shirt (I think) and Lipsense lipstick. I didn’t do it for any other reason than I liked the outfit/lip color and I wanted to support my friend (since I bought both the LLR and the Lipsense from her). Yes, I wear these clothes and lip stuff other times because I like the products and my friends that sell it are mercifully not pushy about it…but do I own scores of this stuff? Nope. Do I feel bad about that? Nope. Do I wear any of this stuff daily or exclusively? Absolutely not – I generally wear jeans and a comic book t-shirt but it largely depends on the level of adulting I have to do.
Consultants – conversely, please don’t predicte your interpersonal relationships upon whether or not people buy your wares. Sometimes people don’t need a non-smudge lipstick. Sometimes people don’t need a really colorful dress. Sometimes people just want to talk about the news or sports or weather. The worst thing a person can do in these businesses is be a pushy asshole because then they’re not just killing potential business, they’re potentially killing an established friendship.
And, most importantly, when someone says “nice dress”, 99.9% of the time, they just mean “nice dress”.