…points out that when you onboard someone underneath you, especially if they live in your town or are in your friendship group, you are essentially creating a competitor. It’s as if you open a Subway sandwich shop and then encourage your neighbor to open a Subway right next door—and everyone is already sick of sandwiches.
…Whether they realize it or not, consultant leaders often use time-honored cult tactics of denial and blame to keep women within their sorority. A famous series of experiments from the 1950s conducted by Soloman Asch in England showed that three out of four people will deny evidence right in front of them if the majority says it’s not true. In the study, individuals were placed in groups where they were constantly contradicted by other members. When this happened over a length of time, they would start to agree with the majority—even though it was clear that the opposite was true. In MLMs, “you’re trained to avoid people who question whether this is a viable business or not,” Brooks says. “Which is exactly the same technique that cults use—they try to isolate you from people who question your belief system. I’ve been contacted by a number of people who deal with cult survivors, and some of their clients are former MLM people.”
Even when consultants wake up to the fact they’ve been hoodwinked, many don’t warn their friends to stay away. That’s because if you speak out against any of LuLaRoe’s rules or mishaps, the community could publicly shame and harass you for being negative. “I can’t believe you call yourself a Christian,” one retailer wrote to someone trying to sound the alarm. “Where is the Jesus in you? I have to block you due to your constant-gross-delusional-uneducated opinions of LLR.” If you reveal you are struggling to make sales, you might be told to stop playing the victim, that you’re not putting in enough effort, to be more enthusiastic, and, of course, to buy more inventory.
…In other words, it’s not the system that’s broken—you’re just not trying hard enough.
…Stern was taught ways to unload her unwanted stock on unsuspecting buyers by her group’s leaders. “You have to be creative about how you sell it,” she says. Stern would bundle 10 pairs of leggings together—nine less desirable ones and one unicorn pattern—into “mystery sales,” where the first 10 women to comment “sold” would purchase a random pair, but only one would get the coveted leggings. She feels guilty about using this psychological gambling trick, but it worked.
…For a portion of independent retailers, LuLaRoe is to economic opportunity as Goop is to wellness: It’s for ladies who already have it all. The ability to throw down $12,000 to start a LuLaRoe business and work 30 hours a week sometimes comes from a place of privilege, not desperation.
…This isn’t a story about leggings, however. It’s not even a story about LuLaRoe. This is the story of rural and suburban disenfranchisement and the MLMs that offer desperate American women a chance at clawing their way out. They’ve become part of the fabric of suburban America, as cherished and inevitable as barbecues and the county fair. Regional newspapers are rife with announcements for fundraisers for children with cancer and elementary-school fetes that promote LuLaRoe pop-up shops. Not buying a pair of leggings can be read as being unsupportive of your friends—or not chipping in for a local kid’s chemotherapy. It’s a genius manipulation of rural and suburban American societal norms.
(As Goop is to wellness… Lolololololol!)