“He is truly a visionary, my Mr. David. Oh my God, you need to talk to him. Promise me you’ll give him just one hour–just one hour will change your life! And it is NOT multi-level marketing!”
I nodded and smiled. I don’t like to displease people, usually. Especially when they are people with fascinating stories and a sense of panache, and Betty definitely has both. It’s very hard to find panache in the desert. “Ok,” I relented. “I’ll listen for one hour. But I am telling you that I won’t be doing multi-level marketing.”
“It’s NOT multi-level marketing!”
This is probably multi-level marketing, I thought to myself.
The marks were all there. This grand older lady whom I had admired for her grace, pluck, and former opulence had told me that this company offered everything under the sun, with solutions for weight loss, memory impairment, mildew stains, furniture scratches, scaly bathtub build-up, and so on. They had all the secrets to human happiness. And it was like one big family! Everyone supported each other in a community of household product sales.
And her adviser–this man–Mr. David (not his real name) was a true up-by-the-bootstraps philosopher-king if one ever was. She made him sound like the bastard son of Nikola Tesla and Ayn Rand.
I was gettting an odd feeling about it as the appointment for the call approached. My relationship with this lady had always been casual and drinking-buddy like. We had war stories to share. Most of hers involved being the disgraced widow of a billionaire–a guy who owned a chain of supermarkets and could afford to anchor his yacht in Cannes. She had stories of partying with Adnan Kashoggi and other people not really sufficiently dignified by money. She had lost all of that when her husband died 20 years before, and she had been ejected into the desert, penniless and alone. At first she made a living off of breeding little dogs, then selling antiques. Lately she had gotten into this company, the one which was NOT multi-level marketing: the one represented by that visiting god, Mr. David. I got the feeling that she had fallen victim to a hopped-up, high-demographic version of the bane of cubemates and co-workers everywhere: Multi-level marking.
So I humored her by taking the call. I really shouldn’t have.
The appointed time came. The conference started. Horns announced the arrival of Mr. David (not really, but I’m sure SHE heard the horns). Pleasantries were exchanged.
I started off, trying my best to head off any ill-will. “I understand that Betty is very interested in your company. I have a job. I don’t see the need for any other income at this point. I also won’t participate in multi-level marketing. Just so you know. . . “
Almost in a chorus they responded: “This is NOT multi-level marketing!”
And with that we were off. A run down of their products which were best in the industry and had innovations that had somehow escaped all the leading brands. Check! These were products I bought all the time at the store but could save money on by buying through this company. Check! Potential income unlimited. Check! An appeal to making money while doing nothing, just through my friends. Check! Don’t I want to pay off my house/provide for my family/retire early/get a boat/buy hookers? Well of course. . .
“I’m not interested,” I said, probably a bit too flatly.
“But. . . but . . . ” Mr. David was a taken aback.
“I don’t do multi-level marketing.”
“This isn’t . . . “
“Does your company work on the principle of developing downstreams? Is Betty in your downstream, David?”
“Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean . . . “
“That’s the definition of multi-level marketing. That’s exactly what it means.”
“But. . . but. . . the money. . . “
“I have enough.”
“How much do you make?”
“Enough. I don’t need any more.”
So after about 10 more minutes of groveling and near-shaming, Mr. David finally succumbed. He was no fool, that Mr. David.
“Well, see: you are different than most of our customers. You are strong-minded. Think of what you could do with those skills when used on people who don’t have those qualities–ones who don’t suspect a thing. You could really turn this into a great . . . “
“Good bye. It’s time for lunch.” I hung up.
And since then, Betty goes out of her way to confront me and to call me a “jerk” whenever she sees me. I comfort myself with the consolation of philosophy.
Because see–you can have friends, or you can do multi-level marketing.