Thursday, August 8, 2013

The problem of Usery

The other day I happened to be attending a "training" session on Melaluca which was being run by my pastor and a visiting pastor whom I will call Bob. 
Bob had a history of being in MLM (Multi-Level-Marketing) sales operations and said he quit them all long ago but found Melaluca to be worth joining.
He had gone over the products with me earlier that day and convinced me to sign up (for only 1$ entry fee (special deal)) so I ordered my first monthly required minimum order and was on my way as a member of my pastor's ministry's downline.

As the training meeting went on, Bob shared the following statements:
I have never sold anything with Melaluca
Melaluca is not an MLM organization
He then proceeded to go on about the benefits of getting percentages of your downline members and explained the matrix they use to calculate benefits and the various levels people can rise to based on sales volumes of their downline.

After almost 2 and a half hours of this I asked him to please define to me what he meant by the term "sell".  Bob responded with a "what does it matter what it means - whatever it means to you is fine by me".  I tried to explain to Bob that I cannot understand what he means by such statements as "I have never sold anything with Melaluca" if I don't know his meaning of the word "Sold".  He continued to evade my point and would not define his terms.

Now to me, if someone refuses to define his terms, he either doesn't know what he is talking about or he is trying to deceive.
Bob and my pastor continued to stress that they were men of integrity and that everything was above-board yet Bob never did explain what he meant.

Bob and I got quite heated in our exchanges as Bob perceived that I was just trying to show the audience that Melaluca was an MLM firm.  But I could not make such a point with him because Bob would never nail down his terms.  He never defined what an MLM firm is or how Melaluca precisely differed from other known MLM firms like Shaklee or Amway except to point out that Melaluca sales are "direct" from the company to the member.  In other words, Amway up-lines deliver product to their down-line while Melaluca delivers product directly to the buyer.  To me this is a moot  point of delivery and has no real difference from other MLM companies in that both companies still have an MLM structure to them for sales and recruitment.

I pointed out to Bob that he showed me the catalog, convinced me to join, helped me to select the items I wanted to buy, filled out the order form, took my contact information, and had me sign the form.  He also collected my credit card info to place on the form.
In essence, because I met Bob, I purchased about $160 of product from Melaluca and Bob and my pastor's ministry would both see a percentage of my purchase going into their pockets in the next months Melaluca member payments.
But Bob insists this is NOT a sale and that he has never sold me or anyone anything from Melaluca.  He insists this because he didn't personally take my money and he didn't personally deliver the goods to me.

So this all sounds like a tedious and moot argument between me and Bob right?  I contend, however, that it is of central importance to who we are and the integrity of our characters.

So here's the big picture I see:
Bob is compromised.  He is selling goods in an MLM firm and is misrepresenting it as a direct marketing firm with himself having nothing to do with sales even though he IS selling by the common definition of selling.  He had to admit that he was marketing products for Melaluca but that was all he would admit to here.
This compromise with the truth could affect my pastor and the integrity of his ministry as well.  If my pastor becomes tricked into misrepresenting himself and Melaluca in order to gain members in order to gain money for his ministry, I wonder how long it will be before true support for that ministry dries up.

The trouble with MLMs in general is that they are an insidious form of USERY.  A direct and simple marketing business creates a product or service and simply sells it to whomever wants it.  The goal of a godly business is to server mankind, not make money.  Profit is the reward for serving others well. Most businesses use advertising to get the message out and they do their best to make the best and cheapest products they can.  Advertising can be honest and honorable or it can be deceptive and manipulating.
MLM systems use a different form of marketing that explodes by the incentive of gaining huge cash income by siphoning off the purchases of people in their down-line.
The cost of goods increases for everyone and the excess pays the marketing costs.
This in itself is not bad.  It is simply another method of marketing a product.  It can work quite well.
What is the problem is misrepresenting the nature of the program and of the agent in order to achieve more sales.  Lying in any model of marketing makes it ungodly.
MLM systems are unpopular because companies in the past have eventually saturated their markets and failed.  As long as the pyramid grows, everyone has hope and works to grow.  Once growth stops, for whatever reason, the system implodes.  Those at the top make tons of money and those at the bottom cannot rise easily with a growing pyramid.  Incentive goes away and the system dies.
This is because the real incentive behind MLM systems is always money.  No matter how good the products are, for some reason, companies don't feel this is good enough.  They must create an MLM system to push the product out and grow sales.
MLM inherently USES its people by REDISTRIBUTING the profits of sales from the leaf buyers to the trunk marketers.  Anytime you have a redistribution of wealth, you have a strong indicator of usery.
Usery is a contagious idea once it gets started.  In our country and the whole world now, usery is enshrined in the use of land via property taxes and in the use of our labor in income taxes and especially in the use of our money by fractional reserve currency.
This usery forces people to exploit the land to pay their taxes.  This in turn creates demand for things like fertalizers and GMO corn and GMO animals to exploit the land better.  Considerations for handing down property to our heirs is of much lower priority because owners must pay the rent in the form of property tax.
Pretty soon it looks like everybody is exploiting everybody else and it becomes a "do unto others before they do unto you" situation.
The same kind of deleterious effects happen with income taxes and fiat debt money.  They force a society to create too much wealth and burn out the land, and the people to support the userpers - the bankers, the government and any other middleman that makes a living by not creating wealth but instead by redistributing it.
MLMs do create wealth by creating products to sell but that wealth gets the appearance of multiplication to the upper tree members who pull a portion of the profits from their downline people.  The system appears to be upright because people that help their downline succeed in turn succeed themselves.  However, there will always be an exploited leaf node in the system footing all the bills and only making token money.
Don't get me wrong, the worker is worthy of his wages.  A CEO or sales manager undergoes much responsibility and stress and requires a larger reward to make the work worth doing.  I don't advocate an equality based system of compensation in business.  In fact, any system of deciding how much a person gets is ok for a business so long as it is an honest system.  MLM is no exception.
The higher you get in an MLM system, just like the higher you get in government or banking or whatever, the more the rewards become, but likewise corruption will become an issue - especially if the rewards don't come from hard work but from the fleecing of others.
Free enterprise works because it harnesses the greed of the individual to drive him into productive behavior, but when a preacher of the Word lets this greed manipulate him into misrepresenting himself or his business it becomes one of the most insidious forms of corruption - the holly salesman.
It is the holly salesman, whether TV evangelist, MLM manager or itinerant preacher, who is the source of so many people leaving the church and never coming back again.  It is a hypocritical poison that makes people hate the very God their leaders claim to love.
Using other peoples money via rentals, MLM systems, fraud, hidden contracts or unlawful taxation isn't really much different from a banker charging usery on loans and is clearly condemned by the bible.
The only reason governments get to tax people is because no one has found a way to fund it otherwise.  That is because government is an entity that is needed because of sin.  Once a government turns its taxing power into a way to steal from one person to give to another, it becomes one of the most destructive forces mankind has ever created that will eventually destroy civilization itself if not checked.
So what IS a lawful tax anyway?  I think the constitution makes this clear - either apportioned (everybody pays the same amount) or excise (everyone pays that uses something the government provides - such as secure borders - in the form of tariffs).

Next week, a lesson on the Jubilee!