How does an otherwise rational and intelligent person get suckered into Market America?
September 26, 2008 9:11 PM   Subscribe

How does an otherwise rational and intelligent person get suckered into Market America?

I have two acquaintances who are highly educated, logical, and intelligent, but are part of the Market America scam. These guys both have electrical engineering degrees, one is married to a CPA and the other even has an MBA.

How is it that they both are suckered into this thing? Can they not do the math? Is it just for a small bit of extra income? Maybe there is something legitimate about MA compared to Amway/Quixtar?

I don't want to ask them about it because I don't even want to broach the topic.

For a bonus - MA offers personalized ecommerce web sites...does anyone really think that random people will buy from a random web site when consumers can just go to Amazon?
posted by kenliu to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know Market America specifically, but I have seen someone close to me get taken in by a multi level marketing scam (Jüst). She was drawn in by the fact that the salesperson who got her into it wanted to be her friend, or so it seemed. She was lonely and had few peers, and was excited by the sales pitch, and the thought of being just like this fascinating new friend she made (who promptly disappeared when she did not have more money to sink into the scam). Have you ever been conned? it seems so silly until it is happening to you, and when someone knows how to work a scam, they can fleece you completely while you stand there feeling like an idiot but too embarrassed to even speak up and make the whole thing stop. Eventually you just want them to take whatever it is they are trying to scam out of you so you can get out of the unbearably awkward interaction. Or maybe that is just how it has been for me (not multi level marketing, but just fast talk street scam stuff).
posted by idiopath at 10:10 PM on September 26, 2008

"Sure, the math says that most people have to lose out and only a few exceptional people can really succeed at this, but isn't that just the way life is in general? Aren't you the kind of exceptional person who has the right stuff?"

Lottery tickets literally have the math printed on the back of them but people still buy them.

And the "legit" multi-level-marketing stuff as it were, the ones that aren't straight-out scams, do technically offer the possibility of making some measure of money, it's just that it's door-to-door sales work dressed up as being waaaay easier and more glamorous than it actually is.
posted by XMLicious at 11:20 PM on September 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure about your faith in the power of electrical engineering degrees, or MBAs. There are tons of engineers on the internet who seem to believe in all kinds of irrational things, from objectivism to creationism. And how many MBAs were involved in the biggest pyramid scheme of all, the sub-prime mortgage debacle?
posted by hydropsyche at 5:46 AM on September 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

The math says that most people have to lose out and only a few exceptional people can really succeed at this, but isn't that just the way life is in general?

I think XMLicious really nails it there. Every human wants desperately to believe that they are smarter/better/prettier/more-loved-by-Jesus than "the rest of the people", and this is the core weakness that almost all salespeople exploit to great success. All you have to do is find the precise angle, then reinforce that belief, and you're off to the races. How wonderful for someone to recognize your beauty/brains/blessedness/whatever... a kindred spirit who will help you gain recognition and reward for it! How can you say no?

Sometimes it's harmless, like making people buy a certain car or brand of shoes, and sometimes it's life-wrecking like a cult, but it's the same basic thing either way.

As for engineers and MBAs and such, consider this... I've read that American doctors are one of the best targets for marketing scams, which strikes me as likely, because not only do they tend to have a lot of extra income to target, but they went through almost a decade of very narrow professional schooling that told, taught, and reinforced the idea that they were the most brilliant, special people in the workforce, rather than simply knowing thousands of facts in one certain field. So they tend to believe, as they've been conditioned to believe, that they're smart experts in all things... and that's easy to exploit. (In other countries, doctors are more (accurately) recognized as rules-based technicians who have learned some specialized skills, so these people don't have quite the egos to believe they're brilliant beyond the medical sphere. I imagine they're less easy to target.)
posted by rokusan at 6:02 AM on September 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

I agree with hydropsyche. I mean, Bush has an MBA from Harvard. You think he's making logical, intelligent decisions about money right now?
posted by 4ster at 6:10 AM on September 27, 2008

Greed is a big factor. A few years back I bought a "hot" laptop out of the back of a truck because it was such a great deal. Somehow by the time I got home, the contents of the box morphed into a bunch of old newspapers. I saw it coming too. I realized during the transaction I was getting scammed, but didn't exactly see how the scam worked.

The second thing is that once you've already invested a lot of time and money into a scam, it just has to be legit, because the alternative is too awful to think about. So you keep believing despite evidence to the contrary.
posted by meta_eli at 9:01 AM on September 27, 2008

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