MLM party for a bachelorette
November 10, 2011 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I take an ethical stance against MLMs (multi-level marketing companies) but a friend is having a Passion Party (think tupperware party, but for overpriced sex toys) as her bachelorette party. Am I obligated to go?

I am personally opposed to all MLMs and make my stand with my wallet and my time. Passion Parties are really popular in my area and I get several invitations per year, which I politely decline. It's expensive crap vibrators for women who find penis-shaped pencil eraser party favours the height of titillation, and who are too scared to go into a store and buy decent toys. It's not my thing, and on top of my regular reservations about MLMs, I find this particular flavour to be pretty sex-negative and heterocentric.

A friend is hosting one as her bachelorette party, which I find pretty rude and presumptuous (come celebrate my impending wedding, and buy things from my friend so that I can make money!), and which I also have a hard time just declining. She doesn't have a lot of friends in this town (she's From Away), and so I'd feel awful just saying "no thanks" as I usually do. If I go, though, I'll be a stick in the mud and won't buy anything anyways.

Do I opt out? Do I go and try to fake it even though that's against my personal ethical code? Do I go, but way late in the night when the Passion part of the party is over?
posted by arcticwoman to Human Relations (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Between your ethical position on MLMs and your distaste for this particular product line, I can't imagine a crappier way to spend an evening. Don't go and don't feel bad about it. Go check your calendar. I'm pretty sure you have other plans for that evening.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:03 AM on November 10, 2011 [15 favorites]

She's taken a sales event and thinly disguised it as a social event in an attempt to guilt/trick people into going. I don't think you should feel obliged to go, at all.
posted by ftm at 9:04 AM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

You are never obligated to go to a party. That's why you receive an invitation, rather than a summons.
posted by xingcat at 9:05 AM on November 10, 2011 [74 favorites]

As far as MLMs that do significant damage to society, Passion Parties are pretty low on the list. If this was an outright-scamming-MLM (think Herbalife) or an MLM that has abuses its significant political sway (think Amway), it'd be something to really think hard about. Other than that, and unless you really can't get over yourself enough to at least make it look like you're having a good time for her sake (and if you can't, you can't and it's better that you don't go,) I think being a good friend to someone who needs one at the moment should outweigh a less-than-concrete attack on your your ethics and politics. And if the stuff after the subpar-vibrator-peddling is going to be just a party for your friend and beg off with an excuse, I don't see much of an issue.
posted by griphus at 9:05 AM on November 10, 2011 [7 favorites]

You don't have to go. If asked for a reason, be honest. Otherwise don't volunteer the reason why.
posted by inturnaround at 9:05 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're not obligated to go to any party, especially not one where people will be selling things at you. Either show up late, after the sales pitch, or don't show up at all. You don't need to give an excuse. "I'm sorry, but I'm unable to attend," will be sufficient.
posted by phunniemee at 9:05 AM on November 10, 2011

Decline, but take her out another night for a glass of wine and coffee/dessert to discuss the wedding plans/her excitement. You don't dislike her and as you said, she doesn't have a lot of local friends.
posted by kate blank at 9:06 AM on November 10, 2011 [22 favorites]

"...and you can beg off with an excuse for being 'late'..."
posted by griphus at 9:06 AM on November 10, 2011

You can go and not buy anything. It feels a little wierd, but it's totally doable.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:06 AM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Make some kind of excuse and don't go to the party. It sounds like going would be somewhat unpleasant for everyone involved, and that would be rude. If you're worried about letting your friend down, take her out to lunch sometime to give her the present you would have given her at the party.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:09 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd go and not buy anything. If you have the cash, buy her a really nice toy as an engagement/wedding/hen/whatever present. Show her what she's missing and maybe she'll spend her money elsewhere in future.
posted by corvine at 9:09 AM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

If it's one of your BFF's or an otherwise close friend, I'd go and not buy anything; you may have a problem with MLM's, but you also love your friend, and if this is what she wants, then hey.

If it's just a casual friend or an acquaintance, decline with regrets (while offering to take her to lunch on another date, maybe) and feel no guilt.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on November 10, 2011 [9 favorites]

If you really don't want to go, then don't go. But also keep in mind that this isn't about you, it's about your friend. You might actually find something that you do indeed want to buy for your friend or yourself and, if not, no harm no foul. Tupperware is expensive but their products are great.

I personally dislike these kinds of parties and, like you, I usually decline. However, if I thought this was something a close friend would use and want, I'd be more likely to go. (I do think buying other people sex stuff is kind of creepy.)
posted by shoesietart at 9:21 AM on November 10, 2011

I hate these types of parties too. I have a friend who that's the only time she has a get together at her host a party for someone so she can get free stuff. You say you'll feel awful if you decline, so just go late for the food and drinks or whatever. Who knows, you might have a good time.
posted by daydreamer at 9:25 AM on November 10, 2011

Someone invited me to one of these parties and I told them I felt "uncomfortable' with it and they completely understood. Not everyone wants to hang around watching their friends buy sex toys or talk about them.

It's way easier to get out of something like this rather than candles/avon/tupperware.

Also, see if there is something going on afterward, and then show up for that.
posted by KogeLiz at 9:26 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Am I reading you correctly that it's not her that runs the Passion Parties, but another friend of hers? If so, is there a chance that she was pressured by this friend to do the party? Maybe you're being there will help her endure something she's not really that into in the first place. Can you delicately bring up your discomfort with her beforehand?
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:27 AM on November 10, 2011

i've been to similar parties at bachelorette parties. Usually it's not so much a "thinly veiled marketing sceme" as much as a way to inject some guided sexy-talk into a group of women who might not be comfortable actually talking about this stuff in public.

It's not easy to plan a bachelorette party. You want it to be a little dirty, a little wild, but chances are there are family members and people from different ends of your social sphere- who don't always feel comfortable talking about dongs to strangers- at least without someone walking them through it. SO- don't judge too harshly- she is probably not trying to fleece you.

That being said- if she is a good friend, lady-up and go. You don't have to buy anything. You just have to just pretend to have a good time. If she's not that good of a friend, don't bother. You can catch up later over drinks and give her a real vibrater.
posted by Blisterlips at 9:27 AM on November 10, 2011 [11 favorites]

Skip it but be polite about it. Then do something awesome like take her out for drinks or something.
posted by floweredfish at 9:36 AM on November 10, 2011

I don't know, I would go. It will probably be awkward and a little grating, but if you actually like her, it's a party nonetheless. Just have a good attitude.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:37 AM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

"Hey friend, thanks for the invitation, but I really can't make it that night. How about we get together some other time for a coffee/beer/wine/bonox to celebrate?"
posted by Diag at 9:50 AM on November 10, 2011

I thought bachelorette parties were actually organised by the maid of honour, not the Bride herself, so the theme may have been out of her control. I am pretty immune to MLM (only three invitations in the past twenty years) but I did go to a passion party and it was actually a good night with a very short sales pitch and no hard sell at all (purchases were discrete and happened elsewhere during the actual party).

I would go to support your friend.
posted by saucysault at 10:16 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ugh, how tacky! I think it depends on how close a friend - if really close, I would probably go and not buy anything; if not so close, I would conveniently be busy that night.
posted by naoko at 10:27 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why not go but just don't purchase anything?
posted by radioamy at 10:28 AM on November 10, 2011

"hey friend, i'm super excited about your upcoming wedding! i feel sort of awkward about the passion party though, because i'm sure i wouldn't buy anything. i usually buy my sex toys from this website/local shop ________ and i'm really committed to buying from them because of their sex-positive, queer-positive, etc attitude. i really want to come, but i don't want it to be awkward when i don't buy anything.

maybe we could just have brunch another time, on me. how does that sound to you? or, let me know if you'd like me to attend the party even if i'm not buying."
posted by insectosaurus at 10:35 AM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

These aren't parties at all, they're sales presentations disguised as parties. The idea of using one as a bachelorette party is about as tacky as it gets. It's a small wonder she hasn't made many friends.
posted by Dolley at 10:37 AM on November 10, 2011 [11 favorites]

You're absolutely right, it is rude to invite you to a party to get you to spend your money, with extra crassness points for the nature of the merchandise.

It often happens that I find myself invited to occasions on terms I find offensive, but I think well of the person and figure that they're well-meaning and just going along with cultural trends, I say I can't make it but then I invite them to do something (by "invite" I mean my hospitality, my effort/expense) for a week or two later.

However, an example of that would be something like an "invitation" to a guest-funded birthday dinner (as opposed to "shall we all go to the restaurant for Flossie's birthday"). Those bug me, but I don't read anything into them as people are just doing what everyone else does. This "invitation" is in a whole different offensiveness league and I would probably just say "no thanks, can't make it" and leave it at that. YMMV.
posted by tel3path at 10:41 AM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

A childhood friend of mine came home for a visit a few years ago and sent out a Facebook invite to a bunch of our old crowd saying "Hey guys! I'm home for a visit and would loooove to see you all. By the way, this will also be a party for [insert name of crappy skincare product MLM company here] so I'll be giving out free samples! I'm really busy on my visit, so this will be my only time to see you all!" I am in total agreement with your stance on these things, so I didn't go to the party and as far as I know, not many other people did as well, so I suspect I wasn't the only one put off by this. Childhood friend and I are still friends, but I felt zero guilt about not attending and not even responding to the invitation.

If this was a close friend, I might even go as far as to tell them that some people might consider this really inappropriate, but that all depends on the context and people involved.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:56 AM on November 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

"Thank you, but it won't be possible for me to attend." You never owe anyone, anywhere, anytime any reason at all as to WHY you're not attending something. (Especially in this case, since this isn't a real party, nor a real celebration of the upcoming wedding: it's just a blatant business venture.)

If you HAVE to give a reason for not attending, say to keep the peace with the bride, don't say more than that you have "other plans for that date," and then make sure you ARE unavailable --- even if that just means hiding out in a movie theater at that time.
posted by easily confused at 11:21 AM on November 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Life is too short. Don't go. Be honest. I find it so refreshing when people say that do not want to do something because they don't want to. Say "dear friend, I'd love to celebrate your wedding, I'd like to do xyz but I can't go to your passion party because I'd be miserable."
posted by turtlefu at 11:28 AM on November 10, 2011

go, be a stick in the mud.

bring a real vibrator you got from your store and if they ask why you're not buying say you like yours better. If they insist, whip it out and show why its better.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:14 PM on November 10, 2011

As a not-straight woman, I have to say that I find discussing sex toys with a group of straight women to be pretty annoying. There's waaaaaay too much giggling. I would decline for that reason alone.
posted by medusa at 12:29 PM on November 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

When the wedding is over she will remember that you were there for that, not that you were absent for her bachelorette party.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:37 PM on November 10, 2011

Response by poster: Almost no one is going to be there for the wedding - it's a destination wedding.

After reading all these comments I'm leaning towards going after the sales pitch, and my partner is leaning towards not going at all. Thanks for all the things to think about.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:43 PM on November 10, 2011

You know, I went to one, and I don't remember buying anything... if I did, it was small and not a remarkably bad deal (That I would remember). But it worked like a tupperware party; my friend hosted the party, and there was a lady who was the consultant who basically ran the show. And you know... it was actually fun. A little wine, snacks - it was far from the worst night I've spent with a group of women I didn't know all that well. The lady who was really the saleswoman was very knowledgeable, obviously very sex-positive, and did a very interesting, enjoyable presentation. A lot of back and forth, getting everyone who wanted to participate involved in the discussion.
posted by lemniskate at 1:47 PM on November 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can say to the hostess "I feel awkward about attending the party, because I'm sure I won't buy anything, but I want to help Jane celebrate" and you will be encouraged to attend. Bring a card, perhaps some wine for the hostess, and champagne for the bride, and be a good sport. If you know you'll just be cranky and spoil the fun, don't go.
posted by theora55 at 3:57 PM on November 10, 2011

Ugh, this is so yucky. I understand the dilemma. I think for me it would come down to how much I love the friend versus how yucky the pitch is going to be.

BUT I think that if the friend is close enough that you would consider going, even though it's heinous, she should also be close enough to talk with her ahead of the party about your concerns about heteronormativity and sex-negativity. Early enough so that she can raise it with the representative from the company.

If she doesn't love you enough to do that, or if you don't respect her enough to trust her to do that if she says she will, then I don't think you have to love her enough to go.

(I know that still leaves the financial exploitation of friends yuckiness, but I think it might be enough compromise for me).
posted by Salamandrous at 4:32 PM on November 10, 2011

If it were my friend, I would go and just not buy anything. Bachelorette parties are a little different than random parties in terms of the likely expectation level and desire that you go.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:08 PM on November 10, 2011

I've been to a couple of these and agree with Blisterlips that it was more of a way to inject "sexytalk!!" into a gathering that is "supposed" to be salacious fun than a thinly-veiled sales pitch. (In fact, it's not veiled: They're obviously there to sell things.) I didn't buy and neither did several other women at both parties. After the presentation we just drank and hung out as in any other party.

Honestly, if she's really your friend, I think you should go and put a good face on it. You don't have to fake it, just don't be a downer. (If anyone asks why you're not buying, just smile and say truthfully "I like the one I already have; I got it at babeland!" or whatever*.) You're really there for her, so if this is what she wants you should support it.

But if you feel strongly enough about this that you'll be obviously disgruntled and cranky, then don't go--but not because you don't want to, because you'll ruin it for your friend. Basically the key is to do whatever is best for your friend, not you.

*Being careful not to sound supercilious. You have very valid reasons for disliking MLMs and this type of gathering in particular, and your assumptions about the women there finding penis erasers the height of titillation or being "too scared to go to a store to buy decent toys" may or may not be true, but scorn never helped anyone's cause. At the gatherings I attended, in the south, some of the women present very clearly had never really been exposed to sex toys. Yes, it was all a little tame and tinkerbell-esque, but if it gave them some exposure to new ideas and they felt daring, so what? All to the good.
posted by alleycat01 at 1:52 PM on November 11, 2011

If you want to be a polite, nice person, then go. You are under no obligation to buy anything. At this point, you don't know if it was her idea or if it's going to be an obnoxious sales pitch, so its a little presumptuous to get all Judgy McJudgerson on her choice for her bachelorette party. Sure, you may have morals, but if you really hated bowling and she wanted to go bowling, would you be all high-falutin' then, or would you just buck up and put your own issues aside for one night to celebrate the impending wedding of your friend? This isn't about you, it's about her.
posted by custard heart at 10:42 AM on November 13, 2011

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