Please stop mlm-ing me!
November 5, 2007 2:11 PM   Subscribe

How do I politely and kindly dissuade a dear friend from trying to get me involved in various MLM schemes without offending her or hurting her feelings?

I have a very dear older friend who I in no way want to offend or upset. I have a lot of respect for her and I adore her as a person. However, she is involved in a variety of different MLM-type "businesses" which she really seems to believe in (she genuinely doesn't seem to just want to sell me something, she really believes in the products and the moneymaking opportunities, and the products themselves aren't necessarily scammy-seeming, just the manner in which they're being sold).

I don't mind her telling me about (insert product here) once or even twice, and I have even bought something once or twice because it seemed useful, but I'm not interested in "becoming a distributor", nor am I interested in hearing about how Product X is the answer to every problem. Despite the fact that she is always polite and gentle about it, and does not push it after she's said her piece, I feel uncomfortable with the fact that she brings these scamsthings up on a semi-regular basis. I have a deep distrust of all things MLM (thanks to a relative who got in way too deep) and it's starting to bother me, especially since I'm getting past the point where I can smile and nod and change the subject as soon as it's remotely polite to do so, and I'm starting to get worryingly close to eye-rolling "IT'S A SCAM" territory, and I really don't want to go there. I will be spending a few days in a row with this friend in the near future, and I know this is going to come up and I really need something kind and gentle and polite and respectful to say when it does. I don't need to tell her that I think she's wasting her time and money, I just need to let her know that I'm not interested.
posted by biscotti to Human Relations (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, you could hit these people over the head with a sledgehammer and they will still try and find a way to rope you in. I don't think there is anything wrong with being blunt and stating you are just not interested and for her to stop broaching the subject with you because it is making you uncomfortable. Then maybe turn the conversation to some mutual interest.

Don't take it so personally--people in MLM schemes try and rope everyone in. I am approached at the gym constantly with people who engage me in just enough small talk to feel like they are friendly, then they start telling me how pommagrante juice saved their husband's knees or something. They have the ferocity of a borderline cult and harp you bad. It just feels like an abuse, which I am sure is 10 fold with a friend. I'd be blunt. Frying pan upside the head blunt because any pussyfooting around is just going to lead to a constant probing on the part of the MLM zombie.
posted by 45moore45 at 2:19 PM on November 5, 2007

Many of the previous threads on MLM have good advice. One of my favorites is this one.
posted by matildaben at 2:20 PM on November 5, 2007

I see so many threads like this where people say, "How do I ....kindly?" I'm always floored by that. This is a friend, right? Someone who knows you? Why not simply say, "I'm glad it's working for you but I'm not interested." I don't know why grown ass people wouldn't be able to accept "no," without hurt feelings. If her feelings are hurt and she stops being your friend, I'd chalk it up as an "L" and count my blessings. She's clearly gullible anyway.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 2:36 PM on November 5, 2007 [3 favorites]

You know, it's okay for you to think this stuff is crap, and for her to know about it, and you to still be friends.

Personally I'd say something like "Look, I'm not interested in this [MLM company name] stuff - stop trying to sell me things. I don't want to buy things from you, I don't want to work for your company, I just want to be friends."

It's pretty rude to ask your friends to buy crap from you, especially over and over. You can take off the kid gloves when responding, and say what you think.
posted by aubilenon at 2:36 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Let her tell you once. When she brings it up again, cut her off saying "You already told me. Seen any good movies lately?"

Or, tell her that you would like her visit to be free of work related discussion for both you and then when she brings up say, "No, I know you love your products this but is going to be a work-free vacation for both of us."
posted by metahawk at 2:37 PM on November 5, 2007

I just tell people flat out I never get involved with mlm stuff on principle, period.
posted by konolia at 2:41 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

If she is really your friend then if you ask her to stop doing something she will. If she won't then I think that you need to take a close look at your relationship.
posted by ND¢ at 2:46 PM on November 5, 2007

You can't try to paw it off lightly and expect that it's going to be taken seriously. If this has been going on for some time, then obviously taking the soft approach is not going to work.

"I'm sorry, but what you're trying to involve me in is a scam. I understand that you believe wholeheartedly in the validity of this business, but it is a scam. You can research the company on Google to verify this if you like, but I'm not going to because I'm not interested in it. That's for you to do. I love you as a friend and I think the best of you, but please do not offer me any more products or business opportunities because you're starting to make me feel more like a lead than a friend. Can we go get some iced tea?"
posted by baphomet at 2:51 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

I feel like this sort of stuff is almost akin to religion. These people believe in it in a really serious way, you'd have to, to get involved in one of these things and that's probably why you are so reluctant to criticize it in front her. You realize it would be taken very personally. I've had friends be scammed by somewhat similar scams and everytime I've tried to gently dissuade them from them their defenses shot up. It was somewhat bizarre because I could have easily said to any of these people in other circumstances, hey I think your boss is really taking advantage of you and you a lot of great skills, you should consider looking into other jobs, and never gotten that kind of reaction. I think your only option is to dodge it or follow jamaro's advice.
posted by whoaali at 3:00 PM on November 5, 2007

jamaro : Perhaps you could say "Oh dear, I never mix business with friendship."

I think this would be my preferred method of dealing with it in a way to avoid hurt feelings.

Though when this came up between my sister and I, I tolerated it for about one conversation before I explained that it was a scam, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I directed her to a number of sources that demonstrated it's scamlyness and washed my hands of the whole thing.

About a week later I overheard her calling up other people who had been suckered, in an effort to get them all out as well.

With friends, use the soft approach, with family, tell it like it is. Friends you can lose, family is forever (for better or worse).
posted by quin at 3:13 PM on November 5, 2007

I don't need to tell her that I think she's wasting her time and money, I just need to let her know that I'm not interested.

I understand your desire to separate these two things, but ultimately you may have to tell her both. She likely hears your "I'm not interested" as "I'm not interested right this second in this particular product/scheme," which only encourages her to try harder to sell you on the next one. You need to make it clear to her that you do not want to contribute to what you think is a scheme to take advantage of her.

That said, baphomet's suggested language above is pretty good.
posted by googly at 3:13 PM on November 5, 2007

Best answer: You could tell the story of your relative who "got in too deep", explain that you have long-standing negative associations with these types of businesses [be specific about the type, so that she'll know that it applies to all of the MLMs she's involved with], and that while you respect and love her as a person, you not only would never get involved with this type of business, but it's painful even to hear it mentioned.

Explain that you respect her enough not to try to make her see it your way, despite how strongly you've always felt about this -- and it is a strong feeling -- because her business is her business, but you hope she will respect your thinking and feelings enough not to bring it up.

Say that you will enjoy her company much, much more if the issue can be avoided entirely, and you and she can just talk about other parts of her life that are interesting and fun for you to hear about.

Emphasize how you feel, that your feelings are not going to change, and your desire to have only positive experiences with her. Maybe give examples of topics and activities that you do enjoy with her.
posted by amtho at 3:19 PM on November 5, 2007

Tell her that you get bombarded with enough advertising and unmissable offers in every other facet of your life, and you'd prefer it not to crop up in personal conversations with friends. Don't mention scams or anything, let her get on with it, but make it clear that you are her friend for the normal friend-y reasons, and you won't be buying any of her stuff.
posted by fire&wings at 4:00 PM on November 5, 2007

If she's trying to recruit you to be a "distributor," say something like, "Sorry, I wouldn't enjoy having a job that I couldn't leave behind when I come home. I see how hard you work at this MLM marketing thing, and frankly, I'm just too lazy for that. I like to leave work at work, and if that means passing up a moneymaking opportunity, so be it."

I find that using excuses that are ostensibly based on your own "weaknesses" (you're too lazy to be a MLM marketer), are hard for people to argue with. If you use an excuse that is based on the scammy nature of the product or MLM program, you're giving them something to argue with.
posted by jayder at 4:06 PM on November 5, 2007

I think that anyone who reads AskMe on a regular basis would agree that you're damned good at what you do. Tell her that you have your hands full with your own business, already love what you do and don't want to take time, energy or money away from that.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 5:15 PM on November 5, 2007

an older woman tried this on me on a plane in denver. she blathered on for about 10 minutes about her miracle products, and i knew that she was angling to make a pitch. the instant she started, i cut her off and said, "thanks, but i'm not interested."

she pulled out some brochures and tried to pass them to me. i looked her in the eye and said, "look, i said i'm not interested, and i mean it."

she made a show of being hurt and didn't speak to me again for the rest of the flight, but i got some peace and quiet.
posted by klanawa at 5:23 PM on November 5, 2007

"How do I politely and kindly dissuade a dear friend from trying to get me involved in various MLM schemes without offending her or hurting her feelings?"

Can't be done.

The nature of these schemes themselves require that you tell the friend that they're selling a shitty product for a shitty company and they'll never make any money.

This is essentially what they are going to think you're saying when you offer any criticism of their MLM, because they're essentially stupid people who have been indoctrinated that their MLM is the best business idea since Microsoft.

These schemes prey on idiots, and by extension the relatives of said idiots.
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 5:46 PM on November 5, 2007

Best answer: What timing on this question! A woman I know from my son's music class started emailing me first about general conversational topics, then it shifted to constant inquiries about whether I'd like to host "parties" for all of these types of products. Being the generally kind person that I am, I really tried hard to dissuade her gently. I joked about not having many friends, not having much free time, not needing any more stuff, you name it. She kept pushing; the MLM people have an answer for every objection.

What I wanted to tell her was that I deeply, deeply resented not only her pushiness, but also the fact that she was putting me in a position to respond more rudely than I would ever want to. That I feel all MLMs are scams, but also the ones she was pushing are especially offensive for preying on women's ambitions and desires for financial independence while exploiting their tendencies to overspend as well as their personal relationships. That I just found her incredibly annoying.

Alas, I didn't have it in me, so after every subtle attempt to dodge her invitations/impositions, I finally emailed her and told her, "Look, I can truly appreciate your passion for , but I do not feel comfortable participating and therefore won't be able to host any gatherings or purchase any products. If I ever come across someone who is interested, I'll know where to send them." Then I changed the subject back to our children, and so far it's actually worked, knock on wood.

Best of luck and you have my sympathy for this maddening situation.

posted by justonegirl at 5:53 PM on November 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding amtho's advice to actually admit to having a bad personal experience with it. You don't have to be specific; you could say that it's something painful enough that you don't want to get too deep into it, but I think that would drive home the point for me.

I also think that there's some truth to this reasoning as if it hadn't been for the previous experience you might be able to laugh something like this off and chalk it up to a kooky friend.
posted by hue at 7:42 PM on November 5, 2007

Oy... we have a family member that is part of Primerica. We can't say so much as "hi" to her without her breaking into a sales pitch. It has gotten to the point that we no longer answer her phone calls or stop by to see her. We've tried telling her that we love her, and we are very happy with our current financial adviser, and a million other things, but it's no use. She's alienated a large part of the family because of her insistence on trying to sell us financial services at every turn.

I'm not too optimistic about your prospects. She is counting on your friendship as an opportunity to sell, sell and sell. The first place MLM'ers are told to sell is family and friends. It may take you snapping at her to make her realize that she's going too far. As long as you don't want to offend her, she's going to take your friendship as an opening. At the other extreme, if you tell her, "It's a scam," she's likely going to tune that out or even take that as a chance to use one of the company's "overcoming objections" tactics.
posted by azpenguin at 10:19 PM on November 5, 2007

"I thank you for your offer, but I am really not interested."

Her: "But why?"

You: "I believe I've made myself clear. I hope you can respect my decision."

Later, she brings it up again, or tries another tack:

You: "We've covered this ground previously, I believe. My decision still stands. I appreciate your understanding." Then change the subject. Never deviate and never apologize.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 8:31 AM on November 6, 2007

Tell her, "You get rich off of it first, then if it really works for you, I'll join". I bet you won't hear about it again after that.
posted by chump at 11:15 AM on November 6, 2007

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