Amway and I

I met a couple the other day when they were referred to me by a friend of mine for translating a letter and a certificate to be presented to the French Embassy for visa application. The couple are Amway’s Executive Diamond distributors. One of my former colleagues later told me that Amway’s Diamond distributors hold high positions and earn a lot without having to work. It didn’t came to me as a surprise when the couple later approached me by inviting my wife and me to their home for a “simple meal”. I thought they had their own ax to grind. But, I nonetheless accepted their invitation because the meeting might give me something inspiring.

After a meal prepared by his family’s cook, Chen, the husband, introduced my wife, me and the friend to how Anway operates to benefit its members, or Independent Business Owners (IBO) in Amway’s parlance.

I was moved by his successful presentation. Before reading what its critics say about Amway and other multi-level marketing (MLM) companies, I almost thought Anmay would provide me with an opportunity to create “my own business” that benefits my “customers” and myself. I was disillusioned to find that higher-rank Amway distributors earn most of their incomes by providing books, tapes, and other “tools” to their “downlines” and maybe by conducting brainwashing “seminars” where existing and potential IBOs gather religiously. All these are paid for by the distributors’ “downlines”. I hate this. I don’t want to take advantage of my friends and Anway reminds me of pyramid selling.

“Amway (and its online incarnation, Quixtar) have been controversial for years because of allegations that these companies are pyramid schemes. Critics claim that most of the products sold by Amway are to the Independent Business Owners (IBOs) themselves for personal consumption rather than to retail consumers who aren’t enrolled as IBOs. Buying products from Amway or Quixtar gives IBOs points and they are paid back on the number of points that they generate from personal consumption. It is claimed to be a business opportunity and hence an existing IBO can help others to get an IBO number and divert their buying habit from other stores to Amway or Quixtar. Thus the business grows as a greater number of people join the group. The share of profit is based on the leverage that an IBO has.

Typically, IBOs spend a large amount of money on tapes, books, and seminars (known as “tools” in AMO parlance) which are ostensibly “required” to “hone the business skills of the IBOs”. These are not provided by Amway itself but organizations often described as Amway Motivational Organizations (AMO) in general run by people in the higher ranks of the organization. Claims regarding the support material range from “can be of help to an IBO ” to “are absolutely required” to “build a big business”. However, undercover investigations like one done by MSNBC Dateline in April 2003 suggest that most of the money being earned by these successful individuals was coming from the hidden “tools” business rather than through selling the company products. Critics also claim that the materials are specifically geared towards encouraging IBOs to continue working for a non-economic return, rather than improving their actual business skills.

Dexter Yager’s organization, the International Dreambuilders’ Association/Digital Alliance (usually simply referred to by the abbreviation IDA) is arguably the largest and best-known of the AMOs, and is probably the one most commonly associated with Amway.”

Source: as quoted at,, accessed on August 26, 2006)

P.S. Recently, I’ve been thinking about what I should and could do to make a better life for my family…

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