The centerpiece of any Rally is the life-story told by the guest of honor, emphasizing the depths of his pre-Amway rut and his resurrection through The Business. That evening’s featured guest, Executive Diamond Bill Hawkins, however, was too arrogant even to feign the requisite humility in his testimonial. He had been great all his life: a talented musician in one of Minneapolis’s best bands, a brilliant school teacher, a voracious reader, a charming companion with hundreds of loyal friends, and an unbelievably prodigious drinker of beer (about which he was now “ashamed”). When he saw The Plan and realized that he was much smarter than the guy showing it, he knew that his ship had finally come in: Here, at last, was something that would adequately reward his greatness.
Jay Van Andel and Richard DeVos, a pair of direct sales veterans, launched Amway in 1959. Today the company manufactures, markets and distributes consumer products. A unit of parent company Alticor, Amway is the brand consumers are familiar with. Other subsidiaries include Access Business Group and Alticor Corporate Enterprises. Richard DeVos and his family own the Orlando Magic basketball team and a minority stake in the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
A class action lawsuit was filed in 2007 against Quixtar and some of its top-level distributors in California, alleging fraud, racketeering, and that the products business and the tools business are pyramid schemes. A similar case filed in California in August 2007 by TEAM affiliated IBOs whose contracts had been terminated was dismissed. On November 3, 2010, Amway announced that it had agreed to pay $56 million to settle the class action, $34 million in cash and $22 million in products, and while denying any wrongdoing or liability, acknowledged that it had made changes to its business operations as a result of the lawsuit. The settlement is subject to approval by the court, which is expected in early 2011. The total economic value of the settlement, including the changes to the business model, is $100 million.
In Dreambuilders’ version of The Plan one could glimpse an escape from the coming economic dead-end through empowered consumption. We’d have all the twenty-first-century cred of working (and shopping) from home, engaging in cutting-edge marketing, being part of a decentralized network, and nurturing our inner entrepreneur. And all the human capital we needed was the ability to shop and be effusive about it, which were practically American birthrights.
Before the meeting, I had worried that my hand-held tape recorder would stand out. As it happened, everyone was recording Scott: I kept track of time by the sounds of cassettes being flipped. I was on Side B of a ninety minute tape before Scott dropped the word “Amway,” and I was on another cassette entirely before I captured the heart of the “best business opportunity in the world”: the Amway Sales & Marketing Plan. This was not, however, a topic to be discussed without considerable preparatory spadework.
The Amwayers who had brought me to Dream Night were flying high on the drive home, whooping occasionally just to vent their exhilaration. I felt as though I had just sat through a year’s worth of infomercials, with some high school pep rallies and a few Tony Robbins lectures thrown in. But to see all this as an exercise in mass hypnosis, according to Amway’s literature, would be to “misunderstand” what is, simply, “the best business opportunity in the world”—an assessment, strangely enough, with which the rest of world is starting to agree.
With its original product released in 1959, Amway has sought to be seen as the global leader in the health and beauty industries. Amway's fundamentals established by its founders are freedom, family, hope, and reward. The Michigan-based company believes its distributors will achieve happiness through earned success. Its product line includes weight management shakes, eye and lip care, household cleaners, laundry detergent, and more. Amway prides itself in being a family company with a global management team in place to support independent distributors. Amway hopes to help people start their own business with the promise of access to exclusive products, a low startup cost, and a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. People interested in Amway's health and beauty products can choose to become an Amway independent business owner or be an Amway customer.
However, I did what my upline and sponsor told me to do… Make a list of friends, family, etc. Talk to them about the products, business opportunity, and invite them to a presentation/meeting or get them on a 3 way call. I got sick and tired of feeling like I was hassling my friends and family, was frustrated and didn’t want to chase them around anymore and begging people (even strangers) to buy products from me or join my business/team.
Each year, Rich DeVos attends The Gathering, a below-theradar conference of hard-right Christian organizations and their biggest funders. Featured speakers have included the president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, the president of Focus on the Family, and the head of the Family Research Council. The philanthropists in attendance are representatives of some of America’s wealthiest dynasties and family foundations, and of the National Christian Foundation, America’s largest provider of donor-advised funds given to Christian causes. Donors who meet at The Gathering dispense upwards of $1 billion a year in grants.
They encourage new participants to start eating healthy and work-out — big surprise, taking care of yourself feels good — however, those who have been in a funk for a long time might attribute their new health and self-esteem boost to Amway rather than positive diet and lifestyle changes. Then they have recruits set goals, make vision boards, and sell them on the dream that they’ll “be retired in 2 to 5 years”. Amway is a pyramid scheme, but it’s masked under the real positive live changes subscribers make.
My uplines’ despair made me reluctant to add to their failure. But I had stayed in too long already. Having run out of other things to buy, I had resorted to subjecting my cat to Amway pet food. And I began to sense that when Josh and Sherri looked at me, they—in their last-ditch hopes—saw Diamonds. Before I disappeared from their lives, however, I accompanied them to one last Rally.