On one fateful evening in December 2014, I went on Kijiji (I live in Canada) to look for a job and one particular ad caught my attention. This job ad was so vague, and yet so loaded that I filled in my contact details so the person who posted the ad could get back to me. This guy got back to me via the email I filled in and he told about brand new exciting business opportunity. He also sent me a couple of videos showing me people in mansions, beach houses and the rest by exploring this business opportunity in another city.
Dream Night was not the first Amway event I had been to, but it was the most hallucinatory. It began with the triumphal entrance of the Amway Diamond couples, half-jogging through a gauntlet of high-fives to the theme from Rocky, as the audience whooped and hollered and twirled their napkins over their heads. When the standing ovation finally tapered off, the emcee offered a prayer thanking God for (a) the fact that we lived in a free enterprise system, where there were no government agents kicking down the doors of meetings like Dream Night and (b) His Blessed Son. As dinner wound down, the video screens displayed a picture of what the guy next to me was quick to identify as a $20,000 Rolex watch. (He went on to tell of a fellow he knew who had a $30,000 Rolex and who couldn’t tell the time for the glare of the gold and diamonds.)
Bottom line: If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, Amway may not be the place for you due to the company politics. Sort of ironic, since the Amway business thrives on the entrepreneurial spirit of the distributor force. But, if you are looking to just go to work every day, maintain the status quo, get paid fairly, and live a balanced life, than Amway is great!
Amway gives some idea of real chances for success in its “Amway Business Review” pamphlet, which the FTC requires it provide to all prospects. The “Business Review” is an ingenious mixture of mandated honesty and obfuscatory spin: The average monthly gross income for “active” distributors, for instance, is revealed to be a meager $65 a month; but the “Review” leaves out the median income and the net profit, both of which would probably be negative. Likewise, it states that “2 percent of all ‘active’ distributors who sponsor others and approximately 1 percent of all ‘active’ distributors met Direct Distributor qualification requirements during the survey period.” From this, it derives the optimistic conclusion that “once again, the survey demonstrates a substantial increase in achievement for those who share the business with others.” Increase implies that there are some non-sharing distributors who succeed; an alternate reading of the statistics would be that all distributors try to share, none succeed without sharing, but only half are able to share. It’s also a measure of Amway’s PR savvy that every article I’ve seen (even the critical ones) that mentions the number of Directs uses the 2 percent, rather than the more accurate 1 percent, figure.
Qualifying for commissions requires more volume than most other companies, this keeps new distributors in the red for a longer period of time. In order to qualify for a paycheck a rep must do 100PV per month. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the average point wasn’t somewhere around $3.00. This means new distributors have to move $300.00 a month in volume to get paid. Normally, most other companies come in somewhere around $1.10 to $1.50 per point, meaning the new rep would only need to move $110.00 to $150.00 or so per month to qualify.
‘You can see we’re getting the screens fixed,’ the Realtor says, pointing to the men working beyond the glass. She has piercing blue eyes. Processed blonde hair. She has French-tipped nails, diamond rings on all fingers, and a gold-and-diamond necklace. She wears a white semi sheer shirt, black-and-white-printed leisure pants, black eyeliner and heavy mascara. ‘We’re just putting some finishing touches on the place.’
‘I was a salaried man working in a company for eight years,’ says Kaoru Nakajima, Japan’s first Amway Crown Ambassador. ‘Now I am my own boss. Now I am free. Now I am selling products that make me proud. Now I am helping people in five different countries to build their own businesses. When I see so many people getting more abundant lives, I feel really excited.’
Mr. DeVos and Mr. Van Andel left college to serve in the Army Air Corps during World War II. When they returned, they started Wolverine Air Service, their first joint venture. Several more businesses followed, including a failed charter schooner service, which almost led to their drowning, as well as a drive-in restaurant and a distributorship for a California-based marketer of vitamins and nutritional products.
The Dream is “sort of about pyramid schemes,” as host Jane Marie says at the beginning of the new podcast series, but it takes a moment to figure out just what that means. In the beginning of the first episode, which you can listen to exclusively here, Marie dives into a classic pyramid scheme of the 70s and 80s, the “airplane game,” a trend that became so prevalent among a certain subset in New York and South Florida that The New York Times caught on, calling it “a high-stakes chain letter.”
Though they aren’t quite as large or wealthy as the DeVoses, the Prince family—even further west, in Holland, Michigan—shares one big trait in common with their in-laws: the idea that patriotism and politics are inseparable from Christianity. Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, Betsy’s mother, donated $75,000 to the successful 2004 ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage in Michigan; four years later, she gave $450,000 to an identical initiative in California. Betsy’s brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater, the military contractor that gained notoriety in 2007, when its employees fired into a crowd of Iraqi civilians, killing 17. (In 2009, two former Blackwater employees alleged in federal court that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader.”)
This collective approach is how the family runs their home lives, too. The DeVoses’ myriad properties are managed through a single private company, RDV Corporation, which both manages the family’s investments and operates as a home office, paying the family’s employees, maintaining the DeVoses’ residences and assuring them as frictionless a life as possible. (The duties outlined by one recent property-manager job with RDV Corporation include “ensur[ing] doors are well-oiled to avoid squeaking” and that “broken toys [are] repaired or disposed of.”)
Amway offers a wide range of eco-friendly products under different brands. The most popular brands under the company are Nutrilite, Artistry, XS and Legacy of Clean. There are several hundred products that can be utilized to build a retail business. This includes personal care products, dietary supplements, water purifiers, jewelry, electronics and cosmetics.
On its face, the debate over right-to-work is about an arcane bit of labor law—whether workers under a contract that was collectively negotiated by a union should have to pay dues to that union, regardless of whether they’re members. But that debate is a proxy for a larger battle that is less about employment law than political jockeying: Unions tends to align with Democrats, and as a result, if it becomes more difficult for unions to collect dues, they’ll be weakened and less able to advocate for the political causes of their choosing.
We had a fireplace, a poolside grill, and a river-rock deck with closing screens. We had an island counter. We had walls covered with mirrors. To get to my parents’ master bathroom, I passed through a dressing area connected to a walk-in closet. The bedroom next to mine was expressly for guests; the one at the end of the hall became a study. One of two living rooms seemed intended only for show, and the planter inside the front door housed pots of plants – silk, they never wilted. The bathroom off the family room had an outside door and a shower for people coming in from the pool. We bought new furniture, new rugs, new artwork. I had never felt more proud.