*All names and identifying features have been changed at the author’s request, to protect the individuals concerned.
Before reading Tiff’s story, please remind yourself that all views presented in this blog are as told to us by the authors, and simply reflect their own opinions. Your own personal experiences with MLM companies may differ, negatively or positively.
Take it away, Tiff.
[Tiff:] Thanks, Elle. Yes, I was part of an MLM and it had such a detrimental effect on my friendships and marriage. It even ruined a bit of my wedding day, to be honest.
Well, I’ll start from the beginning. It was the month of June 2015, and Scentsy was still quite new to the UK. It was picking up in America, mostly thanks to Twitter and the girls from MTV’s Teen Mom. I got in contact with a consultant, Debra, via Twitter and asked her to tell me all about this Scentsy.
She told me about what they were (“wickless candles and scented fragrance wax for electric candle warmers“), the prices, and offered to send me some ‘free samples’. When they arrived they were just scrapings of wax in tiny little bags, but undeterred, I flicked through the catalogue and actually liked the products, so I decided to put together an order.
Debra encouraged me to show my friends the products, which I did, and when I got the order together it came to over £200. At the time, I didn’t know much about the minimum party orders etc, but in similar fashion to Younique, if Debra sold over £150 she would put it through as a ‘party’ and earn free products and half price items. With my order being over £200, I should have been given a half price item and £25 product credit…but Debra generously sent me a free bar instead (£5 worth!!).
Of course, at the time I was none the wiser, and took the ‘gift’ happily. Debra then told me I would make an “awesome” consultant (but still took my large order for herself). The start up costs really put me off, and you had to pay about £6 postage on top, so I said I’d think about it.
The products eventually arrived, and I absolutely loved them – so, I decided to join as a consultant. However, Debra strangely encouraged me to wait – she said I should join in August when I’d get a “double starter kit” (which actually was the new season and old season stuff). Nothing exciting, and certainly not “double” anything. Either way, I took her advice, and waited.
July came around – I was contacted by another Scentsy consultant, named Topaz. She had seen my Twitter conversations with Debra, and told me I’d “been ripped off“. Topaz was in USA but told me I could “join her team” and “run the UK market” for her.
In August, I paid a total of £94 on my credit card to join Scentsy under Topaz, and was told I would “totally easily make that back“. (Knowing what I know now, I should’ve kept that large order for myself, and put it through on my own account to earn commission and party rewards from it, instead of Debra…)
At the time, I was living in a rented house with my boyfriend and baby. My boyfriend worked 60-hour weeks doing two jobs, and we were on some benefits to tide us over. My American upline messaged me and FaceTimed me a lot (at midnight because of time differences 😴). She told me “it would be best for me to invest in stock for my first few parties so that I had lots to show off“.
We didn’t have much money to spare in reality, but I put through an order of £150 in order to have lots of products for my first ‘party’. When this day came and went, I actually thought “wow, I’ve sold quite a lot!”
In reality, without keeping proper records, I think I was already down £244.
It was also drummed into me that the only way I’d be successful is to “recruit, recruit, recruit!”
They described it as “paying it forward” – we’d be introducing people to a wonderful product, and making their lives better. They should be “grateful” for me and for Scentsy! I truly believed it was a good product, so I never felt guilty presenting it.
I went crazy on Twitter trying to find people to recruit. I was told to search for people who had suffered with house fires caused by candles, and to “reel them in using our electrical wax warmers.” It felt wrong, but I wanted my “business” to be successful. I hardly slept, I was online all day and night trying to find customers and promoting the goods.
By the end of August, I had signed up five people – all who paid £94 for their kit. The pressure intensified because now I had to try and help these recruits make some money, and sell some products. They were relying on me because in my recruitment pitch I promised “big things“, just as they had been promised to me.
When September came, I managed to recruit another two people to my ‘team’, and I held parties every damn weekend to sell products. The customers who had bought from me in August were furious, because Scentsy had increased prices and they felt like they were “tricked into buying cheaper” as they now had to pay more for wax etc.
To appease these customers, I ended up taking the hit on a few sales by letting them purchase at the cheaper prices and covering the rest on my credit card.
I was selling, which felt great, and I didn’t really consider the impact on my finances because I thought I would be making my money back in commission.
September was also the launch of the new catalogue, so I had to replenish my stock with current catalogue items. This was another £150 order. I was also expected by Topaz, my upline, to provide training materials and items for my team members. I bought 7 t-shirts and had them printed with our team name, I posted wax samples and lots of other materials to help them. This all came out of my own pocket, but I was told it would be the only way to succeed.
There is also a huge amount of pressure from Scentsy HQ to “be a good team leader” – if it was reported that you were not performing well, you would be banned from Scentsy and lose your team. In saying this, they actually gave no examples of how to be good leader, or what was expected.
By October, I was holding 2 parties every week at my customers’ houses, in the frantic pursuit of sales. I also dragged myself out to craft sales, school fetes etc. They weren’t easy; people were unkind about prices, and managing stalls was very stressful. I tried to remain positive because I really believed in the product.
I couldn’t tell my team that I was struggling, because I wanted them to believe it was easy to succeed. I couldn’t tell Topaz that I was struggling, because she’d scold me for being “negative” and “closed-minded“. My family life was taking a hit, because I wasn’t sleeping much while I scoured the internet for customers.
I argued with my boyfriend for “not supporting my business” when he showed concerns about our outgoings.
In fact, I just want to show you something – take a look at this.
This is a consultant doing a stall at some random event. They’ve put a ridiculous amount of money into that. I couldn’t even begin to think about how much, but I’ll give it a go.
- The blue circled items are Scentsy bars. These are £5 each.
- The aqua lines show “consultant items” that the consultant will have bought for around £20. Plus, note that there’s a recruiting banner – they would have had this made privately, as Scentsy don’t sell them.
- The red line points to Scentsy warmers. They’re anything from £20 to £80, and it looks like there’s a minimum of 8 there.
- Yellow points to Scentsy Buddies. They’re about £20-30 each, and look how many boxes there are!!
This is consultants who do stuff like this tend to buy on their credit card, because “they’ll earn it back” and they are “investing”. It’s insane! This is not good business.
Honestly though, my hard work was paying off because I did sell a lot of products, and I qualified for the big incentive, which was a trip on an all expenses paid Mediterranean cruise the following year. My commission, however, was nothing to write home about. Considering the hours that I was putting in and the expenses that running the ‘business’ was costing me, I was working for pennies.
I joined a Facebook group ran by some Scentsy ‘Directors’ (aka consultants who had large downlines and reached certain sale levels). It was horrible – they pretended to be supportive, but there was an awful amount of backstabbing and customer poaching. Group members would scroll through other peoples friends lists, and start offering products at lower prices. They also created fake email addresses, messaging consultants pretending to be prospective customers asking for wax samples and information!
The idea was that if they pretended to make a big order and never pay for it, then the rival consultants would lose heart and leave.
I must stress, I never took part in this and nor did anyone in my downline. However, I know that my uplines were heavily involved in this malpractice, and many of the ‘Directors’ who are still with Scentsy are only successful because of their nasty behaviour).
By November, I had a solid customer base, they were all referring their friends to me, and my team was growing. I’d recruited a total of 15 people into my downline, and was encouraging them to
persuade friends/family to spend £94 on wax recruit, so that could promote me within the company. I was well and truly sick with Hun-disease.
The Christmas rush was also BOOMING. EEEEEK. But actually looking back over my numbers, I only made around £150 in commission after expenses etc – the hours I was putting in means I was on less than minimum wage. Yes, £150 was nice at the time, but some of my team weren’t finding it so easy. In an attempt to help them, I started making training videos – this ate into my family time even more. My relationship got so strained.
As mentioned, I had qualified for the incentive holiday by this point, and was trying to earn another spot so that I could bring my boyfriend with me. I really wanted my team mates to be successful, and while I do feel guilty that I ever recruited them into this scam, I do also feel like I did my very best to try and help them make money. I just didn’t realise it was all in vain.
And so, I do want my story to serve as a warning for the huns who are currently doing well in their MLM – It. Won’t. Last.
During December, I was full steam ahead trying to get orders in time for Christmas, but the Scentsy warehouse were understaffed and unorganised. Parcels were delayed, badly packaged or damaged, and Scentsy were rapidly running out of stock. Customers were getting angry, but on social media Consultants were acting like everything was fine, and using it to promote their bizniz: “look how busy and great we are!”
Reality was, everyone found the whole thing infuriating. I lost some large orders because they weren’t delivered, and I had to items back AT MY OWN COST, plus losing the commission from sales and potential reorders from customers. In response, Scentsy HQ simply sent threatening emails to those of us who dared to complain.
Christmas came and went, and January arrived, but brought me no sales. Not one. I pretended this was my “month off” but seriously, who wants to buy overpriced scented wax during the tightest month of the year? My regular customers had all stocked up too.
See, the problem with the Scentsy business model is that you need people to buy high priced items such as the Warmers, but once your customer base has bought their warmers, they only need the wax melts going forward. At £5 a pop and lasting “longer than Yankee Candle“, they actually only needed to buy wax every couple of months. It was fab for them because they genuinely got something for their money (!!!), but for the consultant it made it harder to meet Scentsy’s minimum sales targets. Sales for my team started to fizzle out, but we knew the new catalogue would be coming in February and it was “going to be totes amaze.”
Hello February. By now my team was a nice size, about 25 of us, and my recruits had started bringing in their own recruits. I had a constant pressure to perform as a “leader” for these people. They needed guidance and training, ideas and confidence boosts. I genuinely wanted them to do well, I always felt guilty about the start up costs and wanted to see my team at least make their money back. I spent a lot of time on our Facebook group chatting to them and making my own sales.
People will probably raise an eyebrow at me – yes I was promoting up the ranks and earning commission from their sales, but it was about 5% and I really just wanted them to do well for themselves. I dedicated myself to my team (more on that to come).
We got the amaaaaaazing new catalogue release, and lo and behold – prices had been increased AGAIN. Very disheartening when a product you truly believed in starts to actually be vastly overpriced – how are we expected to sell something for £50 that we sold for £20 a few months ago?
There were lots of discussions about it on the weekly conference calls, but nothing we said mattered – the bigwigs at Scentsy HQ wanted to make money, and we had to sell it. At the same time, HQ decided to increase the minimum sales targets. We now had to sell a minimum of £150 in 3 months to stay “active” (aka not be kicked out of Scentsy). Apparently this would make things easier and “get rid of the dead wood from the team“. This “dead wood”, I’ll remind you, who had spent almost £100 apiece on their starter kit. A member of my team had a very poorly daughter so often had to focus on her rather than sales (obviously!). Now, the added pressure of minimum sales targets was extra stressful for her.
My team was big though. I was promoting. They were recruiting and promoting. Everything seemed to be going well, regardless.
I’d (shamefully!!) invite people round for coffee – namely the lonely mums from my children’s playgroups.
This coffee was a cunning set up – I’d have my Scentsy warmers going so my house smelt lovely. People would always say how nice it smelt and I’d say “oh, that’s just my Scentsy…” and then casually get into the discussion about the product and my business selling it.
9 out of 10 times of using this tactic, I’d have my new friends pull out their debit cards and make an order. Yes, the products were good. I’ve said before, I truly believed in them at the start… but now I’d begun down this slippery slope of duping people into buying it. Inviting people to my home under the guise of wanting new friends, when actually all I wanted was a sale – it pains me so much to even admit that I did this, BUT I’m saying it because I know people still do it now. It’s preying on people’s good nature. You’re hooking them in with the idea of company and coffee (or nowadays it seems to be more about Prosecco 🙄)… when actually all you want is these people’s money.
I can’t see how anything about that is right. It’s so unfair to the people you’re using and it’s also unfair to yourself.
You’re duping yourself out of genuine friendships because you’ve become more about the MLM sales than about being a nice person.
If you read this and you’re guilty of doing it then STOP. Now is your chance to sit back and assess your actions.
Back to my story, though. I was doing well, so well in fact that myself and 3 of my team members had finally earned enough to go on the Scentsy incentive trip! As mentioned earlier, this was an all inclusive Mediterranean cruise. When you read about these incentives you must think “what’s the catch?!” But there really wasn’t one. Scentsy paid for our flights to Barcelona, they paid for our rooms on the cruise (we had a double room with en-suite and balcony). They paid for excursions when the ship arrived at various locations. They paid for our food packages… It really was all inclusive.
I did take spending money so that I could buy souvenirs for my children, but it honestly was a fantastic experience. There were no training days or Scentsy-anything..it was literally about celebrating our sales. It was great.
The next incentive I earned was to Mexico, and Scentsy paid for everything, including allocating an amount of spending money too. Yep, it seems too good to be true. Is it? No, on the surface it’s not. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see people practically selling their soul to earn spaces on these trips. Maxing out credit cards to reach sales targets, or buying huge amounts of stock to sell (illegally) in other countries.
There were even people running “Scentsy shops” from their garages. Buying-in huge amounts of stock and then (again, illegally!!!) setting up a shop with a cashier till and opening hours. Risking everything for a plane ticket. I wish I was exaggerating or I wish that this was untrue but it’s not. It is really what happens when you see your upline doing well, reaching ‘Director’ or ‘Black Status’ or whatever your particular MLM call the top rung.
Summer came, and I’d been doing Scentsy for a year. I’d recruited an awful amount of people – when I look back, it was around 40 people, so that’s 40 x £100 starter kits, plus all the subsequent orders over time.
Scentsy were making a killing out of me and my team, but we weren’t really making much money at all.
Hey, £50 commission at the end of the month is a nice day out for you and the kids but with less hours you’d make more money at a real job. Just FYI, a couple of months I’d hit the £2000 sales target, so I got a nice £400 chunk of commission. So, I’m not telling my story because I’m a mood-hoovering negferret who isn’t right for direct sales – I did really well, I pushed for targets, and I sold, sold, sold.
But it’s not good. It’s so, so, so bad. My time, energy, friendships, family life, everything took a beating because I had this “business” to run. I wish I could go back in time and give them back their money and reclaim those wasted hours.
I married my partner in the August (a year after joining Scentsy). Sadly for me and my husband, the Scentsy business was so consuming I decided that instead of inviting close friends and family to our small wedding, it was actually super important for me to invite my Scentsy team. And their partners. And their children.
So my wedding memories are ruined, because I met these people once and now we’ve all drifted apart because we’ve stopped doing Scentsy. As if I let that happen!!! But at the time I was trying so hard to be a good ‘Director’ that I felt like I couldn’t not invite them. My husband and I are actually planning a vow renewal now, so that we can have people there that truly should be.
Time carried on and nothing really changed. The odd person in the team drifted away, didn’t make sales or quit. We got new members. There was a revolving door of newbies. The market was becoming saturated with Scentsy consultants and those who didn’t already have a good core customer base were struggling to get a foot in the door. Lots of people were selling on eBay or Amazon at reduced prices.
I did everything a good Scentsy consultant should do: I went to conventions, I earned incentive trips, I booked events, I supported my team. Saying that, it’s time to talk about the “Scentsy sisterhood”. I made lots of (what I thought were) really good friends through Scentsy. We spoke every day and often we met up for coffee. Lots of us earned the incentive trips together, so it was super fun to have all inclusive girly trips. We supported each other through the highs and lows of selling Scentsy, and also of general life itself. We’d stuck together through one friend suffering a stillbirth, another had a marriage breakdown, another was diagnosed with cancer.
This support network was something that I decided to utilise, because I was having my own problems. Even though my business was “thriving” (🙄) we were still really struggling for money. As I’ve said, my husband was working 2 jobs to keep us going and I spent a lot of time alone with our children while he was out earning. Even with the income, we still relied on some government benefits to keep us afloat.I posted in our private friendship group on Facebook about how upset I was about still being on benefits and that I’d hoped my Scentsy business would have been supporting us more by now. I’d been grafting at it for 2.5 years at this point and felt like I was doing everything but not getting anywhere. Various messages came in about this being “my WHY” and how I should take my upset and use it to catapult me into the dizzy heights of earning through Scentsy. Okay, thanks everyone.. and we carried on.
However, a month later I was contacted by our local Council because I’d been anonymously reported for benefit fraud.
They said I had “undisclosed income” and wanted me to send across all my paperwork and earning information about my Scentsy business.
Right back at the beginning of Scentsy, I had registered myself as self employed and had been paying national insurance contributions etc. Everything was above board and I had not defrauded anyone. But someone I thought was a friend had used my post and reported me. I had to drag out 2.5 years worth of paperwork and receipts. And in a bizarre twist, this was my light-bulb moment.
Staring at all my calculations, I realised that most months I was in the negative. £300 income, £350 outgoing. £90 income, £110 outgoing. What I thought was a “thriving business” was actually slowly eating away at any spare cash we had in the account. There were a few months that I made £100 profit but I remember sitting on my carpet, surrounded by paperwork and realising that I’d really been losing money the whole time. I had also just found out I was pregnant. And I cried.
I think I cried for hours. I was so devastated that I’d been living a lie for all this time. My business wasn’t booming, it was skewed against me. Scentsy HQ forced us to buy new catalogues, new testers, new business supplies. I’d paid out for bottles of wine or chocolates for home parties. I’d spent hundreds in petrol running back and forth to various events that I’d paid to attend, all over the country. This was not healthy income vs expenditure. I sent all my paperwork off and thankfully the council saw that I had been honest with my yearly self-assessments and closed the case.
However, my eyes had been opened. I posted a long thread on my team page, I sent messages to my customers and the same day I sent an email to Scentsy HQ asking them to shut my account. I quit. I encouraged my team to quit.
You know what, I never spoke to or heard from any of my “Scentsy Sisters” again.
And so, I started my new journey to the Anti-MLM movement.
[Elle:] We’re glad to have you on board, Tiff. Thank you for sharing your Scentsy experience.