Top 10 ways to avoid MLMs over the festive season

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We all know that multi-levels companies and their willing victims are everywhere, often intruding painfully into our families and friendships. Most of the time you can avoid these people. You can say no to invitations to your cousin’s Tupperware home party. You can block calls from that chick from the HR department who’s selling dōTERRA. You can mute your Younique-obsessed friend on Facebook.

But the holidays are here. Enforced face-to-face contact! There is no escape!  😱

We’re expected to be extra especially generous, full of the milk of human kindness at this time of year. MLM devotees can take advantage of this.

They pressure you to ‘support small local businesses’ (i.e. them) when you’re buying gifts. They push heaps of Christmas sales and special deals. They give their products (samples and their cheapest things) to all and sundry, slipping in their business card, hoping people will get hooked and become customers in the new year.

Fear not, we are here to help! Here are our ten tips on strategies to make your holidays a bit less stressful (these work on ‘generally difficult relatives’ and ‘creepily cheerful cult members’ too!).

  1. This is the overarching one (and useful in all situations in life): don’t be an arsehole. Be kind. Or kind-ish, if that’s the best you can manage. Your personal MLM nemesis may be super annoying, and intent upon getting you addicted to whatever they’re addicted to — but they’re still people, they’re still family, still a friend. One day they will get out (hopefully). One day they will be embarrassed (probably). Hold your tongue (please). Choose your battles — don’t engage at all, if possible. If you are consumed with the fire of fury, and the need to fight back, or tell them some home truths, very very bluntly — wait til after the holidays. Please. Silence and deep breathing are your friend. And possibly alcohol. Why do you think alcohol is so popular over the holidays?
  2. Stay busy. There’s always a lot happening over the holidays. If you’re at a big family Christmas feast, you can suddenly be very busy, being all adult and responsible — make the salad, peel the potatoes, wipe down benches, set the table, hell, even wash the dishes (an extreme measure, we know, but it’s an extreme situation!). Volunteer for chores in different areas of the house from where they are. Anything to keep you from being an ‘available ear’ for their sales pitch.
  3. If you do get cornered, and the ‘life changing opportunity’ speech is washing over you, try to change the subject. Look, a shiny thing! Distraction works on most people, from toddlers to grannies. If you really must talk with them, steer the conversation in other directions, ask about other things in their life. They may well still slip their MLM into the conversation, in which case you may need to revert to our next strategy…
  4. Use the younger generation as a shield. After all those years of ignoring those nippers, you can suddenly become really interested in your littlest cousins, nieces and nephews. Get down on the floor, read them stories, brmmm cars, build Lego, dress Barbies, play games, go for walks (weather permitting) — do ANYTHING but hang out with the adults. Plus you’ll win Brownie points for playing with the little ones. Besides, being with family is kinda what the holidays are about, after all. Embrace it.
  5. When there is no escape, and your tormentor is coming in for the kill, swatting off your feeble objections like so many flies — weak and weary flies, at that — shift responsibility onto another authority. We’re not condoning lying … but … um … lie. You can’t use their skincare or cosmetics because your [insert medical professional here] says you mustn’t, oh dear, so sad, never mind. Your allergy specialist has determined that you’re allergic to the ingredients in their supplements. Your financial planner, who is super excellent, wow, she’s so great, has already put a great financial plan in place for you, so you don’t need any financial help, thankyouverymuch #leavemealone. The key is this authority figure needs to be someone who the distributor can’t get access to. By the way, using your significant other (“My husband won’t let me.” “My wife doesn’t want me joining anything.”) as a scapegoat doesn’t work because the MLMer will then go after them. And that’s hardly fair, now, is it? This is an appeal to authority, which is something they love to use all the time (Eeee! Minor Celebrity Girl uses LipSense! Major Celebrity Star sang at our Beachbody convention!). So use it against them. Hopefully they give you up as prey, and move on to torment another poor sucker. Cruel, but this is self-defence here.
  6. Are you good at telling  even more lies “creative stories”? If you are, and your MLMer doesn’t you know that well (a second cousin you only see once a year, for instance) you can say you already get their particular product or service from another distributor — but keep it vague: my mum’s friend, this woman at my office, the ogre who lives under the bridge near our place, I can never remember his name, it has at least 20 letters, can you believe it?! There are usually strict MLM rules about poaching other distributors’ customers, so this should get them to leave you alone. But you’ll need to be convincing (so maybe don’t use the ogre story, just sayin’).
  7. Be blunt. Stop them by saying, “I am not comfortable discussing this further” and change the topic of conversation. At this point, politics would be preferable … which is really saying something, these days!
  8. If it gets too much, rather than lashing out, walk away. Suddenly remember something important you have to do, develop sudden stomach cramps or nausea, and escape to the bathroom. Get a severe headache (you may not have to act for this one!) and go to lie down in a dark and quiet room. Set up something on your phone so you can make it sound like you’re getting a phone call or an important message, and press the button discreetly. “Oh sorry, I simply must take this call, it’s my probation officer.” works a treat on several levels. Get out. Ignore them.
  9. Line up a social buffer friend, an ally. Have each other’s backs — provide the same service for them. They could be a family member or a friend who is also at the event. Drag them into conversations with the MLMer, with their prior agreement of course, and shift the topic. Or get them to call you into the kitchen to help with something urgently, or call you on your phone, on a hand signal or safety word from you (Gecko! Gecko! Gecko! might be too weird. Or maybe not …) If it’s an event you can leave early from, get them to insist on leaving, with you, suddenly.
  10. Feign a minor illness, say you have a sore throat, or a cough, or something slightly infectious, so you don’t want to get too close … but make sure they don’t catch you kissing your dishy neighbour under the mistletoe later on that night! So this strategy is best used when there is no temptation for serious kissing to hand, and you’re prepared to be distant from everyone.

And here’s some extra bonus FREE tips on avoiding MLM gifts!

If you have one or two, or, horrors, more MLMers in your family circle, you may need to take preemptive measures to avoid receiving far too many diet shakes, crap makeup, sickly candles, and shitty leggings. These are ‘whole family’ strategies, and you’ll need to start preparing some time in advance of the holidays (so keep these in your back pocket for next year).

  • Suggest doing something different next time — like everyone donates to charities instead of giving gifts, or everyone gifts experiences or services (movie tickets, theme park tickets, tickets to concerts, museum exhibitions, cooking classes, dinners, promises to mow lawns or babysit, or do chores, or something else), instead of things.
  • Suggest only gifting consumables (foods, teas, coffees, condiments, dried fruits, biscuits, speciality oils, chocolates, cakes etc) — but this isn’t a safe option if the MLM is a foody one. If you have an essential oil MLMer in the family, specifying ‘only edible’ gifts may not work because they think you can ingest essential oils. (Essential oils are not edible. We don’t know how many times we have to say this. Just … no. Don’t do it. Seriously.)

If, no matter how hard you tried, you are gifted a bunch of MLM stuff, be gracious, smile and thank them — but whatever you do, don’t say “It’s just what I’ve always wanted!” … it only encourages them, and you’ll find yourself on the receiving end again next year, and the year after that, and so on into infinity.

What to do with the gift? Regift it to someone you don’t particularly like. Sell it online (as long as the person who gave it to you isn’t on the same group — okay, maybe you don’t care about that, but refer to Tip #1 above). Give it away in your local Freecycle or Buy Nothing group. As a last non-environmentally-friendly resort, just throw it away.

Good luck. Let us know how it goes! And save us some cake. Mmmm, cake.

Serious postscript: If you want to help your MLMer friend or family member, and not avoid them or fight with them, we suggest reading this article by BotWatch. It’s a long game, but a valuable one.

Images from Shutterstock


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