This article is from an ex-Magical Vacation Planner independent contractor, Violet. We thank her for sharing her experience with us all. Travel MLMs are often poorly understood — we hope Violet’s story helps to explain how these particular companies operate.
Nowadays there are plenty of blatantly obvious travel MLMs out there, some are even proud of it! But did you know there are also some staying hidden in the shadows, masquerading as squeaky clean, legitimate travel agencies when the reality isn’t nearly as innocent?
These agency owners want you to work hard to make them the best and earn lots of money … buuut you have to give most of it to them. They want to be the ones recognized at the industry awards, reaping the benefits and enjoying the perks bestowed upon them — thanks to the stellar work done for them by their independent contractors. They try really hard to keep most of those details a secret, but eventually someone was going to find out. Enter our subject, Magical Vacation Planner from the little town of Mitchell, Indiana. Heard of them? Surprised? You just wait.
How can they be an MLM? Is there even a fee to get started? You bet! They charge $299 right off the bat as well as monthly fees that range from $0 (for the inner circle crew) to $100 a month for the newer, less trustworthy peasants who need to prove their loyalty.
Okay, but do they operate using a pyramid structure? Ding ding ding, right again! As what may actually be the lowest paying travel agency currently on record, they start you at a whopping 40% commission. Not 40% of your sales; 40% of the 10% (as an example) the vendors pay them!
And once you’ve shown your worth and made them a significant amount of money, paid for extra training, helped line their pockets and proven to be a valuable earner, you get to become a Team Leader! This is when you get to hire your own team and get a kickback from every new contact signed and start up fee paid.
Then you get to train all your new hires! Oh, but just so you know, the interviewing and training and the support you now have to provide for all your new hires — you don’t get anything for that. Not one penny. There’s no guarantee any of the time you invest in these people will help you at all, actually. If your new team does sell some vacations, though, you’ll get some of their commission.
However, if one of your team becomes even more successful (hitting a certain amount of commissions paid) — get this — the company lowers the amount of commissions you as Team Leader get from that successful agent … but the company still keeps the majority of what you ought to be getting, for themselves, so don’t worry about that. They’re fine. So you need to keep hiring more and more recruits to your team, so maybe you have a chance of earning something. If your team doesn’t become successful, it doesn’t matter how many hours you’ve put into these people or how many long nights you spent developing them, you get nothing. Aaaannd you’re still paying the agency owners every single month just to waste your time and energy.
Why would anyone agree to this, you ask? Well, they sell it. They obviously don’t frame it with the truth. They market themselves in a way that makes me wish I had heard that saying, “A lion will never have to tell you it’s a lion” because they had/have a good pitch. Maybe back when they first started these shenanigans they were the best agency with the best training and support systems, etc …. or at least that’s what they get all their contractors to believe. Hook, line and sinker and I was in — as were thousands of others. Many are still stuck.
Why don’t they just leave, you ask? Well, the company doesn’t pay you until after the travel you booked is complete, which could be over a year away. Last year an agent could have sold vacations that would have brought them $40K this year, but if they leave … you guessed it, the agency owners keep all your money! That’s right, you’re responsible for marketing yourself, going out and getting all your own leads, clients, bookings, etc but you can’t leave or you’ve wasted all that time and energy and resources.
You would think that as independent contractors, their agents would actually have some, well, independence, right? Me, too. Apparently I was wrong about that. The required training and guidelines that are put in place must be followed so you can keep paying them to do things their way and make them richer. It works out pretty well for them, since they get to keep 100% of all your commissions if you get wise to their game.
In all honesty, this is just the tip of the iceberg. My main objective here is to help you not turn a blind eye — don’t just sign a contract because the job sounds fun and you get to make your own schedule. Most importantly, if you have been a victim of this agency or any like this one, please do your research about what your rights are. Check with your state and local government agencies, ask questions, and don’t give up.