"Do you want to make more money? Sure, we all do." You're no doubt familiar with the TV commercials for various employment "opportunities" that open this way, typically followed by footage of folks grinning widely over the small fortunes they're ostensibly earning in their spare time, or maybe while they sleep (the commercials aren't clear).
These ads always remind me of the summer in high school I went looking for a job and wound up in an office with a dozen other pimply teenagers listening to a guy with greased-back hair and a Members Only jacket tell us about all the money we could make selling silverware.
For an hour he talked up the brand of silverware and shared success stories about, for example, the college freshman who'd paid for his entire college education through one summer's work, the 18-year-old who'd made enough to travel the world, the high school junior who'd bought a new Vespa scooter, and so on.
Asked where we were supposed to find enough customers clamoring for new silverware to subsidize our expensive tastes in tuition, scooters and exotic travel, he responded that the company would start us off with something called the "F&R Method." This unique approach, no doubt developed by top minds in the marketing field, essentially consisted of us trying to sell silverware to our friends (F) and relatives (R).
That was enough for me. "If I could get money that easily out of my friends and relatives, why would I need a job?" I felt like asking. Instead I walked out, even though it meant missing the story of the eighth-grader who'd sold enough silverware to buy his own South Sea island.
This having been my only significant encounter with the business phenomenon known as multilevel marketing (business-speak for "a good way to lose friends"), I was understandably skeptical when my wife mentioned recently that she was considering signing up with a multilevel marketing outfit called Discovery Toys.
She noted that we already buy many of the company's toys as therapy tools for our developmentally delayed 2-year-old son, and that by becoming a "consultant," she could get the toys at a reduced cost. Not counting the cost of admitting to people that she'd gotten involved in multilevel marketing, that is.
So she went ahead, although I still had some misgivings. What if my wife expected me to promote the high quality, affordable and wildly popular Discovery Toys in my column, perhaps adding that they make terrific gifts for any kids on readers' shopping list this holiday season, which is right around the corner, I might add? Thankfully, she understands that as a journalist, I have too much integrity for that.
But now these concerns are gone, replaced by utter joy. That's because I've discovered a vast, untapped and captive customer base to try my new multilevel marketing sales tactics on - anyone who comes to my door requesting contribution to a cause, selling magazine subscriptions or inviting me to join a cult. Now, instead of slamming the door, I greet them with a wide grin.
"Yes, I am interested," I say, no matter what they're selling. "And, in fact, I think we can help each other out. Are you familiar with Discovery Toys? Well, they're absolutely terrific. Here, take a catalog.
"And as long as you're going door-to-door," I add, joining them outside, "why don't I tag along and distribute some catalogs to my neighbors? That will give you time to think about which toys to order."
No sales so far, but I'm confident that with persistence I'll soon earn my way into a new Vespa. Or at least a Members Only jacket.