According to a UCR Reddit post by Justin Hsieh whose username on Reddit is u/Saber Sabre, multi-level marketing (MLM) advertisements are being shown at UC Riverside. The post was made on Feb. 20.
Hsieh, is a third-year material science and engineering major. During Hsieh’s sophomore year, a friend provided Hsieh with an opportunity for part-time work. According to Hsieh, the company with the opportunity was ACN. The ACN company sells data plans and utility services to other businesses. When Hsieh’s friend provided him with the opportunity, Hsieh’s friend brought some other friends along with a representative from the MLM. Hsieh stated that the representative retold success stories about herself and Hsieh’s friend. According to Hsieh, the representative claimed that ACN would be another way of sustaining yourself while pursuing your dreams.
Multi-level marketing is a business structure where the individual earns commission based on sales and from sales of the number of people recruited. Based on Hsieh’s experiences with ACN and his research of MLM companies, Hsieh stated, “It tends to be a predatory structure that only benefits the top of the leaders. I think it creates an unsustainable cycle of where you need to incentivize recruiting more members until the pool runs out.” Hsieh added, “I think MLMs are predatory on college students who may not have time to find a full-time job. I would encourage students to just find an internship and find some work. You don’t need to make money through MLMs.”
In the original Reddit post, Hsieh highlighted Vector Marketing as one of the other companies displaying multi-level marketing advertisements. Hsieh took a photo of an advertisement with the Vector Marketing company name listed on the advertisement. The photo was shared to the Highlander Newspaper. Vector Marketing sells kitchen knives and cutlery created by CUTCO.
Bryan Ramirez, a third-year student majoring in business economics, told the Highlander that he has seen MLM advertisements since his freshman year. Ramirez decided to call the phone number on the advertisement. However, Ramirez was suspicious of the offer being made. He stated, “They told me that it was quick money, flexible hours. It looked too good to be true. I was very needy at that time.” After discussing the job offer with his parents, Ramirez decided to reject the job offer. His parents told him that the company was not real or authentic. The Highlander asked Ramirez about the company that talked with him on the phone. Ramirez did not recall the name of the company that spoke with him. Ramirez concluded, “This should be prevented so people don’t fall into the scam.”
First year psychology student Robert Laovoravit stated his opinion on multi-level marketing scams, stating “I don’t like them anywhere. Not just in the classroom. Multi-level marketing is scamming hard-working Americans.”
ASUCR senator Christopher Chebat classified multi-level marketing as being deceptive in an interview with the Highlander. “MLMs are a lie. A pyramid scheme. Just because they are legal doesn’t mean you won’t lose money,” stated Chebat. Chebat claimed that multi-level marketing sells people on a lifestyle that everyone believes they deserve. Chebat stated, “If I spot an MLM ad, I will talk to someone. It should not be approved. If not approving school regulations, I would take it down.”
UCPD Detective Paul Dombrowski shared tips with the Highlander on how to avoid scams. According to Dombrowski, students should avoid job advertisements that promote little work for a lot of money. Dombrowski also stated that students should look for a company name listed in a possible advertisement or email. Detective Dombrowski added that students can come report these issues to the UCPD, the career center or ITS if they are unsure.
“The most basic thing is if it seems too good to be true, it is,” said Dombrowski.