Our Readers' Opinions
March 3, 2006
Beware of new wave of pyramid schemes

EDITOR: Last Saturday, at the bidding of my employer, I attended what was billed as a motivational seminar, featuring a “young, dynamic master motivator.”

The event had been advertised on television and in the print media as a seminar on personal development and service excellence that would help you to reach your full potential! I am still reeling in disappointment and anger because the “seminar” turned out to be a network-marketing promotional event.

Madam Editor, while I do not support these network-marketing schemes, this is not my point of contention. It is the deceptive means used to attract participants that I find unpalatable. My employer and other corporate entities were invited, by letter, to participate in the so-called seminar. Naturally, I expected to be provided with a perspective on the principles and techniques of motivation to achieve personal development and service excellence, as advertised. I expected to gain something that I could apply on the job personally, and also in a supervisory capacity, to improve performance. Instead, from whatever angle you evaluate the event, it was all about making money. This may have been of interest to some attendees on an individual level and to the entrepreneurs, but was certainly not appropriate for those organisations that were represented. The banks, commercial firms and our national women’s soccer team were among those in attendance. {{more}}

The speaker shared his experience of transforming from a depraved background of involvement in drugs both as a user and peddler, and having a felony arrest to becoming a success at making money legitimately. Then he shared his secret of success – network marketing, with a difference.

(St. Vincent enjoys the special rank of being only the second place outside of the US that the speaker has visited to share this secret because he desires great things for our country.) He claims to be an expert at designing network-marketing schemes, and is now capitalising on the personal development industry, which, according to him, has a turnover of US$64 billion annually.

The scheme which he promoted is different in that it does not sell or endorse any one company’s products, but promotes motivational material, which is accessible via a website. Access to the website is gained by enrolment, which requires a registration fee and a never-ending monthly fee. As with all other pyramid schemes, each participant “earns” returns based on the number of persons he refers, directly or indirectly.

Beyond my anger at being duped by false advertising, I am concerned about the corroboration of the tenet that success means money and money means success. My consternation stems from the cadre of persons – the deeply religious, accomplished professionals, public figures – who endorse this attitude by their participation in and promotion of these “get rich quick” ventures. I was amazed at the hyped-up response I observed from certain sections of the audience.

There is a new wave of enthusiasm about these pyramid schemes. Are these schemes not akin to gambling? Aren’t there a few fortunate winners at the expense of a majority of losers?

Should we still wonder about the attitude of our young people and the continuing decay in the moral fabric of our society?