Multi-Level Marketing Realities – Part 12
In part 11, I finished by talking about the vacation where we had to shut down our website for several days because the MLM company said we had a compliance issue and we could either fix it, shut down the site, or lose our distributor agreement. Based on that, our only choice was to shut down the site. I also said that I would talk about the MLM company asking for our customers’ names and addresses.
I don’t recall if they called, mailed a letter, or otherwise, but the MLM company told us the wanted the complete list of our customers’ names and addresses or, of course, they would take away our distributor agreement. I was a little paranoid of the company since they had put us through so much misery with compliance issues recently that I would not agree to that. I told them it was confidential company information and asked why they needed it. They told me they were looking for unauthorized sales agents and we agreed to give name, city, and state of all of our customers so they could review them. I think this was nearly a package of paper and I ended up faxing it to them. They ended up telling me which customers were selling the product without an agreement, and we agreed not to sell to them any longer.
In the spring of 1999, I rewrote our complete website into perl language, which gave me the flexibility to do server-side configuration of the website. I could pass parameters between web pages, track inbound links to sales, route orders to local distributors, and many other cool things. I also wrote shopping cart software that could be used to sell several products and was specific to our pricing, so we could show quantity discounts and monthly subscriptions. The shopping cart was on our secure server, which ended up being a problem as often the regular server would respond but the secure server wouldn’t. We worked with the vendor to see if we could get better response from the server, I think we got a little improvement. But being on the secure server meant that we would leave our orders on the server and retrieve them through a web page, and also allow our distributors to retrieve our orders for local shipping. Information requests still came the old-fashioned email route.
After our perl site was up and running, we got “requests” from the compliance department for some changes that I really didn’t want to make but was required to. I was so emotional about it, because the site was my creation, that I had to hire somebody else to make the changes. After that, we were asked to collect a birthdate for anybody asking for samples and post that the dietary supplement was only for adults aged 18 and up. I did have a parent call me after this because her teenage daughter ordered samples and I was able to quote her the birthdate her daughter put in the request. Still, I was a little concerned that we were sending samples to minors and we considered collecting a credit card number for samples.
With the distributor board duties, Chris had to fly to San Diego quarterly for meetings. In the spring of 1999, she had the MLM company book her airline tickets and they put her on a multi-stop Southwest series of flights from Chicago to San Diego to save money. The stops did not allow deboarding and Chris ended up being starved to death by the time she got to San Diego. From then on she demanded a non-stop flight. At least they did pay for her expenses to attend the meetings.
She would usually have a good time with the other distributor board members. They would go to dinner, activities, and generally talk about business. She brought home many stories of how things were going for other people.
In part 13, I will talk about the summer of 1999 when we closed on our house and I quit my job.