MonaVie: Multi-Level Marketing Gone Haywire

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2011-07-1116

A fellow blogger who’s also a good friend has embraced a particular cause and speaks out quite a bit against a large multi-level marketing firm. He’s been quite the consumer advocate against MLM schemes. His blog is at and has long stood up for consumers. In the past, his anti-MonaVie posts have received traction on Reddit. In particular, he’s taken the stand as a critic against the multi-level marketing (MLM) company that is MonaVie. This company sells a high-priced juice that claims to have a ton of anti-oxidants in it. Tracking MonaVie’s marketing methods is like watching a soap opera: it’s full of updates and drama. The latest news I’ve got on this is that Lazy Man has recently pointed out that MonaVie is trying to “combat negativity” by trying to work on “reputation management”. According to Lazy Man, this boils down to them “gaming Google”. You can share your thoughts with Lazy Man, when you have a chance.

MonaVie: Multi-Level Marketing Gone Haywire

If you’re curious about the details behind MonaVie’s online story, let’s check out a little history. You may be wondering about some of these methods that MonaVie chooses to use to get their brand and product across to consumers. From Lazy Man’s stories, some of the stuff that comes out of the MLM industry appears quite sordid. Stories I’ve read include how some people affiliated with MonaVie are now resorting to blackmail and making online threats, simply because a blogger has been highly critical of their product. Given how MonaVie is steeped in the MLM culture, which not only aims to sell you a product but also attempts to recruit you as one of their sales people, you can imagine how passionate some of their representatives can get. After all, for some distributors and marketers, attacking their product also means that you are attacking their livelihood and their lifestyle.

You can read about how this MonaVie saga began for Lazy Man in this guest post he wrote for The Digerati Life some time ago. It was about how he and his wife heard about this new “acai berry” type juice making its rounds to consumers via an MLM marketing scheme.

Since then, Lazy Man has uncovered a lot of information on MonaVie’s juice, its distributors and marketers, its business model and the corporate machine behind it. Needless to say, not everything about this business seems rosy. If you’re interested in catching up with some of the details of Lazy Man’s experience with MonaVie, these posts should help:

Does MLM Go Too Far?

Ultimately, MonaVie is not just a high-priced product — an expensive juice that’s being peddled as a health drink — but it’s also a company with a relatively aggressive (passionate?) sales and marketing force that doesn’t seem to take criticism very well. And the scary part? That marketing force can very well include your friend, brother, sister, uncle, parents. Because that’s how multi-level marketing models work.

I’ve had a chance to taste MonaVie and have had it pitched to me many times by people I know. In the past, I would have let this product speak for itself — I think it’s tasty (YMMV of course). The only downside I saw back then was the price. It’s way too costly. But nowadays, I’m associating this drink with a company that has terrible, questionable business practices that frankly, can be downright frightening and formidable.

What are your thoughts on MLM (multi-level marketing) and / or MonaVie, acai berry and the like? Over the years, I’ve seen friends and relatives (and admittedly, even myself) sample a bit of the world of MLM and as far as I know, most of us didn’t do too well with it. I’m talking about stints with Herbalife, Amway, Avon and some vitamin selling ventures. Oh and throw in those MLM schemes that involve fancy cookware and vacuums in the mix too.

Created August 26, 2010. Updated July 11, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Harr @ TodayForward August 26, 2010 at 7:39 pm

The combination of MLM, overpriced product, and overstated health benefits (that have not been reviewed by the FDA) doesn’t sound like a good mix to me πŸ™‚ .

Paul Williams August 27, 2010 at 3:22 am

My thoughts on MLM? I HATE IT!

I hate that people relentlessly pursue their family and friends (and their family and friends) just to try to make a quick buck (with a shoddy or overpriced product).

I hate the social obligation that we often feel to support people doing the above.

I hate that people get sucked in to what they think is a “real” business when all it really does is suck up their money and pass it up the line.

I hate the brainwashing that makes it impossible to talk any sense into your family and friends.

I hate all the wasted time and resources that go into these things when people could do so much more on their own or even just with a reputable company.

I say more power to Lazy Man! If he gets only one person to turn away from MonaVie (or any other MLM), he’s done the world a favor!!!

(Side Note: I think Primerica is another terrible offender in this arena because of the damage they and their products can do to unsuspecting consumers. I’ve seen this first-hand with my own mother.)

Now let’s see how many of your readers have already joined the MLM cults. πŸ™‚

ajc @ 7million7years August 27, 2010 at 5:12 am

I don’t think that there’s anything inherently wrong with MLM; it’s like saying that franchising sucks: it all depends on the company.

It’s POTENTIALLY a great business model on 3 levels:

1. For the company: they get to take a product straight to market, cutting out layers of fixed marketing costs by replacing them with a multi-level commission structure.

2. For the (very?!) small % of ‘distributors’ who build large networks: they get to build a ‘passive’ income stream that lasts as long as the company does. I have a friend who makes $200k+ a month (for years now), and sips coffee and develops property when he gets bored. not so bad.

3. For the majority of distributors: they get to buy product that they presumably love and use at discounted prices, and they may even earn some ‘side income’. It’s what they do with this money (invest? start a ‘real business’?), and what they learn (people skills? sales skills?) that can provide the real value.

… this is all assuming that they do their homework and choose a reputable company. But, isn’t that the case with everything we do or invest in?

DISCLAIMER: The author of this comment has no relationship with any MLM, being a retired multi-millionaire who made his money in MUCH more mundane ways (‘real business’ and ‘real investing’) πŸ˜‰

Michael August 27, 2010 at 9:11 am

I hate MLM and MonaVie with a passion.

Acai berry on the other hand is great. Not the watered down, reconstituted, mixed-with-other-fruits stuff usually sold here in the US – that stuff isn’t that great.

The frozen real crushed aΓ§ai dish like they make in Brazil is fantastic though. If you get the chance to try THAT, go for it and don’t worry about the anti-oxidants or the vitamins or whatever it’s supposed to have. Just enjoy it like you would a super good slushing.

Silicon Valley Blogger August 27, 2010 at 9:38 am

MLM is an interesting concept. I believe it can work out pretty well if there’s a product that is of good value that can really stand up to whatever claims that people make for it. But from what I see and know about it, it’s the kind of thing that benefits people who are more into the “hard sell”. And that’s where it gets a bad reputation. If you’re a good salesperson with great marketing skills (as in — there’s a bridge you can sell your grandma), then you can easily go into business doing this sort of thing. I can see that it takes a certain “type” to be successful at this.

Now the internet has this type of scheme going on to. For instance, I really like BigCrumbs. It’s sort of based on a similar form of networking, but they don’t want you to call it that (MLM seems to have bad connotations). The difference is that you don’t SPEND anything on it. They are a savings platform. Different story….! A lot of marketing you’ll see on the internet is also based on word of mouth and referrals, but most of the time, you won’t need to cough up hundreds of dollars to try something out.

Some sales and marketing that’s done on the internet is MLM based, or has that flavor. The difference is that as a publisher, I can’t strong-arm you and guilt you into buying XYZ that I try to sell off my website. You make the decision. You do the research first, you shop around (if you so please) and then you commit. I’m not going to call you or hound you about signing up for my insurance product or vitamin bottles and try to recruit you to do the same.

I am sure there are positives stories here too (cases like MonaVie, notwithstanding) — most especially if the product is outstanding, well priced and has a supportive, reputable company behind it. I just find it so awkward when a friend or family member does the pitch on you and you know right away that you don’t need another free knife set for your kitchen πŸ˜‰ .

Sally August 27, 2010 at 11:32 am

From the point of view of non-mlmers and of those who’ve been asked to buy their products, I doubt too many people are really that happy with the whole mlm thing. Most of the time what they sell are way overpriced and would be considered luxury products. But they try to sell to regular people who can’t really afford these things. That’s why it stinks.

Silicon Valley Blogger August 27, 2010 at 11:40 am

You have a point. I think that a lot of the products that were pitched to me were stuff I’d see in high-end catalogs like Frontgate and Horchow. How fancy does your vacuum cleaner really have to get? I had a dear friend try to sell me this vacuum cleaner that had some built in water filtration canister that allowed for various fragrances to be added. So you would automatically perfume the places you vacuumed. Well, you can do the same thing with your current vacuum by just spilling scented powder on your carpets and rugs that you then vacuum off.

I guess it’s the same thing with juices. They try to make it sound “special” and something you can’t live without so you end up buying it. The beef we have with MonaVie is the fact that they make outrageous health claims that have been clearly debunked. And the fact that there are crazy people who run after those who expose the facts or even disagree with them.

Jon R. Patrick August 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I love people who HATE MLM… they either don’t ‘get’ it or had a bad experience and therefore think all people and companies are the same.

I don’t talk to my friends or chase my family. I generate ‘cold’ leads for my MLM and do okay. It IS a legitimate business that people CAN make substantial incomes from with a Quality Product and Ethically. I represent a competing ‘juice’ company that is less expensive, with less aggressive marketing methods, and it doesn’t make the same health claims. I drink it, I love it, and I feel GREAT when I take it. YMMV.

MonaVie is very successful, but their tactics are gonna get them in trouble.

Craig August 27, 2010 at 9:19 pm

What I don’t get is how some businesses still don’t get that you can’t fight the little guy with bad press. Imagine if they just let Lazy Man be a long time ago? Duh!

But thank goodness for their arrogance as it leads people to shed light on their business practices.

Credit Card Chaser August 28, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I wrote a guest post recently on MLM over at titled: “MLM = Make Little Money?”. I wouldn’t go anywhere near Mona Vie or any other MLM program.

Marv Nicholson November 29, 2010 at 8:56 am

I hate the word hate, really.

You know, like Rich dad says, “find a good MLM with a GREAT compensation program.” This is the secret to making a fortune in MLM and anti-MLM. A principle that is always in effect is the 80/20 rule (probably more like 90/10) where the successful folks are the ones getting sweaty. None of my success achieved in 52 years came for free.

This one works: 4 figure paycheck in 5 months. 5 ways to get compensated. Retirement in 24 months seems reasonable.


Scott March 10, 2011 at 9:18 am

Companies and tactics aside, you have to use some restraint in criticizing people that have made it high in their MLM organizations. Contrary to the common belief that an MLM’er just gets a bunch of people in to their business, sits back on a big income, and does not care about the people that joined the business under them is in a lot of cases not true. A person can only help someone with their business so much, beyond that it is up to the individual. The people at the top are not there because someone else helped them every step of the way. They are at the top because they worked hard, and took initiative themselves.

Paula @ July 13, 2011 at 11:51 am

I neither love nor hate MLM, but I do think you need to exercise restraint and look carefully at the program. Too many MLM companies make money from people who pay to join (“invest”) to become a distributor, and I think that’s sad … there’s no integrity to a company whose business model is to skim their investors, knowing most of those people won’t ever break even.

Donna Freedman July 16, 2011 at 6:51 pm

My former boss told me a story about his mom. Seems a friend of hers invited her over for a visit and then tried to recruit her for a multi-level-marketing company. (I won’t say which one but I will tell you that it rhymes with “spam way.”)

His mom said “no thanks.” She was frugal so her retirement was more than enough.
The friend persisted. “But wouldn’t it be great to have extra money? isn’t there something you really want?”

His mom thought about it for a moment and said, “Nope.” The friend said that she’d never heard anyone say that before.

Myself, I get queasy about MLM schemes. If you don’t buy, you’re not being a supportive friend/relative. If you do buy, you’re wind up irritated that you just spent all that money on a candle.

Full disclosure: Years ago I bought a little Avon stuff from my babysitter and a few pieces of Tupperware from a co-worker. I gave the Avon as gifts and used the Tupperware. Yes, I’m glad I could help them make a little extra money — but I refuse to buy stuff I don’t need/want.

Silicon Valley Blogger July 18, 2011 at 9:01 am

Thanks folks! I have been in the same boat as you, Donna. I have had lots of friends and family approach me who’ve participated in an MLM business. Heck, even I tried it a few times! And, it was very clear that it was just NOT the type of business for me. However, I was able to get a few free cool gifts out of it when I was asked to “sit through a demonstration” more than once — for a high end vacuum that spewed perfume while you vacuumed πŸ˜‰ and for cookware that was supposed to “improve taste” and prevent mineral(?) or metal leakage when used at high temperatures. If my memory serves me right, I sat through a cooking demonstration that used Salad Master cookware (which is sold via MLM). The dishes were tasty, but the cooking set was ridiculously expensive.

The demo was awkward because I made it known that I was not interested in making any purchases, and I sure felt the not-so-subtle pressure of my relatives breathing down my back as they waited for me to cave into their request (that I make the purchase). Needless to say, I held my ground and saved myself many thousands of dollars (even though it meant the loss of a little goodwill within the family).

Lee February 15, 2012 at 3:17 pm

I am one of those “outcast” family members who is viewed as “negative”, or “unsupportive” because I haven’t hopped on the Monavie bandwagon. I don’t hate network marketing in general, I hate when people take it too far, thinking ever interaction that they have needs to involve “the product” veering in the opposite direction of being genuine. I also hate the lies about success. “Work 9 hours a week and earn $57,000/year!” I’m calling a bluff on this one. Pretty sure the people who are in Monavie and making that are working 40+ hours a week. Just be honest about it… “If you work hard, you’ll reap the financial benefits!” It’s no different than a normal career. Also, I like my career and don’t want people fishing and waiting for a moment of weakness to tell me that I Monavie is better than any other job. For who? Only certain people. It is not for everyone, and when I go on vacation, I don’t want to wear Monavie apparel, chanting “I AM MONAVIE” leaving my kids with fellow “Monavie” family instead of my real family. It’s called getting your priorities straight. Also, when getting a raise at work, I don’t take a picture of my increase and flaunt it over Facebook. That’s called “unprofessional.” And they don’t “win” trips to Maui, they earn them working 80 hours a week, while they attempt to unsuccessfully discredit all modern healthcare. Whew! I’m going to go workout now, eat a healthy supper, may even add a cupcake for dessert, and take a multivitamin, spending $170/month on something other than “the juice.”

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