A woman says that she and her boyfriend were both approached by multi-level marketing representatives while shopping separately.
In a TikTok posted last week, Danielle Elking (@dani.elking8) says that when she was in a thrift store, a woman approached her to compliment her shoes. After making small talk, Elking says that the woman started to ask her questions about herself and “interrogating” her.
“She came in with a compliment—that’s strategic,” Elking says of the woman.
Elking then says that when she told her boyfriend about the interaction, he said he had a similar one the day before: Someone asked about his shoes when he was shopping in a Nordstrom and then repeatedly asked him questions.
“My boyfriend and I [were] like telling each other lines to the script and they match up word for word, perfectly,” Elking says. “If somebody comments on your shoes in the department store… you walk away.”
On Tuesday, Elking’s video had over a million views.
I cant even thrift in peace anymore. Also, Dont comment on my nails i know they look chodey rn. I trimmed my fakes and niw im jus waiting for them to fall off cause im too lazy to soak them in remover♬ original sound – dani.elking
Many commenters on Elking’s video assumed that the people who approached her and her boyfriend were sales representatives from Amway, a multi-level marketing company that sells home goods and personal care products. Elking does, however, say that the people who approached her are a part of a cult—which Amways has been accused of being many times.
“Amway is the worst MLM. Not because of the “buy in” or cost. But because it’s literally a prosperity Jesus cult,” a Reddit user shared in a forum on the site that focuses on multi-level marketing schemes. “It’s HUGE. I guess most people stay stuck in it and never leave. Losing their money, their friends, and their soul.”
Another ex-Amway member called the corporation “stupid” and “deceitful” in a blog post, and detailed how its leaders used cult tactics to keep the organization’s individual business owners involved.
“The most deceitful and cultish leaders are the best at motivating their downline into a consistent buying frenzy and thus make the most money,” the ex-member said of Amway employees. “I do not think that MLM as it is practiced by the large Amway systems has a very bright future at all.”
According to a study by the Consumer Awareness Institute, 99% of participants lose money in multi-level marketing operations. Despite this, many MLMs use cult-like tactics to recruit and retain members.
In an interview for Quartz, lawyer Douglas Brooks, who specializes in marketing frauds, says, “You’re trained to avoid people who question whether this is a viable business or not. Which is exactly the same technique that cults use—they try to isolate you from people who question your belief system.”
According to Psychology Today, MLMs also use a sense of community to keep members, by portraying the company as a supportive network of friends, with some spokespeople swearing that they met their spouses through the company.
Others remain enmeshed in the company through a sense of shame and guilt, often having recruited outside friends and family members. Some are reluctant to leave after devoting so much time and work to the company, including building dedicated social media followings for themselves.
Commenters on Elking’s video shared their thoughts on and experiences with Amway.
“This is Amway,” one wrote. “I had the same thing happen to me in Walmart in STL a couple years ago.”
“Why did this literally happen to me at Target and I literally thought omg a new friend?!” another wrote. “No… pyramid scheme…”
“This happened to me.. twice… BY THE SAME PERSON,” a commenter shared. “She didn’t recognize me and tried it again with the exact same conversation.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to Elking via Instagram.