I’m comforted to know I’m not the only one to get bamboozled by MLM schemes.
UK-based follower Della [not her real name] has asked for her Avon story to be shared with you all. Now, Avon has established itself as a household name, and its perceived as “the teddy-bear of MLMs“, so it will be interesting to hear her story.
Before reading Della’s experience, please remind yourself of my mission statement here. In a nutshell, all views presented in this blog are ours, and ours only. Your own personal experiences with MLM companies may differ, negatively or positively. All names and identifying features have been changed to protect the individuals concerned – this is Della’s personal opinion of her time with Avon.
It is so important for more people to speak out – you could help someone else from losing money, friends and dignity (and eventually bring about the demise of MLM – here’s to hoping!). Your anonymity is always guaranteed.
Take it away, Della. Memes and devil’s advocacy added by yours truly 😉
[Della:] This all happened back in 2010. I decided to be an “Avon Lady” to help my depression and to help me get out the house (after losing my job 2 years earlier when I became disabled).
I signed up as a representative, and got my mums shopping trolley (one of those 2-wheel pull along things) to help me carry books and orders, as I had to use a walking stick to help me get about.
My housing estate was fairly new, and I was told there was no Avon rep officially operating my area. There was a woman called Angie operating in our area unofficially, but she didn’t actually live on our estate – she was only doing so because her daughter lived here, and apparently the daughter wasn’t eligible to do Avon herself.
My upline Sales Leader, Bettina, (yes, there are uplines in Avon) told me that she “would tell Angie the area was mine, and that she should stick to her own area that she was given, not to do both.“
So with that knowledge, I went full steam ahead in my mission as an Avon Lady – the more I made friends with my customers, the more I began to hear horror stories about Angie. Apparently, she used to screech at them if they hadn’t given her catalogues back, or if they weren’t in when she called for delivery. They said Angie was always rude, and if they had forgotten to get money out to pay her, or needed to pay another day, she would give them more abuse.
[Elle:] Just chiming in, Della, as I need play devil’s advocate here – although its not professional to scream at her customers, I can actually see this through Angie’s perspective. It must have been frustrating for her, if people regularly hadn’t got their order money ready, or she tried to make her deliveries and no one was around.
Also though, Angie needs to remember that perhaps her customers had unpredictable work and family commitments, and she was being a little too hard on them. Its a two-way street, I know. Presumably Avon reps have to pay for her catalogues etc?
[Della:] Yep unfortunately – catalogues, bags for books, order forms, paper bags for orders, samples and other stuff!
[Elle:] So perhaps this added to her frustration? Again, not defending her attitude towards customers, but something to bear in mind from an outsider’s perspective?
[Della:] Oh trust me, Elle, her behaviour got worse, the more I established myself in the area. I also found out that because she was doing my estate as her unofficial second area, she was giving the customers the outdated catalogue, whereas mine was always the latest.
So, bearing in mind that my books were newer, I started to find they were going missing from my customers’ doorsteps. Or, they would tell me that “Angie had already collected it – she said it was hers.”
Thing is, these customers loved me being their local rep – they would talk to me for ages, some would invite me in for a cuppa, and lots would place orders through me. This did not sit well with Angie.
Angie was not going to give up her “second territory” without a fight. She wanted me gone, so she started with the abusive voicemails. Turns out, she had got my mobile number off the front of one of my catalogues. The moment I first got abuse from her, I panicked and told Bettina.
Bettina did what a Sales Leader is supposed to do, and reprimanded Angie – but Angie turned on her too, her own upline! After I received each abusive call that week, I would still let Bettina know, but it was relentless.
I tried to ignore it, and get on with my job as Avon Lady, but that made Angie worse. If she couldn’t get a reaction from me over the phone, she started turning up on my doorstep shouting and swearing at me, even in front of my 5 and 3 year-old sons.
My mental health subsequently worsened. I became tearful and would have panic attacks whenever I saw her. In the end, I cracked up. I called Bettina and asked for a meeting, as we needed to sort this once and for all.
When the day of the meeting came, I was so nervous. Bettina turned up to the meeting with her own upline Tara, the Avon Area Manager, and I felt intimidated from the start. Tara was brusque, cold and had little sympathy for the situation.
They told me they had already conduced a separate meeting with Angie, but they didn’t elaborate further. They proceeded to go through my little black book of customers, and tore it to shreds (not literally, may I hasten to add).
I was asked to point out who my favourite customers were, my best customers, and ones that had expressed that they preferred me over Angie. I did as they asked, and before I knew it, they both started crossing loads of names out, saying I “wasn’t allowed to go to them anymore.”
This was despite me telling them that these were my frequent customers, who expressly preferred me. When they had finished crossing out names, they left me with the bare minimum. All of my best customers were gone, leaving me with ones that would only order out of 1 book in every 4, if that.
I begged and pleaded with them but they wouldn’t listen to me. Through my tears, I pointed out that it seemed they were more on Angie’s side, not mine. This was despite the abuse she had also given them! They told me they “just wanted an easy life” which to me, simply said they were scared of her too.
I was disheartened, but still vowed to carry on after that. As resentment bubbled up inside me, I thought screw them and I carried on going to my favourite customers – they all told me they would never order from Angie, even if they were forced to. I wasn’t entirely rebellious though – I did stop going to some of the ones that were taken away from me, although it really sucked.
One day I went to a new road nearby, as I was told by some of the residents that they had no Avon Lady to order from.
Not long after, I received a phone call from another rep called Wendy, who politely told me it was her road. I apologised straight away and we got talking. I mentioned my issues caused by Angie, and she said she had the same problem with her stealing books and giving her abuse over the phone. Little did I know that things would start to get worse than I could ever imagine.
Despite the fact Angie had most of my customers now, the abuse continued. It was getting to the point where the thought of leaving my house was terrifying. That’s when I knew I had to get the police involved, as it was sheer harassment.
Before I tell you about the police involvement, I have to give you a bit of information about my boys, as it’s relevant.
My sons were 5 & 3 years-old at the time, as I mentioned before. Both have speech problems. My eldest has a severe speech disorder, and has been having speech therapy since he was in nursery.
He had started school in the September of 2010, and was unable to talk more than a few words but was difficult to understand him. He was so bad that he was given a special-needs statement, had special-needs help, and the extra funding too. He hardly spoke to other children because they couldn’t understand him but he would still play with them. My youngest boy also had speech problems, but his was a delay and severe shyness.
Now back to the police bit.
So I contacted the police and they said they would send someone out, so I wasn’t surprised when there was eventually a knock on my door. However, the officer said they weren’t here to talk about the harassment, they were here to talk to me about my husband and I “stalking Angie’s family, and my eldest son bullying her grandchildren.”
I was gobsmacked – I didn’t even know Angie’s family, so how could we stalk them? After talking to the police I found out that Angie’s daughter lived near me (I can see her house from mine), and we happen to walk past her house everyday for the school run.
As soon as we calmly explained all this to the police, it was clear that no we weren’t stalking the family. Now onto the bullying allegation – we were told that our non-verbal son had been verbally abusing this women’s grandchildren. They went to the same school, but were much older than my boy.
I know I shouldn’t have, but I laughed, to which of course the police looked at me like I was a crazy women. This was until I explained to them about the fact my boy is non-verbal, and I even called him into the room to show the police. They were evidently taken aback that Angie had lied to them about this innocent little boy. I then started to talk to them about why I had called them and how bad it was making my mental health.
They told me they would talk to her about the false statements and the abuse towards me. They even said that she was hostile towards them, and that it was likely she wouldn’t listen.
[Elle:] Sounds like this Angie was a law unto herself then? A good candidate for The Jeremy Kyle Show, from what you’re saying.
[Della:] Pretty much! I told you it got worse, didn’t I. The police then advised that if i really wanted to get some of my sanity back, then it was best to quit Avon for good.
So I talked about it to my husband, to decide what was best for our family. He said, “well you haven’t been happy for a couple of months, Della, and your depression is worse, not better.”
He went on to say that the family was suffering because of it, and that he was scared for me when my phone rang or the door knocked (in case it was her). Plus, there was the effect it was having on our poor boys. So that was it, decision made – I was going to quit Avon.
Before I officially knocked things on the head, my best friend, Renee, had just started Avon herself. She was given her own area, but I knew some of my faithful old customers really didn’t want to deal with Angie, ever. So I went to visit them, bringing Renee with me -I explained why I was quitting, and also asked them if they wanted Renee as their Avon Lady, instead of Angie.
Needless to say, all of the customers wanted Renee. So, once that was agreed and I was satisfied my customers would be in good hands, I rang Bettina to quit. I told her why; the lack of support, the news about the police, and most of all, that Renee was being given my customers. Did she care? Well, she pretended to, I guess.
Fast forward a few months and my eldest son was coming on leaps and bounds in school, and even got himself a little friend, Tilly. Apart from the fact he was only 5 and they were being told off for always giggling in class, there was another problem – Tilly’s mother was the best friend of Angie’s daughter, and I was scared of her because of this. It took me months to pluck up the courage to talk to her, but when I did, she realised that the lies she was told about me were not true – we eventually became best friends.
It’s now 7 years later, and things are definitely calmer. I still have to walk past the family’s house, but if I see them in the street I still can’t even look at them. I just don’t know what lies Angie told about me, but maybe that’s just my anxiety talking. Needless to say, I won’t be picking up my Avon Lady mantle again.
I would like to thank Della for sharing her experiences with me, and giving me permission to publish her tale on my blog. Della has also said she is happy to answer any further questions readers may have on her Avon story – simply drop me a line, and I will be sure to pass them on to her.
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If you have a MLM experience you would like to share, feel free to drop me a line below. Your anonymity is always guaranteed.
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Please, also check out the good work of the people of Bot Watch, Juice Plus/MLM Lies Exposed and Timeless Vie. They work tirelessly to expose the truth and lies of the MLM industry, so anyone considering this line of work can make a fair, informed decision . In fact, I now have a Recommended Reading page for Anti-MLM writers and interesting lifestyle bloggers I think you will enjoy, such as Chammy in Real Life and my very first Patreon, @YourOlly.
For something a little different to pyramid schemes, I would also recommend a look at what Bad Psychics are up to. Award-winning and seen-on-TV, they have worked to expose false claims made by psychics, mediums and the paranormal since 2003.