I have a friend who is involved in a Multi-Level Marketing scheme (which sounds a lot like a pyramid scheme). She often invites me to events where she sells things. When we meet outside these nights, she keeps saying I should become a sales person, and pressuring me to go to an information seminar.

I have tried saying I am not interested, and had excuses for not going (I have other plans, etc.), but she keeps inviting me.

How do I get her to stop?

Edit: To add context, the MLM scheme involves me buying some clothes at a discount, and selling them to my other friends. She will get a % cut of my sales. If I were to recruit others, I would get a % of theirs.

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    Aren't pyramid schemes illegal? – Zizouz212 Jun 27 '17 at 22:34
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    @Zizouz212 hence the "MLM"... Many MLM projects are actually great for the people involved, provided they aren't pushed into acquiring large amounts of product themselves. Some of them have Facebook "parties" where you review the items on the website and order from there. As long as the seller isn't required to "buy in" they're generally not pyramid schemes. – Catija Jun 27 '17 at 22:36
  • @Catija Aah... Interesting. I'm not trying to figure out how I knew that, or where these words are coming from... – Zizouz212 Jun 27 '17 at 22:37
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    @Zizouz212: "Illegal?" That's a tricky one. MLM schemes are (barely) legal IF there is underlying business activity AND the volume of this business activity exceeds the commissions earned by recruiting others. – Tom Au Aug 23 '17 at 3:22

10 Answers 10


Be honest with her. Emphasize that it's a stress on your relationship and that you're not completely comfortable with their business style. I wouldn't say "pyramid scheme", if only because that's something concrete she can argue against. If you need some help, consider watching the Last Week Tonight episode all about Multi-level Marketing Schemes. They're not all bad, but many of them are.

If you're not interested in the products tell her that you're not interested in the product enough to buy it and definitely not interested enough to sell it yourself. You're glad that she's happy with it but explain that her continued pestering is causing stress in your relationship with her and that you'd like her to stop inviting you to these events and particularly stop asking you to join in.

If it's getting to the point that you'd cut off your connections with her entirely due to this, tell her that. Some people either have short memories or are so happy with their work they can't help but think that it's for everyone. You need to be firm. Don't equivocate. Don't say "I can't right now" or "I don't have time" or make an excuse. If she relapses, remind her.

Unfortunately, if you've already tried to explain and were firm, she may simply not be the sort of person who's willing to take "no" as an answer and you may have to sever your relationship (or at least reduce your interaction with her) until she moves on to a new revenue stream.

It's all about how close a friend she is and how willing you are to continue to deflect her pressure to join the "cult" of the MLM scheme.

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  • 6
    Why not call a scam a scam? – Danubian Sailor Aug 22 '17 at 21:18
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    @DanubianSailor What does that do to help the OP? They've asked for a polite way. Calling this a "scam" is not polite. – Catija Aug 23 '17 at 2:06
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    I'd maybe using "not interested in the products" as the main reason if the problem is with the scheme. That leaves room for the friend to keep coming back when new product lines come out, or if they get involved with a different MLM company all together. – David K Aug 24 '17 at 16:46
  • @Catija Letting the potentially oblivious friend promoting a scam (which could lead to legal repercussions) is also not entirely polite. If the friend did not understand that this is a pyramid scheme, they should be told. If they do understand it, they are in no position to expect politeness when trying to rope you into it. – Chieron Aug 24 '17 at 23:08
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    @Chieron There's nothing illegal about MLM companies. – Catija Aug 24 '17 at 23:12

Next time anyone approaches you for get involved in something that you don't want, just say:

No, I'm not interested.

No need for sorry or similar excuses.

This helps me each time I receive phone calls from my Bank or other similar situations.

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  • 2
    Your bank is not your friend. You don't have to hang out with the person who calls you from your bank. – Catija Jun 27 '17 at 22:49
  • @Catija, yes, you're right. I ahve "feel sorry" sometimes when I receive a phone call offeer me something and afeter say no, well, they put a lot of effort and all = maybe the OP could have feel the same. – Mauricio Arias Olave Jun 27 '17 at 22:52
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    Upvoted because sometimes people won't take the hint and you have to be direct. This wouldn't be the first approach that I'd try and there is a cost to it, but there is also a cost in terms of strain on the friendship of not giving a direct no. – Casebash Jun 28 '17 at 2:44
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    Upvoted because even your friend has learned that for every "because" they are given another chance to approach. The only sure way to end it is to say essentially "No". If asked why "I choose no because I choose no". – GregJarm Jul 1 '17 at 15:56
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    Short and sweet. Get to the point, don‘t fuss around, because of two things: 1. this will diffuse the message. 2. it will take away probability that the other person realizes that continuing to bother equals straining the relationship. This is much more effective if the friend realizes this instead of being told. – michi Dec 25 '17 at 9:41

Be direct, but be proportional too.

Level One:

"[NAME]. I'm glad that selling [COMPANY NAME] going so well for you, but this isn't something that I would be interested in."

Key elements:

  • It is direct, it doesn't involve an excuse like being busy.
  • I've avoided the word "no" because it tends to be more confrontational.

This suggestion is mainly to help people other than the OP who may have the same question, but it sounds like the OP has tried it.

Level Two:

"[NAME]. No. I'm just not interested. I'm happy it's going well for you, but I'm not interested"

If directly saying that you weren't interested didn't work, now is the time to be even more direct. In particular: - I included the word "no" because a direct "no" is very confrontational - Repeating that you aren't interested twice sends a very clear signal that you are getting slightly annoyed by the request.

Level Three:

Try the responses in Catija's answers about it putting significant strain on your friendship or tell them explicitly that you are finding their repeated requests irritating.

Level Four:

Consider ending the friendship.

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Tell your friend you need her to distinguish between business and friendship.

This will go against the pressure (subtle or overt) her business venture is applying to treat her entire friend list as leads, but it has to be done.

MLMs exploit personal relationships for profit, pure and simple. They decentralize the data mining to have downlines do the work of finding leads. While this doesn't have to be a bad thing, of course, the real world is full of friends who don't want to be marketed to. It shouldn't be your job to correct the distortion that a marketing organization is imposing, but maintaining a friendship takes work on both sides. Then it's up to her to pay attention and understand that pushy persistent recruitment makes you want to stay away.

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There is one incredibly effective strategy (although quite offensive): if your saying 'no' is ignored, ask openly:

  • Explain me what do you not understand in the word 'no'?

It usually turns off even the most hopeless troll mode, because people understand, that 'no' means 'no' and not 'maybe'.

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  • I don't think it's all that offensive; you can ask it in all honesty if someone keeps pushing after you said "no". – Erik Aug 23 '17 at 9:41

My approach is to keep the product out of the conversation. Often times it really is a great product. For me, the problem lies with the set up of the company. I do not support MLM period. 90% of the time that ends the conversation. 10% of the time you'll get a seasoned salesperson and they'll want to know why. They only want to know why you dislike the structure of the business to open up the lines of communication with you to sell you the business. My answer to that is "I don't need you to understand why, I'm requesting you respect my opinion." I have great success with this approach.

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I turn down things like this (or family members suggesting business ideas) all the time.

"I'm glad you've been successful! Running your own business takes a lot of work and requires a passion for your product. Unfortunately I don't think it's something I could get behind, clothing isn't where my passion lies and I don't think I'd have the motivation to sell something I'm not passionate about"

Running a business, especially selling something to people, requires a lot of work and dedication. If you're not behind the idea of the product, it's not going to work. Your friend can't argue with that. If you don't feel passionate about the product, nothing she can say can convince you otherwise.

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Only a few people succeed at multi-level marketing programs, even the ones that are "on the level." There is a reason; you need two distinct set of skills. This fact is your way "out."

The more obviously needed skillset is salesmanship. Not everyone is cut out to go door to door selling soap, nutritional supplements or whatever the product is. (My brief career with Amway, over thirty years ago, lasted all of two days).

The second necessary skillset is as an investor. Basically, you are being asked to "front" money for products that you may or may not be able to sell. (In my Amway experience, I bought a starter "kit" of products for $100, couldn't sell any, and used the goods myself, hopefully breaking even.) Knowing how much product to buy for resale is a job that will tax the capacities of a merchandising manager. "Whole" (and famous) retailing chains have gone out of business because they overordered inventory.

So tell your friend that you must pass on this "opportunity" because you lack one (or both) of the above skill sets, and don't need to do more jobs plus your day job. If she insists, tell her that you don't think you would make a very good "downline," and that the problems she would have in managing you would not make things worthwhile for her.

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  • What's a "downline"? – Fodder Aug 23 '17 at 3:15
  • @Fodder: The people "under" e.g. your friend in a multi-level marketing program. Just a way of "begging off" by saying you wouldn't be very good at the job because it requires too many skills that you don't have. And you'd be speaking to her in "her" language. – Tom Au Aug 23 '17 at 3:17

Your answers so far always told her that you would be considering joining some seminar but you can't do so right now for some reason. Psychologically, telling her that there is a chance to convince you will make her persist. Which is annoying to both of you.

Make it clear that you have no interest whatsoever to join a pyramid scheme. Ever. There is a chance that she will be annoyed - because you didn't tell her months ago and made her spent effort to try to get you to join, when there never was a chance to convince you. That can't be helped. The earlier you tell her, the better for everyone involved.

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This is an example of how to politely and professionally reject if a non-family/friend is trying to recruit you:

  1. First let them know that you are aware that they are investing their time in talking to you. This way they will be hooked by your answer which will make them want to read it all. This is a kind of subconscious response to thank you for appreciating their efforts

    Hello again (name of the scammer trying to recruit you),

    I want to thank you very much for offering me the role of distributor at (Company Name). I appreciate that you considered me out of so many people that are out there.

  2. Let them know that you did your homework and investigated it enough that you would understand that this is not your thing. Remember they need to recruit people that would sell and recruit people too, so tell from the bat that you don't see yourself as this kind of person. Basically you're telling them you're too lazy to do it so they will not profit from you xD

    I was very impressed by (Company Name) and it's products, which made my decision a difficult one. After careful consideration, however, I have taken the decision to decline your offer. The reason is that, although I like (type of products they have and for what those products are), I don't see myself passionate enough about it to keep up with the rhythm of selling and recruiting, as I know that I would not last for long doing this.

  3. Remind them that you appreciated the fact that they spent their time on cough* scamming cough* recruiting you, and that they are really good and professional so your decision is not because they didn't do enough to get you but rather, you are not "worth" spending time on. Yes - it was a sarcasm - so just be humble enough to admit to them you are not good enough for this, because they're more likely to let you go with this and not insist on talking with you again.

    I enjoyed meeting you and talking with you, who were friendly and professional throughout but as I have already taken the decision, I don't see reason to have another meeting as there is not much we can talk about anymore nor am I going to apply.

  4. It's time to give the final blow with a hint that you know that this is a pyramid scheme aka scam and that you are firmly not interested in being part of it

    Nevertheless, I would like to wish you and your company the very best for the future and hope you are not very disappointed as I am sure there will be other bright minds that would be happy to be part of a business of this shape.

  5. Sometimes they tend to recruit people that don't need the products themselves just to make them recruit others instead of using and selling the products. So make a hint that, although you are not interested to work for them, you might be interested in the near future to buy from them. This will make them think that they got at least something from talking with you. One example would be a company that sells beauty and anti-aging products to a young adult.

    As you yourself said, the products are not really going to make much difference on me, so maybe in some years when my needs will require, I will drop by your site and buy your products from your page. I'm looking forward to it!

  6. Thank them again for "trying to scam you" and cheer them up wishing a great day.

    Once again thank you for your time and consideration of my profile and wish you a lovely rest of the day.

  7. Final greetings and your name

    Best regards,

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Kira Oneill is a new contributor to this site. Take care in asking for clarification, commenting, and answering. Check out our Code of Conduct.
  • Hi Kira, welcome to IPS! Thanks for writing up an example, can you add where inspiration for this example is from? Answers on this site need to have some sort of source, whether it's personal experience or a reference you can link to, as explained in our citation expectations. We also have a FAQ on How do I write a good answer? that might be useful to read. Thanks! – Em C 11 hours ago

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