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WorldVentures: This is NOT the Way to Travel the World

Well whatever he’s doing, it sounds pretty cliché, I thought to myself. He kept going telling us about this online travel club called WorldVentures, where users can buy discounted travel packages for super cheap if they just pay a $199 fee + $54.95 a month (what a deal!). Then he told us the real money was in becoming an associate and recruiting others to join the program.

It wasn’t until he showed us the pay structure, which looked exactly like a pyramid, that I realized what was going on. It looked like this guy was actually trying to recruit us into a pyramid scheme!

“I’m going to stop you right now, ” Mike said. The guy looked up from his endless slideshow where he was explaining all the free trips and cars you can earn, just by working for yourself! “We’re never going to be interested in this.”

“I thought you guys said you were entrepreneurs, ” the guy mumbled before shuffling off dejectedly. Mike and I looked at each other in disbelief. Did that really just happen?

I didn’t know people even still DID these things. I associate these sort of companies (like Amway) with some bygone era. Clearly they do since this young (probably late twenty-something) dude was trolling coworking meetups for sign ups. So of course I started digging.

What I learned really surprised me. This is a multi-million dollar company and it is growing fast. When I asked around on facebook many people seemed to know at least one or two people involved.

With a few hours of research I was able to get the scoop on WorldVentures and I was pretty disturbed by what I learned:

The Promise

On it’s most shallow surface a program like WorldVentures sounds incredibly appealing. Trapped in a job you hate? Longing to see the world? Join us and become your own boss! Work from anywhere! Earn fabulous rewards like cars and vacations!

“Make a living while living, ” is the catchphrase. And who wouldn’t want that? In fact, maybe readers of travel blogs are particularly susceptible to such a line. Isn’t that was a lot of websites promise? Isn’t that the idea behind the 4 hour work week? Isn’t that basically what I claim to do, more or less (possibly why the coworking dude thought I seemed like a perfect target)?

WorldVentures mentions “dreamtrips” and their promotional materials feature sales associates in tropical places holding signs that say “You should be here.” They entice people with the promise of an easy, glamorous way to make a living, and you can’t say it’s not appealing. In a world where becoming a location independent entrepreneur is the goal of many, this seems like the fast track to easy living.

The Program

Hidden only slightly below the glossy promises is the fact that WorldVentures is at heart a multi-level marketing (MLM) network. My initial impression was slightly off: it is NOT a pyramid scheme because the company sells actual products (vacations), which is enough to keep them on the correct side of the law.

The idea behind MLM is that you make money not just through your own sales work, but by recruiting other salespeople and making a cut of any sales that they make. Recruit enough people below you and you can just relax and watch the money roll in.

To become a sales rep you pay a .95 sign-up fee plus 10.99 a month. You then go to work recruiting others to sign up below you. Honestly the pay out scheme is so complicated I started tuning out, but to quote this very interesting article in the Observer:

“WorldVentures has a virtually inscrutable payout schedule comprising seven ranks and two pyramid-shaped hierarchies. The first pyramid is called the “lineage.” You sit at the top and everyone you’ve personally recruited is added directly below you, and everyone they’ve recruited is below them, and so on. Lineage is factored into rank, which is factored into compensation. The second pyramid is the “binary organization.” Here the pyramid spreads out by twos—the top spot sits directly above a left and a right spot, each of which sits above its own pairs, and so on. You can then earn bonuses based on sales made by the binary organization, which is comprised of the reps you recruit, and the reps they recruit.”

Right… so if you manage to master that complicated pyramid, you could potentially make a lot of money. You may not though, and here’s why:

The Problem

“Companies that use MLM models for compensation have been a frequent subject of criticism and lawsuits. Criticism has focused on their similarity to illegal pyramid schemes, price fixing of products, high initial entry costs (for marketing kit and first products), emphasis on recruitment of others over actual sales, encouraging if not requiring members to purchase and use the company’s products, exploitation of personal relationships as both sales and recruiting targets, complex and sometimes exaggerated compensation schemes, the company making major money off its training events and materials, and cult-like techniques which some groups use to enhance their members’ enthusiasm and devotion.”

Some people do make lots of money off of MLM, but many people do not. You see there is always a catch. In the case of WorldVentures the catch is:

  • Reps don’t start earning commission until they manage to recruit 30 customers or salespeople below them. That’s a lot of hustling. This is only the start of a list of very complicated rules and regulations which mean that very few people actually make it to the point of payout.
  • It’s not impossible to make money in WorldVentures, or else nobody would do it. It’s just a hell of a lot harder than recruiters would have you believe. Again from the Observer:

“MLM is a grind. When reps fail to make money, they’re taught to blame themselves. Reps are also heavily encouraged to spend their own money on WorldVentures’ myriad training events, which can range from $29 to hundreds of dollars to attend. WorldVentures has a tendency to sue its former employees who move to competing MLMs or speak negatively about the company, squashing public dissent;”

  • According to WorldVentures official documents, “73.7 percent of reps fail to earn a commission and only .1 percent earn a yearly income above the poverty level. The average rep earns $325 in a year. That doesn’t account for the price of joining or the cost of training events.”
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