How to Politely Deal with Your MLM Friend

Our parents’ generation had it easy. Tupperware. They saw it coming a mile away and knew exactly which parties to avoid (or which to go to, depending on their storage needs!). Now, the multi-level marketing companies are pervasive, covering everything from leggings to smoothies to clean beauty and lipstick that will never, ever come off. It’s hard to know when your friend who has jumped on the essential oil bandwagon is just an enthusiastic believer, or if they’re looking for new team members to recruit.

You probably know the drill. You receive a Facebook friend request from your middle school BFF. You haven’t seen her in over a decade and think, “Oh, Kimberly! I wonder what she’s up to?!” You shoot off a perky response and look forward to catching up. Then, two messages in, she covertly asks if you’ve been hoping to find a community of like-minded, ambitious women eager to bond over wine nights spent selling jewelry, bags, and dreams.


What is an MLM exactly?

What exactly is an MLM? MLM stands for multi-level marketing, and at its most basic level, it consists of levels of salespeople. They do not earn salaries, only commission, and the higher you are within your team, the more you make – earning a percentage of commission from each of your team members’ sales, as well as your own.

One of the best deep dives into the MLM world is The Dream podcast. Host Jane Marie visits her hometown, a community where MLMs thrive. Marie takes a journalistic approach to researching MLMs, diving into the history and skepticism, but also recognizing that there are those charismatic personalities and natural-born salespeople that skyrocket to success within an MLM. However, that is not the case for the vast majority – 47 percent lose money, and 27 percent don’t make any money at all. Of the group that is making money, over half made less than $5,000, according to the AARP Foundation. But, those statistics haven’t stopped a majority female workforce from joining them.


How Do I Politely Deal with My MLM Friend?

Now that we have the facts, let’s return to how to handle the MLM friend hoping to sell you a perfect life filled with essential oils or leggings for every occasion under the sun. You’re caught between a rock and a hard place – cornered by a pushy salesperson into a virtual store you never asked to enter

If she’s a friend from the past – someone who you lost touch with years ago and you are fine with that – ignore. You don’t need to respond, but, if you feel like you need to say something, just give her a simple “no, thank you!”

It gets a little more complicated when it’s someone closer to you. Maybe she’s on your Junior League committee. Maybe she’s a coworker or a casual acquaintance who you see for brunch a few times a year. Maybe she’s even a close friend.

You try to change the subject the first time or two she mentions it. You make excuses for why you can’t attend her “party.” You turn down her requests that you just try out one sample – no pressure! And finally, you consider the path of least resistance. Maybe, if you buy just one or two of the items, she’ll let it go (or it’ll be a surefire sign you want to join her team!).

This is one of many reasons it’s not a bad idea to learn to say “no” to a friend. You don’t owe an explanation, you can say, “no, thanks, I’m not interested – and I’m not going to be interested, so you don’t need to keep me up-to-date on new products or sales. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.” 

But, it’s a tricky situation for most of us to be in. We don’t want to hurt our friend and we don’t want to make the situation awkward

So, we can come up with a truthful excuse: it’s not in my budget this year (make it this year, not just this month – it’ll last you longer!). I don’t wear the items of clothing the company sells. I’m concentrating on minimalism this year, so I won’t be buying any. These beauty products don’t work for my routine. Make it an overarching statement that leaves no room for her to come back with a, “but, if you try this brand, I promise it’ll change things!”

Get the message across that it isn’t her and you’re not insulting her decision to join this company, but you will not be purchasing this item. It’s not the time to lecture her on your thoughts on the MLM industry at large, but you can make it clear you won’t be spending your hard-earned dollars here, for one reason or another. And, since you won’t be purchasing said items, you don’t want to take up a spot at her next product party (hate to miss it!).


  • LovesMLM

    Not interested in MLM? Just tell your friend you are either lazy and wouldn’t succeed or you don’t like money.

    • denise simpson

      Not everyone wants to join an mlm

    • Missskitttin

      How about “I have too much money dont need or want more”

    • Richard Woodell

      Tell him it seems too much like work, and that you can’t STAND rejection in Any way, shape, or form!

    • It’s funny watching their little cult– indoctrinated heads explode when someone says that. I love it. They’re greedy, lazy, desperate, predatory, and gullible, and it just doesn’t occur to them that not everybody shares their obsession with finding THE ANGLE to getting rich or their inability to do math or apply critical thinking to anything. So I’m not sure if any of their cult leaders have come up with a cringeworthy comeback to that retort yet. From what I’ve seen, huns hearing it just go into full Passive Aggressive Grown-Up Mean Girl mode. It’s so funny, how catastrophic they are at salesmanship. Maybe that’s why they rely so much on scripts.

      Since your username indicates you’re knee deep in flavor-ade, maybe you can shed some light on this one. When a frantic, rapidly-going-broke hun tries to hard sell a mark and gets that response, what do her many scripts tell her to say before blocking them and cutting them from her life forever for being negative?

  • Ridwan Haider

    Ya itz quite disturbing. I met one of my friend recently & at certain point she was talking about MLM. I mean what!!! Why me!! Somehow MLM people want everyone to be their client!!!

    • Bryan Black

      Most businesses do MLM is just another way of doing business.

      • Ridwan Haider

        As a businessman, I prefer to do business in a very sophistacated & decent manner; not pushing anyone’s door or relation in casual ways.

      • Scams are as old as the hills. So? Doesn’t mean I have to be happy about my friends demanding my time and money, then getting upset when I refuse. Nor about them pretending to be friendly when they just want to recruit me for their scams. My husband got a very MLM-sounding note from a onetime friend and it all but gave him an anxiety attack. Nobody trusts these notes anymore. We’re all bracing for the spiel and the demands.

        If this is just another way of doing business, so is indentured servitude. That doesn’t make it okay.

    • They’re desperate and very indoctrinated. They’ve usually spent a great deal of money on their scam and their only hope of making money is to offload that stuff AND recruit people to bleed dry. That’s exactly what their own upline did to them, and now they in turn must recruit victims to finance them.

      MLM scammers teach their recruits to monetize their relationships. They learn that this is perfectly fine and acceptable. However, as you’ve seen, it’s anything but. When a friend or relative doors this to us, we feel held hostage and trapped. Maybe we already know that these scammers will cut us out of their lives if we don’t subsidize their poor decisions. If not, we soon will.

      Now multiply one scammer by thousands, all preying on the same fish in the same pond. I’ve got friends whose whole friend list is caught up in MLM. It’s like a minefield navigating all those women demanding their time and money, then throwing tantrums when nobody complies.

      Learn to say no. Do not ever, ever, ever make a pity purchase (it only encourages them–you’ll get a brief break but things will get way worse afterward). Don’t attend any of their awful tryhard “parties.” This will be hard, and the cult indoctrination teaches MLM scammers to make it as hard as possible on you. But you’ve got to stand against it. Until our government grows a pair, defies the MLM scammers who long ago bought the Republican Party as a whole, and outlaws the whole predatory business model, it’s up to us to protect ourselves.

      Good luck to you. It really sucks, but I’m seeing a growing wave of pushback against MLM. I think it’ll get better soon.

      • Jurisdoc

        I had a “friend” that fell for every single one. Such an easy mark. From Karate bday parties to leggings to make up. Grossssss

      • Oh boy, you definitely got a story! Nobody can talk with such emotion. Share it with us. What company were you apart of?

  • Giangi Tassin Townsend

    Great article and good advice. I have so many friends that are in MLM and it is hard to say no. I see them coming now and how hard it is no is always the answer or you will go broke to help all your friends.

    • Don’t make a single pity purchase, attend a single awful party, or ever give a reason. It’s the only way to protect ourselves. Let “no” be a complete sentence. Otherwise, you’re right: you’ll go broke subsidizing their bad decisions.

    • Jurisdoc

      A real friend would never use emotional obligation to get money from you. You deserve better.

  • Xenia Gilmore

    I’m GRATEFUL for the company I joined. I’ve learned how to better myself, become confident, improve my health and more importantly how to help others. These articles are always so one sided. You only hear about the negative people. I love my customers and they love me. I represent an amazing brand that I absolutely love. All of my friends love my products as well I have repeat business. You have to work on yourself and work FOR yourself. It’s not easy, but it has been so worth it for myself, my family and more importantly my friends that have been able to improve their health because of ME! One of my friends lost 100 lbs -BECAUSE of me and because I chose to do something different and did not listen to negative people’s opinions. Find something you like, do it, do it with passion and you will NEVER have to work for people that don’t appreciate you EVER again.

    • Missskitttin

      So you work for appreciation???

      • Haha! Yeah, out of the goodness of her little heart. 😉 and an autoship of snake oil for as much as she can talk her victims into paying! Her poor life decisions don’t finance themselves.

    • bardofoc

      Wow! Self-centered much? You seem like the perfect personality type that would be immersed in MLM cultism. Your friend made a great accomplishment of dropping 100 lbs and you attribute her success to yourself??? Or, as you succinctly put it “BECAUSE (of) ME.” Nevermind her watching how much she eats or incorporating excercise into her weekly schedule or reading the nutrition labels on packages. She lost all that weight simply because you were there to sell her crapola. Whatever. But what’s even more telling here is that your need to provide a lengthy (and offensive) explanation for justifying your reason to join an MLM is only further proof that joining an MLM is, to put it nicely, not a “wise” decision

      • Exactly. It’s like joining a religion. Logic and critical thinking didn’t lead her there, and it won’t get her out. Until she comes to grips with the nature of this business model and what made her vulnerable to it, she will just keep bouncing from scam to scam.

        It’s funny that she went to those lengths to rationalize her involvement with her scam (it sounds like Beach Body, one of the very worst). It isn’t paying her much at all, that’s clear. That’s why she pushes hard on the emotional hold the scam has on her.

        Any MLM scammer who shows up randomly to defend their scam is failing hard at it. If they were successful, no way no how would they have time to do that. The ex-Ambot who wrote “Merchants of Deception” made that crystal clear. Dude was busy 20 hours a day and he was just an Emerald (now called Platinum, I think). I’ve heard a lot of ex-MLM victims say the same thing. Their downline is always disintegrating as victims wash out of it, so they’re always frantically looking for more recruits. That “early retirement” never materializes. Nor does the income and the life of ease.

        Betcha this whole comment of hers is from a script, anyway, or cobbled from several scripts. If I bothered, I could probably source it fairly easily. The indoctrination MLM victims receive destroys their critical thinking ability, but even worse it obliterates their individuality. They all sound alike, because they’re all parroting scripts their upline provide.

      • Jurisdoc

        There is nothing these stupid companies are doing to make the world better. It is all junk you can find elsewhere. Selfish and foolish. Gag

    • When you finally go broke and have to cut ties, your cult leaders will try hard to convince you that you did something wrong. Remember my words: it won’t be your fault. You got caught up in a cult that uses cult indoctrination techniques to destroy your ability to think critically. That’s why you sound like a delusional robot here.

      You know why so many people speak negatively about MLMs? It’s because 99%+ of participants will lose money or barely break even on their scam. The vast majority of victims wash out and get blamed for it, even abused by their onetime tribes. Millions of people have lost money, relationships, spouses, children, homes, and more to these scams.

      Your “brand” only exists to keep the feds from shutting the scam down out of hand. I’ve never seen any MLM product that was better than acceptable, nor any priced to reflect its quality. The funny thing? If you were involved with an outright illegal pyramid scheme instead of a barely-legal one, you’d have a considerably better chance of pulling out of it with a profit. The scam creators lose a lot of money because your expenditures in the scam get divided and diluted by the products you’re forced to buy to stay active in the “opportunity.” But again, they’ve got to do it to stay open for longer.

      PS: nobody believes your snake oil helped anybody lose weight. Only MLM scammers think there’s a magic pill or shake or wraps or whatever your scam pushes. Just.. Don’t forget what I said about it not being your fault, okay? Don’t plunge into another MLM afterward, either. They’re all predatory. They’re all designed to take your money and send it to your upline. Learn your lesson and move on, and don’t let the abuse get to you. And please don’t let anyone silence you when you finally learn your lesson and want to talk about what happened. I hope I see it one day. Best wishes.

  • It’s amazing!! The stats on those who fail is much better than traditional business!! With regular business’ legal fees higher than the cost of any MLM seems to be a great bet! I have friends who’ve lost businesses and the losses was tragic! Great recommendation! Thanks!

  • What surprises me the most is the people that actually take the time to still write about MLM to get traffic. MLM is no longer in trial, It’s proven. And your logic is wrong because in MLM, everybody starts at the top and then you, get to fill in the bottom. What you described is a pyramid scheme. Write about something that adds value to your community because this is plain misleading.

    “Let me google a blog to learn the proper wording to tell no to a friend that added me on Facebook”

    Literally said none one ever.

    • Cara Phillips

      MLMs are terrible.

      • Kirk Taylor

        Or maybe you’re terrible at MLM’s? Well, it’s possible

      • Give me a real argument Miss Phillips instead of just hate. Network Marketing isn’t perfect but it’s better. And unlike you, I can prove it, but can you support your bold claim?

        • It’s not bold. They’re terrible. They turn their victims into robots or sneering jerks, and either way they monetize their relationships for junk nobody wants. And all the same, almost everyone entering the scheme will leave poorer.

    • They’re proven to destroy almost everyone who joins them. Is that what you mean? Of the MLMs forced to provide disclosures, we learn that the vast majority of victims will either lose money or barely break even. Many don’t provide such information at all, and it’s not hard to guess why. The people at the top get rich while 99%+ of the rest fail. Even the FTC has a number of resources making the risks clear and obvious.

      It’s interesting that you don’t seem to understand what a pyramid scheme is, and yet you accidentally reveal why MLMs are in fact a pyramid scheme. It’s because participants can’t succeed without recruiting people into the scheme below them. The products are just there to buy the scam a little more time before it implodes or gets shut down. That’s why the products tend to be subpar, overpriced junk. They could be anything and it would not matter to the scam’s creators. The real reason they get rich at their victims’ expense is recruitment, not product sales. Often pyramid schemes get nicknamed “endless chain recruiting scams.” So isn’t it funny that you proudly describe that exact structure while betraying your own ignorance about what MLMs are?

      As these scammers grow more and more desperate, yes, more people will want to know how to turn them down. I’m very thankful and encouraged to see the growing wave of backlash against this scam. Maybe our government will grow a pair one day and ban it entirely.

      If you don’t think such advice is necessary, that’s fine. But I hear requests for this advice often. I think this was a timely post that will be welcomed by many. It’s hard to turn down an indoctrinated scam victim who’s got one eye at all times on their rapidly shrinking bank account.

      • Wow, you seem really butthurt. I respect your opinion mate but if you want your voice to matter, next time, don’t hide under a pseudonym “Captain”

  • Mike Couture

    Depending on your friend, and you have absolutely no interest in joining his/her company. You can still be supportive and ask about the products. If there is something that you would like to try, become a customer. Some of these companies have amazing products. Why not just be a customer?

    • Cara Phillips

      Because it is like encouraging bad behavior in a toddler.

      • Kirk Taylor

        Man, are you this supportive of all your friends? Jeez.

        • I’m not required to lie to show support. It’s sad you think that’s okay. If I’m not remotely interested in being her recruit, think the products suck, and know that 99%+ of MLM participants will lose money or barely break even on the venture, I’m not going to do anything to prolong that friend’s descent into madness. That wouldn’t be supportive at all. I’d sooner shoot up heroin to “support” an addicted friend.

          If you think otherwise, chances are you’re an ego-stung MLM victim or scammer yourself. I can’t blame you in that case for bring delusional about what support looks like. You’ll know the real support of true friends after you awaken from this fever-dream.

        • Jurisdoc

          Friends are not supposed to be clients. Business and pleasure should not mix like that. Get a real job and leave your friends out of it. Ew

    • 1. No MLM products are worth the money demanded. They’re only there to give the scam the appearance of legality.

      2. MLM scams are not a business model I’d ever support with my money or time.

      3. I’m not about to give some cult– addled scam victim any hope of selling me junk or recruiting me. And that is, without fail, how they take the slightest show of pity.

      4. That’s not how support works. If I start a business, I do not expect my friends to do this for me. I’ve got a real business, in fact, and have had several lucrative ones in the past, and not once did I demand or expect my friends to do that stuff for me. I’ve never even heard of any real business owner talking like that.

      So why do MLM scams get the special treatment?

      Oh, because you’re in one and wish your friends would subsidize you more than they do? Better hope your upline doesn’t find out what you’re up to!

  • Joe

    90% percent of real state agents has not sold any properties at all. Probably the same number for people who buys book but do not read it at all. 96% percent of businesses (traditional or non traditional) closes down on its first few years that’s a world data. This is entrepreneurship. There are a lot of factors why people do not succeed in business but most case it is because of the entrepreneurs themselves. Most wants it just because of its savyness but is not really prepared for it. They also dont know how to get network properly to get their business out there. This is the case for most traditional business owner. They depend their business too much on location thinking and hoping people will just come and buy. But that is not the case for these network builders. They do not wait they make it happen. Begginers might come to you offering you something with such aggressiveness but hey that is part of their learning curve. But you see they are just really like anybody else who wants to succeed. Every customer has the right to say no just dont say no because you dont like the business model only to buy almost the same item you saw in facebook ads I mean come on just buy it instead from your friend. But if you really dont like the product just say that it is not something you see useful for you.

    So why am I saying all these? I like your title, how to politely respond to your mlm friends but when I read about it I dont get why you even have to put such data that only these much of people earn from it when it is the same case for all businesses out there which ever industry you are in. Just the same as to why not all people are promoted to managerial level because not all people work nor know the same thing. Some people just really learns faster and works really really hard than other people out there.

  • Lucy Macgregor

    Or Just say NO! In my experience a lot of networkers are seeking for a yes or no answer it would save everyones time if the person being prospected are just direct and honest. If you dont want something just say No.

    • MLM scammers are very literally taught to ignore or argue with rejection. They’re like evangelicals trying to score a Jesus sale, or a pickup artist trying to get into a woman’s pants. No means not yet! They’ll ask again. Give any reason, and they’ve got cut and paste scripts to argue about it.

      A lot of people aren’t good at telling friends no. And MLM scammers capitalize on those bonds and social mores.

  • Kirk Taylor

    Meanwhile, the right column of your page is loaded with affiliate links.
    Look, if your friend is hassling you to join their MLM company, they’re doing it wrong.
    There are millions who make some money every month doing this, there are others who make a living doing this. Anybody can do it, not everybody will!
    Not everyone WANTS to make money, some people actually like the products!

    • Fewer than 1% of MLM participants make a living wage at it. That number comes from the FTC and the income disclosures from the scammers themselves. That tells me that you’re quite wrong.

      Here’s the list of people who do well at MLM:

      * the scam creators themselves
      * very early adopters
      * successful MLM leaders poached from other MLMs, often with sweetheart deals so they’ll bring their huge downlines with them
      * friends and family of the creators, who often get a huge downline signed over to them on the spot
      * people with a huge social media presence they can mine for recruits

      Bear in mind that these few are successful at the expense of literally millions of victims they recruit. That’s the 99%+. The money that 99%+ of victims pays for fees, inventory, rallies/meetings, conventions, and “tools” goes straight into their upline’s pockets, minus whatever the product costs of course.

      That’s why hard work has nothing to do with success at MLM. Millions of people wash out after getting bled dry, and their onetime tribe abuses and gaslights them by telling them they had anything to do with it. No, they’re not to blame. The real blame goes to a predatory business model that takes advantage of greedy and desperate people.

      PS: there’s been a lot of whataboutism from you and your MLM scam friends here, but pointing to affiliate links is either ignorant af or a new and desperate low. Or both. I guess it can always be both. Affiliate links aren’t unethical. MLM is. Nice try. When you finally get bled dry, don’t let yourself be abused and gaslit. You’re just one of the 99%+, that’s all. Know how I know? Cuz you’re here. If you were in the 1% of success stories, you either wouldn’t care or you’d be too busy to say anything.

      • Kirk Taylor

        Well, sounds like you like your 9 to 5 job and your 401k! Nice talking with you!

        • Pinnacle

          I’m not sure the captain has a job. Unless it’s commenting at length on ridiculous articles.

        • Jurisdoc

          Many people love their jobs and do not want to subsidize useless scams where the byproducts inevitably end up in a landfill. We have enough problems to solve without adding pyramid and ponzi schemes to our friendships. Grosssss

  • Jurisdoc

    Orrrrrr keep selling and friendship separate.