All over social media I’ve seen thousands of mysterious job ads. The best experience you’ll ever go through. It just keeps getting better and better. It’s not a job, it’s not a nine to five.
It’s a lifestyle. They’re offering massive salaries,
cars and holidays. A free white mercedes and a six figure income. It’s £15,000 a month.
And you can earn more than that. But very few of them say what job actually is. I didn’t know much about multi-level marketing before this and once you start looking,
these ads are everywhere. I’m investigating whether the reality matches up to what these companies seem to promise. And one name keeps coming
up again and again. This little black box that says Younique across it, changed my life. Younique is an online make-up company. If you sign up to sell for them
you’re called a presenter. It only launched in the UK in 2014. Jessica left Younique in 2018. Hi. Hi Jessica. She’s asked us to hide her identity. Can you explain a bit more about how it affected your relationships. It’s 24 hours a day, you eat,
sleep and breathe it. You know they have this hashtag #teamnosleep. I was losing friends because of it. And you know my family were like “it’s a cult”. I was like “no, it’s not, it’s not”. You know. And they do training where
basically what they tell you is, if someone doesn’t support you
then you get rid of them. That doesn’t matter if it’s your mam,
your brother, your sister, your husband, your friends –
“you don’t need that in your life”. Me and my partner would argue constantly. I even nearly said, well I did say it to him, “why are you even marrying me?” Some of them get really
nasty and that as well. And I think that’s why you get a
bit nervous about leaving, cos they starting calling you
names like fat and ugly. They proper pull you apart. They say, like, if you leave. That you’ve failed. “How dare you, you could’ve made it”. But you don’t know. Because you quit. At Younique I have also heard
from people who feel they were encouraged to spend their own money
to improve their business. I lost roughly with Younique, £1800. We had no money for food
and things because I was promised if I put this in I would get more back. Probably spent upwards of a couple of thousand, thinking about it. There’s another multi-level
marketing company that’s come up in my research
and they’re even bigger. This opportunity has
completely changed my life. It’s the time, retired my mum,
buy our dream home. We travel the world and spend
every single day with my children. It’s a cosmetics company called Nu Skin. I’ve come to Cornwall to meet someone who was drawn into this
company at a difficult time. Hi Vicki, I’m Ellie. Vicki has two children. She signed up for Nu Skin when she was pregnant with her first child. When you joined up,
you were heavily pregnant. Were going to have a new baby soon. How much do you feel like you
were targeted because of that? Oh, extremely. It was a few weeks before my maternity leave and me and my husband
went through our finances and thought ‘oh my god,
how are we going to survive?’ We had just moved into
a temporary accommodation, we were in quite a desperate situation.
We weren’t getting any housing. What expectations were you
given when you signed up? All the people at the top
had these lovely cars. They have lots and lots and lots of money. And lots and lots of nice houses. And I didn’t want to live like
in a council property forever. I wanted more out of life and I thought, that’s what was going to give it to me. Over the last five months. I’ve heard from former distributors and their loved ones, who felt that working for these two companies isolated them from their friends and family. Younique affected my mental health in such a way that it’s
nearly impossible to describe. My brother saw us as negative influences and negative influences need
to be cut out of your life. I really did not like the person
it was turning me into. It seemed a little bit like a cult. I’ll be honest. It’s time for some answers. I want to speak with the people at the top of these two companies, and it turns out Younique and Nu Skin both started in the same place. Utah, USA. Temperature -9. It’s most famous for being the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day saints, or LDS. But surprisingly, it’s also famous for being the world
capital of multi-level marketing. Every year thousands of recruits flock to conventions here. More than 100 MLMs were founded here. And these are two I recognise. During bring my research I’ve realised the founders of Younique and Nu Skin are also members of the LDS Church. Many in the state claim there is a link with Mormon culture and the high number of multi-level marketing companies here. Gina is 25 and has tried selling
for three different MLMs. She and her husband Cole first met when they were Mormon missionaries six years ago. This seems to be the heart of
MLMs in the world really. Yes. Why do you think that is? As members of the church,
I’m a member, we are taught that we, the mums, are supposed
to stay home with their kids and nurture them and raise them. And so I think a lot of women in this area take that a little, almost too seriously. Where they are like, ‘this is the
only way I can stay home is to do an MLM, so I earn money to help’. Do you think that the people
that are founding MLMs in Utah are almost exploiting that? Yes, I do, I feel like they’re targeting those young mums and those young women
who want to stay at home. When it comes down to it, it’s a little bit more predatory than a lot of people realise. Can you tell me a little bit
more about LDS culture? In the church we have
these things called missions. Men go for two years and
women go for a year and a half. So we would go out and we
would knock on doors and we would talk to people about Christ and see if they were interested in learning more about our beliefs. And so does that teach you quite a lot about, I suppose almost recruitment in a way? Yeah, definitely. Because of my mission, when I was in an MLM, it was
easier for me to reach out to people because that’s what I had
done for a year and a half. Having spoken to women like Geena, the question
I’m left with is; were these companies set up as a genuine opportunity for women? Or have they been set-up
to capitalise on pressures for young women to stay at
home with their families? And is that message now
being spread all over the globe? I’ve managed to reach someone who used to work at the Younique head office. She’s agreed to meet me tonight, but says it’s too risky to reveal her identity. Why did you leave Younique? Because I think you can’t say that you are uplifting or empowering women when you’re trying to convince them that they need these products and that it will ultimately improve their lives. How big is the mark-up on the products? Oh my gosh, massive. Some are more than like 400%. The make-up is not what
Younique is marketing. They are marketing a lifestyle, they are marketing a dream, they are marketing a support group. For the majority of promotions, we put on, are focused on recruitment. I’ve spoken to women now who have lost thousands of pounds at Younique. Do you think there was an awareness in the corporate office that that was happening? There is a shifting of blame. If you lose money, it’s because you aren’t working hard enough, it’s a lack of fortitude. Have they made lot of money from this? Younique has a billion dollar valuation. They have made millions of dollars. They are multi, multi-millionaires. It’s my final day in Utah, I gave both companies a deadline for an interview and I’ve heard nothing back. I start with Younique. I’m looking to speak with Derek Maxfield. That’s probably not possible. He’s not here. So that’s a no go. Do you know where he is? We are only in Utah today and we have been trying to get hold of someone all week. I just have a couple of questions
that I want to ask him on behalf of a number of
women we have spoken to. No-one calls me back. Next, I try Nu Skin. Hi, my name’s Ellie Flynn, I’m with the BBC. I’m trying to get hold of your CEO. I wait. So, I just talked to Rod. Says he’s in a meeting.
But he is going to send you a statement. But he cannot meet with you today. When does this meeting end?
Can he not meet with me after? No I’m sorry no. I think that says it all. People have lost everything
to these companies. They’ve lost hours of their lives. They’ve lost money, they’ve lost friends, they’ve lost family. When you come here to try and question the people that are responsible for that. No-one acknowledges it, and I think that’s the reality of what happens. People are buying into a dream and when it all goes wrong nobody cares. We did hear back from both companies. Nu Skin said “… the level of success varies greatly based on factors such as a person’s goals, ambition, commitment and skills”. They said they have “… strict policies against misrepresentation and exaggerated claims and take appropriate remedial action. They said they “… do not charge a sign-up fee and there is no requirement for [sales leaders] to purchase products”. They said they also have a refund policy in place for resalable products. They comply with the laws and regulations and they have implemented policies and training to help
their sales force comply. They have more than one million customers globally who enjoy their products. Younique said they “… developed
their business model to allow presenters to run at a level that makes sense for each individual”. They say their “… sign-up fee is low and presenters don’t need to build-up a product inventory because their digital platform allows customers to buy… directly from Younique”. They also have a one year refund policy in place for presenters’ unused products. They said they have strict policies in place to ensure adherence with local laws they supplement these policies with a large compliance audit team that provides ongoing training and enforcement including termination for non-compliance. Many people do say that multi-level marketing has changed their life. Not just in terms of money
but also friendships, gaining confidence and personal support. These companies seem to be everywhere and yet they’re so shrouded in secrecy. I think that until there’s more transparency and awareness about what it
means to work for an MLM and what your chances of success are, I just fear more people are going to lose out.