The Pyramid Scheme Dilemma

cut expenses, expenses, frugal, how we win, income, personal finance

The other day a friend mentioned that she may look into becoming a stay-at-home mom in the Fall when her child is born. My exact response was this, “Wow that will be so great, you’ve mentioned that you wanted to be able to stay-at-home when you did have children. This is all working out so well for you. But please don’t get involved in one of those pyramid scheme businesses!” (We’re close friends so she didn’t at all seem offended by this request… I think)

Now, had she responded, ‘Well, I’m looking into XYZ At-Home business, but it’s not a pyramid scheme…” then I would have known two things immediately:

  1. Our friendship was about to become an awkward situation where I started dodging her calls and texts to avoid being hit up for sales
  2. I would have seen her adorable baby and felt that twinge of guilt for not buying junk that is also ludicrously priced

Fortunately this friend responded “No, I can’t stand it when So-and-So does this to me” (Friendship saved, awkward situation successfully averted!)

That’s how it all starts… and that’s how I have found myself on the extremely awkward end of a conversation where a friend, acquaintance, or a colleague has asked me to lunch or started telling me about some new product on multiple occasions. I can tell that they are delivering a carefully calculated sales pitch that their at-home-company has taught them. And that’s when most people would just fork over the money, right? A friend has just started “their own business” and they have to make so much in the first month to report back to their mentor/regional VP/ next link up the pyramid. So most people take pity and pay up and hope that the issue is never brought up again. Right? Not this frugal couple. We have learned the art of politely saying no.

Here are some very important things to know:

    1. We absolutely and wholeheartedly applaud anyone who has the courage to go out on a limb and start their own business. It takes a significant amount of time and effort and I still have a corporate 9-to-5 job so I’m envious of their ability to maybe one-day be their own boss.
    2. I understand that several households rely on more than even two sources of income and that a side-business can help to manage costs and make things easier.
    3. Mr. Winning Williams made a successful college stint selling Cutco knives.
    4. Mrs. Winning Williams did at one point in 1st and 2nd grade sell Girl Scout cookies.
  • We will not be supporting your pyramid scheme venture


The Winning Williams household is one that watches every dollar going out. Unless you are selling me groceries, I’m very unlikely to buy from your business, corporation, at-home scheme, or local start-up. I just don’t need expensive beauty products, extra handbags, stick-on nails or self assembled jewelry. (Want, sure, but not need).

And the feeling that I get immediately after dodging, or side-stepping, or giving a non-committal answer instead of just being honest and saying, “I’m stingy with my money and this doesn’t meet the threshold of need to justify spending anything” is horrible. But I have and will continue to refuse. You can do the same. Just say no! (It’s not even their dream, it’s someone else’s dream that they are working and making money for!)

The Winning Williams have realized that the feeling of guilt is what the head-honchos atop their lofty pyramid want us to feel. They are banking on the fact that friends and family members will feel guilty and shell out money. If your “at-home-business” fails within a year because you’ve tapped out all of your friends and family, oh well, the executives made some good money. Using the ancient and infinite wisdom of math you can clearly see that the advantage is always to the head of the pyramid. Even in the case of buying into a franchise, the odds are hardly in favor of the franchisee.

It seems that this dilemma is one that we will have to continue to face. Decades ago there was the local Avon lady knocking on the door, today there are many more annoying and pervasive ways for sales people to clamor for our attention (including Facebook). The best advice that we can give when you find yourself in this dilemma, between a friend and a completely unwanted expense, is to be honest and just say no in a polite manner. If you still feel really guilty, do them a favor and give them a “like” or “share” on social media and then bow out.

Now not all people who work from home are part of a nationwide franchise of “at-home-businesses.” I have several friends who work their 9-to-5 then go home and hustle for their own self-launched business. One that I will highlight as the most positive example of how to run a business while still keeping friends is Cricket Lane Studio. Started by an extremely talented friend of mine from college, she started out by doing custom illustrations. When Mr. Winning Williams and I were married she sent us one as a wedding gift. Wanting to show some immediate appreciation I sent a thank you card and gave her a mention on Instagram and Facebook. When it was time for our one-year anniversary gift (the traditional gift is paper), I knew exactly who to contact for a unique idea to highlight our favorite travels. She didn’t have to text me or ask me to buy from her repeatedly. The quality of her work spoke for itself and the decision was easy. Kudos to this amazing business woman who is making her own success, no pyramids in sight.

If you have an at home business and find that your friends are now dodging your texts and invitations to hang out ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you respect when someone says “No” to purchasing an item?
  2. Have you thoroughly researched 3rd party reports on these products? (Do you fully believe in what you are selling or is it simply convenient)
  3. How many times have you asked your friends for money? Asking them to buy your product is essentially just asking for their money if the product has no use for them.

3 thoughts on “The Pyramid Scheme Dilemma

  1. hahahaha I love the gifs in this post.

    I share your perspective 100% (except sometimes I can actually be suckered into buying the pyramid scheme products…) Thanks for the link back!

    Liked by 1 person

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