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Utah's plethora of shady business opportunities

Now, all of us have heard the adage, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." but yet so many of us still hearken to the alluring voice of some shady business opportunities.

I was once invited to check out a seminar for one of these. (I love how they're always called 'seminars' and always held in peoples' living rooms or hotel conference rooms) It was a new business that was going to revolutionize the internet. It was a monitored, secure intranet, where every site was approved, so that anyone surfing this intranet would avoid running into any objectionable material.

So all you had to do was pay $500, and you got your own merchant website, a 'store portal' they called it. Everything that was purchased through your site, you got a percentage kickback. And the best part about this whole network, is the new technology they developed of self-expanding bandwidth. When too many people where online at once, the bandwidth automatically doubles, so that internet data-sharing is never slowed down!

Obviously this promised huge returns, and a friend of mine bought into it, along with their entire family, close relatives, and friends. I stayed aloof, kept my $500, and they couldn't believe I didn't want to receive residual checks of tens of thousands of dollars coming to my mailbox for the rest of my life. They were sure to show me when any one of their friends received a check for any dollar amount. To this day, I don't know if any of them have broken even.

Over the summer a guy in my ward wanted me to come with him to check out a business opportunity his friend had introduced him to. I went with him, expecting to help him decide to invest in it or not. We get to this guy's house in Orem and start listening to his 'presentation'. It wasn't long before I realized my friend had already signed up, and wanted me to be one of the guys in his next tier. It was a utilities company with the same idea - when you pay your utilities you get a percentage kickback, and when you have friends sign up you get a kickback from theirs, and their friends', etc.

Everyone needs utilities, right? Why not make money while you're paying your bills?! All you have to do is pay $500 upfront, get all of your friends and family to sign up, and then sit back and watch as huge checks come to your mailbox the rest of your life. We asked to see an example of a check, and the guy asks his friend "Hey - where'd we put mom's check? Is it in my Beamer, or yours?"

We asked how the business operated - they breezed over that part, and reminded us how much money we'd be making. I asked to see financial statements, or company records showing its stability - they showed me testimonials from three former attorneys general. In the end I kept my $500, and I'm sure down the road I will regret actually having to work for the huge checks that I will get.

I've never known anyone personally who has actually received the payout they were promised in any business deal similar to this. While I was working at a bank one time, a guy deposited a check one day for about $3.00 from a company that I knew was a multi-level-marketing company. I asked him about his experience. He prefaced it by introducing himself as the Bishop of his ward, and then talked up the company like it was an untapped gold mine. Of course, he hadn't 'really been working at it lately' so he wasn't seeing the sizable checks he once had. Why is that always the same story?

It is my observation that most people don't even get back the money they put into these companies. If they did, the company wouldn't survive, because those at the top are profiting from those signing up below them. Stock investors look at Return on Investment to determine if an investment is worth making. So if you have less than a 50% chance of even breaking even, or getting a 0% return on your investment, is that a smart investment?

The way I talk about these types of 'business opportunities' makes them sound obviously shady. It's black-and-white that these are usually stupid 'investments'. So then why are we susceptible to their offers? Why do we think that we'll be the exception? That we'll make money when everyone else just loses their initial $500? Utah is especially fond of these types of businesses, and is labeled by some as the MLM capital of the world.

Why do we fall for these schemes? We hear our Mother's voice in our mind, clearly repeating the mantra "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is", and yet we still take the bait when we see these offers that sound to good to be true. Someone please shed light on this for me.


We all pay our tithing, so obviously those business opportunities are chances for the windows of heaven to open and pour riches upon us, right? I mean, that's why we pay our tithing, right? We are the bestest people in the world, being a majority mormon, so why shouldn't we just get all the money we need handed to us after we pay our $500 investment fee?


My favorite quote from today: "Utah 'business-people' don't know (shizzle) about business" -- friend of a friend

BTW, I have this really great business idea that is GUARANTEED to pay over $1,000 / month. All you have to do is GET A JOB!!!

p.s. Getting into the Marriott skool doesn't guarantee your retirement before 35.

Why Utah Sucks For Business

1. Everybody in Utah is taught to be frugal. At least all of the believers are taught that.

2. Everybody in Utah thinks that if they keep the commandments and do their church callings their blessings will be found in the business world.

3. Everybody thinks they can make their levels below them work for them so that they don't have to do anything. All they have to do is provide motivation for those downstream of them.

I'm suprised how many people over look the work factor in working. You make money by working, by putting in the effort, by the sweat of your own brow. Not by stumbling on some scheme that will make you millions upon millions of dollars overnight. If they really worked, wouldn't we all be millionaires already?

Maybe... this has nothing to

Maybe... this has nothing to do with Utah or Mormons at all. I grew up in Oregon and saw this kind of crap all over the place. Where are the stats showing a connection to the Church or the state?

Yeah, my original story title

Yeah, my original story title was 'Shady Business Opportunities..'. The new title is fine, but implies that Utah holds a monopoly on this kind of stuff. While I do think that Utah has a particular propensity toward 'get-rich-quick' schemes, it is certainly not just a Utah problem. In fact, the first story I talked about happened in Washington. I think that Utah has potential to be a great state for business, because church members are taught to be hard-working and honest.

I just wonder why so many people fall victim to this kind of stuff, and if anyone ever makes money doing this. I'm sure you could make money if you were willing to jeopardize every relationship you have with anyone close to you by pestering your family and friends incessantly to sign up - but in the end you'd be doing just as much work as you would at a regular job where you wouldn't have to sell your soul to the sleazy sales devil.

In my opinion, this is the back-end of the business world. They're technically legal companies, but they're sleazy and unethical. It targets the poor and uneducated who are more willing to take risks for easy money because they need it more. Just because a company is listed or known to the Better Business Bureau doesn't mean it's an ethical or good business.

Does anyone know of any specific deals to avoid? Anyone had any personal experiences with this? Don't be ashamed to admit it - consider us a support group to help you recover.

only one guy

I've only known one person who became incredibly successful with a MLM company. He was one of the higher ups in Amway. I think the programs can work, but it's for a very small majority. The people who get into it thinking they will make an easy buck don't make it because they are lazy. That's why they did it in the first place.

Here's one to stay away from. It was originally called, but do to some 'business problems' they changed their name to About 4 years ago a friend of mine tried to get me to join. He first asked me to 'come with him and check this business out'. I thought I was just going so he had someone to attend with. I thought it was funny when I walked into the house that this professional business meeting was at. Once through the front door there was a table with pamphlets, pictures and calendars with fancy sports cars that had 2by2 plastered all over them (apparantly their first attempt to impress you). Then I sat down with my friend and watched a very fancy presentation, loud and entergenic and promising, about 'high-speed dial-up internet'. The thing about it is they put so much fancy junk into the presentation that by the end of it I didn't really know what the business was even about (after researching it I realized what it was). As soon as the presentation ended, by friend turned to me and said 'what do you think'. I replied, thinking he was asking for my opinion about whether HE should do it, that I didn't really know what I thought about it. Then he really started pushing it, and soon the another guy came over to help him. When I realized that he had LIED to me about why I was there...I was a little bit upset, and humored all at the same time. I made it pretty apparant that I wasn't buying into it (you had to pay something like $300 up front, but of course, then you could tell your friends and family about this amazing service and make money when they signed up.) I knew my friend didn't have the money and asked him how he paid for it. He borrowed the money from his 'friend' who had signed him up. I was blown away as I watched him over the next few months get other to buy into it. He even got his parents to buy into it (who were already trying to save what they could to send HIM on a mission within the year.)

when this story was posted it reminded me of this incident. I decided to look up the company and see what had happened. That's when I found out they had changed their name due to problems with the Better Business Bureau. As well, a four-year 'employee' of this company had posted a letter of apology on a scam warning site stating that the company really was just that...a scam, and they had recently taken their business over seas due to the lack Better Business Bureau type policies in other countries.

Just be careful! I have to agree that 'if it seems to good to be true, it probably is'.

Just curious...

Why do you guys think that people give into these 'get rich quick' schemes?

I recently went to a fireside that discussed financial issues. It was actually a very good and realistic approach to our finances as college students for now and in the future. One thought that was given was that as students in our 20's (getting married, starting families, finishing school, etc)...we often try to live at the comfort level of living that our parents currently are living at.(did that thought make sense?) Anyway, we tend to forget that our parents, when our age, didn't live in the house they do now or drive the cars that they do now. It took 20-30 years of work to get there for them...and some of them are still working for it.

I think we too often are willing to get into debt or are too easily 'taken' by such schemes so that we can 'keep up with the jones's'...or so we can continue living in the comfort and ease that our parents provided (or seemingly) provided for us. Not that I don't think that some debt may be necessary such as school, a home or apparantly babies (Farker, I had no idea it cost so much!) but it needs to be done with careful thought and planning.

Anyway, just curious what you all think may be some reasons for the susceptability?

Great point, guy whose name I refuse to spell!

That's exactly what I think is the reasoning behind the success of these get quick rich schemes in Utah.

"We paid our tithing, so now we need to make an opportunity for God to bless us monetarily, as this is how we've narrowly interepreted the scriptures!"

BTW, can you tell me more about this job that pays over $1000 a month? Because from where I'm standing, that sounds pretty incredible.

MLM Bad, Business Good...

This article thing says that Utah has "the highest concentration of MLM companies per capita of any state in the country". They provide no sources for that claim though. The rest of that site is full of anti-MLM stuff that seems to be fairly trustworthy (it's certainly more trustworthy than the crap those companies would give you). Personally, I hate 'em all.

Despite the MLM menace and associated stupidity, Utah is a great place for business. This Forbes special report places Provo at number 6 in the nation in a list of 'Best Places for Business'. See also:'s list of Best Cities for Entrepreneurs. Salt Lake is number 5.

LOL! Totally true

HAH! I had a good laugh with this post. I think it's true. I had a mission companion trying to get me into these stupid don't-think-just-act-fast-and-get-rich-quick pseudo-legal schemes.

People forget that the Lord will bless people according to their work. This stupid blabber asserts that you can get rich without actually doing much. Pathetic. I agree with t3hst00p1d, people should get a REAL job.


Number 1 is true, but I don't see how that is the problem. Overspending in crap will definetely get you in financial problems.

I don't agree with your number 2. I don't think that everybody in Utah thinks that way. Also, I think the Lord could bless you economically, but I don't think that that is His standard way to bless people.

I do agree with number 3. I don't think that having employees make you a "taskmaster", but these schemes have as their main point that if you get more people involved, you get money for what they do. That seems too "good" to me, if you know what I mean.

Some thoughts on get-rich-quick schemes

I call them schemes, not businesses. And I will show how they take advantage of people.

First of all, they target people that are in great financial need. Here in Provo, those is students and a large portion of the Hispanic population. They know that people that aren't in great financial need would not even consider that kind of crap.

Second, the basis of their marketing techniques is appeal to your enterpreneur spirit but also to your pride. They will tell you that you will be successful quickly and that you will make lots of money. But they will also tell you that you are stupid (yes, I had a girl saying the word "stupid") if you let this "opportunity" pass by. And to top that off, a friend who had an interview with one of these schemists (again, it is a scheme, the only business-like thing they have is their business license, but again, any idiot can get one here in Provo for $70) told me that, at the end of the interview, he told the guy that he wanted to think about it and that he would get back to him. And this guy answered him "Well, please leave my office. We want people that know what they want and that will go for it. Obviously you are not qualified so let us not waste our time". Hahahahahaha, that is so pathetic.

Third, the way they make their bank is by that initial payment of "materials" or "investment". They know they won't get another penny from you (their articles suck). That is another reason of why they entirely forget about you until the time in which they recruit more people so that you can bring in your friends.

Fellas, don't believe these guys. Selling pest control in Wyoming would be more fruitful that these get-rich-you-are-an-idiot kind of schemes. I prefer my $N/hr job than a bunch of promises based on the numbers these guys make up.

It is not laziness

Spencer, these programs are not designed to give decent money to anybody other than their creators and 5-6 of their first employees (who are already part of the plot). A guy I know got into it, worked his butt off (40+hrs/week) and only once he got $1000 one month. Gosh, my part-time 20hrs/week on-campus job gives me more than that.

Great points, Chelsy

I also think it has to do with our perceptions of individuality. We all want to be different, to feel like we're not placeholder people. In places outside of Utah, our Mormonism is enough to give us a sense of outsideness, that we are unique and special.

But what about here in Utah? When I was a returned missionary in Wyoming, it was kind of a deal. But here in Provo its like, yeah, me and everybody else.

I think that buying things becomes our way of being unique in places that are more homogenized. And so our houses creep further up the hill, and we buy larger SUVs, and it never works because everyone else is doing the exact same thing. And then you have to pay for all that stuff...

"Utards?" "Business-People?"

Thank you. Quotes like

"My favorite quote from today: "Utah 'business-people' don't know (shizzle) about business" -- friend of a friend"

make me wonder if people have any idea what they're talking about. Take a look at some of the industry leaders that are based in or were started by what you deem "Utards," then make comments with your little bit of newly-acquired knowledge.

I agree with you Hhhhh, it is

I agree with you Hhhhh, it is because these are designed to have people make a little so those at the top can make the most. Its crazy and stupid. PLEASE, ANYONE READING, DO NOT DO MLM'S!

Whatever you say, Comrade!

Isn't that the definition of capitalism? There, I hadn't disparaged capitalism in a while. Now I feel better. Fight the power.