The One Time I Almost Joined a Pyramid Scheme

“How do I add music to this?” he asked. What started with an innocent power slide question turned to an hour conversation where he gave a mini-presentation of his luxurious vacations and ended in a piranha frenzy of excitement. Little did I know about the Trappings of a Pyramid Scheme (money, fast). How the scheme works: person A sells product -> person A finds B, C, and D to sell product -> person B, C, and D find their own underlings to sell product, and so on. Here’s a visual:

Multi-level_marketing_tree_diagram
image from wikipedia

The company basically bought rooms for cruises and hotels in bulk and would sell them at a fraction of the price. It was legit. Mr. Power Slide wanted to infiltrate the Greek community, the frats and sororities. Why stop there? I told him about my network on campus. Internationals. The ones willing to throw down a few hundred, heck thousand, dollars just to travel and see one more chip of the world. He invited me to a meeting the next day and I agreed.

this could be us
this could be us

In the back of mind, I knew this was a scam. My sanity made me call my parents that night, both of who slapped some sense into me via telephone. The guy knew something was off about me when he picked me up– I wasn’t shaking with excitement, no spark. We went to what I think was a rental house in the middle of a below average neighborhood and sat in the living room. One of the four people that showed up was my past community health stats teacher (she recognized me, but she didn’t know from where). Power Slide introduced me to his ‘friend,’ the one that was in all of his pictures, traveling right alongside him on all of these company trips, who I’m pretty sure he’s banging. She was nice.

We’re waiting for about 10-15 minutes before the main speaker shows up. He came into the room and commanded attention. “What’s good, everybody! Sorry for the wait, ran into a few set backs, you know,” he said with his loud voice as he shook the hands of everyone in the room. His six-or-so year old son obediently went to play with the other kids in the yard. He told us about how this program changed his life, went from unemployed to the highest rank possible, and was making six figures a year. No more used car– he was driving a Mercedes Benz with leather seats. Upgraded to a big house. Buys his kids textbooks. Owes nobody nothing.

moneywithwalter“And this, this could be you. All you have to do is put in the initial investment. 300 dollars will be nothing compared to what you’ll get.” A few nods in the room. He’s charismatic, I’ll give him that. “And all you gotta do is find another person to put in his 300. By the fourth person, you’ll already be making profit. But you see, the more people hop on the train, the less money you’ll get if you start at the bottom. So now’s the time to come on board, while you can still get a lot of people to sell under you.” He pulled up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo of the company logo as proof of his genuine appreciation and (hardcore) dedication.

I was stone faced the entire time. He sniffed out my skepticism the moment he shook my hand. Every time he reiterated, “This is not a pyramid scheme. This is not a scam,” he’d glance over at me as if he was addressing me directly. “This is real life.”

59b36e8dccfd63128210c63829afadc66c
***

The money hungry, brainwashed look in Power Slides’s eyes genuinely scared me. Watch the short film that dug up this memory:

For more on the pyramid scheme vs. the modern business model.

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