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August 14, 2009

‘Remember When I Beat You Up in Third Grade? There’s This Business Opportunity . . .’


The municipal inspector was enjoying his power-trip opportunity, as he always does.


“The trench is only 7 ¾ inches,” he said admonishingly. “I told you it was supposed to be 7 13/16.”


He tapped his foot.


“Oh look,” I said. “A beetle just fell in there, and he’s digging himself a little breakfast nook. Let’s put the measuring stick down right in that spot, and I’m sure it will measure 7 13/16. Now will you approve the electrical set-up so we can use our pool?”


It went on like this for a good 45 minutes before he finally checked off the list of every conceivable objection he could raise, and we got our permit.


We had finally reached the end of a lovely visit – or so I thought.


“D.F., if you have a minute, I wonder if you’d be interested in hearing about a really phenomenal business opportunity,” he said, shifting gears like a cyclist reaching the bottom of a hill and starting up another one.


“Excuse me?” I replied. “Weren’t you just harassing the hell out of me over sixteenths of inches of dirt? Now you want to talk to me about a business opportunity?”


“We’ve had good times, haven’t we, D.F.?” he said. “I feel like we’ve really bonded now.”


Bonded? I thought about how I might bond out of jail after I buried him in the aforementioned trench along with the breakfast-nooking beetle.


But apparently, for these guys who involve themselves in network marketing as a side venture, any “relationship” is sufficient to warrant a discussion about very exciting business opportunities. One of my favorites involved a guy for whom I did some part-time work for about a month in college, many moons ago. I got a call from him seven years later, saying he was coming through my town and wondered if I’d be willing to meet him for a Coke.


Why? Because, you see, he had an opportunity for me to be in business for myself!


Now, anyone who reads this column knows that I’m already in business for myself, and the last thing this world probably needs is me bringing my phenomenal business acumen to more corners of the Earth.


That, however, is incidental to the larger point of where this idea originated – that your best bet in “network marketing” is to contact everyone you’ve ever known and act like they’re your best friend in order to suck them into the network-marketing vortex.


“Hey, it’s been awhile! You wanna get together at Starbucks to talk about an exciting business opportunity? Oh, right, well, never mind what happened when we were married!”


“Remember that day seven years ago when we made eye contact in the coffee shop? I felt a strong connection that day and I followed you home. Do you have a few minutes?”


“Hey there, remember when I beat you up in third grade? You know, there’s something you should really consider . . .”


Look, I’m all about approaching people to do business with me. I do it all the time. But generally I’m approaching people who are, you know, in business. It tends to set the stage for a more fruitful relationship. I guess the theory behind this stuff is that you’d rather buy your soap and your toiletries from people you know, since that will give them the opportunity to come up to you later and say, “Oh, let me smell you. You used my Eau de Toilette! Hurray!”


That’s why you recruit family members, good friends, bad friends, ambivalent friends, totally disinterested acquaintances, enemies and complete strangers to sell stuff to all the people they know or are willing to pretend they know.


I can’t lampoon this concept as ridiculous, because the dudes who came up with it have made gazillions off it. To each his own, I suppose. But I would prefer that it not result in this power-tripping electrical inspector spending one more minute at my house than is absolutely necessary.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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