Pyramid Schemes Still Alive

March 24, 2009

I had an interesting meeting today. 

I met a gentleman – I’ll call him RP for now – last week at a networking event in Roanoke. He gave his pitch as doing marketing and “i-commerce” consulting. It seemed pretty tangential to what VPS does, so I didn’t think too much of it when he called me later in the week saying he had some consulting work that was out of scope for him and he was looking for a local partner to help him fill a gap. He spoke in pretty generic terms, but it sounded like the kind of opportunities that can be lucrative for a consulting company like ours. 

So I met him today in Roanoke at a coffee shop. He showed up late so I had already bought my own coffee. Once we get to talking he gives me a spiel on marketing and how Ebay and Amazon make money because their brand does the work for them. True enough. To his question of “What does eBay sell?”, my answer of “an opportunity for buyers and sellers to get together” seemed to surprise him as the best answer he’s ever received.  After that he gets into how he’s got affiliation deals for product reviews for big companies like Circuit City, ahem, etc. He also briefly comments on some “exclusivity deals” on products his unnamed company sells, but makes sure to gloss over that part of the conversation quickly. 

Finally, he gets into the “for only 4 hours a week you can make $500 a month; 3 years after that you could be making $10,000 and in just 5 years you could be bringing in $150,000 a month,” part of the conversation. After politely declining his offer to set me up in a webinar, he quickly packs his briefcase and walks out the door. I never got a business card or brochure on what his organization is. 

I guess this is interesting to me because it seems so unnecessary. If you have to deceive people to even work for you, I don’t want to imagine the deception that would go on in “customer” interaction. I’ve been around other legitimate business people to know that good, trustworthy relationships are what get you far. I guess I’m also surprised that there are likely to be people who sign up for this type of thing thinking it’s a shortcut. It’s always a way to make money “on the side” – probably because anyone involved knows a “job” like this wouldn’t be taken seriously on a resume. 

I’m tempted to call the guy out, but I’m not sure what good that does for anyone. The best I can tell he has no web presence. I suppose I’ll leave him to the shadows he’s been lurking in so far.

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