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Multilevel marketing can ruin lives

Thinking about trying to sell Jon Taylor on the big-bucks, chance-of-a-lifetime network marketing opportunity? Don't bother. He's seen it all before.

In fact, Taylor was so shaken with his yearlong stint with network marketing, he wrote a book cautioning people who are thinking about diving into the multi-level businesses, which, he found, are especially popular among Utah's LDS population."I cannot have an experience that profound without sharing it," Taylor said. "It reached to the depths of my soul. And I knew if it affected me that much, it had to affect others."

In "The Network Marketing Game: Gospel Perspectives on Multilevel Marketing," Taylor explains that the nationwide game has few winners and thousands, if not millions, of losers. Most people involved spend time, money and effort but get little in return, he said.

Bill Beadle, president of the Better Business Bureau of Utah, agrees with Taylor's claim that Utah is a network marketing haven.

"When you look at the marketplace as a whole, there's more entrepreneurship in Utah. People want to be financially independent," Beadle said. "In addition, there is a really strong neighborhood network. Word-of-mouth propositions do very well in Utah. It's effective here."

Despite its popularity, network marketing's appeal and strategies lead to ethical conflicts, Taylor said, forcing core values - including those of the LDS faith - to sometimes be discarded in pursuit of success.

"I found that the compensation system rewarded you for doing things you shouldn't be doing and not rewarding you for what you should be doing. It's a greed machine," he said.

Two years ago, Taylor didn't envision writing such a book. He'd evaded neighbors trying to persuade him to join their marketing programs.

Finally, he caved in, partly because he was recruited by people he respected, but also because some research confirmed that the nutritional products he would sell were beneficial.

Taylor had an impressive background, having started or helped to start dozens of businesses. He had a Ph.D. in applied psychology and had been a salesman, teacher and consultant.

"I thought that if anybody could succeed, I could," he said.

But, despite hard work, quitting his job to devote more time to the effort, investing his own money and living off his savings, he didn't succeed.

"It became almost an obsession, especially when it was not working out and he couldn't understand why," wife JoAnn Taylor said.

Gradually, she noticed her husband's obsession was eating away at his relationship with her and others. People would go out of their way to avoid passing them on sidewalks.

"I had a change in my values system," Jon Taylor said. "I was blind to all this happening."

"Even if I earned three-quarters of a million dollars, would it be worth the sacrifice?" he said. "It was time to pull out."

After a year of participation, he apologized to those he'd recruited and left. All but one of his recruits left as well.

He spent the next year researching others' experiences in network marketing, and discovered soured relationships, divorces, bankruptcies, lost homes, lost time and lost money.

Even when facing those problems, many clung to the belief that someday they would be rewarded.

"You're led to believe that if you just work hard enough, you can make it," he said. "But in my case, I worked hard and found that I actually had less free time and freedom than before."

Network marketing, he said, involves good people and pro-ducts.

"Where's the villain? It's the compensation system. It leads people to believe that everyone can be at the top. But they cannot. Mathematically, it's not possible," he said.

That compensation system, he said, forces salespeople into ethical compromises, including leading others to believe everyone involved can make money quickly.

"It's difficult to sort out the ethical issues of network marketing. That's why I wrote the book," he said, noting he doesn't advise people to stay away from the programs. "People may still decide to do it, but at least they'll have a basis for making an intelligent decision."