ACN Inc. - ACN and its Culture of Hype, Deception and Guilt
CALIFORNIA -- I was recruited into ACN by a family member who I like and respect. She asked me if she could hold a business meeting at my place to show me a great business opportunity that would help me become an independent business owner, and asked that I invite at least 5 or 6 friends or people I knew. When I asked her about it she said it was a franchise and that I would be investing in it and I would get awesome returns very quickly. I thought it sounded great, though I was skeptical at first. But then I reasoned that it must be investing in stock from this franchise.
At the meeting she proceeded to show us a DVD presentation of the company, the business model, and the potential profits you can make. She went on to explain how everything works. It was interesting that she refused to answer questions anyone had. She’d only say that questions would be answered later and continued with the presentation. Every time someone would ask something they would either get an evasive answer, or told to ask later (I would later learn that that is a trained tactic that you have to use to keep people focused and to get them to listen to everything first). Then she mentioned that to sign up you have to pay a one-time sign-up fee of $499! That's when she lost everybody. No one was interested in spending that kind of money, especially in this economy! But she hyped it up saying that is was nothing compared to the returns you could get. Then she began to outline the business model.
Here is how it works ( Mind you, you find out about all this only after you pay the $499 fee and start building up – a recruiter will never disclose these details until they have your signature on a contract and you turned in your money): Once you pay the $499 fee to sign-up, you're officially in, as a TT (Team Trainer) but you're not qualified yet! In order to qualify, you have to first purchase their flagship product, a Video Phone that connects to the Internet (after all you have to have the product to demonstrate, right?). The Video Phone costs over $100, plus a $30 monthly service fee (forget SKYPE and MSN and all the others that you can use for free!). You do that, and you're still not qualified. You have to have 3 services with ACN, so in addition to the Video Phone, you have to switch over 2 services of your choice from your regular providers (Cell phone, Internet, Home Security, Land-line phone, etc.) to ACN! Plus, you have to dish out another $30 a month to maintain your own ACN website! Wow, pay all that and only now you're qualified and are a representative at their first level, QTT! Oh, and there's also a $150 annual membership fee to stay with the company (but no one tells you this... I found out on my own after doing my research!).
So now the fun started. Actually, I didn't even sign-up myself. She did. She used her credit card to pay the fee as I wouldn't have money until my next paycheck. That's how much she wanted me to join, so now I felt somewhat obligated to at least give it an honest try. Needless to say, no one else at that meeting signed-up.
I quickly learned that she and everyone above her were my "up line" (the ones that would train and mentor me in my "business") and that in order to succeed, earn cash bonuses and move up the ranks, I had to build a "down line" of people under me. That means I had to recruit, recruit, recruit, and then help those I recruited recruit others under them, and they afterwards and so on. At the same time, I had to make sure they all bought the Video Phone and switched over their services in order for them to qualify and for me to earn customer points (I could also get those by re-selling services to customers from all the major cell phone, DSL, land line and home security companies). The bigger the "down line" and the more "customer points", the higher your rank level (you have to earn each level one a time before you can earn the next one):
Level 0: TT - Team Trainer (Entry level)
Level 1: QTT - Qualified Team Trainer
Level 2: ETT - Executive Team Trainer
Level 3: ETL - Executive Team Leader
Level 4: TC - Team Coordinator
Level 5: RD - Regional Director
Level 6: RVP - Regional Vice President
Level 7: SVP - Senior Vice President
What really gets you is that they tell you that at first your main income will be bonuses for recruiting and earning customer points, and after that if you build up your "down line" and get more and more people to switch services, you eventually earn a lot of money through residual income (a percentage of people's bills from these services goes to you). Sounds too good to be true? Sounds like a MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) Pyramid scheme? It totally is on both counts!!!
I have to admit that I smelled the rat early on, but it was too late. I'd already invested my money and felt obligated to my family member so I was determined to make it work. I started organizing meetings to which hardly anyone came, and after several weeks of trying I was only able to recruit 2 of my friends (I feel guilty about that even today). My “up line” did her best to come and try and help me out, but it turned out to be futile as none of the people I knew had $499 to spare and they’d all bail out as soon as they put 2 and 2 together and figured out it was a MLM Pyramid scheme.
This type of business model can end up alienating you from family and friends because the first thing a recruiter will tell you is to make a list of all the people you know and start inviting them (obviously, if you know people with money, much better)and if they refuse to keep bugging them until they come. Then you need to do everything in your power to convince them to sign up - of course, after you have been meticulously trained on how to do it. Needless to say, Team Trainers are required to attend a lot of training meetings and seminaries so they can be "qualified" to train others. Of course, each one costs an expensive entry fee. Your “up line” will tell you over and over again to follow the system and that you absolutely must attend the trainings because there is a certain way to do things and get results and if you do it on your own, you will fail. They tell you that you can’t do it unless you are trained first (brainwashed would be a better word… you are brainwashed to think ACN is the best thing in the world and you are trained meticulously on how to get people to part with $499 and everything else!)
And here I come to the other part of this company that really bugged me – The training events! To begin with they all cost money with the International 3-day events that take place in major cities costing about $150 (not including transportation, food and lodging of course… you pay those on your own!). I had to attend several regional trainings and meetings and all they were about was just hype, hype, hype, rah, rah, rah, and TCs and RVPs trying to convince and recruit attendees to sign up for this “tremendous business opportunity”! Of course there were a lot of positive testimonies (some even tearful) about how good this was, how their lives changed, blah, blah, blah… (great actors, I must say!). Then they would go on to tell stories on how they recruit people and how stupid and foolish where those who refused to sign-up because they were not “seeing the light” and were “unbelievers” and too lazy and contented with their mediocre lives (at that point to me it sounded like the type of pitch a cult would use). I totally felt that they encouraged a culture of superiority and browbeating. They would say in those stories how those that refused to sign up and take advantage of the opportunity were stupid and losers, and they would laugh at them and feel sorry for them. I have to say I did not like this one bit.
Then my “upline” (my family member and original recruiter) calls me up one day to tell me I should go to the International event in Charlotte, NC (I live in CA) the following weekend. Of course, I can’t afford such a trip at the time, so she tells me that she’ll cover everything (airfare and hotel) herself, but that I need to go because I couldn't miss this, it was the greatest opportunity of my life, and so on… All I had to pay for was the $150 ticket to the event. So she books me on the red-eye flight to Charlotte that Friday night. She has me travel with another of her recruits. We get there at around 6 am or so and our hotel is not ready because check in is not until 10 or so. So we go to get some breakfast and wait until check-in time. Finally, I get to my room. I’m sooo sleepy as I haven’t slept since the day before! I go to bed at and have less than 2 hours as the first meeting at the Time Warner Arena starts at 12. I make it there, and I ‘m astounded at the sheer number of people!!! The place was packed to capacity with thousands of hyped-up ACN members!
I was part of our regional team, and we all sat together. Well, that first day was about 8 hours of training, testimony, hype, rah rah rallies, and more training (no breaks or lunch… I had to go on my own against the scowls of my teammates for missing out!) By the time is over I’m beat. We go to dinner and I find out from the team leader and my “upline” that everyone in the team is expected to be at the Arena’s door lining up at 4:30 am to get the best seats! Never mind the thing didn't start till 8. When I protested, I was literally belittled in front of everyone for being lazy, that I couldn't miss it, that is was too important, that it was my future, etc. blah, blah… in other words, I was made to feel guilty about protesting for my right to get a couple of more hours of shut-eye. How dare I when ACN was the most important thing? Didn’t I know that personal needs go out the window?
By the time I make it to bed it’s like 11 pm. Only about 4 hours to sleep. This was already Saturday and I hadn't had a full night’s sleep since Thursday night! The next day I was up with the rest of them (against my better judgment and the fact that I was already exhausted) at 4:30 at the Arena’s gates. We waited for over 2 hours before they opened the doors. Finally we went in and spent the next 12 hours (from 8am – 8pm) listening to more training, testimony, hype, rah rah rallies, more training, and over emotional award ceremonies. Only a half-hour lunch break all day. When it was over, I thought I’d finally get to go to my room early and sleep! But to my horror we are told that we are all going to another hotel for a super important after meeting with our whole regional team (about 300 people or so) and we couldn't miss it. I soooo protested again and was again belittled with the guilt trip. So we go.
I can hardly keep my eyes open. At that meeting it was just more of the same! Pep, pep, hype, hype, rah, rah… I was so sick of it! It’s like they want to drain out everything out of your brain and stuff it only with ACN so you can’t think about anything else! It’s literal, intense brainwashing!!! I try to get up and get out only to be stopped by my companions. I can’t understand how they don’t seem to be as tired as I am! Finally I just get up and go to the back. My “upline” tries to stop me and I tell her I have a headache and need to step out. I find a couch right outside the doors of that hotel ballroom where we were, and of course I’m so exhausted it doesn't take me long to doze off. Then my “upline” comes and sees me and she wakes me up. I never saw her so mad! She got all on me about how dare I do that when I have this opportunity, that I can’t be missing out, that it’s too important… blah, blah. By that time I shut her and everything else out.
I managed to stay awake (but like a zombie) until everything was finally over at 11, and they still wanted to go to dinner! I excused myself and said I’d rather go back to the hotel to bed. They reminded me that the next day (Sunday) was the last day and they again wanted to line up at 4:30. This time I put my foot down and said “No way!”. More belittling, more guilt trips, but I wouldn't bite. So they finally said that I could do whatever I wanted and good luck finding a seat the next day. I finally went to bed at around 12 and was up at 7 (thing started at 7 with a religious service as it was Sunday, and the actual closing meeting started at 9). I got a good 7 hours of sleep, but I was still tired as I had a lot of sleep debt! I got to the Arena around 8:45 and the closing meeting went on until 2 pm when everything was finally over!
After that, my upline tried to talk to me about how I would benefit from all this, how it was for my own good, how it was my great opportunity, etc. But I was done. At that moment I decided that ACN and all it’s hype and exhausting training and sales pitches and recruiting schemes definitely were not for me.
I went home and put all my ACN stuff away for good. And I don’t regret it one bit! The only reason I put up with it all is because I felt obligated because she paid for everything. But to me, it’s not worth it. I lost my money, and nearly got ill with over-exhaustion. It took me one full week to feel recovered and finally refreshed.
ACN is a Pyramid MLM scheme that will not work for the vast majority of people that sign-up. The business model may make sense on paper, but doesn’t really work in the real world unless you know a lot of people with money already who want to try something new. Plus, you have to be passionate about selling and have no scruples about convincing people to come up with all that money even when you know they are most likely to fail, and you have to have the willingness and the ability to endure those endless trainings and events. Yes, I will allow that there is a very small number of people who actually make it somewhat work for them, but that is the total exception. They are those who don’t do anything else but that and live and breathe ACN. ACN is definitely not for everyone.
It is a type of scheme that will drain you of your money faster than you can think. You will lose a lot before you start making even the smallest amounts, if any. Yes, I see it as a scam (though there are those that say it is not because Donald Trump endorses it - yeah right, pay a guy a few millions and he'll endorse anything - it's good for business!). My best advice? DO NOT SIGN UP UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES! You’ll work your butt off, dish out money, get super exhausted, and not see a penny come back until you at achieve at least TC status! And that can take forever! Stay clear of ACN and go find a real job or start a real business of your own!
As for my "upline" I think she's still with them. I don't blame her though. I know she had my best interests at heart and she was more than genereous with me. It was my fault for not saying "no" right away. Plus, I was going through hard times and at first it sounded good. But it definitely wasn't for me. I do wish her the best of luck and I still love and respect her, but I wouldn't get back into this for anything in the world!