"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

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"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Friday, 27 May 2016

New Experience Challenge Week 24: An Exciting Opportunity

(Originally published 18/06/14)

I have trouble telling people no. It's a serious weakness. So when Dad came to me one night and told me our family friend Tony was going to call me with a business offer, I was very apprehensive.

'He's started selling coffee. He wanted me to sell it with him and I told him no. So he said he'd give you a try. He reckons you'd be good at it with all your promotional work and stuff. Just warning you ahead of time.'

Tony is one of those western people who thinks he's an eastern person. He meditates in a weekly class where he's the only white person, he drinks and eats all sorts of herbs which contain the sound "asha" or "rishi" and he's dumbfounded by a lot of western humour. He brought me along to his meditation classes for a few weeks, but I stopped going when I realised that I was 21 and had better things to do. Since then he's contacted me a few times about catching up and I keep telling him I'm busy. Mostly because I am.

But anyway, I heeded the warning. The first couple of times he called me I just didn't answer.On the third time I thought I'd better pick up. There's no way you can pull off 'Oh, I'm sorry I missed you' that many times.

'Yeah, Michael, it's Tony. How's the stand-up comedy going?'
'Yeah, alright. Still plugging away at those open mic nights. Haven't got a proper gig in months, but...'
'Hey, that's great! Listen listen - do you drink coffee?'
'Not really...'
'That's ok. My wife Teresa, she's gotten on board with this great new brand, it's called Organo Gold. It's all based off this secret ingredient called the Rishi Mushroom. She's been doing really well, so I've gotten on board too. But listen, how would you like to make some extra money?' I was in a corner on that one.
'Yeah, that would be nice.'
'Well all you have to do is sign up to this program. You can help sell this coffee, you can get people to work for you and you can get a percentage of whatever they sell. How does that sound?'

Now I've been involved in a pyramid scheme before. For a few months back in 2012, I was a door-to-door salesman. I started at a dingy little place called ASAP and then - by sheer coincidence - my resume was found online by a much more respectable place called White Rhino. But despite the differences between their professionalism, ambition and success, they both had one thing in common - the promise of untold riches limited only by your own desires. It's a system that certainly can work, but only if you're a certain type of person. The type for whom money is the most important thing in life. I learned a lot during those few months and I'm glad for it. But if I ever get a job like that again, it'll be too soon. If only I didn't find it so hard to say no...

'Oh, well look it sounds nice, but I wouldn't have the time to do it justice.'
'It takes as much time as you want. You can fit it in around your work. I know you've got a busy schedule.' At the moment I'm only working on weekends, but he doesn't need to know that.
'I don't know, what would you need me to do?'
'Well come around to my place, Teresa will give you the presentation. We'll show you how it's done.'
'I-well... um... oh, alright.'

So that Wednesday I went to their house to hear the spiel. The first thing they did was offer me a coffee. Oh, so trying to hook me in early were they? It's alright, I knew what I was doing.
'I'll have a tea thanks.'
'Green tea?'
'That's great, because Organo Gold do a great green tea. It's not bitter like most teas and it's got great health benefits.'

They sat me down on the end of their dinner table and took up a seat to either side they showed me a nine minute video explaining the brand. It told me how a brand of expensive coffee could make me rich. It featured a bunch of suited, charismatic people of all ethnicities talking about the people they knew who joined up and became wildly successful.

"My sister joined up and she's now a diamond-level seller."
"My niece started doing it in her spare time and now she's the third highest earner in the company."
"I knew a guy who never finished high school and now he's got his old teachers working for him."
"My sister's daughter is still in primary school and now she's getting dinner requests from the Pope."
"My mentally challenged uncle accidentally put his name down during a seizure and a year later a West African tribe started a religion in his honour."

Next, they talked about the secret behind this amazing success. The Ganoderma Lucidium - better known as the Rishi Mushroom.

"The Ganoderma was a sacred mushroom that was only given to Emperors. It's a completely organic product with amazing magical health benefits. Some attribute it as the reason that the Emperors lived to be over 150 years old."

Finally, they finished with an interesting sentiment.

"People see our salespeople brandishing their index fingers and say "You people are so full of yourselves. You think you're number one". We never said we think we're number one. That finger represents our mantra - that we aim to own 1% of the coffee market in every country we enter. We're nearly there and I can't wait for the moment when our salespeople can move on to the next target and start holding up two fingers."

The presentation ended and my tea had cooled down enough to drink. I gave it a tentative sip... and I had to admit it tasted bloody good. Sweet, not bitter, exactly like they said.

'Now Michael,' said Tony. 'One thing they didn't tell you about is how good it is for you.' He showed me a brochure. 'See, it says here that you need 17 cups of water to neutralise the negative effects of one cup of coffee. Normal coffee dehydrates you. It creates an addiction and gives you withdrawal symptoms. It raises stress. Organo Gold coffee calms you down, keeps you hydrated and you won't get addicted to it at all. It actually balances out the pH levels in your body so that you're not too acidic.'
'Is that so?'
'Yeah, that's right! And you know what? I used to have a bit of arthritis in my hands. Since drinking this stuff I haven't felt any pain at all.' Teresa piped up -
'Yeah, I gave this to my cousin who suffers from diabetes and after two months, he's stopped taking the um, what are they called... injections, the insulin.'
Tony again - 'Our next door neighbour used to be on crutches, he's thrown them away now.'
'Some people are using it as part of their treatment for cancer.'
'You know that guy who got cured of AIDS? He drank about four cups a day.'

And at long last they ran me through the remuneration process. No surprises there, just the standard pyramid scheme layout. Get a percentage of what you sell. Hire people to work for you and get a percentage of what they sell. And so the pattern goes until one box of coffee earns you more than the annual salary of the people making it.

'So,' said Teresa, closing her reference material. 'What do you think?'
Ok, it's that time of the day. I have to work out how to tell them no without hurting their feelings.
'Well, I-'
There was a knock at the door. Teresa looked at her watch and said 'Ah, Maria's early. We're still not done here.' Tony got up to get the door while I hurriedly asked who Maria was. In walked a middle aged Italian woman who I assumed could only be there to hear the same spiel as me. We chatted for a bit about a variety of things other than coffee and then Teresa said
'Ok Michael, so call me back in a couple of days and we'll keep talking about it. I'll leave you a sample pack so you can try the rest of the range. They don't give you the green tea, I don't know why.'
Hm, maybe it's because that's the one I wanted.
'And I'll catch up with you soon!'

In case you were hoping for it - no, my new experience for this week was not becoming a coffee salesman. It was simply to sit in on a pyramid sales pitch. I still haven't called them back. I don't know what I'll say when I do. Perhaps I could get my mum to ring them up and say that I'd died?

No, that wouldn't work. They'd come around with a percolator and say "Don't worry, just give him some of this."


This post was part of a new bloghop called Flashback Friday, where on the last Friday of each month, we dig up an old post which has been buried deep in the RSS feed and needs to see light again. If you'd like to join the hop, join the Linky list below.


  1. There was a film about a coffee salesman called 'O Lucky Man'. He had some interesting adventures before getting sent to prison for embezzlement. It's the kind of job for someone who wants to seduce bored housewives rather than make a lot of money.

    1. Really? Because I once became a pizza boy to seduce bored college girl, I didn't know there was another option.

    2. Bwahahaha....missed opportunity (perfect comment, btw, Michael).

  2. Mike, join Amway

  3. Mike, join Amway
    From Jason

  4. Oh my goodness... blogger is being such an a$$! This is the second time I am trying to leave a comment... The first one was really good too. I said your mom could call Tony and tell him you died from drinking the coffee. Anyway, I really enjoyed this post. You should write one about working as a pizza boy too.

    1. Oh really?? I finally worked out how to include non-google+ comments on my blog and in return not only has it deleted all the previous comments you made, but it's also making it harder to make new ones! Not good enough Blogger.

      Good idea, I could try that.

      There's not too much to write about with the pizza boy thing. I only worked there for three nights and it was cash-in-hand, so it's hard to prove the job ever existed.

  5. You should enter the market as a competitor just to spite them for wasting your time.

    1. Yeah, but the amount of time I'd waste doing that would make it not worth it :P

  6. Your experience reminds me of the time I got sucked into an Amway pyramid scheme! The presentation was almost identical, except with household cleaners. They worked well, but it was impossible to make any real money. Giant waste of time! Isn't it funny how so many of these multi-level marketing products are supposed to be miraculous? Good thing your friend didn't hound you for a decision. Were you at all tempted to try the coffee? It sounds too good to be true. Thanks for starting this blog hop. Always nice to give an old post new life.

    1. I left with a few samples of the coffee and it is very good, but I drink coffee so rarely that two years later I still have some. I do believe you can make serious money with these companies, but you have to be a certain type of person fort that. And I'm not that person.

  7. I've had people try to entangle me in these schemes before. It can be so hard to say no as they're usually your friends or work colleagues. Those things always sound too good to be true.

    Thanks for starting this blog hop - great idea! While, I haven't been blogging for that long compared to others, there are some old posts that will be worth dusting off.

    1. Yeah, there's always stuff worth revisiting ;)

      You're right, that's the hardest part. I've heard of people losing friends because of it.

  8. Excellent post to revive.

    I've been approached with several of these types of schemes. I've known some people who've done fairly well at them, but it's just not my type of thing. I've said no to most of the things that I've been approached with and the ones that I did try, my efforts were essentially the same as a "no".

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    1. Hahaha at least you gave it a go so you know for sure. I felt I'd had enough of a try with my door to door sales to know what I was getting into.

  9. I've looked into pyramid schemes from time to time, but in the end, I don't have the personality type to make it work. Plus, I don't know anyone, so it'd be a waste of time.

    1. That's probably the best scenario to be honest - of you don't have relationships to sabotage, you won't need to worry about sabotaging them.

  10. It was all the rage in the 90s in the UK - I lost track of the people who appeared to want to meet me just so they could sign me up for the latest scheme. And if you weren't in the first rank of the pyramid, it wouldn't work.

    1. It's sad, it often wrecks relationships.

  11. Finally, I'm at a place in life were I boldly, but firmly, state my intentions. Recently, I was invited to an "all natural products" party. Thanking the host, I told her that I'm on a mission NOT to buy anything new and use only the products I currently use - because I'm happy with them. As friendly as possible, I added that I knew she was trying to start a business venture and that's great; I hoped she understood that my money making venture involved just not spending money.

    She actually smiled big and thanked me for "pure honesty."

    Maybe there is hope for humanity. If, and only if, you drink that coffee product, though. :-)

    Love the new idea and this was a great post to revive!

    1. I'm glad you had a reason she hadn't heard before. Otherwise she would have had a pre-planned comeback and you would have felt awkward saying "Well... still no."

  12. I always steer away from telling someone, "No, thanks." It can lead to confusion and continued efforts of persuasion that are really just wasted time on the part of both parties.

    Therefore, I have learned that, for the sake of both persons involved, the best response is, "Fuck off!" Everyone understands that; there is no confusion, no future time-wasting efforts of persuasion, and everyone can then just go get a beer together and fuhgeddaboudit.

    Or as Barney Fife always sagely said, "Nip it! Nip it in the bud!" He was an officer of the law, and if you can't trust HIS advice, whose advice COULD you trust??!!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. I wish it was as easy for the seller to "fuhgeddaboudit". But I also wish they'd take the first no when it's given.

  13. I would hate to get caught up in this type of scheme. I am not a salesperson, but I guess I'll have to get over it once I post a book on Amazon.

  14. Love it, Michael. Seem to recall when you originally published this :) Last line is great - yeah, they probably would try to revive your dead body with percolated coffee.

    I got sucked in to selling 'an amazing product' once. I really should have known better (face-palm)...

  15. Mr. McCarthy's comment made me laugh. But I really think you need to sell Tupperware and Avon.


    1. A man in lipstick isn't often a good look :P


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