Inside Open Meetings

One of the main tools of the Amway business is to have people (distributors and non-distributors) attend an "Open Opportunity Meeting," (also called an "Open Meeting," or just an "Open.") In this meeting, a Direct distributor (or above) lectures and shows the sales and marketing plan to the audience. This meeting usually cost distributors $5.00 or $6.00, but is free for guests. The meeting usually starts around 8:00pm, ends around 9:30-9:45, with the word "Amway" not mentioned until some time around 9:10-9:15.

The stated purpose of the Open meeting is to let distributors bring new people to a public meeting space where they can see the plan shown by a higher-level distributor. In reality, only a small percentage of the audience are actually non-distributors; in fact, some critics argue that less than 20% of the audience are new people. If there are so few non-distributors, what real purpose does the Open serve? By holding Opens every other week (or every week), the upline can continually reinforce the goals and values of the business (as well as collect money from the downline distributors). Every time distributors attend an Open, they continue to hear the negative statements about jobs, society's financial picture, and how, as Amway distributors, they have the only solution. Of course, the speaker also reinforces the belief that success can come "any day now" if the distributors just keep building the business.

The Open commonly follows this pattern:

  1. The speaker introduces himself.
    (Note: the speaker is almost always male. In the entire time I was in the business -almost 2 years- only 1 speaker was a woman: a single woman. The reason for this seemingly "sexist" attitude is that almost all of the Directs are married. And the philosophy continues to be one of "It's the man's job to show the plan... and the woman's job to support him.")
  2. He tells the audience that he will be showing them a "tremendous (or awesome, or incredible) business opportunity". At this point, he is purposefully vague about what the "opportunity" could be, but he does hint that it has something to do with home-shopping, or the distribution of goods, or even an "online business."
  3. After that, he talks about the "statistics" of life: about how only a small percent of people are happy when they retire, about how a vast majority of people will end up "dead," "broke," or "dead broke," and about how people just aren't happy working a "J-O-B". Of course, the only "statistics" that are shown are those that support the speaker's allegations. Sometimes, the speaker quotes "statistics" from questionable surveys or sources. But since most of the people in the audience are distributors anyway, no one is going to question the speaker's sources. Additionally, he may also tell about the circumstances in his own profession- about how people: are getting laid off, are not making as much money, or are working beyond age 65 because they never planned for retirement.
  4. Then, he explains, people need to have a "want" to change. "You have to want something different to do something different." He then launches into dreambuilding by talking about "dreams"- "what would you do if you had both time and money? The speaker may also go into a very detailed description about a trip (or cruise) he and his wife went on. This "dreaming" is meant to spark the audience's imagination, but may serve a darker purpose. In her book, AMWAY Motivational Organizations: Behind the Smoke and Mirrors (1999), Ruth Carter contends that the speaker is "... using a trace-inducing mind-control technique called guided visualization or guided imagery... to make members and recruits more amenable to suggestion... The listeners are urged to stop analyzing, and just picture the images the speaker is presenting... Once [the speaker] sees [blank or neutral facial expressions], he knows he has accomplished his purpose. Whatever he's selling, he can sell now!" (Carter, 1999) (This part of the evening usually takes the longest for two reasons: 1) distributors are taught that once people have a "dream," they will do whatever it takes to get that dream, including building an Amway business. Or, 2) it may take some time for the speaker to get the audience into a proper trance-like state before continuing.)
  5. After he gets people to think about what they want in life, the speaker starts to describe the business: it is a way to make money from the distribution of good and services. Most products travel through a lengthy process moving from the manufacturer to the consumer. And along this route, products increase in cost to pay all the middlemen. But, with this business, products travel from the manufacturer to a "clearinghouse" to the consumer. Since all the middlemen are cut out of the process, that "savings" is placed into a "profit pool" for distributors to draw from. And this is how you make money:
    1. You start by purchasing $200.00 worth of products from your own business. You get a "savings of 30% off retail" and a "performance bonus" based on your volume. (The actual math is this: you do 100PV/$200BV. According to the bonus scale, you get a 3% bonus on the 200BV, which equals $6.00. Your bonus check is then $6.00. With the 30% savings, or $60, your "immediate income" is $66.00.) The $200.00 is rarely explained to be BV, NOT the actual cost of the products. In fact, the actual cost is somewhere between $300.00 and $600.00 a month, depending on what products are purchased. Since the speaker continues to say that people only have to spend $200.00, is this misleading the audience?
    2. You share the "buy from your own business" concept with other people, or, in other words, "help other people start a business of their own." In some groups it is 6 people, in other groups, 9 people. The speaker usually claims you will make about $150.00 to $200.00. (The actual math is this: you do 100PV/ $200BV and 6 people in your group do 100PV/$200BV. You have a group total of 700PV/$1400BV. According to the bonus scale, you get a 9% bonus of the $1400BV. This equals $126.00. Out of that, the 6 people have to be paid their 3% on their 100PV/$200BV, which equals $36.00. Your bonus check is then $90.00. With the 30% savings, you get $150.00.)
    3. You then help the 6 people "share the opportunity" with 4 people. You then have 31 people in your group and you will make $816.00. (The actual math is this: you plus 6 plus 24 (6 times 4) equals 31 people in your group, for a group total of 3100PV/$6200BV. According to the bonus scale, you get an 18% bonus of the $6200BV. This equals $1116.00. Out of that, the 30 people have to be paid their bonuses, which equals $360.00. Your bonus check is then $756.00. With the 30% savings, you get $816.00.)
    4. You then help the 6 people help the 4 people help 2 other people. You then have 79 people in your group and you will make $2,100.00. (The actual math is this: you plus 6 plus 24 (6 times 4) plus 48 (2 times 4 times 6) equals 79 people in your group, for a group total of 7900PV/$15800BV. According to the bonus scale, you get a 25% bonus of the $15800BV. This equals $3950.00. Out of that, the 78 people have to be paid their bonuses, which equals $1872.00. Your bonus check is then $2078.00. With the 30% savings, you get $2138.00.)
    5. The speaker is usually quick to point out that this 6-4-2 plan takes as little or as much time as you wish. Of course, the speaker usually NEVER mentions that the average distributor WILL NOT build his business in the 6-4-2 configuration, as the 6-4-2 is "only for illustrative purposes" (as the SA-4400 states). Sometimes, the speaker will mention that he (or someone he knows) has "gone Direct" in only a month or two, which implies that anyone else in the audience can do it in the same amount of time.
  6. The speaker then talks about how the person at the top of this 6-4-2 pyramid will start to make LOTS of money- the claims range from $50,000 to $100,000 a year. (Again, this claim usually has no supporting proof or details about how the people have made that much money.)
  7. At this time, the speaker will probably remind the audience of the "dreams" they had talked about earlier.
  8. After this, the speaker starts to talk about some of the "specifics." This "opportunity" is the Amway Corporation. Of course, the word "Amway" is not mentioned until more than an hour (or more) into the meeting. Why does the speaker wait so long to say the word, "Amway?" Most distributors claim that if you say the word "Amway" before the meeting, no one will give it a "fair listen." This is closer to the truth than many distributors realize- how many people would attend a meeting if they knew it was the Amway business?
  9. The speaker then talks about the "educational system" of training- usually about how the system has produced so many millionaires. The speaker will usually make a statement about how the "system" is optional, "but so is success."
  10. He then tells the audience to "get back with the person" who brought them, read the company-positive literature, and "get all the facts," but not base their decision on "hearsay, rumor, or opinion." He then introduces his wife to speak.
  11. The wife usually talks about 2 things: the "emotional side" of the business (how many friends you'll make, how great the people are, etc.), or she talks about how great the products are. She sometimes emphasizes the point that if people don't join the business, they'll be making a big mistake.
  12. To further illustrate the point that "anybody can be successful" in the business, the speaker (or host) asks all the Directs to stand up, introduce themselves, and give a sentence or two about why they got started in the business.
  13. And finally, the meeting ends with either the host or the speaker promoting the next seminar and major function.

To illustrate the above example, and to expose many outrageous, deceptive, and just plain illegal statements made by distributors, I have recorded three Open Meetings. Click on those pages to read the entire transcript and read the comments pages to judge the issues for yourself.

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