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Book Review: Merchants Of Deception by Eric Scheibeler

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I have heard of stories like Eric Scheibeler’s for years, but never one with the amount of detail that is contained in Merchants Of Deception. Most everyone I know has been approached at one point or another by either Amway, or another MLM (multi-level marketing) recruiter. If you look through the help-wanted ads in just about any newspaper, a good half of them are for these types of operations.

I even accidentally found myself attending one of these “seminars” about 20 years ago. The hilarious (and most telling) detail was that they would not mention the name of the company until the end. It wound up being Amway, which was all I needed to hear to walk out.

I bring up my personal (limited) experience with the MLM world to contrast it with author Eric Schiebeler’s in Merchants Of Deception. This is a guy who is approximately my age, whose first real job was as an auditor with the Federal Government. He married his college sweetheart and seemed on his way to a great future.

Schiebeler basically de-railed his life by believing these Amway people. I guess as a young, trusting soul, it would be easy to do. Their list of seminar speakers, who basically vouch for the company and tell all in attendance how wonderful it is, is a pretty powerful bunch: Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, Jerry Falwell…the list is a veritable Who’s Who of the right wing.

But beyond all that, there are the constant mind-games the company plays to fleece their people. The amount of money some of these “independent contractors” pay out in materials is staggering. Along with the book, Mr. Scheibeler sent me a stack of e-mails he has received from individuals who had been ripped off by Amway. Most of them lost between $20,000 to $100,000 before getting out. Nearly all of them lost their homes and filed for bankruptcy.

All for the dream of retiring from the regular workday world and living the good life as an Amway distributor. This was supposed to occur within 2-5 years of signing up, as long as you followed “the system.” Besides using Amway products exclusively in your home (which are exorbitantly priced in comparison to similar, commercially available products), the distributor is required to buy thousands of dollars worth of books and tapes. But the real money is spent on the seemingly endless weekend, and sometimes week long “seminars” everyone is forced to attend.

To an outsider, the whole set-up sounds like madness. As I noted though, Eric Scheibeler was a pretty well-adjusted, upwardly mobile young man when he got involved. According to experts in “deprogramming” cult members, the Amway method is nearly identical to what Jim Jones, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, and Heaven’s Gate used. That’s some pretty heavy company.

One of the key aspects of the indoctrination is to cut all contact with “non-believers” out. Slowly but surely, members are advised to stop listening to their radios, watching TV, using the Internet, and especially to cut-off all friends and family who are not in the program.

One of the most vivid, and sad moments comes when Eric “retires” from what sounds like a pretty good private firm. He had left his government job because of all the travel and had landed a job with a company close to home. While working at this company, he put in an additional 60+ hours a week “building his business.” One day, his leadership told him he was ready to retire from his regular gig and concentrate exclusively on Amway.

What a farce! On his last day, the Amway people showed up in a limousine to drive him off. Meanwhile, the guy was thousands of dollars in debt, and by his estimate, earning maybe $4,000 a year after expenses with Amway.

Merchants Of Deception ends on a positive note, with the Scheibeler family slowly taking off the blinders and seeing how this little business venture had nearly destroyed them. It is a sobering story, and after a lot of research and contact with others who had been through “the system,” Scheibeler states that Amway has “A nearly 100% loss rate for consumer investors.”

Keep it in mind. If you are ever even slightly tempted by one of these operations, your chances of losing every dime you invest is nearly 100%. As for all of the heavy-duty right-wing "elites'" assurances that Amway is the way to go, you can draw your own conclusions.

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About Greg Barbrick

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Good article. One thing you forgot to mention though is all the scams and MLM schemes on the internet job boards. I’ve been suckered into a few of those meetings myself thinking it was a job interview.

    When they post their guys at the exit doors, you know it’s time to run like hell.

    -Glen

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Damn. This article is really getting the tweet action, isn’t it?

    -Glen

  • Greg Barbrick

    There have been a lot of people hurt by this company.

  • http://www.mlm-thewholetruth.com Editor MLM-theWholeTruth.com

    MLM is kind like online dating. If you are very careful and know how and what to look for, there are some real pearls. But you sure have to look out for the bad people, companies, because there are lots of those also.

  • justin wicks

    there are a lot of people who have been hurt by eric schiebeler.
    i have been involved with amway for 25 years.
    eric is obviously a troubled person.
    it has nothing to do with amway.
    i will debate him anywhere any place and anytime.
    he does not want to reply to any posotive stories about amway.
    there are millions of posotive stories and they far out number any negative stories.
    eric is a scam artist.
    check out where he derives his income.
    and why is someone doing a book review on an unprinted on line book that has been out for 5 or 10 years.
    it is definitely weird and shows some inbalance in thinking.
    eric is not telling the truth and is afraid to talk to me.
    he is preying on people and soliciting money.

  • George

    This “book” is way off target. I’m an attorney and have researched Amway for 35 years since becoming a member(IBO). Amway has a 100% guarantee.

    Justin is correct. I’m sure there are some “bad people” in Amway. If found out, Amway kicks them out.

    I have personally seen the good things the Amway opportunity does in many countries with all types of people.

    The products since 1959 have been Earth friendly. They are all very concentrated. So, when properly diluted, they are not only much better than competitors, but less expensive.

  • Greg Barbrick

    Justin- This book is available commercially through Amazon.com, although even if it were not, I would still have every right to review it.

    George- I am happy Amway is working out for you.

    Greg

  • justin wicks

    greg-
    i never said you didnt have a right to review it-
    your blog said it was a new book review-
    that is not true.
    it is not a new book-
    it is merely a ruse to put negative filth about amway on the internet.
    they are the same tired lies that are spread consistently by about 4 or 5 of the same people who are fixated on slandering a good business with good people selling good products.
    most of the emotion is based in polotics as
    i have noticed a very liberal hatred of all things conservative in the blather of hatred toward amway.
    the internet is a cowardly tool with no credibility needed to splatter stupidity in all directions.
    these false NEW book reviews are one way to keep the perpetual ignorant negativity about amway active on the internet.
    it is not a new book and there is no balance of thought or truth in this rediculous rant of erics or his ilk.
    it is a slant of thievery and deception that eric is using to line his pockets.
    it strikes one as definitely odd that someone would go to such lengths to slander a certain enterprise knowing full well many hundreds of thousands of people make an income from amway and enjoy the experience.
    more than 3 million people renew their involvement in amway every year because they -like me- like the benefits and the experience.
    i have noticed they run from posotive stories as if it were holy water and they were the devil.
    it is tiresome,childish,cowardly,weird,
    and most completely dishonest.
    i have much more experience with amway than eric and yet he is the expert because he wrote some unhinged babble and plastered it on the internet.
    disgusting,dishonest and cowardly.
    greg – i also saw your comment about a lot of people have been hurt by this company.
    that is not true.
    you make blanket statements with no facts or credibility.
    100% satisfaction or your money back.
    colleges dont offer that and they have huge drop out rates.
    maybe we should collect negative filth about colleges and the money lost and broken dreams.
    see the amazing hypocrisy?
    in real life when something doesnt work out for you- then you move on to bigger and better things that fit you better.
    that is what normal people do.
    eric is bitter,unhinged and delusional.
    you are enabling him in his scam and in his
    problem with moving on with his life.
    sincerely, justin

  • Greg Barbrick

    Justin,

    I hate to be an ass, but I just have to say it.

    How much money have you earned minus expenses?

    GB

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Justin, where does it say the book is new? The only one I can see who mentioned it was you.

    “there are millions of posotive [sp] stories and they far out number any negative stories.”

    Prove it by writing your own book then, although considering the book is old I don’t see why you wouldn’t have done so already unless you couldn’t back up what you type.

  • http://www.mlmwatchdog.com Rod Cook

    Actually it turns out that when Eric Scheibeler wrote that book he was planning on starting his own MLM Company. So talk about the kettle calling the pot black! If you read 1/2 down the page below on my MLM Watchdog website….. You will find his letter of apology to AMWAY! Wow talk about deceit!

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Somebodys been drinking the Koolaid here, methinks.

    By the way Greg, being an ass sometimes is okay. It should be worn like a badge of honor.

    -Glen

  • http://www.mlmwatchdog.com Rod Cook

    Rod Cook MLM Watchdog back again. What I failed to mention in the last post was that
    Eric Scheibeler’s MLM company failed. Was not a pretty ending! 1/2 down big Amway page (among many on watchdog) below
    http://www.mlmwatchdog.com/mlm-amway.html

  • Greg Barbrick

    I find it interesting that a book review should should spark such heated comment.

    Who’s next to weigh in on behalf of Amway, media Queen Sarah Palin herself?

    GB

  • Greg Barbrick

    Thanks to Bicho and Glen for weighing in.

  • justin wicks

    it must be noted that greg mentions he was being an ass.
    now as to profit i sold a customer some products recently and made a profit of 110
    dollars- several other customers purchased
    products for a profit of another 158 dollars.
    i also recieved some sales bonus money for my efforts.
    my expenses are a 50 dollar renewal every year to remain a legal business owner from which i recieve monthly magazines and occasional free samples.
    the reason you find a book review causing a stir is that you made up stories about amway
    which so many of us derive a nice income from and you also made comments which are eluding to the book being factual which it is not.
    both you and the author have zero credibilty
    which mlm watchdog pointed out.
    amway people like me collectively sold over 8 billion dollars worth of merchandise all over the world last year.
    this kind of success created over 50 years just doesnt happen if people arent enjoying some level of success and satisfaction.
    to imagine that 8 billion dollars of merchandise is being sold every year with nobody making any money is just stupid.
    to bolster my point on most of this being rooted in polotics-what does sarah palin have to do with your idiotic book review?
    point is- you dont know what you are talking about and without the internet you would just be one more nut babbling stupidity at the grocery store line while everyone thought silently that you needed medication.
    sincerely-justin

  • justin wicks

    by the way el bicho-
    many books have been written with countless posotive and up lifting stories about amway successes.
    they were all best sellers.

  • Greg Barbrick

    Justin,

    I used self-depracating humor in calling myself an ass for even asking the question. But it remains:

    After expenses for Amway products, tools, and seminars, how much did you profit this year?

    I hope you didn’t “retire” in a limo from the other job that is keeping your family afloat.

    Greg

  • justin wicks

    greg-
    only a rude ill mannered person asks people how much money they make.
    i gave you two very recent examples which seems to have went over your head.
    thirdly-amway products are not an expense against a profit- i only purchase products such as i would purchase some where else even if i wasnt in amway.
    i would purchase amway products as a customer if i wasnt a business owner.
    so i save 10-35% on my own purchases if you want to look at it that way.
    as for business books at my local book store or sales materials on learning how to sell like zig zigler sales training videos
    or other materials, it would be hard to spend
    $100 dollars a month and utilize all the information.
    i know many corporations have their sales people attend sales motivation seminars like zigler or anthony robbins because it has proven to be effective.
    i dont personally spend very much on such seminars but definitely have benefited when i have.
    the problem with people who are pessimists is that they never accomplish anything worthwhile with their life.
    ie eric sciebeler etc etc.- notice the fact that greg is not satisfied in myself with 25 years of satisfied experiences in amway.
    instead you have to sarcastically say how much did you earn after all your expenses.
    i dont have a job.
    i work for myself.
    how much i earn is nobodies business.
    i simply pointed out the obvious- people like yourself and eric- dont tell the truth about amway-dont know what you are talking about and dont live life posotively.
    they are called whiners and complainers and i have yet to see any of them accomplish anything worth while.
    every walk of life has stories of great accomplishment and great failure.
    it is because we are all so different and we are all trying to find our way.
    no one thing is everyones answer.
    amway is an opportunity.
    that means you can succeed or fail.
    i have noticed that neither you nor eric has offered to help me with something better.
    in 25 years in amway i have not had anyone approach me with a business opportunity with a better success ratio and offer to help me succeed.
    any word on that greg?
    i am open minded.
    sincerely, justin

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “many books have been written”

    that would explain why you didn’t name any

  • justin wicks

    el bicho-
    try looking up charles paul conn-
    who has done real research on amway for probably longer than you have been alive.
    look him up on wikipedia and check his credentials against the people like greg and this eric schiebeler fraud.
    the name of the books are listed on charles paul conns works and- no he is not involved with amway and was not paid to write the books by amway or anyone involved in amway.
    he is the president of lee university.
    the book titles are “the possible dream”
    “the winners circle” “an uncommon freedom”
    “believe” “promises to keep-the amway phenomenon and how it works”
    rich devos also wrote a book which should be required reading for every high school student in america called”compassionate capitalism”
    in that book he relates many success stories within amway as well as employees who work for amway and he also lays out the philosophy of generosity and compassion which are so often lacking in this dog eat dog world we live in.
    amway doesnt tell anyone they cant have a chance and we dont tell anyone they wont make a success out of their enterprise.
    we build people up and tell them they can do it.
    it is why i get so irritated with people like greg and eric schiebeler is because they are not people builders but rather tear people down and they never offer to help people do anything constructive.
    they are pessimists and are never content to just be negative in a corner.
    they feel better when they ridicule and tear down others.
    that is the problem with the internet – it gives people a wide forum and because no one knows them personally they have this percieved credibilty which if people really knew who they were and what they have done with their life- no one would listen to them-
    the reason i have spent the time to respond to the blog here is i have experienced great things from amway and the people involved.
    it is a disgrace that people will blatantly lie and make up stories to try to tear other people down.
    read the books listed here and then do another book review.
    to end this discussion-what business enterprise that involves work is greg or eric posotive about?
    i bet they would be real experts on business opportunities and have tons of credibility. im sure of it. really.

  • Deborah

    Does anyone that is trying to endlessly discredit this book, which I haven’t read yet,realize that it is actually having the exact opposite effect, and something that I would have had minimal interest in reading or buying before, is now something that I might actually read. I don’t like any kind of MLM in general. They operate like cults IMHO, and I will never involve myself in one!

  • justin wicks

    deborah-
    there are a lot of people who want to have a home based business which is why mlm is so big.
    they also allow companies to put really exceptional products in peoples hands without paying huge amounts of money to normal retail outlets.
    mlm also does not operate like cults.
    if you knew anything about cults you wouldt say something so rediculous.
    workers unions operate like cults if you want to draw the same comparison.
    government jobs operate like cults if you want to do the same critical thinking.
    if telling the truth about a slander makes you want to read the filth then you should also read charles paul conns works as well – using your logic.balanced thought.
    i merely made mention of the fact that these people have no credibility and are making up stories to appeal to people such as yourself.
    also it is not a published book in paper-
    you would have to sit in front of your computer and read it.
    no publisher will talk to eric for some strange reason.
    maybe thats a conspiracy as well.
    oh-the games people play in the playground of thier mind!

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “look him up on wikipedia and check his credentials”

    you mean the website where anyone can enter information on a subject?

  • justin wicks

    el bicho-
    you are obviously not to bright.
    good bye

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “el bicho-you are obviously not to bright.” writes the man who typed “you wouldt say something so rediculous.”

    instead of MLM you might want to get hooked on phonics

  • Joecool

    I find it humorous when so many IBOs brag about all the money that is made from Amway. Then when asked if they made a profit after considering expenses, they will tell you everything about Amway except whether or not they made a net profit.

    It’s fine to have a home based business. But if you are “buying from yourself” and dedicated to the teaching system sold my Amway uplines, you are more than likely losing money month after month.

    That is not a business. That is a hobby.

  • Greg Barbrick

    Thanks Joecool-

    I could not agree more. I tried doing Amway once, when I was 18, and after about a week realized that it would never fly for me.

    I was only out $20, and chalked the whole thing up to “live and learn.”

    What I have found absolutely amazing all these years later, after reviewing a book, is the sheer number of people who have “drank the Kool-Aid.”

    It has been amazing.

  • Hannah Su

    Nice book review. I think the best article I ever read on IBO income was from novelist Christopher Pascale.

    From my Amway experience, the income he presents is a little generous, but it points out all of the money made from CDs and seminar ticket sales, explaining why I would be encouraged to buy an extra one each month so that I “will be more inclined to bring someone.”

    Naturally, his article has a number of comments as well from pro and anti Amway people despite the fact that he doesn’t pose a strong opinion, just points out facts.

  • Greg Barbrick

    Thank you Hannah Su,

    I am happy that you “got” the review. Facts are facts. It is nice to hear from someone who does not have a particular “axe to grind” as it were.

    Greg

  • Clear the cloud

    Seems to me that the real business of selling products is lost when you have to make up for it by selling an idea than rather products with affordable price points that today everyone is looking for a bargin in order to survive. Have to buy tapes to learn how to sell products is not the way to sell anything, we must become a nation of crators , innovated products producer and sell to the world, than just have an idea resell it to others make them buy products that are not compeititve.