Thursday, September 19, 2013


My past is littered with failed multi-level-marketing attempts. In the 90s a close friend got me into Amway. It was disastrous. I didn't even manage to get one friend or colleague to 'look at the plan'.

Two years later I was more or less press-ganged into joining NuSkin at a women-only luncheon. I sold a couple of bottles of rather nice skin and face gunk but that was a fizzer, too.

Six years ago a colleague persuaded me to join Agel, saying I couldn't fail. Agel sells high-end vitamins. Unfortunately, good as the product was, the price was a bit of a killer, and as a rep I had to buy two boxes at month at around $100 each to stay in the business. I had no takers for becoming a rep under me, and, a couple of thousand dollars later, got out of that one.

At that point, I swore I would never again get involved in an MLM business as clearly I was not a born salesperson.

Why obviously explains why I've just signed up to PartyLite to become a candle lady, doesn't it?

The difference is, this time I have real faith in the product - and my friends are urging me to join so they can buy candles from me and hold candle parties with me presenting, so they get candle freebies of their own. I have finally found something people want to buy from me.

I am a candle addict. I have candles throughout the house and bugger the ozone layer and my carbon footprint, I thoroughly enjoy burning them. As a bit of a connoisseur of candles, I adore the PartyLite ones for their clean burn and good scents, which don't fade and aren't sickly overpowering. Before I even decided to become a 'candle lady' I was already a brand ambassador.

It was a tossup whether to try and supplement my income with PartyLite or Enjo, as I have big beliefs in both products. PartyLite won for the simple reason that people use and replace the candles quicker than they do the Enjo products. We'll treat ourselves with a pretty, sweet-smelling candle; it's an affordable luxury which starts at $17 - less than most lipsticks. We don't think of buying a cleaning glove as treating ourselves (but we are really, because we're cleaning the house without chemicals and our bodies will thank us). The money isn't quite as good with PartyLite but the starter kit is cheaper, and people really WANT to hold candle parties; already I have three friends who want to host one for me.

This time, I have also done my homework with my accountant. You see, most people who join an MLM business hear the words "expenses are tax deductible" and rub their hands happily. People trying to get you to join an MLM will tell you they are deducting their expenses so you can too, and if their MLM business is bringing them income which is higher than the tax-free threshold, they may well be deducting their expenses. However. The tax man gets grumpy on MLM people starting out who try and claim everything they spend on their business - Agel samples, Amway samples etc - as a tax deduction when they are not yet getting a large income from their MLM business. If your MLM business is earning less than the tax-free threshold, the ATO treats it as a hobby business and you can't claim expenses.

In my case, the main expenses I'll have are buying sets of new brochures from time to time and other stationery. Any candles or accessories I want to add to my kit I will get from 'hosting' my own candle party from time to time, as there are freebies for every person who hosts a party and depending on the takings from the party, the free candles could be up to $200 in value. If I achieve sales targets in the first three months the company will also give me a number of free accessories to use in my display kit.

My aim is that in a couple of years I can wind down the computer stuff and be, mainly, a candle lady. Ideally with a team under me, as that's how you really start to make an income from the business, obviously.

I hope, hope, hope I have found my niche. I need an extra income, I need something I can be passionate and confident talking about and demonstrating, and I need something people can afford and want. Hope it doesn't all go up in smoke!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Scarlet Pimpernel strikes again... and again... and again

Early in 2012 I spoke of my search for The Scarlet Pimpernel, a client for whom I did a lot of work over the course of around twelve months, and who (still) owes me payment for quite a bit of it.

I couldn't find her then and didn't have the money to hire a private detective until early this year, when I finally got a new address for her. It wasn't what I expected. She is living in a furnished apartment on the north shore waterfront. This cool pad with superb views is a holiday/long let rental advertised for $1400 a week by its managers.

To say I was gobsmacked was an understatement. Actually, I didn't believe what the detective told me. I thought it must be one of her more well-off family members who lived there as the Pimpernel is more or less broke. Broke enough not to pay her suppliers.

Two months later I had phone calls from two people I'd never heard of before but they had one thing in common - TSP owed them money too. They both confirmed the address I'd been given was correct.

I got my solicitor onto the job and we launched a new statement of claim against TSP. This time it included interest on the original sum. I can imagine the Pimpernel hit the roof when it was finally delivered to her. By that point she wasn't opening her door to anyone let alone a process server, and now I know why.

It's not just me and the two others (who have since been paid and in one case accepted a much smaller payment just to stop TSP bullying herself and her staff and harassing them via phone and email). There is another guy taking her to court for several thousand dollars. There is a former employer gagging her as she has been badmouthing his company and causing trouble with his staff and that is in progress in the courts this month too. There was another firm she owed around $15K to but bullied them down to only paying half, citing that she doesn't have a printer at her home so couldn't print out a contract to sign and therefore didn't formally agree to the initial sum; she has threatened them with legal action if they object. Today I spoke to yet another person who is owed money for design services and is about to set a lawyer onto TSP.

So that makes seven with a grievance or who are owed money, and let's add the person who my process server tried to find at TSP's old address a couple of years ago, around, I suspect, the time I was doing work for TSP. I don't know who that is but TSP owed them money too.

TSP is, I think, going into meltdown. She took down her corporate website a few months back and this month her blog is missing and her Facebook corporate page is gone. On Twitter she has described herself as being offline for now. The Scarlet Pimpernel is doing a vanishing act.

Until recently TSP has had a pet lawyer, her boyfriend, but I understand they have broken up and I suspect with summonses and statements of claim flying at TSP from all directions, TSP is probably at her wit's end.

I suspect she may do a bolt and my solicitor is lodging a Default Judgement against her tomorrow; hopefully she is still living in the expensive pad and that will arrive in her letterbox. If she doesn't challenge it within two weeks it goes to court. Once it goes through court it's valid for twelve years.

In a way I feel sorry for her, as her behaviour has followed a consistent pattern for many years - one of the people I've spoken to this year told me he had to chase her with a debt collector ten years ago and again earlier this year for a second transaction. He'd forgotten about her and it wasn't until she didn't pay him this year that he twigged the name was familiar, checked his records and the rest is history.

She clearly has mental illness of some sort and admits openly to it. She never said anything about her mental state to me when I was working for her, but has been blatant about it to people since then, as if that is an excuse for her behaviour. I do hope she doesn't do anything stupid - if I were in so much financial trouble I'd be feeling suicidal, especially if I didn't have a house to sell to cover my debts and legal fees.

But while I feel sorry for her I'm still angry with her; angry for lying to me and telling the same sort of lies to other businesses who she has treated in the same way. I'm not sure whether she deliberately engages freelancers and small businesses knowing she can't and won't pay them or whether she hopes her ship will come in and the money will magically appear from one of her other contracts. If it's the latter the ship is the Titanic.

The story continues...