I was in a conversation today with someone who tried to enlist me for Amway -- or Quixtar, as the North American portion of the company is now called. He is a genuinely nice guy, very likable, and he threw a decent sales pitch, but from a rhetorical point of view he should have led off with the Exciting Products rather than the Multi-Level Marketing; that immediately raises specters of pyramid schemes, and had the effect not of exciting me but amusing me. Is there really anyone these days who thinks that even legitimate MLM's (Avon, Quixtar, and the like) are a reliable way to make more than pocket change? Perhaps only the salesmen. But perhaps in this economic climate people are more likely to make such leaps out of hope for something better; these are times when even pocket change is tempting for many people.
Also (although he could not have known this, despite knowing that I taught philosophy), he should not have put so much emphasis on the dangling lure of money and nice cars and houses; I had just been reading up on Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy (Relihan's The Prisoner's Philosophy in particular, on which I will probably eventually have a post) and therefore had in my mind very firmly that all-important distinction between the fractured false goods of fortune and true goods. Yes, I am paid relatively little for what I do, but absolutely speaking I need relatively little. Plus, as God and the Devil know, the only material goods that are truly significant temptations for me are books. But despite the fact that I will certainly run into him again and, not being able just to flake, will now have to come up with a gentle way to let down a tenacious salesman who is a genuinely nice guy and is mostly just trying to make a few dollars (he had a spinal injury that limits his job options -- he can't do any sort of lifting and has only a high school education), and despite the fact that I would much rather have spent my lunch working on the design for a hybrid course I'm developing, the whole discussion was really quite worth it: when I teach Boethius later this term I will have a real-life example of the Consolation of Philosophy as a defense against folly.
Had I known I would have had a conversation like this, though, I would have brought a multi-level marketing bingo card. I would not have had Bingo, but I only missed a definition of insanity. As I said, the man in question is a nice guy, but the funniest thing in the whole discussion was that at an early point I thought, "If I tell him I want to do independent research, he's going to scramble to try to make sure that I don't pay attention to critical websites." And when I mentioned later that I'm not the sort of person who makes decisions without research, he gave me some websites but also immediately launched into a spiel about why I shouldn't pay attention to websites by people who 'did absolutely nothing, or thought they were doing it but weren't and so became disappointed when it's really a matter of building an asset over time'. (To his credit, he didn't try, as most MLM people do, to suggest that it worked without effort.) While he would never have admitted it, of course, I could tell from his eyes he was disappointed that I didn't just jump right into the mix.
He did make me want to buy Believe: The Movie, though.
ADDED LATER: Speaking of which, I love these previews: