Wellness International Network, Ltd (WIN) was one of my earliest first-hand experiences with fast-talking MLM salesmen. This was back in the 1990s when a friend of mine invited me to one of their “seminars” (AKA “sales pitches”) to hear about this exciting “opportunity.” Though I had already embarked on my advertising career, I had virtually no experience with MLM up to that point. The people at WIN were all very careful not to call it MLM.
The first seminar I attended was almost cult-like, with wide-eyed “distributors” displaying creepy, exaggerated welcoming smiles. I felt as if I had just accepted an altar call in church as I waded through them. After some preliminary build-up speeches, the anointed Ralph Oats graced the podium and gave his fire and brimstone sermon about WIN, their products, and the opportunities for us fresh meat sitting out in the audience. He talked a lot about Biolean, which was their focal product at the time. I recall Mr. Oats saying that even if you bought their product and couldn’t sell it, at least you had a lot of Biolean you could consume yourself.
I took the bait the first time. I didn’t put out any money, but I went back to another seminar and took a friend and my boss with me for to get their opinions. My friend invested $2000. She never sold anything, nor was given any real instructions on what to do with all those vitamins, except to start trying to sell them to her friends and family members. It was as if the moment she dropped her cash, they dropped her, perhaps because she was a small fish in a big pond. To this day, I regret taking her, and I’ve told her many times. I really didn’t have an agenda in taking her – I simply had no experience with this type of thing and wanted her opinion. My boss wasn’t so convinced. He later told me that it was a scam and that I should avoid it. When they found out he owned a successful business, they contacted him later and asked him to invest SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS… That’s right $600,000 in “product” that they could help him “move” by finding a couple of investors.
In other words, keep “moving product” down the line without ever really worrying if anyone received anything beneficial. In a private conversation between meetings, I was told, “We have to at least talk about the product so we don’t get in trouble.” It started to feel shady.
The friend who originally talked me into going had an agenda, which was to make money if I signed up. The guy above him in line had the same agenda. So after attending those two meetings, they kept peppering me with phone calls. They left messages asking me if I could afford to invest this amount or that amount, or attend another meeting. They kept telling me about their new products, which were video conferencing and long distance telephone service (remember, this was the 1990s). In one message I was told they’d sign up some of their new clients under me to get me started. By that point, they just seemed like a bunch of crooks with their hands aimed at my wallet. I just started ignoring them, and it ended my 6-year friendship. I never spoke to him again.
I walked away from WIN and never looked back. In the years since, I’ve almost forgotten all about Wellness International, Ralph Oats, and the local guys who tried to hook me in. I was surprised to see them still in business the other day after a Google search. My old friend and his “sponsor” appear to have no involvement with WIN now, which I’m glad to see. Maybe WIN has changed, maybe others have had better experiences than I did. I can only speak for myself… but in my mind, Wellness International will always represent my earliest experience with the world of MLM scum.