KRULL: Avoid slavery to pyramid schemes

Being a college student is a positive – but demanding – experience. There never seems to be enough money to purchase food, pay rent, or just have a little fun on the weekends. Demands from classes and jobs seriously detract from hobbies and time with friends. The fact that responsibility overshadows recreation is known all too well. A company named Quixtar makes its cash from promising an end to obligations of this sort. This sneaky company fails nearly everyone in this regard.

Quixtar runs a Web site that offers products ranging from vitamins to energy drinks to hygienic products. Many of these products are reduced in price from what they would normally retail for, and others are not available elsewhere.

Each individual must pay a fee of a couple hundred dollars to gain entrance to this system. For every dollar you spend on the Web site, you get a certain percentage back. The more you spend, the more you receive. In addition, for every individual you introduce to the business, you earn a certain percentage of their “investment.”

Quixtar suggests nearly limitless revenue, as long as you keep at it and work hard. For most, this scheme quickly reveals itself as too good to be true. Others, however, are mesmerized by many promotional videos that show images of attractive men and women boating, hang gliding, living in mansions and being perfectly content with their lives. To top it all off, each recruit to the system is named an independent business owner.

The irony of this, of course, is that the individual relies on all those whom he or she has introduced to the company, which is anything but independent. Surely, the independent business owner does not actually own anything but the products he or she purchases online.

I have personally attended an introduction meeting about Quixtar. A friend dragged me to this meeting begging me to listen, I did listen, and you would not believe what I heard. My first alarm bell went off when the promotional speaker told me a Quixtar employee could earn a staggering $142,000 a month only a quarter-year into the process. However, according to documents on the company’s Web site, the average Quixtar employee received $115 a month in 2005, which comes out to just over a thousand dollars a year. Fewer than 1 percent of individuals involved in this business make over $50,000 a year. Fewer than 0.012 percent of those involved make anywhere close to the money I was promised.

More interestingly, most of the top dogs making the high salaries do not actually make most of their money on the company’s Web site at all. In a “Dateline” episode, it was revealed that each independent business owner is encouraged to attend seminars, listen to tapes and watch videos telling him or her the “secrets” of making the big bucks. All these overhead expenses often cost the individual more than he or she is making in the first place. In the end, there are a handful of very clever con artists raking in money not from what Quixtar advertises, but the hidden costs.

This endeavor not only costs money, but it costs friends. Three individuals I feel I have gotten to know fairly well over my two years at Iowa State decided to join the Quixtar army. I quickly felt alienated by this. Although I am not on bad terms with any of them, I do not choose to spend my time with friends who encourage me to spend money on a shaky business for their own personal profit. Every chance an independent business owner gets, he will talk about Quixtar. It takes over his life in his pursuit of everything he has ever wanted, and the things he can never get.

Quixtar used to be named Amway, which ran into many legal troubles with the government, hence the renaming. Don Lorencz, a former high-level Quixtar businessman, publicly denounced the company’s practices. A law professor at Notre Dame has made interesting comparisons between Quixtar and the Mafia. The list goes on – the amount of credible individuals is convincing enough. College students are easy targets for this scam, being the financially dissatisfied individuals we are. Money does not come easily, and it definitely does not come with the ease Quixtar promises.

Andrew Krull is a junior in biochemistry from Sioux City.