27 July 2006

Sawyer Whitewash, LLC

I'm ashamed to admit that I work for an MLM. I'd rather not say which fulfiller of dreams employs me, and unless you're familiar with their products you've likely never heard of them. The company's stable and been around for quite a while, so we're not your father's Herbalife, but there's still that inescapable stigma.

Me, I sit in my cube with the crappy reclaimed furniture and overhead fluorescents (well, I disconnected the ones above my head, but you get the idea) and plug away on our Ecommerce system. It certainly helps that I'm a software engineer, far above the fray. It also helps that I've gotten to write the entire engine from the ground up. As long as I'm amused, I don't get the howling fantods.

A couple of weeks ago, I was wondering who came up with the first successful pyramid scheme. I mean, sure, there's this guy: he was great with the pyramids. There's "The Ponz" (though he technically didn't run a pyramid.) After a little thought and research, it occurred to me.

It was that bastard Tom Sawyer.

Here's how it worked:

  • Collect whitewash and brushes from Aunt Polly
  • Sell friends and neighbors on the merits and pleasure to be had in whitewashing
  • With great reluctance, allow the friends a swipe at the fence once they've bartered something of value
(Now, you may not see the MLM here, but that's because Twain - ever the savvy rascal himself - left out the most important part...)
  • Distribute whitewash and brushes to friends and convince them to follow the Sawyer Plan
The one gaping whole in the plan, what eventually bankrupted Tom Sawyer by the time he was 23, was that Aunt Polly was his sole distributor of whitewash and brushes. Had he considered the Carnegie method, he might have been able to take over the whitewash supply business in good old St. Petersburg.

Still, I think the lesson is clear: "What you say about his company, is what you say about society." Or, something like that.