Oh no! I was hooked at the fishing bait of a Multilevel Marketing. It is not the first time someone tries to involve me, and for all I care, I have nothing against such business models. But this one encounter was quite peculiar. Hence I decided to write about it.
It all started during the past week when I have received a couple of phone calls from India. A gentleman, claiming to be working for a gigantic group in the process of making massive investments in Oman, wanted to arrange a meeting to discuss an opportunity. I am no fool and I have learned that money do not grow on trees. But the gentleman was very insisting, calling me twice more and sending me countless messages on WhatsApp.
So the other day, I gave in. I was enjoying the weekend attending a travel exhibition organised by a popular agency in Muscat. It was held in a prestigious hotel. It employed many attractions, including a magician as well as impersonation of Mickey Mouse and Spiderman. The perfect distraction for a neither hot nor cold weekend in Muscat. My phone rang again and I decided to listen to what the caller had to say. The gentleman told me that a “big-shot” from his company, named Mr. Singh, would have visited Muscat in the next few days. My curiosity grew and I decided to go for a coffee with this mysterious businessman.
The meeting day came. It was arranged in one of the many coffee shops located in Al Adheiba. I found it a bit strange to host such meeting in a coffee shop. Most of the times “big-shots” travelling from overseas, arrange meetings at the lobby of their hotel. I should have guessed right away that something was not right, but I decided to ignore the obvious hint.
Another call from India came 2 hours before our meeting. It was a nice lady confirming my appointment with Mr. Singh that afternoon. If the previous hint should have put me off, this courtesy call brought me right back on track. It appeared very professional and well organised.
However, one hour before our meeting, a Whatsapp message informed me that Mr. Singh’s schedule was too busy to meet me, therefore I would have met Mr. R. instead (let us call him that way for the sake of illustration). According to the message, Mr. R. was another big-shot working at the new Oman Airport project. Good karma. I have been trying to do business with the airport for a while. But I should not have put my hope so high.
In fact 30 minutes before the meeting, another message came in. This time telling me that even Mr. R. was too busy and I would have ultimately met Mr. B. I was given his number. On a normal day I would have cancelled the meeting and pretended nothing happened, but since I had already spared the time for it, I carried on as per schedule.
I reached the venue sharp one time and parked my car outside the coffee shop. From my parking spot I could see inside through the glass. Strangely enough, it was empty. If this Mr. B. was a “big-shot”, he certainly did not stand out as one. My eyes fell on a small group of people standing outside the coffee shop, chatting and eating. I called the number given to me and one of those standing there picked up my call. I got out of my car, proceeded to meet him and introduced myself.
We went into the coffee shop and sat down. Mr. B. introduced himself too. He has been living in Muscat with his family for 5 years. He told me that he is an employee in one of the companies owned by the same organiser of the travel fair I attended during the weekend. Knowing how large is the group, I thought we would have talked about one of the businesses carried out by them. Unfortunately the conversation went to another direction.
Mr. B. told me that his dream was to be a millionaire within the next 5 years and he would have achieved such goal by working part time for a company based in Hong Kong. He went too fast and I could not memorise the name of the company, but I caught a few other details. For instance he explained that the company was founded in 1998 and belonged to a Malaysian businessman. He told me that the core business is e-commerce, but he also pointed out that the income is generated by selling items such as jewellery and services such as holidays. Specifically he brought the example of a vacation package in Malaysia: one week for 1400 MYR. Wow! That is totally underpriced. He mentioned that the company exceeds 2 billion USD in annual revenues. If true, it is indeed impressive. But how can they make money if they sell holidays for peanuts?
When Mr. B. explained that in order to be part of the deal I was supposed to be “coachable”, then a bell rang in my head. He further mentioned that he – before me – was coached by a 22 years old boy. My attention-meter reached the end. I realised at that point that we were not going to discuss any deal between his firm and the group that I proudly work for in Oman. Mr. B. was rather offering me a part-time job in multilevel marketing.
He volunteered the information that after 5 years he would have earned 1 million USD every year. I asked how long in the journey was he so far. He replied 6 months. I poked him by asking if he already had earned half a million dollars. He suddenly became snappy. I tried my luck asking him how much he really made in the past six months. Down came his mask. First he asked me what did it matter. I reasoned that it was important in order to gauge the opportunity. He finally admitted that some months he earned nothing while some other months he gained just a little bit. Honestly, not my cup of tea.
I thanked him for his time and left a little dissatisfied for having fallen into his “trap”. All I can say is to wish Mr. B., Mr. R. and Mr. Singh a happy early-multimillionaire retirement.