Is Market America a Scam? Pyramid Scheme or Legit MLM?

Market America is an MLM company that sells a wide variety of health care products and financial services. It is not a pyramid scheme, and it is one of the legit MLM companies.

There is a good chance that you heard about Market America through someone – a friend or family member.

Many people these days are looking for additional income, and you are most likely one of them. There was then an opportunity to work from home by joining Market America as one of their independent distributors.

However, as I’ll discuss in this review, there are some reasons why success with Market America is unlikely. Experienced salespeople and well-funded recruiters are the only ones I can think of to have real success with this MLM program.

As a disclaimer, I’m not affiliated with Market America. It means I’m not paid to write this review. So you can rest assured that you will get an honest and unbiased review from me.

At the end of this review, I’ll also tell you the best alternative to the Market America MLM program that has enabled me to make a full-time passive income online.

What is Market America?

Market America is a multi-level marketing company founded in 1992 by JR and Loren Ridinger. James Howard Ridinger is a former Amway distributor. Over the years, it has grown into a big corporation that hired over 800 employees as of 2016. The company is now headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Market America offers a wide range of products, including household cleaning supplies, jewelry, personal care products, auto care, cosmetics, dietary supplements, custom websites, water purifiers, and weight management products. 

According to their website, Market America’s products have been endorsed by celebrities and featured in Allure, Vogue, US Weekly, and People Magazines. 

In reality, Market America has been criticized as an “incarnation of multilevel marketing” whose products are interchangeable with what you can find at your local stores. It is described as a business driven by fees paid by new members and forced by them to “buy” a certain amount each month that they must resell.

A 2017 lawsuit accused the company of being an illegal pyramid scheme.

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What Products and Services Does Market America Offer?

Market America sells a wide range of products. The company has applied for and received many trademarks on its products and services, including its Isotonix line of dietary supplements. 

On their website, you can find a lot of product categories. Here are some examples:

  • clothes
  • shoes
  • beauty
  • electronics
  • health and nutrition
  • kids
  • travel
  • grocery
  • shopping essentials

In addition to that, Market America also provides services on personal financial management (maCapital Resources) and Internet marketing services for small to medium-sized businesses (maWebCenters).

Market America announced in August 2021 its partnership with Sezzle, a publicly traded financial technology company with an online payment service provider that allows shoppers to pay for their entire purchase in four installments over six weeks, interest-free.

Is Market America An MLM?

Market America is a legit MLM (multi-level marketing) company. After joining Market America’s MLM program and becoming one of the members, you will become their independent distributors or “UnFranchise Business Owners” who may also operate online retail websites called “Partner Stores”.

As in the case of most MLM programs, individual distributors have to pay startup and monthly fees, and are expected to recruit others. They can either earn money from product sales commissions or recruit new members to their sales team.

As a multi-level marketing firm, Market America won’t provide its sales representatives with a regular salary. After joining Market America’s MLM program and becoming one of the members, you’ll run your own business as an independent distributor of Market America products.

However, it is unlikely that you can make a good income selling their products. As in the case of most MLM programs, your business relies on recruiting new members to work under you. You will earn a commission on the sales and new recruits generated by the people you hire once they begin producing results.

This is complex on a number of levels (hence multi-level).

Let’s imagine a triangle. Because everyone in the triangle is in your direct downline (in an MLM, the people beneath you are known as your “downline,” and you are their “upline”), you will earn commissions from everyone in the triangle if the person at the top recruits ten people, and each of these ten recruits ten more.

If you can bring in just 10 people, you’ll make $1100.

Most people in your MLM would rather earn a lifetime passive income from recruiting others than a one-time commission from selling products, even if your MLM offers a wide range of products.

Due to the way the money flows, those at the top of the triangle have the most financial success, while those at the base have the least.

Having a large number of people in one’s “downline” is essential for success in a multi-level marketing company like Market America.

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Can You Make Money With Market America?

Yes, it is possible to make money with Market America. The company provides opportunities through their “UnFranchise” business, claiming that it will help their distributors get out of debt and retire earlier. 

Before you can get started, you must first sign up and become qualified.

There are many ways to earn money with Market America, but these are the most common:

  1. Earn cash back 
  2. Retail commission
  3. Residual commission
  4. Shopping Annuity
  5. Management Bonuses

Simply put, you can either earn money from product sales commissions or recruit new members to your sales team.

The issue is that they charge exorbitant subscriptions, monthly, and other fees. Furthermore, in order to receive a commission, you must make a certain number of sales each month.

Is Market America A Pyramid Scheme?

Market America is not a pyramid scheme. It is a legit MLM company that allows members to make money by selling their products and services. As a member of Market America, you don’t have to make money solely through recruitment.

However, in a 2017 federal lawsuit, Market America was called a pyramid scheme that targets Chinese-American immigrants to sell products to friends and relatives in Asia. 

Market America’s business practices are described in the lawsuit as “extortion,” and it alleges that while “while the executives tell distributors they can earn more than $560,000, only those at the top make that kind of money. Ninety percent of sellers do not receive a penny”.

Ninety percent of salespeople receive nothing.” The California case was transferred to a North Carolina court in April 2019 and consolidated with another lawsuit.

To date, we still can’t call Market America a pyramid scheme for legal reasons. So, what really makes a pyramid scheme?

A pyramid scheme recruits members by promising them money or services in return for recruiting others. It is unsustainable and often a scam because members at the bottom end are doomed to lose money.

Those who want to join must pay a membership fee to the company that runs the pyramid scheme. The company would share a portion of the funds raised from each additional member they recruit as a reward.

However, the scam is profitable only for the directors of the company, i.e., those at the top of the pyramid, since they can receive a portion of the payments from every newly recruited member. The scheme continues as long as members recruit and funnel money to the top of the pyramid.

Unlike Market America which has a wide range of products and services, companies that run pyramid schemes almost never sell valuable goods or services. The scam’s only source of revenue is from recruiting new members and soliciting more money from current members.

A pyramid scheme would have to grow infinitely to make money for everyone who participates. This is impossible due to the finite population of the planet.

The scam will fail if there are no new recruits and other sources of income. Since the majority of members are at the lowest level of the pyramid, most of them will lose their money.

A good example of pyramid schemes is Vemma, a producer of energy and weight loss drinks. The FTC accused Vemma of operating a pyramid scheme in August 2015 that paid more to recruit new members than to sell products.

New members, who were typically college students and other young people promised high compensation, were required to pay $600 for starter packages and hundreds more for monthly products. According to the FTC, the majority of participants lost money.

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Market America Compensation Plan

There are a lot of complicated things to consider, and how you and your downlines earn points is a big part of Market America.

Residual Income – Binary Compensation Plan

You can get at least two people to join your team if you create your own UnFranchise Model. And if they continue to bring in new members, not only will you receive the third-party commission (or more), but so will the people who brought them in.

It’s nothing like the unilevel strategy. It’s marketed as “vertical marketing,” but it’s actually a Binary MLM system.

They keep separate records for Business Volume (BV), which is sales of products only sold by the company, and Internet Business Volume (IBV), which is sales of products from various partner stores.

When you buy a product for yourself, sell it at retail, have a customer offer to buy it, or have your sales team buy it, you earn BV and IBV.

To earn $3600 per week, recruit 200 DBC owners below you, each with 100 BV or IBV ($200 product).

You need a lot of active UFOs to get this much BV and IBV. They did not state that this was the only way to get out of debt in their “proven plan of success.”

Earn Cashback

Start earning cashback by purchasing something online. Then, earn cashback on your customers’ online purchases.

Depending on the product, you can earn anywhere from 2% to 50% cash back, with an additional 0.5 percent if you refer someone.

Shopping Annuity

The Shopping Annuity is a concept that allows people to use and UnFranchise Business to turn their spending into income.

Simply put, as you shop, you earn credits.

Retail Profits

Create a list of preferred customers and offer them a commission ranging from 30% to 50% of the gross retail profit. This, however, only applies to sales between two people.

​Management Bonuses

If you and your team complete the BV commission cycle in the same field, you’ll receive a $600 management bonus.

This means that the better your team performs, the more bonus money and/or money you will be eligible for.

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11 Reasons Why You Should Not Join Market America MLM Program

1. Joining Market America MLM is Expensive

It is expensive to join the Market America MLM program. 

In June 2017, the startup fee to become a Market America distributor was reportedly $399 plus additional monthly payments of $129.

Market America representatives operate as independent contractors, but are required to spend between $130 and $300 on Market America products and attend seminars and training events that are estimated to cost between $20 and $200 each.

For most distributors, expenses for Market America products and services are always higher than what they earn from the MLM program.

2. Very Few People Can Make Money With Market America

Success is difficult to achieve with an MLM company like Market America.

You can look at the statistic that says 72.5 percent to 99.9 percent of MLM members lose money.

The reason for this is that MLMs have sales quotas that require members to continue selling products in order to remain active and eligible for commissions.

They will not be paid if they do not meet the quota.

As a result, many MLM members lose a significant amount of money before even recruiting one person into the company.

3. Losses From Market America MLM Program Are Reframed As Investments

Market America MLM uplines often reframe their financial losses as ‘investments’ in their business so as to keep their reps in an MLM scheme, dangling the carrot of future financial freedom. 

But the reality is that these are not investments. You are unlikely to get the money back. And the return on “investment” is negative in most cases. So saying that it’s an investment is cheating.

4. Market America is a Cult

Why do people continue to work for Market America if it appears to be so bad? Our investigation of MLMs revealed that they all have cult-like company cultures.

Critical thinking is actively discouraged among MLM representatives. They are chastised and even isolated when they ask questions that deviate from the ‘this company is a-mazing’ mindset.

MLMs, like abusive partners, encourage you to isolate yourself from anyone who questions your involvement.

Those who leave an MLM are labeled as failures or bad people/influences, and reps are not allowed to contact them.

Rejection from people they once considered practically family is one of the most devastating losses experienced by former MLM representatives.

MLMs frequently expect their representatives to prioritize their events and business over their personal lives in order to further embed them in the business while separating them from their family and friends.

5. You Need to Purchase Market America Products Yourself

If you don’t have a large network of friends, family, neighbors, and so on, you have to keep buying products yourself each month. It’s a losing proposition all around.

I think it’s quite ridiculous when you have to buy the products you are trying to sell. But this is very common for people who join MLMs like Market America. That’s why in the long term, you are going to lose a lot of money, not to mention making money.

6. Market America Products are Overpriced

As with other MLMs, Market America offers overpriced products. There are many other brands that offer similar products but at lower prices.

Therefore, you may find it difficult to sell Market America products because your prospects can buy the same product elsewhere at a much cheaper price. This explains why most people who join MLMs only focus on recruitment instead of selling actual products.

7. Market America’s MLM Business Model Has a Bad Reputation

Some people have benefited financially by joining a network marketing/MLM company. Unfortunately, most people who join MLMs are left with nothing but regret and a lot of useless products that they were unable to sell.

MLM like Market America is fundamentally flawed. The distribution of commissions is skewed toward the top.

The majority of those in the top tier and pioneers make the most money, while those at the bottom will not even break even after a few months.

As a result, many people do not consider Market America to be a legitimate business opportunity.

8. Exaggerated Claims Of Income

Market America, like any other MLM company, makes exaggerated income claims, but in reality, very few people make a good living by promoting Market America.

Market America’s low retention rate can also be discouraging, as less than 41% of its distributors are active.

According to Market America’s payouts to distributors, over 99 percent of Market America distributors never make a profit.

9. Market America Is Like A Pyramid Scheme In Disguise

If you want to avoid losing money every month, the MLM will actually encourage you to recruit people.

Every system that requires you to recruit people in order to make money eventually looks like this.

Market America is not a pyramid scheme in the traditional sense because you can earn money by selling their products.

However, in order to make a living, you will need to hire others in reality.

10. Recruiting is Required to Succeed

I don’t recommend MLMs to people for this reason. MLMs like Market America put a lot of effort into recruiting. Eight out of ten ways to earn money with Market America require recruiting. If you don’t recruit, you are destined to lose money at the end of the day.

My #1 recommended platform is different. You can make a 4-figure, 5-figure or even 6-figure passive income by promoting and selling products you truly like. You don’t have to recruit people but recommend useful and great products. I will tell you more at the end of this Market America review.

11. There Have Been Many Lawsuits Against Market America

Market America has a bad reputation in the MLM industry. The company has been sued many times over the years. 

In a lawsuit, the federal government sued Market America, alleging that it was an illegal pyramid scheme that duped Chinese immigrants into believing they could make money in a way that simply was not possible.

According to the lawsuit, their sales representatives were instructed to sell products to their family and friends in China, and finding new distributors was more important than selling their products. It paid more commissions to recruit new distributors than to sell products. This resulted in over 90% of distributors who are at the bottom of the scheme losing money.

In another lawsuit, the company targeted Chinese Americans who did not have access to the usual legal channels to protect their rights.

Other allegations involve the company’s claim that anyone with a two-year plan can achieve any financial success they want and that the only way to fail is to give up.

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How Much Does It Cost To Join Market America MLM Program?

Simply complete their application form and register on their website. Market America will then redirect you to a page where you can purchase a $399 starter kit. Starter Kits include the following items:

  • Health & Personal Care
  • Motives Cosmetics
  • TLS Weight Loss Solution
  • MA WebCenters. 

They are not inexpensive. Their monthly fee of $50 is $200 per quarter, which is an additional costly payment.

When you first start promoting the opportunity and recruiting others to join you, you must pay for access to the back office and your own website.

All payments are made in:

  • Starter Kit ($399)
  • Monthly Fee ($50/month or $200/quarterly)
  • Access to Back Office and your own domain website (S20)
  • Annual Renewal Fee ($99)

Market America MLM Program Feedbacks By Real Users

Positive Feedbacks

  • There are various types of products, so you can compare prices and quality before purchasing.

Negative Feedbacks

  • Expensive Start Kit Packages and Other Fees Involved
  • No Free Training
  • Too Expensive Products
  • Several Lawsuit
  • Not DSA Accredited
  • Out-of-Date Income Disclosure

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Is Market America a Scam or Legit?

Market America is not a scam. It is a legit MLM company. A scam is defined as “a dishonest scheme; a fraud” by the Oxford Living Dictionary. 

However, we understand why some people are calling Market America a scam. As mentioned earlier, Market America members are forced to “buy” a certain amount each month which they have to resell to try and recoup that money.

Members are led to believe that they can get rich by finding new members for the multi-level marketing system, who then become part of the membership pyramid because the products represent only a tiny fraction of the money generated. As with most of the various fees, the bulk always goes to the people at the top of the scheme. 

Can you make money selling Market America products? We already know that a majority of Market America reps did not earn any money. A few people do make money but only if you put in a lot of effort. And usually, the way they make a lot of money from Market America is by recruiting aggressively.

In 2004, Consumer Awareness Group President Robert FitzPatrick commented that the company’s growth “can not go on forever” based on available numbers and disputed the claim that “distributors can achieve financial independence.”

To recruit more members, Market America has blatantly made disingenuous and irresponsible marketing claims.

In 2020, Truth In Advertising began an investigation of Market America. The investigation found that “Market America published more than 450 misleading income claims on its website, blog, and social media pages in the first nine months of 2020.”

According to Truth In Advertising, the company described top distributors’ income as “typical”. In reality, the majority of Market America distributors (or what the company calls ‘UnFranchise Owners’ or UFOs) never earned a penny. 

Therefore, some people do consider Market America a scam.

My #1 recommended platform, however, has seen a lot of beginners earn four figures a month after joining it for a year.

I will tell more about my #1 recommended platform at the end of this review.

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Final Verdict: Market America MLM Review

Here comes the conclusion of my Market America MLM review. Overall, I don’t recommend joining Market America MLM to make money.

You will have a tough time in the beginning when you are prospecting and trying to find recruiters to add to your Market America commission.

The worst part is that you practically have to ask your family and friends to join your Market America business opportunity. It’s not fun.

Your upline is constantly following up with you to encourage you to buy more Business Support Material even as you struggle to get people to join your downline.

The reality is that you’re likely to lose more money. Statistics confirm this as well. 99% of people who join an MLM break even or lose money, according to a case study on the FTC’s website.

People who join these MLM-type businesses often feel under pressure to succeed, and that is one of the main reasons they leave. 

Why not consider starting your own online business if you want to earn money and have a flexible schedule? 

Thus, you can choose what you want to promote rather than having someone tell you what you must promote.

Let me tell you how to build an online business in a legit way to make passive income online in the next section. This has allowed me to make a full-time income in a year. Most importantly, unlike MLM models, It’s 100% legit and sustainable.

Best Alternative To Market America MLM Program

If you’re beginning your online business journey, you deserve a program much better than Market America MLM.

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Compared with Authority Hacker, Wealthy Affiliate has a much longer history, which has been established for 15 years and there are many success stories in the past decade. Actually, Wealthy Affiliate has more than a million members so far, so you can see how popular this platform is.

To give you more examples, here are some of the other inspiring success stories of Wealthy Affiliate members.

Where to Join Wealthy Affiliate?

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