Nu Skin in VietnamPosted: August 19, 2012
Yesterday my wife received a call from an Australian lady she didn’t know, who had a “business proposition” to put to her.
Strangely this isn’t unusual. People call my wife about stocking her produce. Sometimes they call because there’s an outlet they think she might consider opening a new cafe. My wife has assisted foreigners in business who need a Vietnamese go-between to assist with the bureaucracy minefield. She has a reputation for absolute honesty and as someone who can be trusted.
Tomorrow I am meeting a local young exec who contacted me via LinkedIn to discuss us working together on a PR project.
Anyway, my wife was due to meet at 10 but staffing levels at The Cart were low so she had to get up at 6.30am to open up, later when a staff member was delayed at home, she had to put the meeting back till 12. She asked me to come along. She didn’t want to miss it, she assumed it was important.
When we arrived at a suspiciously unflash hotel the lady we met asked Loan what she did. She had no information on her whatsoever and knew nothing of her cafes. ”You must have come because you are interested in making a change in your life,” she said.
No, WE came because YOU asked us to.
She mentioned NuSkin and I’d have left right then, except it was Loan’s meeting and I didn’t want to call the shots. She showed us impressive pictures of huge headquarters which she admitted hadn’t actually been built yet. Products she told us about were given magical powers – essentially stalling aging by re-engineering your genetics. It even improves your sex drive. Right.
Multi Level Marketing or call it what you like, straying over the line into less legal territory has cost Nu Skin in the past. Based in Utah, USA it’s no surprise that it has a strong Mormon backbone, and is a big contributor to Mitt Romney’s bid to become president.
There’s an interesting article on Mother Jones about them here and, in the Vietnam context, I thought this snippet was interesting:
TAHNS HAVE A JOKE about multilevel-marketing companies: MLM really stands for “Mormons Losing Money.” The notion of selling to one’s friends and neighbors is so intertwined with the culture that the final season of HBO’s Big Love featured an MLM subplot. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah has the highest concentration of such companies in the country.
There’s a reason why MLMs, many of which peddle natural health products like Nu Skin’s dietary supplements, have thrived there. Mormon scripture encourages the use of herbs as God’s medicine, and the faith has a strong tradition of turning to alternative medicine.
You can see why Vietnam might also been seen as fertile grounds for sales.
Okay here’s what bugs me. It’s clear that for the most part this company stays just about on the right side of the law. So I’m not claiming anything illegal is going down. But this cold call was infuriating. My guessing was my wife was targetted as an English speaking Vietnamese business woman. That was quite obviously all that was known about her. Nu Skin are listed on Am Cham. Frankly, as I have suspected before when I’ve had cold calls from “wealth management” companies, somebody we give our business cards too, in good faith, is selling phone numbers.
This was our Sunday, and we were scammed into driving across town to talk to this person. When I lived in Cameroon I complained that missionaries descended in numbers not because Africa was Godless, the opposite was the case, I’ve never known anywhere quite so religious.
It was targetted because it was naive. It was still ready to listen whereas those back home had smartened up.
My advice would be not to waste your time talking to them. I wish we hadn’t.
Finally, if you Google Nu Skin there are pages of overtly positive information about them that is so positively corporate it can’t possibly represent a cross section of real experience. They are quite obviously putting a lot of resources into gaming the internet and Google. Hopefully, as far as Vietnam is concerned this may redress the balance a little.