LuLaRoe - LuLa NO!

WARNING: I WAS BUSY THIS WEEK…THIS RANT HAS NOT BEEN PROOFREAD -- TAKE IT AS IS I’M LAZY!

If you are a woman in your thirties, or a mom of littles, you’ve heard of LuLaRoe. Or, you’ve heard of leggings, which means you’ve heard of LuLa Roe. It’s the leggings company that’s taken the mommy-world by storm. It’s the brilliant MLM brainchild of marketing genius, DeAnne Stidham, who saw a place to strike where the iron was hot, and knew how to manipulate the minds of female shoppers. I have to give credit where credit is due to her, she knows mom shoppers, and women shoppers. We fall for “exclusive,” and we all want to be “in” on the same thing our friends are, so she perfectly honed and targeted her LLR marketing right for our market, skipping right over retailers and rakes in the profits by using a pyramid. Shudder. But, LLR is a disaster, just like any other MLM “business,” and it’s going to crash and burn, just like any other MLM, not right now, but eventually. And, worse, it’s manipulative sales tactics are a disaster and the worst of mean-girl tactics.

There’s no end to the amount of YouTube videos of women warning you off of becoming a LLR rep, or complaining about quality, but there’s also no end to the amount of videos saying, but wait, it’s great, of course. But, trying to write this, I can’t tell you how many videos I watched, of women begging you not to become a rep, not to drink the Kool-Aid, or not to even buy a pair of leggings, not to waste your money. I beg you not to do the same. It’s a disaster of a company, and a disaster of an investment in your future, if you are considering become a consultant. But the $5K in the bank.

MLM Isn’t a Business

Okay, I have to start here. Most people, namely women, who get involved with something like LLR, start calling themselves small business owners, and get really defensive about that point. Don’t get me wrong, at first you are probably bringing money into your home budget, and you are supplementing your family’s income, which is great. There’s nothing like posting a pic of your new laptop, or bragging that LLR helped pay for it, or a pic of a new pair of shoes that you couldn’t have afforded last month, but thanks to LLR, you didn’t have to put it on credit. And furthermore, you’re probably working really hard, which is something not to be taken lightly; all told, you should take pride in your work. But, when you walk around telling people you operate a small business, or worse, own one, you are both lying to yourself and others. Additionally, you are literally insulting women who do own small businesses.

Let’s take that point apart for a minute with LLR as an example of all MLMs. Imagine you are a woman who owns a retail clothing store, or is even a designer for her own clothing line. As a LLR rep, do you have any design input for the line? Do you even choose your own stock to carry? Do you control inventory among local reps? Do you control which sales consultants are concentrated in your local area, or are distributed amongst your community, as to avoid over-penetration of the market? Do you work directly with the corporate center? Do you have control over your payment system, or how to control the money from your customers? Do you control training and management of your product? Do you have employees and control down-line training for their future development? Or, in fact are you trained in everything, right down to how you should portray the product, and the corporate attitude? As a LLR rep, none of these things are true. Because owning your own business means all of that falls to you, not someone else. In fact, something like LLR means you are shilling someone else’s product, and you are taking some of the profit.

Don’t get me wrong, LLR is no different than Pampered Chef, Jamberry, Younique, Young Living, DoTerra, or any of the Johnny-Come-Lately must-have products among the middle-aged mom-set that gloss through a military neighborhood, or playgroup park party. A few years ago, every wife was toting around Thirty-One bags, now no one is. In a few years, there won’t be a wife caught dead in LLR pants. And, I’ve not seen anyone wearing Jamberry stickers in about a year, when six months ago, the “accent” nail, striped or with a college logo was all the rage. It all passes.

All of the MLMs all give you a party line that sounds amazing, with a “unique,” product that you can’t get anywhere else, except that you can. I can buy mascara, pants and essential oil at the store, and online. And, no matter how many times your MLM corporate site tells you that your product is not available in stores because it’s more special-er (ha!), it’s not, it’s just a profit-driven line, used to convince you that you’ll rake it in by selling it for them, because their product is more special-er than what you can find out “there.” Some reps convince themselves that they just need the product themselves, so they’ll rep only for their own personal access to the product, which is even more insane. In fact, the true success rate of any MLM salesperson is less than ½ of 1%. Everyone else ultimately falls away, or loses money.

More accurately, less than ½ of 1% makes it to the “pinnacle” level of whatever your pyramid (yeah, they all hate being called that) has chosen to call their top success level. That’s worse than the regular economy with the 1%’ers. Most people lose money, and lots of it, trying to get there, by spending thousands of dollars on shipping, supplies, and the cost of unsold stock, trying to expand their business outside the initial circle of friends that they’ve initially taken advantage of, before admitting defeat. If you’re lucky, you take the few thousand dollars you made in the first 3-6 months and you either bank it or buy something great, then walk away, lucky. But, LLR has one of the largest buy-ins of any MLM on the market, between $5-6K, making recouping that investment a hole that’s nearly impossible to dig out of for many, and with each now box of stock that comes, the hole gets deeper. And, as you will see, LLR doesn’t exactly set you up for success.

LuLaRoe’s Corporate “Attitude”

It’s not unusual for a large cooperation to have a party-line that includes a positive attitude about both the corporation and the products. But, there is a difference between a positive attitude and Stockholm Syndrome. If you’ve ever been to an online party for LLR, you know that you’ll be watching a consultant hold up the merchandise, item-by-item, proclaiming how much they love it. It’s their favorite print ever, and they think it’s ah-may-zing. They wish they could buy it. If they could afford it, they’d buy it all. Or, they set up a time and date to unleash their stock of inventory through pictures, that are all, equally, amazing, that they’ve set teasers for, all day, and the minute, and I do mean, the minute, that they’ve been opened up for sale, the only way you can “buy,” is by commenting “sold,” and indicating the item number. It’s like a race, starting at the “on-sale” time. It’s like racing a pack of wolves for the last piece of fresh meat, and it’s meant to feel that way, exclusive and scarce.

And, if you watch more than one video, regarding stock and inventory, all of the consultants say the same things. For example, when they get their new stock boxes, they repeat the line, “it’s just like Christmas morning!” They say this because they have no control over what inventory they are sent from corporate. LLR sends them whatever they want to, likely based on what they need to sell, not based on what the reps want or need. This leaves reps the burden of unloading hideous, or burdensome stock, like the slow-moving men’s and children’s lines, and boxes with only a few pairs of leggings, the bread-and-butter of the LLR business. And, it’s no secret that a draw to LLR is the plus-size line, and that they offer a T&C (tall and curvy) line of leggings, which are often scarce in the rep’s boxes, or only in patterns that the reps are forced to “love” in their online parties, but are stuck with, because a customer doesn’t have to love them back.

The corporate attitude isn’t just about positivity all the time though, it’s about the brilliant marketing genius of its founder, DeAnne Stidham. Stidham is listed on her company’s page as a former working mother who wanted clothes that reflected her faith. With seven children, the writing is on the wall which faith that is, but with a little digging, it’s clearer: Mormon. In other words, she wanted modest clothes that covered everything. So, she decided to put a positive spin on covering our bodies. We’re doing it because we want to. We’re doing it because it’s adorable and cute in prints. So, she doesn’t so much hide the Mormon schtick, just calls it “faith,” and makes the covering bit more about making women feel body-positive. Now, we’re not covering because it protects us from God’s eyes, we’re covering because we want to feel empowered with figure-flattering prints and shapes. Hooray for modesty!

But, if it’s not already clear from her body-positive Mormon-to-faith switch-a-roo, she’s also a marketing professional. So, she had a brilliant idea about creating false scarcity and exclusivity, both things that women fall for, hook-line-and-sinker. When we think that something is special, we have to have it. LLR consultants give special, unique names like “unicorns,” having LLR fans paying through the nose for prints with Santas, or hearts. The consultants call the prints “special,” and LLR calls their prints all “limited runs,” to protect quality, and this brilliant strategy gets the credit cards flying: false scarcity. Manipulated language and sales psychology gets people to buy.

And, to top it off, Stidham has created a feeling of gentle, subtle, community amongst those who wear the clothes, by creating a special language, creating a sense of an exclusive club for those who are “in.” All the clothes have names, like a special language, but not just names, names of women that are just a smidge snooty with an added “the:” The Julia, The Ana, The Jade, The Monroe, The Madison. There aren’t any clothes named, The Jenny or The Bambi (a girl I knew once – sure she was a fifteen-year-old mom, but she was sweet). Even their payment system has a name: Audrey. When you “get” all these names, you feel like you are “in.” You can order a Julia in a XS and a pair of leggings in OS. WTF.

Wait. Was I just duped by marketing? What just happened? Somehow, this woman just convinced me that I want to be covered up, and, that all her leggings are special and scarce. And, on top of that, she gave all her clothes cutesy names, which makes me feel like I speak a private language with my friends. Damn it, I was duped.

And, it works. LLR doesn’t disclose its sales figures. But, in the last year, they’ve added over 33K new sales consultants, which is an estimated $165K in sales. LLR is exploding right now. Stidman’s mantra is: grace, charm and hustle. And hustling she’s doing, that’s for sure. If LLR is like any other MLM, it’s got a shining moment in the sun before it goes the way of the Dodo. MLMs are all a flash in the pan for how long they last at the peak. Amway is still, supposedly, the largest, most profitable MLM; but, when’s the last time you bought Amway? How often do you still buy Tupperware? It’s still around, sure, but no one can argue that its heyday was thirty years ago.

LulaRoe Has NO Customer Service

Why am I complaining about LLR, on my blog about being sick, and for so long, in so many words? It seems like a random topic, right? It is, really. I stopped MLM nonsense about six or seven years ago. In the military community, pretty much everyone is selling something. Spouses have been trading the same fifty bucks for the entirety of their careers. One wife is selling Pampered Chef, so she throws a party; but, she buys Jamberry from her friend; and, her friend buys Scentsy from her friend. The circle goes on and on, and the same fifty dollars makes its rounds until the next payday. I don’t know why we don’t just keep our money, which I do. If I can’t be friends with people, without buying their crappy products, I don’t need to be their friends.

So, LLR was no exception. But, I bent my rule this month. I have a friend who has another friend, who sells LLR. The first friend is on bed-rest from her umpteenth brain and spinal surgery, and the LLR consultant decided to do a fundraiser sale to donate the proceeds to help with her recovery costs. Oh, why not, I thought? I’ll let them add me, and I’ll go to this online “party.” I didn’t know the “rules” about posting “sold,” or that they only start at a certain time, or that I’d have to sit through an hour of a consultant holding up item after item of nonsense before I could comment on what I wanted, after being “teased” with what I actually wanted, earlier in the day. I was already annoyed by the time I saw the party start.

When I commented “sold,” on the item I wanted, and was clearly the first commenter, I thought, “well, that’s that,” right? Wrong. The consultant was experiencing a delay in her Internet, so when her comments came through, she congratulated someone named, Kristy. Three other people immediately corrected her that I was the first commenter, but she refused to budge. Kristy was the “winner,” of the product I had wanted. I was sufficiently annoyed. I was told that I could PM her and give her my information, so she could keep a look out for a similar item, and she could send me something like it, in the future.

Since I already knew that she had no control over her future stock, I knew her comment was a bunch of hooh-hah, and I was quite happy to private message her that I thought that her delay was not my problem, and that she was not being a very reputable consultant by offering a product that I’d clearly “won,” to someone else. In fact, my guess was that it was someone she knew, or that she was offering my “winnings,” to a better client. She, of course, told me that she was a small business owner, which lit my fire. I admit that I was not kind to her, but was not wrong in her business practices of not operating a good Internet connection, and not sticking to her word, when following the rules she established for her own parties. I was furious.

I complained to LLR corporate and reported her as a consultant that is disreputable and doesn’t represent their line to appropriate, and ethical business standards. I was told, by LLR corporate that I should simply attend a different party, and purchase their product from someone else, so that I can truly experience the LLR process from someone better. In other words, they don’t care, and that in fact, their primary concern is not customer service, but that I should purchase a product, or better yet, extensive amounts of products. Alas, do not ever expect customer service from LLR, for any reason, whatsoever.

The Product is Not What it’s Cracked Up to Be

In the end, the reason I actually committed to be in the party, not just join the group, was because I actually saw a pair of leggings I was willing to buy. I love peacocks, and not just like them, love them. There was a pair of peacock leggings that were adorable, and not in that “moms who wear leggings with hideous prints” kind of way; they were adorable. I’m convinced that in six months, LLR is going to ruin this legging thing, and we aren’t going to be able to wear them anymore, because they are going to wreck the trend with the over-saturation of the print and legging market. Thanks, LLR.

Anyway, I really wanted these stupid leggings. So, I was beyond bummed when I was outright cheated out of them. So, I went to Ebay, payed less for them than at this bitch’s party, and was happy to receive them two days later. I was thrilled to try on the leggings that everyone claims feel like “butter.” I’m pretty convinced, now, that the whole “butter” thing is like the “Christmas morning,” line that the consultants have said over and over again; it was just something that spread enough times, so it got repeated.

I’m not saying they aren’t soft. They are. But, they are no better or worse than the leggings I got at the Online Legging Store for roughly the same price, between $18 and $25. If you want really, really good leggings that hold your ass in, check out Spanx leggings. Or, if you want the queen of leggings, get the leggings that Anthropologie sells. They are $98 when they aren’t on sale, but if you catch them at sale time, they are $49.99. You get what you pay for, folks. The Anthro leggings are as thick as pants, and they suck in at the right places without feeling like Spanx, and they give me a thigh gap, people. A THIGH GAP! I’d pay $49.99 for a thigh gap, any day. I don’t have one naked! They are amazing. Butter, they are not, but they are comfy. The “butter” leggings feel like a soft breeze would tear them to pieces. I’m, literally, afraid to wear them too much, for fear of destroying them. And, they are see-through, at the knee when I’m sitting. I fear what my ass looks like! I’m not overly impressed.

Overall

Overall, LLR isn’t any different than any other MLM scheme, but it’s especially preying on moms. Every one of the MLMs out there preys on someone unique, but this one looks at moms, specifically. It looks at moms to do its shilling, and it looks at moms to sell to, which makes it doubly dubious. If begs moms to invest their families’ incomes into a business opportunity that is likely to yield them a small net profit, ultimately a loss, or nothing, and then it asks those moms to ask their mom friends to use their limited family budgets to buy leggings that are of limited quality, or shirts, dresses or sweaters that are of worse quality. This is preying on the most vulnerable, those who care most about their family’s income and budget, the ones who are taking that money and hoping to roll it into soccer practice, ballet lessons, and treats for the kids. In fact, they use that as a selling point. Then they alternatively claim that mom deserves a break, or a treat, like a new outfit. It’s sickening and wrong. Mom, your kid just needs you to play Monopoly with them, they don’t care if you shill stretch-pants.