Mona Vie. One of my friend’s wife was targeted to join Mona Vie. I’ve seen a lot of references to both Mona Vie and one of the components in its mixture, açaí, but never really looked into it. I knew that it smelled fishy, in part because its a classic multi-level marketing program, and that alone gives me reason to pause. However, I wanted to take an objective look at it, since there are a lot of MLMs out there and they can’t all be bad right?
Multi-Level Marketing / Pyramid Schemes
Only two words are needed to describe Mona Vie, the brand name of the juice: pyramid scheme. Mona Vie is a “standard multi-level marketing program,” commonly referred to as a pyramid scheme, that relies on people marketing their products. Every time you make a sale, you earn a commission. The people who recruited you, and the people who recruited that person (your “upline”) into the program will also earn a commission. If you recruit someone into the program (your “downline”), you will earn a commission on their sales. The classic pyramid scheme.
There’s is nothing inherently illegal or disreputable about multi-level marketing programs. They aren’t illegal in the sense that Ponzi Schemes are illegal , it’s just that most implementations of MLM programs only really benefit the people at the top of the pyramid. This is because many of these programs have quotas that members need to sell and, when they can’t, members often find themselves buying the products themselves just to meet quota. Anyway, enough with the generalities, what’s specifically scammy about Mona Vie?
Mona Vie Scam?
What’s this Açaí berry juice product? It’s supposed to jump all over the antioxidant health craze people have been clamoring all over and Açaí berries are a very good source of antioxidants (most dark colored berries are, like blackberries, raspberries, etc.); that part is legitimate. The drink itself is 19 juices blended together.
There are two parts of Mona Vie that are suspect. First, many agree that antioxidants are beneficial for you but Mona Vie makes some big promises such as improving cardiovascular health, improving joint function, etc. It claims that it can cure many ailments because it contains components that have been shown to address some of them. Nothing they say is a flat-out lie but it’s like saying you can do laps in a kiddie pool. Possible? Yes. Probable? Not really.
The second part that’s suspect is the fact that the stuff is $30-$40 a ~26 oz. bottle and proponents say you have to drink 2 oz. in the morning and 1 oz. in the evening. Simple math shows that each month you’ll have to spend $120-$170 on the juice, or $1,500-$2,000 a year. If you want the benefits of these types of juices, you can get it for much much less. Oh, and any distributor has to buy 4 bottles a month. Sure you can sell them, but what if you don’t? You’re always on the hook.
Other red flags? Their CEO and founder, Dallin Larsen, is a 20 year veteran of the MLM industry and the FDA recently shut down a similar juice product operation, Dynamic Essentials distributed Royal Tongan Limu juice, for illegal business practices. Hmmm…
Finally, check out the MonaVie compensation plan, courtesy of The Fraud Files blog. There are all sorts of crazy exceptions and rules. For example, you have two legs on your “downline,” but are only paid on commissions based on the shorter of the two. It gets really complicated, really quickly, and that certainly doesn’t bode well for people who sell the stuff.
The bottom line is that you’re overpaying for a product and, if you’re a distributor, you have to buy 4 bottles a month. Do you think it’s a scam? (this site, Purple Horror, documents a lot of Mona Vie’s shenanigans)