Introduction to Mannatech MLM Compensation Plan
Are you ready for a story about people who are better looking than you but no luckier in love, political scandals (with all their doubletalk and pasing the buck), and seaweed? You’ve come to the right place. Welcome to my Mannatech review.
As is the case with so many multilevel marketing (MLM) companies, the Mannatech products are nutritional supplements designed to promote weight loss, physical fitness, and general wellness. The company’s flagship product, which can also be found as an ingredient in some of its other supplements, is called Ambrotose, and it is a combination of plant-based saccharides, which the Mannatech website and other materials produced by Mannatech refer to as a “glyconutrient”. Other Mannatech reviews and even publications as reputable as The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal have pointed out that there is no formal definition for the word “glyconutrient”. Mannatech seems to use the term simply as a synonym for “saccharide”; in fact, Dr. Ray Sahelian, in his Mannatech review, says that Mannatech referring to saccharides is akin to if Dr. Sahelian decided that he would start calling amino acids “aminonutrients”. (We have previously discussed on this blog how the definition of the word “vitamin” itself has changed over time as nutrients have been understood in better detail, but that is a story for a different day.)
Another subject to which I have frequently returned on this site is the story of my endeavors to become the most knowledgeable college dropout in U.S. history, and while I have succeeded in making it my habit to read as widely as possible (if anything, Wikipedia has been my magical armor on this heroic quest of mine), I freely admit that my knowledge of biology and chemistry is incomplete, I was not sure of the definition of “saccharide”, so I looked it up. It turns out that, in biochemistry “saccharide” is a synonym for “carbohydrate”. Now, you do not have to be a science major to have heard of carbohydrates. Even people who are vehemently skeptical of any and all book learning can tell you that a substantial portion of the people in the United States who have achieved long term weight loss have done it by limiting the number of carbohydrates in their diet. By that logic, if there is such a thing as a glyconutrient, then if you want to lose weight, you should do it by ingesting fewer glyconutrients, not more.
I’m not really sure what to think, in all honesty. Imagine my surprise when I clicked the “saccharide” link on the Wikipedia article about Mannatech, in the section about Mannatech products, and it directed me to the “carbohydrate” article. Carbs are such an easy scapegoat these days, that I am amazed that Mannatech has the chutzpah to even attempt to sell them at all. The first person I thought of was the other Brad, who runs Notebook Crazy with me, and how shocked he will be that there is an MLM nutraceutical company that literally runs on carbs. In case you are new to Notebook Crazy (such as if you arrived here by Googling “Syd Barrett Jupiter Venus”, “cute sloth earrings”, or “is Weird Al from the Midwest” and were so fascinated by my MLM reviews that you kept clicking until you found this one), I will explain. With the exception of beer, the other Brad has not ingested a carb since 1998. You can probably guess just by my writing style that this literary flourish is fueled by garlic knots, donuts, and loaded potato skins, and you would be correct. The other Brad and I make such a successful team precisely because he can sincerely exude enthusiasm about nutraceuticals, whereas I am usually the voice of reason. The other Brad has had many hundreds of pounds of protein powder autoshipped to him because of one or another MLM business opportunity, and I can tell you with completely certainty that there is not one box of unsold MLM protein powder in the other Brad’s basement. (I say “with complete certainty” because I was in his basement, running on the treadmill, earlier today, but that is a story for another day.)
If all of this nutritional kerfuffle sounds controversial, you’re right. I have seen attitudes toward nutrition ruin relationships. It has happened both to the other Brad and to me. The other Brad’s ex-girlfriend was a nutritionist, and she thought he went way too far with his radical anti-carb stance. She was also even more skeptical about vitamin supplements than I am, which is really saying something. It was really a sight to see the way each of them would roll their eyes when the other ordered food in a restaurant. No one was surprised when they broke up. As for me, I had a vegetarian girlfriend in college. I’m not saying that all vegetarians are snobs (I am almost certain that Andre 3000, KRS-One, Paul McCartney, and Weird Al Yankovic are not snobs, even though I have never met any of them personally), but snobs like her are a big part of the reason it felt so good to drop out.
The impression I get from reading about the “glyconutrients” in the Mannatech products, whether on the Mannatech website itself or in Mannatech reviews online, is that they are the kinds of sugars one could get from eating fruits and vegetables, and in that regard it reminds me of Jusuru selling powdered fruit and vegetable juice that does not even have the vitamin content of a multivitamin. It makes me wonder, if most people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, what makes MLM companies think that people have extra money just lying around that they would want to spend on something that costs more than fruits and vegetables and doesn’t even taste as good. Of course, Mannatech products contain plenty of other ingredients that, if they were better looking, might have a place in the superfood beauty contest, such as aloe vera and some kind of brown seaweed.
For a company that has only been around since 1993, Mannatech has certainly attracted more than its fair share of controversy. Sam Caster, the founder of Mannatech, had previously headed several other businesses that made outsized claims about the benefits of their products, from an insulation material to a device that emits vibrations that supposedly repel rats, insects, and other pets. (An investigation determined that the device did not emit any vibrations at all.) Once the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was passed in 1993, Caster jumped on the nutraceutical bandwagon as quickly as he could. After a series of investigations, the State of Texas banned Caster from working for Mannatech or any other MLM company for a period of five years.
Perhaps the most famous person to be connected to Mannatech and its associated controversies is Dr. Ben Carson, who only recently withdrew his bid for nomination to be the Republican candidate for president in 2016. Dr. Carson has made several speeches, some of which are still available on YouTube, in which he spoke favorably of the health benefits of Mannatech products. There are rumors that Mannatech even donated money for an endowed chair position Carson held at Johns Hopkins University, which Carson denies. In the fall of 2015, national news outlets lit up with varying versions of the story of Carson’s association with Mannatech and his endorsement of its supplements, with some even alleging that he attributed Mannatech products to helping him recover from cancer. (Dr. Carson never denied having surgery to remove the cancerous tumor, but the question was to what extent he led audiences to believe that his cancer went into remission because of the use of Mannatech products.)
Official Mannatech policy forbids Mannatech distributors from making misleading claims about the effectiveness of Mannatech products, but this does not deter them from doing it. Mannatech distributors on message boards claim that they are attempting to treat their illnesses, from cancer to multiple sclerosis to HIV, with Mannatech products rather than traditional Western medical treatments and that it is working. The worst example of sleaze on the part of a Mannatech distributor was a chiropractor who used photographs of one of his patients, a young boy with Tay-Sachs disease, in his sales pitches and described the beneficial effects the Mannatech products were having on him. Tay-Sachs disease is an incurable inherited disease; as of 2016, no patient diagnosed with Tay-Sachs disease as a child has survived to adulthood. Not only did child’s parents not give the chiropractor permission to use their son’s image, but he continued to use the images in his sales presentations after the child had died. I have heard some sleazy MLM stories, but that has to be one of the sleaziest. If you know any worse ones, I am not sure I want to hear them, so that I can keep what faith in humanity I still have left.
And to add insult to injury, independent studies have shown that Mannatech products have no measurable effect on health, with the possible exception of increasing flatulence.
The Mannatech Compensation Plan
The Mannatech compensation plan is convoluted, even by MLM compensation plan standards. Its glossary alone takes up three pages and spills onto a fourth, and this is using a small font with three columns on each page. When you read the fine print, and there certainly is a lot of fine print, you find out that the Mannatech compensation plan is quite similar to other MLM compensation plans. Your pay is based on your own personal sale of Mannatech products, your recruitment of other Mannatech distributors (your “downline team”), and the sale of Mannatech products by the Mannatech distributors in your downline team. The more straightforward MLM compensation plans just give you a bonus every time you recruit someone and also give you commissions based on the total sales made by your downline team, but the more sinister of them organize your downline team into legs and then nitpick about what portion of your downline team’s sales come from which leg, and the Mannatech compensation plan is one of those MLM compensation plans that divides and nitpicks. To make matters worse, the official Mannatech compensation plan on the Mannatech website does not even have a clearly readable chart detailing all the leadership levels so that I can read all their names, and after everything else I have read about Mannatech, I cannot be bothered to scroll through all the fine print in the Mannatech compensation plan document to find them. From what I can see, though, the leadership level names look pretty boring.
Advantages and Disadvantages
- The quality of writing in Mannatech reviews tends to be head and shoulders above that of other MLM reviews, perhaps because of the national attention Mannatech received during Dr. Ben Carson’s presidential campaign.
- It takes cynical salesmanship to a whole new level to sell people the sugar in fruits without even selling them the vitamins.
- I hated nutraceuticals even before I started reading Mannatech reviews, and I hate them even more now.
After everything you have read so far about Mannatech, you don’t need me to tell you to run away as fast as you can from the Mannatech business opportunity; you draw that conclusion for yourself. If you can’t, then that may explain why your former classmates from high school keeping seeking you out on Facebook to try to talk you into signing up for whatever MLM business opportunity they have just joined, so that they can get their fast start bonus. I have heard so many sleazy MLM stories out there that it is hard to say that Mannatech is the sleaziest, but no one’s financial situation was ever improved by having Mannatech products autoshipped to their home.
OK, I actually am a bit curious about MLM industry scandals that are sleazier than the ones detailed in this post. If you know of one, schedule a call with me so we can discuss it.