An undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is

A reader writes:

Hi Dan,

In Melbourne we have been observing small white hand-written signs popping up on the sides of roads affixed to all sorts of posts and street signs.

The signs are all similar and say:
Lucrative Business

I've had a look at the site, and my "3 scroll page alarm" went off; any page with more than 3 vertical pages makes me suss.

The site never describes exactly what the business is.

Is there a name for these things? Are they common? This is the first I have come across.


Yes, they're common.

The deal is, there's some company like Herbalife or something with a bunch of "distributors" who, even when they strenuously protest that they aren't in the multi-level marketing business, do seem to chiefly be selling the opportunity to sell the opportunity to sell the opportunity to sell, et cetera, whatever nominal product is hiding somewhere within that vast sky-scraping trapezoid.

It's normal for all of the "distributors" to never mention the name of the particular trapezoid they're part of, but those classic endless "squeeze pages" often contain a subtle clue or two that the offer they're presenting is not quite as extraordinary as they say.

Just paste a phrase or three from such a page into Google, and see how many other people are offering the same amazing opportunity!

(It's easy to find duplicated testimonials, but you should also search for excerpts of the text allegedly written by the person who's making this particular never-to-be-repeated offer.)

"I ran my previous business for a little over 4 years and pretty much lost all my money." ("About 8,510 results" as I write this, but that's a huge over-estimate, because Google doesn't actually give accurate figures for string searches like this. Paging on through the results ends up with exactly 293 results, at the moment. Remember to click the "repeat the search with the omitted results included" link at the end of the original results, if you want to see how many pages Google actually indexes with your search string on 'em, including ones that're so similar to others that Google doesn't bother displaying them by default.)

"I left on my terms and it occurred due to this wonderful opportunity. Now I work for myself" (120 results)

"not afraid to try new things, I also had a willingness to learn" (This one actually seems to be unique to!)

"Imagine not having to beg for time off to do something so simple" (374 results, with a couple of differing opinions about what sport your putative son will be playing.)

"such a great group of people who are willingly assisting me" (Only two hits, again with variation of the words on either side; there'll be three hits when Google indexes this post. Few-hits searches like this one may be helpful in tightening the Venn-diagram intersection of all these get-rich-quick squeeze pages to figure out which of them, if any, are not trying to sell the same product.)

"further, I'd like to tell you what to watch out for. Too many" (228 results)

"bombarding them with constant sales pitches about how much money they" (268 results)

"Associates who have taken advantage of the opportunity I'm offering you have generated multiple streams of income" (215 results)

"This is a real, legitimate, Internet marketing system. The system works perfectly as long as you follow it exactly" (Well, obviously! Why would there be five thousand, one hundred and ninety copies of this text on the Web, if it weren't real and legitimate!?)

And, finally, "The testimonials presented are applicable to the individuals depicted and may not be representative of the experience of others." Wise words to live by - so very wise, in fact, that 346 Web pages contain them!

I'm absolutely 100% sure, of course, that is completely on the level and offering a real opportunity to sell worthwhile products that everybody needs.

But if you sign up for this particular incredible home business opportunity, you'll still have a problem, because there are obviously a large number of other people in the same damn business. Unless you have a scroll of genocide that allows you to annihilate all of the other functionally, and often literally, identical such opportunities floating around down in the noise floor of our wonderful capitalist world, you're likely to find that no matter how much you hassle your friends, relatives and employees, it's just mathematically impossible to get enough customers to make the big bucks you've been promised.

Perhaps the reason why the actual product is never mentioned on the squeeze page is that it's an amazing new discovery with a whole new wide-open market, and the sellers don't want to give away the secret.

When hundreds of other squeeze pages say the exact same thing, though, this theory seems a little shaky to me.

16 Responses to “An undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is”

  1. dr_w00t Says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how members of the public are so gullible. With the rise of the internet (remember when they used to call it the "Information Super-Highway"?) IMHO critical thinking should be taught alongside maths, english, and phys-ed. Everyone who gets a modern education can count/read/write, but so many otherwise literate people can't actually think in a straight line.

    There is a young earth creationist sitting behind me at work performing a major architectural change to our codebase. :S

    Why not make it the 4R's - Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic, and Rational-thinking.

    PS. I got your Franken-light in a random spam email today! Awesome!

  2. Bern Says:

    Rational thinking? dr w00t, you're forgetting that the primary purpose in life of politicians is to get re-elected. If voters thought rationally, most of them would be out of a job, so it's not something they want to encourage!

  3. corinoco Says:

    *cough* the GEM Liftstyle! (TM, C, etc) *cough*

    Wow, a great track record in the 'oil additives' industry... what? Firepower?

    I found this, but I was actually looking for GEMWAY, an MLM from the 90's that sucked the life out of an acquaintance of mine. Another former sailing friend really got into Herbalife; it was sad, it was like watching someone get addicted to drugs or alcohol or get loopy religious; you couldn't really say or do anything.

  4. corinoco Says:

    And if you want my advice, you want a blessed Scroll of Genocide or you're asking for trouble.

  5. AdamW Says:

    The ones that get me confused are the MLMs which actually sell vaguely worthwhile stuff...I have a relative who sells stuff from Nu Skin, which makes some stuff that's obviously bullshit (ref the 'Galvanic Spa', which probably uses negative neutron waves to rearrange the prettiness molecules in your facial tissue or some such crap) but also sell things like deodorant sticks which seem to last approximately forever and work well, and perfectly unobjectionable toothpaste (though it's clearly someone else's toothpaste with stickers applied to the tube). It's like they couldn't quite manage to go the whole hog in making their products cheap and non-functional. Weirdness.

  6. dr_w00t Says:

    Well there are network marketing type things that for loads of semi legit stuff like tupperware, or cosmetics, etc, but the point is that when they are driven by the selling of the opportunity to sell an opportunity ad infinitum, i.e. consultant recruitment pyramids, they are inevitably the same old scam.

  7. speedweasel Says:

    Dan, I cant believe you didn't mention's static banner ad for 'The Secret'.

    If anything should send your bullshitometer soaring, its that crap.

  8. Red October Says:

    The thing that puzzles me so is this. How does anyone make money at this? When I was a kid, my school would often do fund-raisers where we would hock an array of mundane products (usually things like foodstuffs and giftwrap, but occasionally something brilliant like frozen pizza). No matter how hard I tried, I would never beat the kids whose parents would take the damn flyer in to work and sell the stuff for them, and whoever took home the truly worthwhile prizes for selling (television sets, video game consoles), you just knew that mommy or daddy was a manager and everyone bought some shit to get in good with the boss.

    Is it a case of situations like this happening in the adult world? When the union chief/factory foreman/bureau head/lodge elder/etc. comes in and says "OK all you fucks, you're going to sign up for this shit and make us all (read: me) rich!" i.e. situations where someone has influence over someone else and levers that influence into this sort of thing? Or does it perpetuate itself at a continual loss, spreading through only the most gullible of a given social group, from one desperate distributor just trying to recoup their investment and telling a bold-faced lie to try to get the half-dozen or so people they'd need to earn back their initial outlay; and those half-dozen or so especially gullible people will in turn realize quickly that there's no stacks of money to be made and will likewise resort to the most underhanded of tactics to again recoup their initial investment, thust perpetuating the cycle and only making significant gains for the top few levels?

  9. corinoco Says:

    Like any religion cult scam these schemes do make quite a bit of money for the guy (and it usually is) at the top of the chain, but the achievable wealth drops by an order of magnitude or more per level down.

    Does the pressure sell happen in the adult world? Absolutely! When you think about it, almost ALL organisation structures from governments through to corporations and down to trade unions (especially them!) are about this // far from being pyramid schemes themselves - the people who get in first gain the most at the expense of later members.

    Consider the economics of shares and share options - the only people who will really make significant gains are the get-in-early get-out-early ones. Sure, things like insider trading are illegal but I am quite certain that in the upper echelons of the market inside trading is considered simply 'part of the game' and you only get caught if you step on someone's toes, rock the boat or try to go public. The share market simply wouldn't work if it is fair and equitable to everyone. The media loves to tell us of all the gains to be made on the share markets, but they are silent about the fact that the vast majority of people won't make money; it's effectively gambling, but in a socially acceptable form in which those in control of the system have the opportunity to make the most money.

    De-mutualisation and government privatisation are pretty much scams too; in de-mutualising you trade your vote for shares - looks good, but higher fees will chew up your shares in a couple of years, except if you sell your shares within an hour or so of the de-mutalisation (source? my shares in MBF & AMP. I didn't bloody vote FOR de-mutualising!). In the case of privatisation of public assets (see Telstra, and now QNR) if you've been paying taxes you have already paid for the infrastructure, and now you want to pay for it again? The only winners will be the people who know the exact times and dates of share trading commencement, and have enough capital to buy massive blocks and trade them almost immediately while the demand is high, before the inevitable drop. Look to the usual suspects with strong 'connections' like they say in other totally corrupt 'industries' *cough* horseracing *cough*.

    It's pretty much the same old primate dominance games that somehow dragged us out of the savanahs - a cunning member of tribe realises he can have all the meat / bread / gold / women he wants by saying the gods have chosen him to be leader; as long as he is the first one to do it, and organises some thug supporters who get just enough to keep them loyal.

    Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system!

  10. RichVR Says:

    Since Stark hasn't said it already:

    I wish I didn't have any morals sometime. OTOH this is a bit above my "too much work" threshold as well.

  11. Stark Says:

    Rich! I've found that judicious application of alcohol temporarily relieves the morals issue... unfortunately it also removes all ambition and ability to successfully perpetrate any successful scam. ;)

  12. RichVR Says:

    This is true. Glad to see you're still around here. :-) the world needs more drunk, underachieving evil geniuses like us.

  13. phrantic Says:

    Drunk, underachieving evil geniuses, you say?

    Do you have a newsletter I can subscribe to?

  14. Stark Says:

    We would have a newsletter... but... well... underachieving and all... you know how it is...

    (notice the 9 day delay in this posting for the level of under-achievement we're talking about here)

  15. RichVR Says:

    I typed up a newsletter but I spilled Makers Mark on the keyboard. While trying to suck it out with a bar straw I accidentally hit delete. Sorry. Hey, you don't waste Makers.

  16. Tjr Says:

    Hi, would you please update the link ("scroll of genocide") to the NetHack wiki? It has moved to
    Unfortunately, our old host has a policy of leaving the old site online as a trap to unsuspecting visitors. I would really appreciate your help sending people to the active wiki and taking our Google ranking with us.

    The user base voted to move because of an intrusive new skin and a bad change to the terms of service. More detail can be found on the old site:

    Thank you,
    Tjr (admin at the wiki)

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