So by the time you really realize what’s going on it seems like it’s too late to find any face-saving exit strategy. Not to mention the money, which you couldn’t afford, which was why you got into this mess in the first place.
The trunk of your car is filled with several cases of, like, herbal supplements or essential oils or off-label personal hygiene products. You own this stuff now, until you manage to sell it, and nobody seems to want to buy it. The whole load was only supposed to cost something like 800 bucks, but then there were all these brochures and display cases and one-time start-up fees and all-told you wound up spending something more like $1,400.
Not “spending,” they said. “Investing,” they said. Because while all of that stuff was “only” going to cost you a measly $800 investment, you’d be able to turn around and sell it for three times that. Your $800 was going to turn into $2,400, with a sweet $1,600 profit going right into your pocket.
Except it didn’t work out that way. Three months later you’ve sold about $65 worth of stuff and you stand to lose almost as much as you had once hoped to gain.
This is troubling and embarrassing. You were sure you’d done your homework and checked this out to make sure you weren’t getting swindled here. It all seemed legit. Bob and Sheila, who got you into this business, were very nice people and they seemed to be doing really well for themselves. You’d been to their house — a very nice, high-end house with a couple of very nice, high-end cars parked out front — and heard their first-hand testimony about how liberating it had been for them to work for themselves, eventually earning more than enough to quit their day jobs and do only this, full-time. They had assured you that you, too, could have that same level of success if you were just willing to put in the work.
They had also assured you not to worry because this was not a pyramid scheme. You had asked about that, after all, because you’re not stupid. And they had been very convincing when they explained how this was a legitimate multi-level, peer-to-peer marketing strategy, which was nothing at all like a pyramid scheme, really. Judges and juries had confirmed that definitively in several court cases — frivolous lawsuits brought by disgruntled people who hadn’t been willing to put in the work.
You weren’t like those people. You were willing to put in the work. And you did. You put in a lot of work.
But now it’s three months later and you’re kicking yourself as you begin to realize that it was never about putting in the work. You’re starting to realized that Bob and Sheila didn’t manage to quit their day jobs and pay off that big house by selling all the crap depreciating in your trunk. They made all that money by convincing suckers like you to join the scheme.
Or, rather, by convincing suckers like you to join the legitimate multi-level, peer-to-peer marketing strategy.
And now you’re stuck. You’re either going to have to cut your losses and somehow come up with another side-hustle to make back your disastrous “investment” (plus the original expenses that investment was supposed to cover), or else you’re going to have to do what Bob and Sheila did and double-down, recruiting another level of saps by convincing them that they’ll be able to quit their day jobs and make all their dreams come true by selling this stuff and just putting in the work.
Doubling-down holds at least a slim chance of maybe making back the “investment” you seem otherwise sure to lose. Plus it would allow you to avoid the shame of admitting you’d gotten duped into making a poor choice in the first place.
That shame is interesting. It is, I think, misplaced. Because, yes, you got swindled, but you got honestly swindled. You didn’t fall for some get-rich-quick scheme. You fell for a earn-more-by-working-harder scheme, and there’s no shame in that.
You haven’t yet done anything shameful. If there’s any shame to be assigned here, it rightly belongs to Bob and Sheila. Sure, they tricked you, but there was nothing clever about that trick. Dishonesty and misrepresentation are not the hallmarks of cleverness. You trusted them and they proved untrustworthy. The shame of that is on them, not on you. You weren’t outsmarted. You were simply lied to.
But you’re still out several hundred dollars. And you now need several hundred dollars, which you’ll never get back from Bob and Sheila.
But you might get for yourself by imitating Bob and Sheila and turning around to take that money from another “level” of new recruits.
To do that, all you have to do is keep doing what you started. You have to tell others you believe in this product you’re selling, and that you believe in this business model as a good way to supplement your income.
And that was all perfectly true when you first said it three months ago, because three months ago you really did believe all of that yourself. And it was all perfectly true the whole time you yourself were putting in all that work.
So what would be the harm, really, in telling others something that you yourself once wholeheartedly and sincerely believed?
The difference, of course, is that three months ago you said all of that in good faith, but if you were to repeat it now you could no longer do so. Now you’d be saying it in bad faith. Three months ago, you yourself were honestly deceived, but now you would be dishonestly deceiving others.
But maybe there’s some wiggle room on that. I mean, it wouldn’t be dishonest to keep saying what you’ve been saying for these past three months if you really, earnestly want to keep believing it’s true, right?
Bob and Sheila will back you up on that. They’ll encourage to go on believing and to go on saying you truly believe. And once you convince those new recruits to join you, their utter genuineness of their new belief will fortify your own with a fresh infusion of honesty and sincerity, right? As long as you can keep adding new believers, the cumulative total of honest, good-faith belief should remain sufficient and thereby allow you and Bob and Sheila to comfortably reassure yourselves that there’s no shame in any of this, as long as you’re willing to put in the work.
Anyway, something like that, I imagine, accounts for the 32 percent of Americans who told Quinnipiac pollsters that they “believe” Donald J. Trump is “honest.”