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PALM LATITUDES

STATE OF MIND : Marketing Fear

June 18, 1995|R. Daniel Foster

Among the numberless commercial assaults on our pocketbooks and sensibilities lately have been "home crime-prevention presentations" sponsored by Quorum International, the hottest multilevel-marketing outfit since Amway. Quorum distributors invite friends, family, colleagues--anyone scared silly by the thought of random violence--to hear a crime-stat-filled pitch for Quorum's personal-security devices, including a $30 gizmo that's worn on a belt and shrieks like a wronged trial lawyer when a pin is pulled. The presentations are a sort of Tupperware party for the paranoid '90s and they're working: The company made $200 million in wholesale sales in 1994, up 1,000% from '93. Curious, I attended a recent marketing seminar.

"Diamond-level" distributors in gray suits and gray shoes and yellow "ARE YOU ALARMED? ASK ME!" buttons worked the crowd of about 100 people. There was a revival-meeting speech, in which one of the gray men offered the typical multilevel-marketing hype about how a "downline" of 4,096 distributors--the geometric result of distributors I'd recruit--would support me by year's end. "How many of you are in jobs that get worse each day?" he bellowed. "How many of you would like to fire your boss?" By the end of the evening, I was ready to tell the "Q Story," attend a "Master-mind" motivational seminar at company headquarters outside Phoenix and stake my rightful place in the "Q Pyramid."

But when I was told to wear my personal attack alarm everywhere--along with a yellow button the size of a dinner plate that read "ASK ME TO PULL MY PIN & SEE WHAT HAPPENS!"--I drew the line. There must be better ways to conduct one's life than marketing fear to the masses.

I've turned my back on multilevel-marketing and its promise of a lifetime of support, but my search for a viable "downline" continues. Perhaps I will have children.

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