Work From Home! (You Can’t Possibly Think This Is Legit)

As a model, the woman in this “work from home” ad is far too hot to actually work from home

(UPDATE, February 2014: The site in question here no longer exists, go figure. The URL now redirects to Build.com, which is a subsidiary of UK building materials giant Wolseley. Build.com is basically an online-only equivalent of Lowe’s or Home Depot.) 

If you still watch conventional old TV, as opposed to Hulu or something similar, you’ve seen the ads. Generally speaking, the further removed you are from the major networks and from primetime, the more the ads promise.

Work at home. Work from home. Make $6000 a month, putting in just a few hours a day. Or if you prefer, make unlimited money. Obviously this is too good to be true, but exactly what are these companies offering beyond a vague promise at financial freedom? What do they require you to sell?

Your humble blogger recently donned his protective headgear and dived into one heavily promoted site representative of the genre, Internet-Wealth-Builder.com, because multiple hyphens in a URL are a sure sign of an upstanding business.

The landing page requires you to enter your name and email address before proceeding. Once you do, you’re led to a different URL, that of something called the Monitium Marketing System (pronounced “moe-nih-tee’-um”, like it matters). A 10½-minute video starts automatically, which makes one wonder whom Monitium is trying to appeal to: people who are too impatient to commute to a job every day, but who are willing to sit through a interminable series of graphics?

Both the video and the supporting copy are relentlessly vague. The company offers

one of the best business models available for today’s entrepreneurs, a business model with low risk, low overhead, great tax advantages…

What’s not to love about that? How about the next 5 words:

and a low start-up investment.

More on that in a moment.

“Membership platform.” “The latest tools.” “Wealth creation blueprint.” Co-op marketing, member support, network of partner companies…fine, but why the secrecy? Will we be selling cat toys? Anthracite coal? Spice racks? Outboard motors? All of the above?

The generalities continue unabated. 4 minutes in, there are still zero details given as to what this business entails. “Win-win situation”. “Leverage”. And the especially verbose “industry-changing proprietary platform.” There’s more layering here than at the Fairbanks Outdoor Beauty Pageant.

The site features a picture of a smiling man whom you’re supposed to contact if you want more details. He has a Broward County, Florida phone number that’s also associated with various limited liability companies, and these include a real estate office that sells foreclosed houses in the adjacent county.
After watching the video, the sales pitch finally begins. You’ll receive a “wealth creation system” for only $50 a month, if you don’t cancel before your 2-week trial expires. The company discloses neither the form nor the content of the wealth creation system. For all you know, you might need a VCR to play it.

To get past the landing page I gave a fake name (Jerry Sandusky) and email address, but figured it’d be prudent to stop short of giving a fake credit card number. Fortunately, I had enough time to read through the company’s privacy policy and terms of service, each of which was more gripping than the 10½ -minute video.

With a little more research, we find out that our “all of the above” guess from a few paragraphs ago wasn’t too far off the mark. We’ll spare you the sausage-making details and the ordeal of reading through the press release, but if you pay the $50 a month, you get to sell and distribute products from Monitium’s “partners”. These include eXfuse, Monitium’s açai berry juice and meal replacement shakes arm; SoZo, which bottles a coffee-based energy drink; Wow Green, a line of cleaning products (bonus: WowGreen.net is currently inaccessible), and something called Smart Media Technologies, which makes a browser toolbar. If you have the aptitude for selling enough of these products to cover your expenses and earn a comfortable living, more power to you. But it seems that spending 40 hours a week in an office or on a job site would be less grueling and offer a better return.

Other network marketing companies – Amway and Avon are the archetypes of the industry – are more blatant about how they operate. But to the marks of the companies that tout the wonders of working from home, “unlimited income” sounds far more appetizing than does “sell cosmetics to your friends”.

The good news is that there are plenty of legitimate, less dramatic ways to work from home. (Just ask the blogger who commutes from his bedroom to his dining room table every morning.) There’s a quiet army of virtual assistants who handle the clerical busywork, data entry etc. that some businesses need to get done but can’t justify hiring a full-time person for. More web developers work at home than in a formal office, for the simple reason that a computer and an internet connection are the sole requirements for the job beyond one’s expertise. And one of the great seismic shifts in recent employment demographics is the movement of advertising art directors and copywriters from in-agency to at home.

Unfortunately for the less industrious among us, working at home requires you to have marketable skills; ones that you could use in the real world if you so chose. The trick, if there is one, is to start with the job and then take it home instead of the other way around. If you really want to, and you plan accordingly, you can indeed work at home and enjoy all the resultant benefits. But if you think that working at home can consist of nothing more than sitting idle and watching the checks roll in…well, you might be sitting idle for a while.

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