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Tuesday April 3rd, 2012  
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   Volume 82 - Issue 13   email:   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
"We wanted to do something to show our love and support for Shaylee."
- Angie Marra  


It was with more than a little interest that I read some years ago about a type of pyramid scheme going around these parts. It is called Pentagano and by all reports it was†quite illegal.
Pyramid schemes are like some of those awful chain letters you've come across only scaled up big time. They inevitably crater in on themselves at just about the time you were supposed to get rich or your name was to come to the top of the list.
If I remember correctly Cleopatra was involved in the very first pyramid scheme.
I can speak with some authority about the issue as I went for one of these "too good to be true" pyramid schemes about forty years ago. The fact that I still have some "product" down my basement is evidence of just how big a bite I took back then. I'll preface by saying my wife Lorraine and I were still working in Calgary then and I was on the lookout for an opportunity to get Lorraine out of her slave job at a medical laboratory.
My Cheops nightmare started innocently enough with a very short phone call from a co-worker of my wife's. Its message was one I would learn to repeat to others hundreds of times and with very little success I might add. It went: "How would you like to make some extra money part time two nights a week"? With I answered yes there came the next and only other statement in the conversation: "Good, be at 1701 Blackfoot Trail at 8 p.m. on Friday night." That was all the caller would offer up and no amount of cajoling could bring forward any additional information.
Thus baited we chose to show up at the appointed time and place, along with about 50 other equally mystified people. There we were ushered into a small meeting room and introduced to a plumber from Ontario who was excited about showing us some remarkable products. It was revealed to us that he had given up his career and moved west to promote this opportunity which was perceived by all as evidence of the significance of the opportunity. He came equipped with a big, glowing smile, a ton of confidence, a couple of spray bottles and a small hand held painter’s easel. The easel was covered with patches of material like lino, rug, vinyl and leather.
For an hour or so he demonstrated most aptly the unbelievably effective cleaning power of a product line of chemicals and powders known as "Bestline". Permanent ink on vinyl, no problem! Pine sap in a rug, no problem! Felt pen on lino, no problem. He even claimed he could take dried blood out of a white shirt which I was to later prove true after a Stampede Days scrap I got into.
He announced that every one of those dozen or so products were absolutely child safe which really got my attention. It is every parent’s nightmare that their child finds their way into something like lemon oil or a caustic cleaner. At the end of his spiel he indicated that there were some interesting opportunities with Bestline in "sales" or "management" and that if we were interested there would be another meeting Saturday morning where those opportunities would be revealed. Of course, our "sponsor", the one who had made that deadly phone call would be there with us again.
So we went the next day and we listened and we pondered, appraised, discussed, anguished and ultimately bit. I was not interested in "selling soap" door to door but the supposedly legitimate pyramidal design of the management side had some pretty impressive points.
Five levels of earning no less. You got to keep percentages of the sales from the different levels of the organization you built up under you; an organization that everyone assured us would surely grow as each of our recruits built their own empire.† A permutation pyramid of profit! One (me) would begat three which would begat nine which would begat twenty seven and so on and so on.
It was explained that there was a slow way to get your level started and a fast way. The slow way was straight product sales which we were assured was a division that was taking off. It was being run by a retired pig farmer from Quebec. The fast way was (brace yourself for this one) to buy in at the "silver level" and get well into the game. With the buy in came about $2500 worth of product, some royalty paybacks and a lot of specialty training including, you guessed it, my very own easel! Total price tag for this fast track to riches; $4,000.
So we took out a loan and packed cases of Zif, L.C., low phosphate detergent, rug shampoo, antiseptic spray and even some Bestline deodorant down our basement. Don’t worry they said, you'll recruit sellers that will move your product and then some. It looked encouraging. The sponsor two levels above us was head of hematology at a local hospital and was preparing to quit his job and go at Bestline full time. Make a list they said, of everyone you know; friends, family and co-workers and call them. Remember to use only those two lines they said. So I phoned and trained and practised using product. I carried a calendar notebook with me everywhere day and night.
That two night a week opportunity in short order became a seven day a week circus. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning; Friday night and Saturday morning were when the two part meetings were held like the ones that hooked us. Of course you had to be there to reassure your recruit and show your commitment. Monday night was product training time and also when receipts could be turned in. The pig farmer's wife was a product magician.
Thursday night was official sign-up night for other “silvers” and Sunday night was more of a social night for Bestliners when earnings cheques, special pins and awards were handed out and where the peer pressure was turned up a notch or two.
For months I phoned and fussed and faithfully travelled across town to meetings only to find my candidates, who assured me they would be there, were no shows. Those that showed mostly hesitated and eventually, politely passed on the opportunity. I listened to my training package motivation tapes on "personal growth", "setting and achieving goals", "diseases of attitude" and "better thinking habits".
I gave it the good old college try, but in the end my section of that grand pyramid ended with no one below me. Finally many months later my sweet wife turned to me and said: "Johnny boy, the program looks great but there's only one problem. No one's sellin' the soap! So I decided to step off that merry-go-round before I wound up in the Calgary General psyche ward, again! It was like a great weight was lifted from me when I finally set Bestline aside and went back to using Tide!
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