Tuoi Tre this time uncovered frauds in Ho Chi Minh City by an employee at a multi-level marketing company based in Hanoi where credulous jobseekers are lured into a dubious network. An individual attempt or a systematic scam?
A group of people discussing at the Ho Chi Minh City branch of Thien Ngoc Minh Uy company. Photo: Tuoi Tre
We on March 21 managed to reach a person named Binh at number 016662621... who directed us to another called Thich who took us to his company located on the 1st floor at Phu Lam Market Building in District 6.
It turned out he was working for the Ho Chi Minh City branch of Hanoi-based Tian Yu Meng Wei (Thien Ngoc Minh Uy) Co Ltd that apparently sells electronic equipment, functional foods, cookers, and a wide variety of other miscellanies.
“This place [branch in HCMC] will bring you a friendly working environment and success beyond all your expectations,” the man broke the ice in a curious way.
Upon being asked what specific jobs a salesman there would do, the man cryptically replied, “No need to be too curious. You will know what you would do soon.”
He showed us around before introducing us to sophisticated looking ‘businesspeople’ sporting formal suits, well-done haircuts and razor sharp creases.
One by one, they formally shook hands in a most diplomatic and flamboyant style.
Along the way, Thich boasted that many people working here could earn as much as VND70-300 million a month (up to US$14,500), thanks simply to their persuasive skills.
In a meeting room, over 200 people huddled together, intently focusing on a ‘success story’ speech delivered by a somewhat eloquent and restless man. Topics revolved around huge salaries earned from enticing others to buy products and to join their network.
Pay first, earn later – sell blood if necessary
After showing all he could, Thich suddenly offered us a place in his network as distributors, of course not before promising amazing privileges if we agreed right away.
The condition: depositing a particular amount of money first.
When we claimed to be cash tight, he advised us to sell our motorbike(s) or … blood at Hung Vuong Hospital in District 5.
We finally caved in and handed some money to Thich who then told us to go home and fetch more.
When your correspondents wanted the deposit back, Thich refused, saying “the money is to buy products but you need to give me more to lay hands on the products.”
Training would be provided [to become salesmen] when enough money was paid, Thich promised.
Once fined, twice shy? Nope
Vo Le Bich Dong, vice chief inspector of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Industry and Trade, said the branch was once fined for their violating Vietnamese laws on multi-level marketing.
He elaborated that the city’s inspectors found out in 2009 the branch sold products not included in their business license and launched its promotion campaigns without government approval.
It registered to operate in the southern hub 3 years earlier.
Worse, the company even did not provide the network’s distributors with sufficient information about multi-level marketing in accordance with local laws, he added.
Dong noted, citing government resolutions, that requiring a person to buy products or deposit an amount of money as a precondition to join a multi-level marketing network is unlawful.
Dong promised to carry out inspections at the branch.
Tran Le Mai, director of Tian Yu Meng Wei (Thien Ngoc Minh Uy) Co Ltd Vietnam, said it was Thich that should take full responsibility because what he did went against the company’s regulations.
Mai claimed the regulations stipulate that anyone who wants to join the company’s network is not required to make any deposits or buy any products in advance.
She also admitted there might be cases in which the distributors have infringed on these regulations.
The company will punish Thich if what Tuoi Tre reported is true, she insisted.
Multi-level marketing is a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they personally generate, but also for the sales of others they recruit, creating a downline of distributors and a hierarchy of multiple levels of compensation.