My freshman year, a friend on campus approached me about a job opportunity. With great enthusiasm, he told me about a position he had recently accepted selling energy drinks with a company called Vemma Nutrition. Unlike the typical jobs taken by college students, he said employees at Vemma have a chance at earning robust, six-figure salaries and can even be awarded luxurious BMW sports cars as sales bonuses.
Instantly, I was a little skeptical about the validity of my friend’s claims. Really, I can make hundreds of thousands of dollars and drive a BMW by becoming a door-to-door energy drink salesman? It didn’t add up.
For those who have never been approached about joining Vemma on campus, here is some background information. Vemma is a $30 billion soft drink company that recruits college students at MSU and nationwide to sell, distribute and promote their brand of products. These students become Vemma “brand partners” and are tasked with trying to recruit friends and classmates to join the Vemma revolution.
Advertised as nutrient rich and clinically tested, “Verve” products, as they are commonly called, are promoted as a healthy alternative to traditional energy drinks, such as Red Bull or Monster. According to the Verve MSU Facebook page, “with Verve Energy Drink, you get the best of both worlds: the powerful energy you desire and the premium nutrition you need.”
It seems unlikely that a highly caffeinated energy drink could provide anyone with “premium nutrition,” but I am going to ignore that claim and instead examine the outlandish notion that working with Vemma could help students earn massive paychecks and flashy sports cars.
To broke college students buried in debt from student loans and struggling to pay for food, books, and those lovely PACE parking tickets, this pathway to financial independence and material wealth can seem like a dream come true.
Every year, it seems like I meet another zealous Vemma convert who tries to convince me that the road to riches starts by selling and promoting Verve energy drinks. They present me with unbelievable examples of Vemma employees sailing on yachts and living in extravagant beach houses. That sure sounds better than eating Easy Mac every night.
Although they admit nothing is guaranteed, Vemma’s MSU Facebook page assures readers that “the people who earn yearly six-figure incomes with Vemma are the ones who stick it out.”
There might in fact be a select group of people who earn large salaries and drive fancy cars from selling Verve products, but this kind of success is not the norm.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Vemma and its out-of-the-box marketing strategy is nothing but a shady corporate scheme used to capitalize on impressionable young people looking to earn much needed cash during school.
My advice: save your money and find a real job that will build your résumé and provide a reliable paycheck.
According to an unbiased, nonprofit, consumer protection agency Truth in Advertising, Inc., Vemma grossly exaggerates the earning potential of its “brand partners,” A quick look at Vemma’s own income disclosure statement will show the extent of their fabrications.
In 2012, 36 percent of Vemma members made under $700 for the entire year. More than 75 percent of employees made less than $1,400. To provide context, working a part time job (20 hours/week) at $8 an hour would result in $8,000 earnings per year.
But what about those six-figure incomes for “those who stick it out?” It turns out that less than one percent of Vemma “brand partners” earned $100,000 or more in 2012.
Based on the typical results, you could probably buy that beach house sooner by starting your own can and bottle collecting enterprise than by selling cans of Verve.
Vemma hides behind a variety of phony endorsement deals and fictitious proclamations. Vemma CEO Benson K. Boreyko, for instance, has claimed that his company has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). In fact, the BBB gave Vemma a C and has received 31 complaints about the company, according to TINA.org.
Vemma also brags about its relationship with the NBA and the Phoenix Suns as a way of enhancing their legitimacy as a business. In a YouTube video responding to critics calling Vemma a pyramid scheme, Boreyko stated “we are a company that, from a credibility stand point, has an association with the Phoenix Suns from the NBA. You know, the NBA had to come in, look at our business model, make sure they signed off on anything.”
Here again, Vemma created its own reality. Michael Bass, executive vice president of communications for the NBA, said “The NBA does not have a partnership with the Vemma Nutrition Company … It is also not true that the NBA investigated the company’s structure.”
Given their propensity for spreading misinformation and falsehoods, I would like to suggest a new Vemma slogan. Rather than its current motto “Making a positive difference starts with helping people,” I think a more suitable mantra would be “Vemma: The company where everything is made up and the facts don’t matter!” (Hey, maybe Drew Carey could be their spokesman?)
Don’t be fooled by all the flash. There are better ways to go about making money here at MSU and it’s not worth entangling yourself with a disingenuous operation like Vemma. Be skeptical, and remember that something that sounds too good to be true normally is.
Alex Dardas is an international relations and journalism junior. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.