July 7, 2011
I don’t hate sex toy parties; on the contrary, I love them! What I really dislike are the multi-level marketing companies that sell sex toys through independent consultants just like similar companies sell upscale kitchen gadgets or $80 candles. I’ve never had great experiences with these companies, and I’ve never enjoyed the parties I’ve attended thrown by their consultants. The corporations that sell sex toys in this pyramid-scheme style seem to have very little respect both for their employees and their customers. My beef with them includes the following:
1. The toys are overpriced, potentially unsafe, poor quality junk – considering the price that these companies sell their toys for, you would hope that you are getting some quality along with that. But you aren’t. The companies don’t offer warranties, don’t provide the ingredients for their toys and sell toys made with inferior, potentially dangerous materials (like jelly vibes that leech phthalates into your body! Yuck!) You can get high-quality toys from reputable companies for more reasonable prices from most specialty sex boutiques.
2. Consultants are trained to sell, not to provide sex education – consultants receive training on presentation and selling the product to you; not to provide evidence-based sexual health education to customers. It’s true that most consultants probably have some interest in sexual health, but that’s not a pre-requisite for becoming a consultant. The company only cares about selling – further evidenced by the fact that their toys, lubes and massage products are not always safe.
3. There are no guarantees – if your order doesn’t arrive, your consultant quits after you pay or otherwise you can’t get the products that you paid for, the company doesn’t owe you a thing. There are no guarantees, warranties, etc.
4. Consultants bear the burden – most of the money the company makes is from the consultants themselves, who are required to purchase their own demos and cover all of their own overhead. This is a classic pyramid-scheme method for making money.
5. Sex is a joke, dirty and shameful – The company treats sex like it’s all a novelty; not a critical component of a healthy adult life. The quality of the toys, and lack of emphasis on importance of sexual health education training for consultants makes this clear.
6. Sex is for heteronormative couples – Most multi-level sex toy companies sell toys and products specifically to ‘enhance intimacy’ between established, hetero couples. Gay couples or disabled people are not considered, nor is the idea that both men and women, who are single, use sex toys to enhance their own masturbation. A very specific type of sexuality is pandered to, one that is very much confined to the socially accepted way to have sex, ie – vaginal.
7. Men are not allowed – Some companies are more open about this, but many prefer that men not attend sex toy parties. This is ridiculous both because it excludes men from the conversation, and from parties that actually sex men’s toys! Why should women be expected to read their partner’s mind?
Brenda Kerber, founder and owner of The Traveling Tickle Trunk, began her work with sex toys with a multi-level marketing company. She eventually left the company because she had problems with the way they operated and treated their employees or clients. Brenda shared her thoughts with me about multi-level marketing companies:
The company I worked for told us we would all be educators but the owner of the company never had an honest answer any time I asked her what was in the products we sold – we had large ‘educators’ conferences but they consisted of learning how to sell, not learning what the products were
Several of the consultants that I worked with went into major debt while working for this party company – this happens because you get seduced by all of the demos you can buy and the new sales tools with the promises of how much extra money you will make, and because most people don’t keep track of how much they are spending – they were dishonest about the actual earnings – they told us we made 50% commission – that was before expenses – when you calculated expenses into it, it dropped to 25% – about a year after I started working with them, they rolled out a new structure that significantly dropped our commission and increased expenses so that we made 7-8% – that means if we did a party where we worked about 5 hours and made $600 in sales (pretty average amount of work and sales), we made about $48 – about $10 an hour. The only reason I didn’t go into debt is because I’m anal retentive about money. When I saw what was happening, I got out.
Men were definitely allowed at our parties and couples parties were encouraged but the company’s advertising, their training procedures, and their product choices were rife with sexual stereotyping – even their logo was a hetero couple symbol
To me the biggest problem is that they pretty much prey on people. Even if they are good companies with good reps like partylite and tupperware, they are still preying on the little guy. Everyone up the chain gets a chunk of the pie which means the one on the bottom is working for all of them. And it means the customer has to pay the price.
- example of the money from passion parties – I don’t know the middle men but I know this much – passion parties pays about $45.00 for each We Vibe they get because they are huge company that buys massive quantities in bulk – they sell it to their reps for $89 so they make a tidy 100% markup on the product – they can’t price it at $99 or $109, which is a standard price for a We Vibe because then the rep is only getting 11 to 22% markup – so they sell it for $130 to give them a respectable 46% markup – the customer and the consultant both get dinged on that – the consultant cost is almost regular retail price!
Brenda started the Traveling Tickle Trunk because she loved her sex education work but couldn’t abide by the predatory marketing of her former employer. The Traveling Tickle Trunk offers sex toys parties both in your home and, for smaller parties, at our store! Our consultants are well-trained in sexual health education, queer and fem-positive and are well-equipped to answer all your questions about our products. They also bring stock with them, so you can take your new toys home the night you buys them instead of waiting for them to be shipped. If you are interested in hosting a party, you can check out our party page and book yours online!
**Special Note – Our July 27th workshop, Female Orgasm 101, only has 3 spots left! Register online here.