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The American Journal Segment on Amway

On 2/14/94,American Journal aired an investigative report on Amway which featured John and Stacy Hanrahan, a Pennsylvania couple who had filed a class action lawsuit against Amway, Bill Britt and Dexter Yager. The report included hidden camera footage taken at Amway open meetings, as well as interviews with the Hanrahans, Pat Henry, whose husband was an Amway distributor, and others.

Here are some excerpts from that show, in the order in which they appeared.


Pat Henry: It was a living hell...it was like living a nightmare. I was actually scared because I didn't know what these people were capable of doing, how far they would go.

Stacy Hanrahan: I wanted John, our children wanted John, and Amway wanted John, and Amway wanted John at any cost.

Stephen Butterfield:Because, let's face it, most distributors in the organization are not going to make money, they're going to lose, so what's going to keep them involved is constant brainwashing and manipulation...cult style tactics.

American Journal: You have to build a network of hundreds of independent distributors before you turn a worthwhile profit ... The first step on getting into Amway is going to an introductory meeting. You're not allowed to bring video cameras, so we went in undercover. There we were told how little effort it takes to make lots and lots of money.

Amway distributor (on hidden camera):So I am talking about $100,000 that you can make in your spare time without giving up what you do during the day.

Another distributor: Imagine going home tonight and thinking what life would be like being totally free. Can you imagine, Andy, waking up at the crack of noon?

AJ: Critics say they hook you by telling you over and over again that through Amway your dreams will come true.

Amway distributor: We dream Mercedes-Benz. We dream little Porsches. Maybe if you had big dreams, you'd dream Lamborghini, or Ferrari, or Maserati, or something nuts.

AJ: John says before he knew it, his commitment to Amway became the main focus of his life.

John Hanrahan: You wake up in the morning, you have your Amway toothbrush. You have your Amway toothpaste. You have your Amway deodorant. You listen to your Amway tapes on the way to work. You have an Amvox answering machine system that you call into several times a day to get your motivational messages...

SH: They advise distributors to not read the newspapers. They advise distributors not to watch television. And surprisingly enough, distributors listen.

PH: The deceitfulness that I saw, that the way they taught him to operate. They go through the want ads, people selling things, and they call up acting as if they're interested in buying, but then a week later they call them back. Stop to help someone on the highway...you're a nice person because you stopped to help, but they get names and phone numbers and they call the people back a week later.

AJ: Pat Henry says her husband's personality changed drastically...

PH: I would not go out with him in public. And I knew his real reason for making friends with people...it wasn't for true friendship, it was to get a person to join.

AJ: Distributors are egged on by motivational books and rallies...there are meetings that last well into the wee hours of the morning.

JH: When you get tired you become more receptive to outside influence.

AJ: During the day, you are supposed to listen to tapes that, among other things, give you advice on how to behave...

Bill Britt (on audiotape): We talk about women being in submission to Man, to her husband. Of course that's what God's Word say. But a lot of people want to disagree with that.

SH: It's very personal, private information. For instance, how to interact with your wife, how to raise your children, what your religious beliefs should be.

AJ: Distributors are also told to eliminate what are known as "negatives."

JH: Anybody who says anything "negative" about Amway becomes basically the enemy. First of all, they have you make a list of your friends and your relatives and your neighbors and people that you know, and you try to get them in the business. If they don't have anything to do with it, you don't associate with them any more...they're not your friends any more. You're going to have new friends, your going to have an Amway family.

BB: I've been criticized for it, but I'm going to keep on saying, if Peggy would come hone to me and say it's either her or the business, I'd have her pack her bags...But my manhood is worth more to me than Peggy, and I'm not going to become a wimp to make my wife happy.

SH: And John packed his bags and he left, and he left me and our children, for Amway.

AJ: You left your family for Amway?

JH: I did.

AJ: John and Stacy eventually reconciled. So did Pat Henry and her husband, but she says while he was in independent distributor he took his cues from his superiors.

PH: It was like I was talking to a robot. He was programmed what to say.

AJ: So when you said "But you're losing money," he'd say...

PH: "But they all lost money in the beginning, and now they're millionaires."

AJ: And when you said "You're never home with the family," he said...

PH: "But I will be able to retire in the next few years."

Amway distributor (on hidden camera): I want you to understand that the income potential is absolutely unlimited.

AJ: Sociologist Jack Levin in an expert on cults. We asked him to evaluate Amway literature and tapes of their meetings.

Jack Levin: It does exactly the same thing on an economic level that a lot of other groups, like cults, would do on a religious level, or maybe on a self-actualization level. But it uses many of the same techniques. It gets people together in a common cause; it surrounds them with social support; it provides charismatic leadership that gives them guidelines for living...

AJ: Amway refused our repeated requests for an interview, so we confronted Jean Valerio, the senior associate who made all the promises at the introductory meeting. She was with a fellow distributor.

Jean Valerio: This whole business is determined by, the success is determined by whether or not you like yourself, and want more for yourself, and are interested in other people.

AJ: Isn't the success of this business really dependent on how many people you prospect, how many people you bring in, take to meetings...

JV: How many people you share with...

AJ: What are you sharing? You tell them "You come in, then you sign up other people, then they sign up people," and not really doing anything.

JV: Did you understand the meeting?

AJ: What about people who say it's a cult.?

JV: I can't answer you. What about people who say "don't go into business, keep a job because they fix your teeth and you get hospitalization." What about people who are so narrow-minded they can't see beyond the scope of what they know?

AJ: But a job doesn't tell you how to raise your children...

JV: A job doesn't care how you raise your children, and a job doesn't care who you're fooling around with, and a job doesn't care if you drink at night and gamble. A job doesn't care.

AJ: What you're saying is Amway does give you a specific way of life, and isn't that cult-like?

JV: Have you looked up the word "cult" in the dictionary, or do you understand what it is when people are interested in people?

JH: They wanted me to become that person. They want everyone to become that person.

AJ: Describe that person to me.

JH: The person that lives, eats, sleeps, drinks, breathes Amway.


As expected, the Amway Faithful rallied on-line and attacked the credibility of American Journal and everyone who was featured on the show. The Hanrahans were just after money, their marriage was already shaky before John got involved in Amway, etc., etc. All this, of course, was just ignorant conjecture from people who never even met them. It was also claimed that the divorce rate in Amway is lower than in the general population (a claim I've seen made numerous times but never a shred of supporting evidence).

After refusing to be interviewed for the program, Amway chose to make its reply in relative secrecy, through Amway's private forum on CompuServe.