Is Thirty-One a pyramid scheme? Maybe you’re taking a look at joining as a consultant and want to make sure Thirty-One is a legit company with a legit opportunity.
Well, I have some good news and some bad news for you.
In my opinion:
I don’t think Thirty-One is a pyramid scheme, but I also wouldn’t recommend the business opportunity.
Let me show you why.
Let’s get into it!
What Is Thirty-One Gifts?
Thirty-One Gifts is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company founded in 2003 by Cindy Monroe. According to the site’s About page, Cindy started the company “to help women by giving them the opportunity to run their own successful business.”
The page then goes on to say, “Not only do our fashionable, functional products make life easier – they also help independent business owners across the country support their families and reach their dreams.”
We’ll get back to this a little later.
Thirty-One is mostly known for its totes, but they also have wallets, jewelry, travel accessories, duffel bags, scarves and thermals (lunch bags).
Prices on products range from about $10 to $130.
How Much Does it Cost to Join Thirty-One?
In order to become a consultant for Thirty-One you will need to purchase an enrollment kit. There are two options for kits:
- Signature Kit
- Design Your Own Kit
1. Signature Kit = $99
The Signature Kit comes with 12 products in the season’s top prints, plus business tools.
2. Design Your Own Kit = $130
This kit starts with the products and tools that are in the Signature Kit, but you can choose your own prints and you can also personalize some items.
There’s also a monthly fee of $16.95 for a customized website and branded emails.
Keep in mind other things you may need to purchase along the way:
- Additional products to display
- Food and drinks for home parties that you host
- Brochures, business cards, and other marketing materials
- Travel expenses
There’s also a 200PV (personal volume) quota in a three-month rolling period in order to remain active. This can get consultants into trouble, especially if you’re just getting started because you may have to cover that cost yourself in order to stay active.
Interesting to note:
There’s a disclaimer on the Thirty-One website that says residents in North Dakota do not have to buy an enrollment kit or the monthly website subscription. I haven’t seen these on other MLM pages, so if you know what this is about, I’d love for you to leave a comment below.
Thirty-One Compensation Plan
There are 6 ranks in the Thirty-One compensation plan.
- Consultant: Qualify with $1000 PV (Personal Volume) and stay active with 200PV over a rolling three-month period
- Senior Consultant: Recruit 2 qualifying consultants and maintain 200PV over a rolling three-month period
- Director: Recruit 4 qualifying consultants, $1000PV a month and $4000GV (group volume) in a month
- Senior Director: Recruit 2 qualifying consultants and maintain 2 qualifying directors, $1000PV a month and $4000GV (group volume) in a month + a sum total of PV and GV across generations 1 and 2 of $12,000 or more
- Executive Director: Maintain 4 qualifying directors, $1000PV a month and $4000GV (group volume) in a month + a sum total of PV and GV across generations 1 to 3 of $20,000 or more
- Senior Executive Director: Maintain at least 8 qualifying directors, $1000PV a month and $4000GV (group volume) in a month + a sum total of PV and GV across generations 1 to 3 of $36,000 or more
There are a couple of ways you can get paid:
- Retail Sales
- Team Sales
1. Retail Sales
Thirty-One consultants only get paid retail sales and do not qualify for team commissions. Here are the retail commissions for each level:
- Consultant – 25%
- Senior Consultants – 25%
- Director – 28%
- Senior Director – 30%
- Executive Director – 32%
- Senior Executive Director – 34%
2. Team Sales
Here are the percentages each rank gets on team sales:
- Senior Consultant – 2% on generation one
- Director – 3% on generation one and 2% on generation two
- Senior Director – 5% on generation one, 3% on generation two, 2% on generation three
- Executive Director – 7% on generation one, 3% on generation two, 2% on generation three
- Senior Executive Director – 9% on generation one, 3% on generation two, 2% on generation three
Thirty-One Gifts Income Disclosure
The Thirty-One income disclosure is pretty telling. While Cindy’s “why” in starting up Thirty-One was to empower women to earn an income that can help support their families and reach their dreams, this disclosure really tells another story.
Of course, not everyone who signs up for an MLM wants to actually do the business. Some sign up just to get a discount on the products. That’s fine, but even taking that into consideration, this chart is just abysmal.
If you’re out there selling Thirty-One because it gives you something to do and gets you out of the house, then fine. But there’s almost a 0% chance you’re supporting your family with this “business”.
Look closely at this chart.
This is yearly income. Before expenses.
As far as I know, you can’t live on $10,000 a year. That’s what almost all the consultants make.
By the way, according to the income disclosure, this includes 98,089 active consultants in 2018. That means less than 100 people make a good income with this.
Unfortunately there’s no breakdown of the numbers by rank. There’s an older income disclosure that someone broke down for us on reddit. You can see that here. That one is from 2015, and there were 151,849 consultants then. You can see that the level of consultants has dropped quite a bit since then.
Positive Reviews and Complaints
Thirty-One has an A+ rating with the BBB, but you can see that they are struggling with reviews. We’ll get back to that in a minute.
Some positive reviews I’ve read said things like:
- I love the bags, and Thirty-One has changed my life
- Great company with cute and fun products
- Great company that focuses on relationships and not just selling
- Amazing products, company and people
Now, let’s get to those Thirty-One complaints. It looks like the main issue is with processing times and customer service. It seems that sometime in the summer they moved a warehouse from Ohio to Texas which caused huge processing delays. Most of the complaints are due to this.
They mentioned things like:
- I placed an order for $300 in August and I can’t get a hold of anyone in customer service to find out where it is
- I held a party in July and the orders took 6 weeks to be delivered
- You should order your items 6 months in advance
- They took my money right away, but I still haven’t received my order
There were a few complaints about the products:
- The thermal bag liner ripped after just a few months
- These are just extremely overpriced bags
- My personalized item looks bad but I can’t return it because it’s personalized
And here’s an interesting comment from a former Thirty-One consultant:
I’ve seen more than once (more than several times) about how much drama goes on inside these MLMs. It can be really cutthroat in there…
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Is Thirty-One a Scam or a Pyramid Scheme?
Now the big questions. Is Thirty-One a scam? Is it a pyramid scheme? In my opinion, Thirty-One is not a scam. And I don’t think it’s a pyramid scheme either. With a heavier-than-usual focus on selling products retail (vs other MLMs like Nu Skin), I actually think this is one of the least pyramid scheme-y MLMs.
With that said, I don’t think it’s a great business to get into based on their income disclosure, their turnover rate, and their processing issues. Not to mention, MLMs are very hard to make work anyway due to their overpriced products. But maybe that’s just me.
Actually, it’s not just me. Their income disclosure proves it.
- Low startup cost
- People are generally happy with the products
- More retail-focused than most MLMs
- Fashion MLMs can be tough because things go out of season quickly. This could make you end up with a lot of leftover stock (if you have stock for parties). See the video below.
- MLMs are just hard to be successful in
- A growing number of people are skeptical of all MLMs and will call them pyramid schemes and scams even if they technically aren’t
- 99% of people lose money in an MLM
- Many MLMs are set up to “empower women”, but it turns out that the majority of women are disempowered by them
All That Thirty-One Inventory
I found this video on YouTube from a former Thirty-One consultant who went inactive without really getting notice that it was happening. She was fine with it since she did it for 6 years and was tired of it. What’s shocking is the amount of stuff she has stored up in her basement!
Although, let’s be real. It’s not that shocking. This is what happens with MLMs. You end up with a bunch of inventory that no one wants to buy. Happened to me too with Young Living.
An Alternative to Thirty-One
I always like to give an alternative to MLMs because I too fell for the appeal of working for myself on my own time. I love that. However, working an MLM can be quite stressful if you have to purchase inventory (some require it, some don’t), have a sales amount you need to hit, call up your friends and family, and all the other pitfalls that come with this business structure.
Instead of joining an MLM, you can run your own business by being an affiliate marketer. It’s easier and less expensive to get started than an MLM. You don’t need to purchase any starter kits or any inventory at all. You don’t need to recruit anyone, make any cold calls (or cold messages), host any parties or anything like that.
You simply create a website on a topic (niche) you enjoy and promote products that you recommend. If someone purchases those products through your site, you earn a commission.
You could join Amazon’s affiliate program and have a chance to promote any one of its billions of products. You could earn a commission on tote bags, just like with Thirty-One.
(Although, I would recommend promoting much higher-priced products for a higher commission.)
The sky’s the limit when you are an affiliate marketer because most major companies have an affiliate program, and they are free to join.
Is Thirty-One a pyramid scheme? I don’t think they are. Some MLMs are right on that line of being a pyramid scheme due to making more money from recruiting vs product sales. With Thirty-One, you would make more money from recruiting, but there is a big emphasis on selling the products retail and I think that gets them off the hook.
It’s still not a good business opportunity, and in fact, I think that makes it harder to make a decent living. (Which we saw from their income disclosure above.) Instead, I recommend taking your passion for earning an income online and start your own affiliate marketing website instead. It’s really easy to start a website now (takes about 30 seconds) and this free training – no credit card required – can teach you how to get it started step by step.
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