If I were to put a new sandwich on my bistro’s menu, then accept a bunch of orders, I must find a way to serve my lunch crowd in time for them to get back to the office. If I can’t deliver on what I’ve promised, then I seemingly need to take the sandwich off the menu, hire more cooks, or just shutter the damned restaurant and grab a non-stop to São Paulo. Resource Constraint 101, right?
The less obvious option, of course, is to only provide as many seats as I have the capacity to serve, while still making the kind and quality of sandwich that I take pride in sharing with customers. And, right now, metaphorical Chef Me is very interested in transitioning my cafe to an artisanal, 2-table affair. They’re easy to clean, and there’s almost never a line for the loo.
This seems like a sustainable approach that manages expectations while letting me behave like the grownup, authentic cook that I want to be. But, then it gets weird.
Because, as it turns out, the already-belabored metaphor goes insanely upside down when I notice there’s a disused door in the back of my imaginary kitchen. And, when I open it up, I discover a giant-ass studio full of whiteboards and books and fresh coffee and piles of clean, white, 20# paper waiting to be filled with words and pictures.
Holy shit. This explains why I’m always so stressed out about making sandwiches; turns out the job that I really want to be doing is getting killed by the time I spend sweating in my makebelieve kitchen. Sure, I love making sandwiches and meeting customers (as long as I’m not shitting out McCrap or fake-smiling as I pretend to recognize people I’ve never actually met). But this new studio thing? That changes everything.
That’s where I want to be.
Moral of the Story
Email’s not really a sandwich, and I don’t really own a cafe or a big studio. Yet.
But, it’s clearer than ever to me that we all need to cut back on every part-time attention sink as far as we can tolerate. Then we need to manage expectations with everyone who’s standing outside, wondering what happens in that big, cool building behind the cafe.
“Just as spilling means licking in fraternities at college, so crunching shall mean skullfucking under my regime at the picture house.”—Vitamin Briefcase, 17 Simple Rules For Going To The Cinema With Me. Via Kottke
“…two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change…”—The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. Snippet from the 8th sentence of the book that, for some reason, passes through my mind every 3 weeks or so, making me both sad and happy.
I’ve become a fast fan of the YouTube scene around MLM, “Cash Gifting”, and the wider world of casual money scams and pyramid schemes. I’ve become so obsessed with it that yesterday I made a tribute video.
Now, you know me. I’m not one to explain a joke. It’s like diagramming an orgasm. But my video has confused a few people. Which is okay, of course — it’s part of my mission to confuse different people about different things — but I’d be bummed if the video didn’t make sense for any reason other than that you simply had not yet been exposed to YouTube’s improbable world of MLM marketing.
After watching even 2 or 3 of the thousands of MLM videos clotting YouTube’s servers, you’ll discover that this grainy little demimonde is, by turns, hilarious, insane, heartbreaking, infuriating, and completely exhausting. It’s also apparently very popular with people who crave easy money and have access to a video camera.
Like the universes around spam, black hat SEO, trolling, and super-weird European porn, it’s tempting to turn reflexively in another direction, assuming (correctly) that most of this is a tragic trainwreck, or assuming (incorrectly) that everyone involved in this bullshit is simply stupid and “evil.” It’s way more fascinating and nuanced and ultimately educational that that. This is America, my friend.
No, I won’t stipulate on how smart most of these folks are — many seem to struggle with the basic mechanics of adult life and almost all clearly lack an understanding of why pyramid schemes simply cannot work — but most absolutely are not evil. They’re just desperate. And that desperation exudes in unintentionally hilarious ways through every attempt to display wealth and prestige in their bizarre homemade videos.
Sights and sounds that we are not meant to focus on tell the real story. Just off-mic, children shriek and fight. Dishes are being washed. Entrepreneurs sit in dining rooms reminiscent of East Germany in the mid-70s. People claiming to make 10s of 1000s of dollars a day sit at broken desks and threadbare couches. “Checks” for $2000 are opened in what looks like the Silence of the Lamb’s guy’s satellite office.
In short, many of these videos are the equivalent of using a Sharpie to scrawl “Gucci” on the bag that holds your foreclosure notice. It’s sad. But it’s funny. And it’s sure weird. And it’s very, very American.
Let’s start with Brent. He’s going to to tell you how to “improve your financial situation” with cash gifting. He’s not here to sell you anything.
Then, this is Tony. He’s in his unfinished basement and his hat says he ♥s his Church. He’s gotten “FOUR ENVELOPES!" Wow. Look at all that money. And, look: there’s his family. He has 5 kids. 5 kids.
Jerry has a whiteboard. And a TinyUrl. I like to use an acronym to remember his system: “FPD.”
A lot of the videos “subtly” imply that this person is leading a life of leisure thanks to MLM. Many videographers are “just getting home” from golf or “just about to head out” to a day with the family. Darren’s had some coffee, played some golf, and now he wants to take a minute to catch you up on his progress.
Some of my favorite videos appear to be warnings or cautionary tales, but turn out to be pitches for the “blessings” of cash gifting
This is Ron Grant. He’s going to train you on how to market online and get high traffic for your YouTube videos. It’s obviously worked for him; as I write this, Ron’s video, posted almost 2 months ago, has had 99 views.
Here’s Kyle. He has a “revolutionary new Cash Gifting system.” And a ceiling fan. And a sweet beard.
Amber wants to make sure you have leadership.
So, that’s some of the typical videos.
My favorites are the “Cash Proof” videos. This is a popular genre in which Cash Gifting receivers open “real envelopes,” hold up checks, or show their Paypal account on-screen. So they can prove all that money they’re making. I love these.
This is the Overnight Cash System. People send you money; you have “automated solutions.”
Here’s Kevin. Wow. He even has an adding machine.
Three rows of 10 100-dollar bills!
This one goes for “80s Montage”-style proofing. Man, I’m going to dream about the guy in the mask tonight. And not in a good, wholesome, happy way.
CashGiftSite is making a shit-ton of money, but he’s not going to blow that on a lot of fancy signage.