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The New Pyramid Scheme: Smart Circle Under Different Names

Just a small town conservative accountant, Jeff Vickery loves to hunt, talk politics, and drink sweet tea.

The people at the top receive the bulk of the rewards.

The people at the top receive the bulk of the rewards.

The Smart Circle MLM Scheme

There are a growing number of pyramid schemes out there. It Works, Vector Marketing, Avon, and Mary Kay are a few popular ones. However, they each require their members/partners to buy the products in order to stay in good standing with the company. A company called Smart Circle is now on the rise and has a similar multi-level marketing plan by which they promote their employees. The difference between these "Pyramid Schemes" and Smart Circle is that Smart circle does not require that you buy their product, and they pay you an hourly wage.

What makes Smart Circle a similar business model to a pyramid scheme is that they require their employees to recruit other successful members in order to receive a promotion. In contrast, most businesses promote employees based on individual performance.

If you've ever been to Wal-Mart or Sam's Club and been asked to purchase Direct TV services, skincare products, professional sports ticket packages, or even towels, you have encountered a Smart Circle representative. They're always dressed in suits, and they pester every single shopper that they possibly can. If they're lucky, they make a sale a day.

My Experience With Smart Circle

I was on the hunt for a job, and I still am. I have a decent job working as a repairman, but I don't exactly get the hours I need. I looked on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago, and sure enough, I found a couple of marketing jobs that I thought were right up my alley. One was a company called BIQ Marketing, and the other was a company called Morph Management Group. Both companies were in Little Rock, Arkansas which is close to where I lived, and both companies claimed to be looking for managers, so I was very interested as I had just recently completed the coursework for my bachelor's degree. Naturally, I submitted my resume to both companies.

Less than 24 hours later, I got a call from Morph Management Group. It was a lady claiming to be the CEO of the company. I thought that it was interesting that a CEO would take on the process of hiring someone, but I figured that it might just be a small startup, so I went to the interview and all. I arrived at their small office in a large building off of Financial PKWY and filled out an application. We talked about normal stuff. She (the "CEO") asked me simple prefabricated questions and told me that new hires are typically moved up into an executive position within six to nine months of hard work. So I agreed to a second interview with another employee of Morph the following day at a nearby Sam's Club.

Before driving home from my interview with Morph, I received a call from BIQ Marketing. BIQ also wanted to do an interview in an even nicer building than Morph, so I was excited to visit the office before the second interview with Morph the following day. When I arrived on the 17th floor of the Regions Building, I waited in the lobby and filled out an application.

When I was brought back to the office of BIQ Marketing, I noticed again that the office was very small. It was apparent that I would not be working in this office. This lady categorized herself as an owner of the company. Unlike Morph Management, she was more forward with the understanding of the market structure, and she seemed like she really needed me to be a part of her company. She also invited me to a second interview at Sam's Club, but this time on the same day.

Later that day, I went to Sam's Club in North Little Rock for my second round interview with Morph Management Group. I met a guy there who was very polite and energetic. He asked me a few questions, but this time a little more intensively. One of the questions even had me sweating, and I couldn't think of a good answer. However, he showed me the product that he was selling: a skincare product that quickly removed dead skin, unlike anything I had ever seen. The thing I really didn't like was that he just went up to random people and asked for their wrist, and then he proceeded to rub it on their skin. It seemed like a total violation of privacy, but most people didn't seem to mind.

Many were amazed at how well the product seemed to work. While he was showing me how he marketed the product line, he actually tried to recruit a customer to join his company. I was offended by this slightly, but later, I understood why.

After the second interview with Morph, I waited in the parking lot of Sam's Club for my second interview with BIQ Marketing. After the wait, I went in to find the same lady that I had interviewed with before at BIQ. She was very nice and asked me to simply approach a customer and ask him if he currently had a cable provider. I did as so, and she told me that I did great, so she discussed a few things about the product (Direct TV) and invited me to come work for her company. I accepted. I was promised $9.00 an hour or up to $150 for each bundle I sold. Morph Management actually called me the next day to invite me to a third-round interview, but I declined as I had already accepted the job at BIQ.

The first fishy thing I noticed was that the background check at BIQ was the same exact background check used by Morph. This background check was conducted by Sterling Management Group. I quickly researched Sterling to find out that it was actually a part of Smart Circle. The two brands were operating under the same roof. I researched Smart Circle to find negative reviews online and a whole article dedicated to urging people not to go work for them. Most reviews online described Smart Circle as a pyramid scheme.

I ended up going to the two 3-hour training sessions. Yes, a total of six hours of training, and then you're out on the sales floor. After talking to my friends and family, I decided to end my employment with BIQ. BIQ wanted me to work around 45 hours a week with only Wednesday off, and they refused to allow time off for my weekly church service. The hours were also crazy. Typically they ran 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekdays and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the weekends. Their hours leave employees with no chance to spend time with friends and family or even participate in daytime activities.

All in all, I ran back to my repair job after the eye-opening experience with Smart Circle.

Yes, that's exactly how it's supposed to work.

Yes, that's exactly how it's supposed to work.

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Don't Get Caught up in This Scam

In essence, Smart Circle is a pyramid scheme. Owners/Marketing Managers earn what is known as "residuals" for the success of the ones below them that they have recruited. BIQ Marketing's owner told me herself that she would profit from me becoming the owner of my own company. She even told me that once I got to that point, I would run my own office with whatever company name I chose, and I would be able to recruit others and earn residuals from their success.

Sadly, most people don't succeed in the Smart Circle program. The owner told me herself that they have a high turnover, and most employees quit or get fired for lack of performance. Any sane person should think twice before leaving a decent job to participate in this scam. Smart Circle enslaves its employees through false hope with low pay and horrible working hours.

Find a real job with a real company. Don't be suckered into some sales gig. Stick to the good companies that offer health insurance, 401k, and a regular Monday-through-Friday working schedule.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Jeff Vickery


Sydney Nye on August 27, 2020:

Man, look at all the Hunbots in the comments section claiming this is a legitimate business. It's not, especially at the level of hours involved in those smart circle "jobs"

anyone that says "MLMs aren't pyramid schemes, pyramid schemes are illegal" - remember, murder is illegal, so by your logic there shouldn't be people dying from murder right now. Now you see how stupid you sound

Cliff on May 28, 2020:

Here's a riddle for you:

People agree to make subs at subway for 10 bucks an hour. People work with smart circle to do a job for an hourly wage. Executives at subway make 6 and 7 figures. Executives at smart circle make 6 and 7 figures. What's the difference?

Take a look at the author. Look him up. He has nothing going for himself at all except for this article. And if he knows so much about it being a "scam" then, why would costco work with them? Sometimes the level of stupidity amazes me. But not this time. Lol

Norman Ngema on October 21, 2019:

Is it legit? Is it easly marketable follow me. The very easy way to join the wealthy society

Wendy on October 20, 2019:

The premise of this article is not accurate and true. This author should do some more research before he writes about something spreading false and ignorant information. MLMs are by definition not Pyramid Schemes. Pyramid Schemes are illegal. On the other hand there are many legal and legitimate MLMs in business making lots and lots of people a little income on the side or a great big income.

Bill on August 18, 2019:

I was a “CEO” with this company. Although it was a great learning experience, it is definitely a scam and an MLM opportunity. Smart Circle is a genius business model in that it produces great results for its clients (Costco, Sams Club, and Walmart) at the cost of victimizing 90% of its employees. Do they pay hourly? Of course they do! However, they pay you for time in store. Time in the office, conducting interviews, and attending conferences are all unpaid. If you ever ask about being paid for THAT time worked and you are told that “you are investing in yourself.”

Once I was an owner (operating a national TOP sales office) I realized that

A: I didn’t actually run my own company. Smart Circle forced me to sign power of attorney.

B: most of the recruiting, website, and background check services were owned by Smart Circle. (Smart circle was finding multiple ways to shave profits)

C: Any deviation from the “Management Training Program” (recruiting drives the business) would result in an “owner” being shut down.

Basically, the only way to retain top talent and convince them to work 45+ hours per week for minimum wage pay was to promise advancement. Since the turnover is so incredibly high (I hired and fired over 550 employees in my 1.5 years of business: we only had 8-10 employees in store at any given time)

Even the most successful owners don’t usually last. If you can make it to regional (top 10 owners in the company with 15-20 first generation promotions) then you can usually weather the storm and endure a long time career with Smart Circle.

Anyone who is endorsing this company is still drinking the kool-aid. Other 3rd party labor companies are out there and they don’t victimize their employees.

Very Satisfied on July 23, 2019:

The company is legitimate. I was able to grow with the company and yes I sacrificed some time hanging with friends and yes I had to practice discipline. Its for the entrepreneurial minded. You will get no where thinking from a 9-5 weekends off mentality. Ask Bill gates if that was ever his schedule. I never paid anyone to get ahead. I followed my mentors advice worked hard, asked questions and understood the business. They don’t grow by recruiting they grow by teaching others to do what they do. Its people helping people which is how empires are built. There were no scams and you choose what hours you are willing to commit like any other job. The ones who do more more make more, thats life, thats any company. Smart circle does not hide behind other companies its just an acquisition company. I am not a sales person never have been. I retired my mother and paid her a weekly income with this career. Now I get paid for things I don't do because I was ok with being front loaded. Doing more now to have more later and I don't have to wait 40 years to retire on 40% of my income. I was given a clear cut path to success so I knew exactly what needed to be done to get to the next level and I did that and some. Its been 4 and 1/2 years and I cant say. I broke the chains of working for someone and I took control of my finances. I work for my self not Smart Circle. They have their own business to apply to. Businesses and fortune 100 clients just do business with them. No one has ever had power over my funds or controlled what I spent. My name is on my business license, my name is on my bank accounts not Smart Circle. Maybe you just didn't do enough homework or ask questions. Its not for you but that doesn't mean its not a great company. You didn't work for Smart Circle you worked for a company that does business with them and provides access to their clients. If I'm fooled its thousands of other really successful people fooled all around the world that are very paid happy and Grateful for the opportunity Smart Circle provides. People that provided jobs for their community, did charity events and gave back, became CEOs before 21-25 if you think its a scam. I want you all to ask the company you work for will they invest in you to open your own branch with no return on investment and teach you what they know. Im sure they are fine with you just working there until you grow old and fine giving you those $1 raises every year while they make all the profit and while you're over there budgeting out that same paycheck every two weeks and with no hope of making more unless you work more hours, sacrificing the things you want. Now thats the scam. Thats the 40 40 40 trap. Be smart, try it, quitters never win. Doing business with Smart circle (I do not work for them) was the best thing that ever happened to me! This was the only career that allowed me to be able to work 2 days at only 4 hours a piece and still make a $800-$900 in just those two days. I never knew this kind of stuff existed. Well it does and I took full advantage which is why I grew into ownership and will continue to give opportunity to others. This single mom did it. So how is this a scam? The proof is in the pudding.

Elanv on July 12, 2019:

I've been a business owner for 12 years.

I've investigated smart circle. #1 They don't hire people to do sales. Not sure if you know that. Smart Circle works with top retailers across the world. These retailers need a sales force because they dont have them. Smart circle contracts independent distributors (business owners) to fill the demand. So everytime you say they work for smart circle that is 100% incorrect.

The "CEO" should not be put into quotation marks if they actually a CEO of their business. You dont have to have a large company to be a ceo. you could be the ceo of a lemonade stand.

The 6 to 9 month process is to teach you how to do sales and manage people (Two high paying skills of corporate professionals as well). Once you learn it, you can run a market of your own make even more. No different then getting promoted at a taco bell and now you are in charge of a store 20 miles away and you relocate for more money. Is that a scheme?

And The fact you got a call back quickly is a good thing... or would you prefer it take longer?

And since you don't pay ANY money to smart circle whatsoever, or the company you actually worked for (the one that was on your check) how are they scheming you? In fact, if you get an hourly wage... how is it any different than getting an hourly wage at subway?? And why complain about 8.50. You took the job did you not??? Thats on you! None of the accusations hold up Waitresses make less than THAT! Is that a scam? no. And they also make tips which are basically bonuses.

Morph doesnt work for smart circle. He runs his own company. And does he recruit? Well, duh... any business that needs people "recruits" or hires people. That's semantics. Come on guys lets smarten up.

high turnover? yes... when jobs require more skill with greater challenges, turnover is higher. But so are the benefits.This includes the cia and fbi the nfl and nba too. are those bad companies or organizations? Just because you tried out for the nfl and didnt make it doesnt mean its a bad sport. chances are you just arent good at sales... which is fine.

If they were an MLM then there should be some kind of buy-in. theres not. it should be commission only. it's not. Read again what a MLM or pyramid scheme is.

If MLM you should be required to recruit. You're not. But if you want to manage a business then ABSOLUTELY you should learn to interview!!! how else would you suggest getting good at them?

Whew... a little less biased resarch would serve your audience better i think. And lastly Smart Circle doesnt operate under hundreds of names. That's illegal lol on top of that... if they did, how would we even know about smart circle. It's because it's their ONLY name. the other companies work WITH smart circle. along with costco, sams club and home depot. heres a good question, do you think you know more about smart circle than 3 billion dollar businesses... guys come on.

and devil corp? so do i REALLY have to be the only one? i have to be that guy? fine... does nobody care how about the author of devil corp? the images of people with devil horns? have you asked what KIND of person would even do that? Do you know someone who would EVER make a website dedicated to the destruction of sales guys and politicians? How much time do you think he spent putting horns on a thousand heads. I wonder why he has so much free time. they even put up politicians from one city because he didnt like their ruling in a case!!! and THAT person you follow? wow.

sales are simple. sell and make money. dont and you wont. thats not a scam. it how business works. name a business that DOESNT sell a service or product??? thats not rhetorical either. well guess what.... SOMEONE HAS TO DO THE SELLING. how else do you think companies generate revenue?

Richard on July 01, 2019:

I know all about the smart circle. It is not a pyramid scheme. Im not a fan of the style they use but i will share this. I started with a company in 94 and a few months later started doing it myself and still do. Over the years i have had sales people and the ones that succeed the best are usually people that have nothing and they buy in because it becomes family. I have a part timer making 50k a year working every other week another full time almost 100k. Others full time in the 40’s. You get out what you put in. Your look no offense would be a negative as i deal with only salons but if you had an outgoing personality can overcome. You seem like a follower which is ok but you cant call someones business a sham because it is not your cup of tea. Btw what is a real job and real company....att, verizon and lets not forget the government rip people off every day. Last i knew i paid for a business license, paid business taxes etc. best of luck with your real job and when you see a handyman let him know its not a real business

Tyrion Lannister on April 24, 2019:

Good article. Worked for Smart Circle for about a year and a half and I definately drank the kool aid the whole time. All the people supporting this company on here are obvious current brain washed employees like I once was.

Jeff Vickery (author) from Somewhere, Arkansas on April 15, 2019:

You obviously either can’t read or you did not read the article. I outlined factual ways that smart circle can be compared to a pyramid scheme. I also outlined how Smart Circle contrasts from a pyramid. You can also watch the video for more information which I know you don’t have time to do because you’re too busy working 55 hours a week for $8.50 an hour. And if you really think you own your own business at any point during your smart circle career you are dead wrong. If you do make it to that point (you likely won’t) you will be forced to give smart circle power of attorney over your bank account. That’s a concept you’ve likely never heard of because I’m assuming you never went to college. Because nobody with a brain and a degree would go work for smart circle for over a month. Unless you majored in liberal arts. Lol

Matt on April 15, 2019:

what are you stupid. do you honestly think that two of the largest retailers in the world with partner up with smart circle if they were a scam. last time i checked scams do not give out a W2 forms. Sams club and walmart would never let a pyramid scheme in the store.

Kenn on January 31, 2019:

This is NOT for everyone. Calling it a scam is just an excuse for not being able to sell something. This takes a little confidence and smarts! There is absolutely NO pyramid to this. The clients pay for ther leads.Its that simple.Most of these sales are like shooting fish in a barrel! This is a great business model for someone to work hard and eventually open there OWN business. No partners! The numbers speak for themselves. If you can't hack it get out! This is sales! Your mom cant help you! Dont bash it just because it was too hard for you! Good luck in you future endeavors!

Stephanie on December 23, 2018:

I have been working for Smart Circle for 8 months now. It’s not a scam at all. I am an Assistant Manager there and worked my ass off. It’s true you have to work a lot of hours but then again, I never thought about the hours because I cared more about the commission.

The ones who are good in it are the ones who are good in selling. If the people under me are not producing, it comes out of the sales team’s production. Of course we have a high turnover rate because it’s not everybody. My owner is fantastic and doesn’t overwork me, I choose to because I want the opportunity. Plus we get paid on selling home security, internet, cellphones, cellphone protection, and TV’s not just TV service.

The ones who complain about Smart Circle weren’t good in selling or just cared about hourly. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. That’s why there’s less than 10% :P

Jill on November 21, 2018:

What creates legitimacy for me is that I am seeing people in the industry get promoted: 1 every 3 months. The owner invests $20k into the start-up. Many of the businesses fail within the first year, but a good percentage actually begin making 6 figures within the first year.

Once I see that the results are real, it becomes your own decision whether you want to put in the work. It's not for everybody. But growing up with parents who are business owners, the work hours don't seem so long.

Scott on October 16, 2018:

Yeah, I was recruited by a Smart Circle branch when translating from KS to CO. I was overjoyed just to have a job offer vs start with nothing in a new city. I have my BA in Com/Marketing and was just eager and thought this would help me in my budding career. Bad move. Shame, cultist methods, shifty information, gender favoritism, and dishonest practice pledged my 7 months of working there and by the time it was over, I was one of the vets of the branch (just to show how foolish I was to stick with it and how bad the turnover was). I've made it my mission to warn anyone of Smart Circles' dressed up branches and shifty ways. I'm very convinced it's a closed system for the goods/services (in which recruitment ends up being the primary revenue generator and not sales of the products you paid wholesale cost for) which makes since because the promotional element is never that great of a promotion (just amazon any of the offers these jokers push) but if enough pretty, motivated people smile and recommend you be part of the team it's easy to get lost. "be your own boss" "use an entrepreneur mindset" "a 9-5 job is for losers" "no where else can you make this sort of $" this sort of prosperity slanted rhetoric is laughable but permeates the DNA of these "businesses." I knew tons of young creatives who followed suit and this sort of "job" caused them to walk away from their creative careers because it burnt them. Thanks for writing. Good work. Know your enemy

Austin Marshall on September 15, 2018:

Is it possible that a major American city is in bed with this company? Why are San Diego's elected officials featured on The Devil Corp website? If you go to the Executive Teams section and scroll down, you will find portraits of the mayor, the city council, the DA, the sheriff, and just about every judge in the county all with devil horns on their heads. Why are politicians from America's 8th largest city displayed on a website that apparently has nothing to do with them? Do they know they're on the site?

Jeff Vickery (author) from Somewhere, Arkansas on March 13, 2018:

Having no ownership interest in a company but running it from the outside. Smart. That must be why they call you smart circle. Is it true that Smart Circle also requires the companies they contract with to provide smart circle with power of attorney over their bank accounts or is that just something I read in an article? Notice that my article was a personal account of my experience, nothing more. Speculation or false information was not given.

Dearest Jeff on March 13, 2018:

You seem like a super nice guy, I would reconsider the strong language you are using. Not everything you read online is true, and that is what you said scared you off from the job. A multi level marketing scheme is like Mary Kay, or company that has you market to your friends and family. Then has you recruit your friends and family. What you applied for was a sales job at Sams club, selling direct tv. You were going to be paid an hourly plus bonuses, and since your direct reports are running a business (which they are probably contracted to do by Sams Club or whoever) they only get paid of the performance of their sales team. This is not at all a scam or multi level marketing scheme. This is how sales works. I understand it was probably your one and only sales job ever, and why I know I cant stomach sales jobs - but the ones who prosper in these roles are good at selling. And they get good by failing and getting rejected alot. I appreciate you trying to warn us about a scam, all you are doing is spreading misinformation -- even though you are well intended.

Lets face it, you probably were dealing with a couple of sellsy, shady personalities - no doubt, if you werent getting a good feeling about the job but to blast a whole company and misinform us -- i dont know that seems excessive considering how good your nature seems.

Oh and your video is a British guy talking about a completely different company ?

lol on February 08, 2018:

The poster Made it! is - to put it nicely- huge idiot. 10 years to make 50k? you have no idea how the world works. Of course companies would partner with these companies as long as there are real time results. That is how the company runs, it is a legal scam!!

Geoffry Vickery on December 02, 2017:

Lol you are blind! If you work for smart circle or are a marketing manager you are working for them

Basic Entrepeneur on December 02, 2017:

"Stick to the good companies that offer health insurance, 401k, and a regular M-F working schedule"

Sounds like the perspective of an employee that would rather work for someone else instead of themselves, and have another person dictate their schedule. Personally I'd rather be a business owner, control my time, and make money by helping other people make money first.

Erik on August 31, 2017:

Currently work for a branch of Smart Circle. All of these claims are legit. I've had my eyes opened up to a whole new industry I never even heard or imagined.

MADE IT! on August 30, 2017:

I see how it is easy to get caught up in the BS online, and when I first joined Morph, I thought the same thing, until I realized that these major companies would not put themselves at risk working with scams. It doesn't make ANY business sense. My dad is a lawyer, and checked it out. It's legit. I had some personal family issues in Texas, so I could not continue with the program, but the CEO knows her stuff. Also, every company on Earth has the same structure, except you don't have a chance of making over 50 or 60K, and you have to work in those places for almost 10 years before that. Anyone who has the time to seriously write a blog bashing companies is not someone I would want to get professional business advice from. But that is just my take. I can't speak to the other company because I didn't work there.

Jeff Vickery (author) from Somewhere, Arkansas on July 11, 2017:

Yes but Smart Circle operates under hundreds of different offices which are all under different company names, making it impossible to google the name of the company that is trying to hire you.

The Logician from then to now on on July 11, 2017:

When in doubt just google the co. name with the word scam after it!

Appears your assessment is right on.

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