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Amid Vietnam Gloom, US Company Promises Riches

CHRIS BRUMMITT

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (AP) â¿¿ The Australian salesman flashed up a slide of a black Rolls Royce and pitched enticingly to a roomful of Vietnamese students facing an uncertain economic future: join me in selling anti-aging products and the car â¿¿ and much more â¿¿ could be yours in just a few years.

It's a simple formula that has worked well for the company, Nu Skin, which has stormed through Asia over the last two decades, racking up huge profits despite regulatory scrutiny over its marketing practices and the efficacy of the products that it sells.

Vietnam is the latest frontier for the Utah-based company, which set up here in August, launching at a time of stuttering economic growth, rising business bankruptcies and joblessness.

That kind of environment would hold back many consumer companies, but for multilevel marketers it is not necessarily a problem. Selling a cheap business opportunity, not to mention one that is billed as lucrative, is easier in troubled times. With unemployment lines lengthening, there are more potential recruits in a country where the average income is about $3,000 a year.

"When the economy is bad, people turn to us," said the Australian, Brian Tran, one of more than 100 foreigners who have come to Vietnam seeking a position atop the Nu Skin pyramid as it grows in virgin territory. "There are millions of unemployed. It is the right time for MLM. The market is just exploding."

Companies like Nu Skin market their skin care, weight loss and nutritional products via a network of independent distributors who get paid a commission on the volume they sell. The marketers are encouraged to sign up recruits and are then paid a commission based on sales they make. In such a way, a few thousand distributors at the top of sales networks spanning the world can make fantastic salaries. Tran, a "blue diamond" sales executive, claims to be on $45,000 a month, much of it from the Vietnam market. Those at the bottom make much less.

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