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Amid Vietnam Gloom, US Company Promises Riches

The company says in the U.S. the average commission for an entry-level distributor is around $500 a month, and that the attrition rate is 63 percent. Nu Skin, which is predicting revenue of more than $2 billion this year, declined to give a breakdown of its commission figures in Asia.

MLM companies have mushroomed in Vietnam over the last 10 years. The industry is worth $200 million a year and employs over 1 million distributors, according to the government-sanctioned MLM association.

The businesses, local and foreign, have a bad reputation after hundreds lost money in well-publicized fraudulent schemes over the last year. The government has pledged to tightly regulate the sector.

The MLM business has a patchy reputation in other parts of Asia also.

Nawarat Rojpientham started selling Nu Skin products in her native Thailand in 2010 after being introduced to them by a friend. The 40-year old stopped after less than a year, with more than $200 worth of stock in her home unsold. She complained of high pressure from team leaders, unreasonable sales targets and an inability to make money regardless of how hard she worked.

"They would implant this idea inside your head that you have to find more clients and sell more products, and that's what I did every day for almost a year," the mother of two and former nurse said. "The only one who really benefited from the sales was the company, not me. I had to buy a lot of products each month to meet the quota. But it wasn't worth it, in the end."

The company's website warns that the business is not a "get rich quick program" and that "generating meaningful compensation as a distributor requires considerable time, effort, and commitment. Critics claim the profits earned by multilevel marketing companies are dependent on a constant churn of people like Rojpientham, who face stiff odds of ever making a decent living.

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