Thursday, March 23, 2006

Moved - Again

Sorry to disturb the merry-blogging with a rift in the party, but this blog is moving: again!

I still remember my very first blog at tBlog. I later shifted to Blogger because tBlog was getting all annoying with its troubles. Then because I am going to ORD, I started a new blog. Now that Blogger is always suffering from technical problems, I have decided to take the plunge and go with a paid hosting solution!

So, if you guys want to take the plunge too (US$29.40 for the first year if you follow this link and select the basic plan for one year), follow the blue brick road and enter "PIKAPI" as your promo code!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Infantry Scout

I was quite amazed to find the days fleeting past so quickly! The computer clock shows that it is Tuesday right now, but when I check it again, it surely will show Tuesday again (next week, I mean). Time sort of creeps up on me now that I am having fun at home.

The flab is coming back with a vengance, I am sure of it. Not only does it look more menacing than it ever did, I can't really sit down in a chair comfortably without the announcement of it's presence. And my trip to the swimming pool today actually made me doubt if I am actually actually the "elite of the battalion". I am sure you would be if your belly did heaved a jiggle right when you took off your shirt in the public changing room.

So I went on a binge: an obsession with clocking laps. I swam continuously for more than 16 rounds, which made me quite tired, like a dog running on a treadmill for hours.

So, a dog is a scout? Or are scouts dogs? (Check out results 3 to 8)

By the way, result number 2 does not look very reassuring to me...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Guess who this is?

If any of you pedophiles would like to contact the boy in those pictures, you may e-mail the address over at the side-bar.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Multi-level Marketing — Part II

Everyday, I see more and more friends joining multi-level marketing companies without getting a full picture of what these "opportunities" usually entail. I don't claim to be more knowledgeable about this than others, but having actually joined a MLM (that's where my $200 went, as mentioned in the other post), I got a first-hand insight into their tactics.

When you first join the company, the pressure would be upon you to purchase a set. They don't physically pressurise you, but through the talk (complete with plain A4 paper and pen), they would imply the disadvantages of not investing in at least one piece of the product, and using it for yourself.

They seemed to adjust their marketing pitch to your personality. I cannot vouch for this observation, since I did not stay there for long enough to see everything but the recruitment/marketing process. In my case, they told me that all the uplines in the company did purchase a set of the products themselves, regardless of whether they could afford it. It was brutally effective that I forgot about my mother's (and universal law of money) advice: Never spend more than you can afford to, even if it were for investment, never ever go into debt because of it!

Later, one of the uplines sat down with me, and explained to me the different markets for products. There are the hot, warm and cold markets. Cold markets are people that you don't already know yet, warm markets are people who you have gotten into contact with before. And finally, we have the hot market, which as you smart readers would already have realised, are your close friends and relatives.

(Right now, as I am writing this, I have absolutely no idea whether this should be a comfort, or something for me to worry about. Is this a popularity contest here?)

For first timers, you are expected to write down a list of all your contacts, along with their phone numbers, details about their family members, whether they are susceptible to marketing, their personality, salary, and address. From there, your upline would analyse together with you the first targets. From there, you would do either direct marketing (selling to your relatives/friends who can directly afford the product), or recruitment (getting people to join the company under you).

Recruitment is basically initiated from the phone. You pick up the phone, dial your friend/relative's number, and ask them out for lunch. (Hmm... How did that sound so familiar?) During this phone call, you are not allowed to mentioned "MLM, network marketing, opportunity, or anything related." For now, all you are supposed to do is to get the target out for lunch "whether you have to lie to him, or something", one of the senior uplines told me. Surprisingly, right on my first call, my friend called my bluff.

"Eh, you asking me out for lunch. Does it have anything to do with MLM or something?"

"(after a few seconds pause)... NO! Absolutely not! What makes you think that I am involved in MLM?"

"Hmm... Please don't blame me, I have a few friends who I haven't talked to for a long time, and when they all asked me out for lunch, it turned out to be a MLM. I have no interest in it, and I really hope that you are not lying to me."

That set off a trigger. I was about to lie to my friend just so that I could get him down to have lunch with me? I was at the risk of ignoring my conscience! In addition to that, I had not really thought through my feelings: was I interested in doing this in the first place? I remember being bombarded by images and stories of success, money, and cars; so much so that I had not really thought of my interest: Did I really want this to be my vehicle to success? My interest is in an online business, and not this! That tortured me, and I finished the call, extremely shaky.

At this point, I want to point out that MLM is a viable venture. You believe that you can earn money/get rich, but what is important is that you go in with your eyes wide open, especially to the many risks and pitfalls. I realised that my personal values do not align with those of MLM, (perhaps even marketing itself) and that this is probably a mistake making my decision to join purely based on their pitch alone. I don't like having to lie to friends, nor do I like earning money from my friends/relatives through using such tactics.

In short? I don't like the sound of this.

In the end, I bailed out of their program, without giving them any prior notice. After all, they cannot blame me for dodging them, after all the dodgy tactics they have used on me. I stopped answering their calls, promised myself to not join a MLM program again.

Therefore, to all my dear friends out there, if you ever have me in your mind the moment you are asked to do recruitment, I really thank you for remembering me. I understand your sincerity in wanting to show me your opportunity, but after my own personal analysis, I have realised that MLM is not for me, no matter how much it is "the next big thing". I know that your uplines/mentors would ask you to invite me out anyway (that's what mine told me, just before calling a friend who was openly against MLM), but no thanks. Between money and friends, I would choose the latter.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Can Our Young people survive in World War II?

A small storm is brewing in one of the forum boards that I participate actively in.

One member asked if the young people of our generation are able to survive if everyone were retro-teleported to the war-torn years of 1940s.

Interesting question in itself, and something that I am sure even you have a speculation upon.

First thing first, I am really grateful that we are living in relative peace — though we can see from all the news coverage that there remains enclaves of violence and unrest in countries around the world. Naturally, living in an oasis of peace, we can't really feel the pain and suffering of those who remain trapped in the vicious cycles of peaceless living. That's a short-fall that community involvement projects aim to fill.

But that aside, unrest is something that isn't very conducive for people to live in. You cannot be exactly be concentrating on your work in school when you have missiles flying about above your head — and gravity sparing, be grateful that you can even walk a decent distance from your house before being searched by soldiers manning checkpoints.

Anyway, if we were unfortunate enough to be teleported back into 1940s, I am sure that most of the current generation in their teens right now won't survive beyond the first hour. And this has nothing to do with being in the middle of the war.

Imagine living in a world without cellphone coverage, mediocre television set quality, no Internet, absolutely no Playstation or X-Box. A few of my friends have told me that they won't want to live if they can't have their endownments from the technology gods, so that makes 75% of the young generation wiped out.

But on the other hand, we have the young trailblazers: these people are the hidden dragons of the society, rising up to the occassion when situation dictates. Normally, they would lie dormant, quietly going about their daily activities. But when the need arises, just like how the great heroes of that generation were, these people would rise up to the challenge, and lead the charge for peace.

So, can our young people survive in world war 2? Let's just say that we'll perform ok.

The RJC Controversy, a few years down the road

While going through my old hard disk, I came across one file that many years ago, hit the front pages of the newspapers in Singapore. Ever heard of the RJC GP teacher who publicly reprimanded her student in class? Here is the video again:

View RJC video taken secretly by a student.

When I opened the video file again, I was amazed by my neutral response to it: perhaps all my energy was expended then, in all the furious postings on local online forums?

What about you? Do you still remember this video? What were your feelings and thoughts then?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Network Marketing in Singapore

This is an unusually long post, because I have spent a long time, $200, and nearly my friends investigating this phenomenon.

There is a worry disturbing my thoughts, and it is not just about money.

Network marketing place themselves as a money-making venture that allows one to "own a business" with relatively low start-up costs. These companies can be selling products ranging from plain tupperware, to expensive massagers. Their business models are all common: to get as many people to join in as distributors, thereby expanding the company's reach and influence through the word of mouth, saving immensely on the costs of traditional advertisement.

I am not against network marketing per se, but I would like to draw any potential wannabe's attention to some important details, that you might have overlooked, and to caution you that a decision to enter network marketing is not one to be made lightly, unlike getting a job.

Over time, as I was in my youth, my friends have asked me to go to no less than 3 different network marketing opportunities. The very first time was during my post-secondary school days. My best buddy called me one day, and asked if I was interested in taking a tour of his company. I was intrigued, since he had not mentioned anything to me earlier (not even to your best friend?), so I agreed.

Dressing in my most indecent (t-shirt, shorts and an extremely run-down pair of sandals, to be exact), I strolled among the massive crowd waiting for the out-ward bound trains to get home. 6 pm, to be exact, and he promised me to have dinner together after he was done with his stuff. Minutes later, he appeared, and we chatted normally, complete with the horseplay and all, until we reached a small entrance in the middle of a long row of refurbished shop-houses.

"This is it," he said, and we entered.

I felt very naked to see many people milling about dressed in ties and long-sleeved shirt, some even complete with jackets. The air-conditioning seemed to have been conditioned to enable them to work with so many layers of clothing, which I really doubt would be their attire if they stepped out of the place, which looks a little bit of a facade. I squirmed (dumb decision not to wear jeans and shoes) and shivered in the artic air.

After chatting with my friend for a while, one of the extremely over-dressed guys came over to us and introduced himself:

"Hi, I am XXX's mentor. Do you know why you are here?"

Completely in the dark, I shook my head, completely dumb-founded.

First, he talked about the weather, how humid it was, and that he could not really take the heat. I shivered in response.

Next, he took out a stack of plain paper, and began to draw on it.

"So, pkchukiss, what do you wish to achieve ten years from now?"

"Erm.. World peace?"

"Ok... World peace, and?"

"Start a business of my own..."

"A business?"


"Selling what?"

"I don't know. As far as I know, this is still too early to think about what to sell."

"How about money? Do you like money?"


"You don't like money?"


"But you use money, right?"


"So you still need money right?"

"I guess you can say that.."

"How about some financial goals?"

"Financial goals, like what kind of stuff you would like to have within the next 5 years?"

"Maybe a small car, and some money."

"How much?"

"Just some savings."

"How much?" (Alright, that sounds pushy, and being the obstinate Ox in the chinese zodiac, Leo sign and Taurus sun sign, I dug in. Funny how much trust I place in unsubstantiated predictions by star-gazers, eh?)

"Tell you for what?"

"So that we can plan your financial goals."

"I don't want to."

"But you will still need it?"

"Not with you."

"Why? I am XXX's friend, and we want to help you!"

I stared back at him.

"Ok, I'll go over the proposal, and you'll see why it is important to plan your financial goals, ok?"

And he went through his speech, which was as standard as what the other 2 companies that came later put me through.

In case you are mistaken: no, network marketing is not something that cannot be done. Indeed, the model of network marketing stemmed from the earlier days, where housewives gather together to share useful products to improve their lives. Companies capitalised on these "auntie gatherings", and enabled these ladies of the house-hold to earn some extra money in their spare time.

The model still survives in some form today. However, it has undergone some additions: the pyramid scheme.

We all know that pyramidal schemes are illegal. They rob from those who enter the scheme late, and those at the very tip get enriched like a reverse funnel, channelling money from the late-comers into their neat little pockets.

The new network marketing companies are those that infuse both elements into their model, which tends to fudge the reality between truth and fiction. Some of them escape the ban on pyramid schemes by proclaiming them to be multi-level marketing companies, which has only recently been made legal.

All of them promise visions of wealth, and buckets of money. They draw you diagrams of money growing exponentially with more downlines (people who you join under you).

It isn't all a lie. What they proposed do actually come true — if you ever reach those levels they tell you, which if looking at those university students struggling is any indication, is going to take some really lot of work. However, looking at what you stand to lose in the process, many people falter, and fall out of the schemes, which in turn leads to free money for those companies.

What do you stand to lose?

  • Relationship: Your friends and relatives' trust.

    As a network marketer, you fudge the truth to get them down to the company to hear their pitch, sometimes even to the extent of lying. This isn't really good for the relationship between both of you.

    You will also be using tactics to manipulate, and target your own friends and relatives, to bring them closer to closing the deal. Your mentor might also resort to lying to create false impressions to incentivise you to join the company, which is rather pretentious.

    The end result: Your friends avoid you like plaque after your sales pitch. Sure, you meet new friends over at the company, but do you really regard them as friends, or fellow opportunity grabbers? Consider: would you trust a group of people who lie to their own relatives and friends to be there for you when you are down and out?

  • You will end up spending your spare time at the company, pulling in new recruits. You will create a profile of all your contacts, classifying them into whether they are susceptible to influence (easy to close), or rich (a better target to close the sale). Then you call your prospects, with an excuse of "visiting them". That is, if you can bear saying that excuse, with your product demo and brochure in the sales kit in your hand.

  • You end up putting money up-front: of what use is a sales pitch if you cannot be a personal testimonial to the product's effectiveness? You would have to buy one set yourself, which depending on the product, could cost you from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. If your mentor (upline) pays for you, that makes you even more indebted to him, and be obliged to work in the company, even if you sincerely are not interested.

I still remember how I still joined one scheme even though I was not interested in doing network marketing. These companies try to make you think that you have to do it, even if you hate the idea. They encourage you to try it out.

The bottom line is, humans don't last doing things they dislike. If you won't even be interested in the project, why waste effort, time, money on something that hurts your personal relationship with others? Its obvious that these companies don't sincerely have your interests at heart when they insist that you join them. The adage still rings true: Follow your passion, and the rest will take care of itself. I dare say BadAunt is a really good example: her passion is in teaching, and now she leads a far happier life than if she were doing what she actually disliked. Isn't it true?