WorldVentures threaten travel blogger, demand censorship
If one Googles the term “WorldVentures” today, above is typical of the results returned.
In first position is WorldVenture’s own website, second is another corporate website run by WorldVentures’ Marketing dept and third is a review by “Twenty-something Travel”.
Owned by Stephanie Yoder (right), she claims she wrote the review after she attended ‘a coworking event with a group called DC Night Owls‘.
Last Monday Michael and I went to a coworking event with a group called DC Night Owls.
It was our first time, and we felt kind of like the new kids in school, so when a friendly looking guy started chatting with us about our businesses, we were psyched.
As we talked about living and working around the world he got more and more excited. We’re on exactly the same page, he told us. He just had to tell us about his business!
He settled down beside us and flipped open his Samsung tablet. Thinking we were going to hear about his start-up or website or whatever, we leaned in. He started in on a slideshow featuring generic travel photos under headings like BEACHES, NIGHTLIFE, ADVENTURE.
Well whatever he’s doing, it sounds pretty cliché, I thought to myself. He kept going telling us about this online travel club called WorldVentures, where users can buy discounted travel packages for super cheap if they just pay a $199 fee + $54.95 a month (what a deal!). Then he told us the real money was in becoming an associate and recruiting others to join the program.
It wasn’t until he showed us the pay structure, which looked exactly like a pyramid, that I realized what was going on. It looked like this guy was actually trying to recruit us into a pyramid scheme!
“I’m going to stop you right now,” Mike said. The guy looked up from his endless slideshow where he was explaining all the free trips and cars you can earn, just by working for yourself! “We’re never going to be interested in this.”
“I thought you guys said you were entrepreneurs,” the guy mumbled before shuffling off dejectedly. Mike and I looked at each other in disbelief. Did that really just happen?
I didn’t know people even still DID these things. I associate these sort of companies (like Amway) with some bygone era.
Clearly they do (though) since this young (probably late twenty-something) dude was trolling coworking meetups for sign ups. So of course I started digging.
According to inhouse statistics, Twenty-something Travel currently lists the review, titled “WorldVentures: This is NOT the Way to Travel the World”, as the most visited article on the blog.
Ditto the comments, so much so that Yoder stopped responding to comments late last year, and roughly two weeks later disabled them altogether:
September 27th, 2013: Since publishing two months ago this blog post has become one of my most commented on posts, with passionate arguments from both pro and anti-WorldVenture perspectives.
I welcome your insights, however, due to the high volume and limited hours in the day, I am not going to be responding to any more comments on this post. I will continue to moderate and delete abusive comments but I will not be engaging. Thank you!
October 10th, 2013: After reading through a slew of comments from people who clearly didn’t read this article, and are mainly interested in promoting their own agenda and arguing with each other, I’ve made the decision to close the comments on this post.
I stand behind what I’ve written, but I’m a professional, and it’s not a good use of my time to monitor and deal with these comments.
I’m a self-employed travel entrepreneur who lives and travels all over the world. My post on Worldventures is just a tiny fraction of what this website is about.
Contrary to some of the accusations below I make no money directly off this article and have no personal vendetta against WV . My intentions are solely to provide a critique of widely available information.
Personally, although it can take up a considerable amount of my time, I find the time to moderate the comment discussion here at BehindMLM. But then BehindMLM is an MLM blog, I’m not running a travel blog.
This blog was created by me, Stephanie Yoder, a DC native who has been traveling pretty much non-stop since I graduated from college in 2007. Since the first post in July 2009, this website has grown to be one of the top independent travel blogs on the internet.
And that brings us to an important point. In her review, Yoder, presumably with little to no MLM experience, approached her review of WorldVentures purely from a travel orientated perspective:
On it’s most shallow surface a program like WorldVentures sounds incredibly appealing. Trapped in a job you hate? Longing to see the world? Join us and become your own boss! Work from anywhere! Earn fabulous rewards like cars and vacations!
“Make a living while living,” is the catchphrase. And who wouldn’t want that? In fact, maybe readers of travel blogs are particularly susceptible to such a line.
Isn’t that was a lot of websites promise? Isn’t that the idea behind the 4 hour work week? Isn’t that basically what I claim to do, more or less (possibly why the coworking dude thought I seemed like a perfect target)?
Hidden only slightly below the glossy promises is the fact that WorldVentures is at heart a multi-level marketing (MLM) network. My initial impression was slightly off: it is NOT a pyramid scheme because the company sells actual products (vacations), which is enough to keep them on the correct side of the law.
To become a sales rep you pay a $99.95 sign-up fee plus 10.99 a month. You then go to work recruiting others to sign up below you. Honestly the pay out scheme is so complicated I started tuning out.
I’d naturally disagree with that bit in bold, as selling access to discounts is not actually selling an “actual product”. WV don’t sell vacations themselves, they sell access to discounts on them (the vacations themselves are supplied by third-parties).
That aside, Yoder’s review cites WorldVentures own income disclosure documentation, comments from former and current WorldVentures affiliates and Michael Sander’s “The Obtainer” as sources.
Someone is making a heck of a lot of money out of WorldVentures, but it probably won’t be you.
Nobody likes to hear this, but anyone trying to lure you in with the promise of fast easy money is pulling a fast one on you. Particularly if you have to lay out money at the beginning to get involved.
You are not going to get rich off of WorldVentures, but if you sign up WorldVentures is going to continue to get quite rich off of you.
There’s no magical way to travel around the world and get rich while doing it. Trust me, I would know.
One other point Yoder comments on is the evident shilling of WorldVentures affiliates,
What I actually found most disturbing when looking into the company is the almost zombie-like devotion it cultivates among salespeople. If you look at the comments on any of the above linked articles you will see dozens and dozens of people staunchly defending the company.
These comments often spout back the company lines word for word.
Odd perhaps for a travel blogger, but anyone familiar with the MLM industry will acknowledge this is par for the course.
Here at BehindMLM I usually just nuke any comment that comes off as a paidvertisement or recruiting pitch (usually an affiliate link tied to the username is a giveaway). Such comments, often disguised as attempts at genuine forays into the discussion are nothing more than spam.
In any event, getting back to the Google results at the top of this article, WorldVentures have now taken objection to Yoder’s review.
Presumably after attempts to bury it under an avalanche of shill articles and “WorldVentures Marketing LLC” owned websites failed, the company’s lawyers have recently issued Yoder a cease and desist.
Sent on July 2nd and picked up by PopeHat (link to the cease and desist is in the article), “business attorney” Shawn E. Tuma (right) of Britton Tuma writes
On your website Twenty-Something Travel you have a post titled “WorldVentures: This is NOT the Way to Travel the World”.
In the Post you have engaged and are continuing to engage in the following conduct:
- publishing in graphical form, false, misleading, defamatory and disparaging statements about WorldVentures;
- misappropriating, misusing and disparaging WorldVentures’ intellectual property in violation of state and federal law; and
- engaging in unfair competition and deceptive trade practices.
What statements Tuma (“it’s notta toohmuh!”) considers to be “false, misleading, defamatory and disparaging” are not clarified. Nor is the WorldVentures’ IP the company claims is being misappropriated, misused and disparaged “in violation of state and federal law”.
Ditto an explanation on how a travel blog writing about an MLM business opportunity has engaged in “unfair competition and deceptive trade practices”.
A travel-related MLM business opportunity and travel blog in competition with each other? Uh, rightio.
Your conduct violates well established precedent in state and federal tort and intellectual property law and provides WorldVentures with numerous legal claims against you.
WorldVentures hereby demands that you
(1) immediately cease and desist from publishing any further statements or information about WorldVentures in any form, and
(2) immediately remove from the Internet all website pages, postings, or other information in any form that you have made regarding WorldVentures and ensure those statements are no longer publicly accessible.
The deadline for providing me with written notification of your agreement to fully comply with this demand is 5:00 p.m. CST on Friday, July 11, 2014. Your written notification must be sent to me by email or facsimile.
If you fail to comply with this demand, we will move forward with pursuing all appropriate legal remedies available to ensure that your illegal activities are stopped and that the damage caused by your illegal activities is remedied.
This includes taking aggressive legal actions against you and any other persons or entities that may have conspired with you by seeking injunctive relief, recovery of damages, punitive damages, and recovery of all costs and fees associated with this matter.
I strongly urge you to heed this demand.
“Illegal activities”, wooooooh! Them’s some fightin words right there…
As it stands, Tuma’s deadline has come and gone and Yoder’s Twenty-something Travel review remains up.
PopeHat, who bill themselves as “a group complaint about law, liberty, and leisure”, carried the story on July the 9th, asking for assistance with pro-bono representation for Yoder.
It’s time for the Popehat Signal — the call for pro bono assistance for a blogger threatened with frivolous and censorious litigation.
This time the victim in need of help is Stephanie Yoder of www.twenty-somethingtravel.com. She needs your help to face a thoroughly bogus and repugnant threat by multi-level marketing scheme “WorldVentures.”
Will WorldVentures consider commentary on their own income disclosure statement, published by the company itself, worthy of further legal action should Yoder continue to refuse their censorship demands?
I doubt it. But as always, stay tuned…
Footnote: Our thanks to BehindMLM reader K. Chang for bringing this story to my attention.