Countdown4Freedom Review: What is going on with Holton Buggs?
Countdown4Freedom fails to provide any information on who owns or runs the business on its website.
The only clue is a quote from Holton Buggs at the footer of an email capture page, accessed if a visitor to the site clicks a button.
Further research reveals Buggs credited as founder (and presumably owner/co-owner) of Countdown4Freedom.
For some reason though Buggs seems intent on shying away from public ownership of his company. Instead he refers to himself as a “steward” of Countdown4Freedom.
Late last year it emerged that Buggs was promoting the IQ Chain Ponzi scheme.
Officially Buggs was credited as a “strategic advisor”, but it was pretty clear he’d taken over all marketing for the company (specifics were never publicly disclosed).
In December IQ Chain collapsed and was rebranded as IQ Legacy.
Alexa ranking for the IQ Legacy website show a complete collapse from late January.
Buggs seems to have taken whatever he was paid and quietly left the company. Again, the specifics of Buggs’ relationship with IQ Chain and IQ Legacy were never publicly disclosed.
And so now we have Countdown4Freedom, which appears to be a placeholder name until a March 8th reveal:
Note that while all the IQ Legacy/IQ Chain shenanigans were going on, Buggs retained his Organo Gold executive position as Chief Visionary Officer.
Despite the apparently looming launch of his own MLM company, Buggs is still credited as CVO on Organo Gold’s website.
On the Countdown4Freedom management side of things (working under Buggs), is CEO David Manning.
Manning (right) first appeared on BehindMLM as the travel services provider of The Vacation Network back in 2012.
Manning owns and is the CEO of Xstream Travel, who are also the travel services provider for Countdown4Freedom.
Back in 2012 Manning was also running Traverus, a typical recruitment-driven MLM travel company.
By 2014 both Vacation Network had collapsed, prompting Manning to launch Paycation in March.
Traverus has continued to operate in conjunction with Xstream Travel, although it doesn’t appear to have gained any traction since 2012.
Today the Paycation website redirects to the Traverus Global website, which according to Alexa has been in decline since mid 2018.
There’s no mention of an MLM opportunity on the Traverus Global website, so whether the income opportunity still exists is unclear.
In any event the primary focus now appears to be Countdown4Freedom, or whatever the actual name of the company winds up being.
Update 11th March 2019 – Countdown4Freedom’s actual company name has been revealed as “iBuumerang”. /end update
Read on for a full review of the Countdown4Freedom MLM opportunity.
Countdown4Freedom provides access to a travel discount engine they’re calling “iGo”.
As the above slide from a Countdown4Freedom marketing presentation suggests, this appears to be a white label offering of David Manning’s Xstream Travel engine.
iGo provides access to discounted hotels, flights, rental cars, cruises, homes, weeks, marketplace, lifestyle and timeshare.
Note that I’ve presented the categories verbatim, Countdown4Freedom provides no further information.
In order to access iGo, a Countdown4Freedom affiliate must provide a retail customer with a “boomerang”.
A boomerang is basically a login for the iGo booking engine. Any commissions generated through a given out boomerang are tied to the referring affiliate.
Boomerangs provided to Countdown4Freedom affiliates are based on how much money they spent when they signed up:
- Standby affiliates ($49.95 a month) receive five boomerangs to give out
- Coach Class affiliates ($250 + $49.95 a month) receive ten boomerangs to give out
- Business Class affiliates ($500 + $99 a month) receive twenty-five boomerangs to give out
- First Class affiliates ($1000 + $99 a month) receive fifty boomerangs to give out
If an affiliate runs out of boomerangs, they have to purchase more from Countdown4Freedom.
At the time of publication boomerang pricing has not been disclosed.
Bitcoin is a planned iGo accepted method of payment, in addition to standard processors.
The Countdown4Freedom Compensation Plan
The Countdown4Freedom compensation plan combines commissions on travel services booked by retail customers, with binary and unilevel residual commissions.
A generational bonus, leadership bonus and lifestyle bonus are also available.
Countdown4Freedom Affiliate Ranks
There are fourteen affiliate ranks within the Countdown4Freedom compensation plan.
Along with their respective qualification criteria, they are as follows:
- TSA – sign up as a Countdown4Freedom affiliate and continue to pay fees
- Director – generate 2500 PV and/or GV a month in sales volume and generate and maintain at least five boomerang customers
- Executive – generate 5000 PV and/or GV a month in sales volume and maintain at least five boomerang customers
- Senior Executive – generate 10,000 PV and/or GV a month in sales volume and maintain at least five boomerang customers
- Sapphire – generate 15,000 GV a month in sales volume or have a downline of at least 100 TSAs, and generate and maintain at least ten boomerang customers
- Ruby – generate 40,000 GV a month in sales volume or have a downline of at least 200 TSAs, and maintain at least ten boomerang customers
- Emerald – generate 80,000 GV a month in sales volume or have a downline of at least 400 TSAs, and maintain at least ten boomerang customers
- Diamond – generate 200,000 GV a month in sales volume or have a downline of at least 1000 TSAs, and maintain at least twenty boomerang customers
- Blue Diamond – generate 500,000 GV a month in sales volume or have a downline of at least 2500 TSAs, and maintain at least twenty boomerang customers
- Black Diamond – generate 1,000,000 GV a month in sales volume or generate and maintain a downline of at least 5000 TSAs, and maintain at least twenty boomerang customers
- Presidential Diamond – generate 2,000,000 GV a month in sales volume or generate and maintain a downline of at least 10,000 TSAs, and maintain at least twenty boomerang customers
- Crown Diamond – generate 5,000,000 GV a month in sales volume or generate and maintain a downline of at least 25,000 TSAs, and maintain at least twenty boomerang customers
- Double Crown Diamond – generate 7,000,000 GV a month in sales volume or generate and maintain a downline of at least 35,000 TSAs, and maintain at least twenty boomerang customers
- Triple Crown Diamond – generate 10,000,000 GV a month in sales volume or generate and maintain a downline of at least 50,000 TSAs, and maintain at least twenty boomerang customers
PV stands for “Personal Volume” and is travel related sales volume generated by an affiliate.
GV stands for “Group Volume” and sales volume generated via travel bookings and affiliate membership fee payments.
In order for a boomerang customer to count towards qualification, they must have booked travel or a service within that month.
For the Director to Senior Executive ranks, no more than 50% of required GV or downline TSAs can be sourced from any one recruitment leg.
For the Sapphire to Diamond ranks, no more than 40% of required GV or downline TSAs can be sourced from any one unilevel leg.
For the Blue Diamond to Presidential Diamond ranks, no more than 30% of required GV or downline TSAs can be sourced from any one unilevel leg.
For the Crown Diamond to Triple Crown Diamond ranks, no more than 20% of required GV or downline TSAs can be sourced from any one unilevel leg.
Countdown4Freedom only provide retail customers a 50% discount.
The remaining 50% is paid by the retail customer and used to fund travel commissions.
E.g. Trip A costs $300 but is offered through iGo at $200.
Countdown4Freedom let’s affiliates book Trip A for $200 but charges retail customers $250 (50% discount).
The $50 extra paid by the retail customer is used to fund travel commissions.
The Countdown4Freedom affiliate who referred the retail customer receives up to 50% of the 50% kept by the company.
- Standby and Coach Class affiliates receive 12.5% of the 50% of the 50%
- Business and First Class affiliates receive 100% of the 50% of the 50%
In the Trip A example above, Business Class and First Class affiliates receive 100% of 50% of the $50 kept by Countdown4Freedom.
So the travel commission paid to the referring affiliate on Trip A is $25 (50% of $50).
Standby and Coach Class affiliates would only receive $6.25.
Countdown4Freedom keeps 15% and puts the rest into their compensation plan.
Countdown4Freedom affiliates are paid a recruitment commission when they recruit Coach Class or higher affiliates.
- recruit a Coach Class affiliate and get paid $20
- recruit a Business Class affiliate and get paid $40
- recruit a First Class affiliate and get paid $80
Residual Commissions (binary)
A binary compensation structure places an affiliate at the top of a binary team, split into two sides (left and right):
The first level of the binary team houses two positions. The second level of the binary team is generated by splitting these first two positions into another two positions each (4 positions).
Subsequent levels of the binary team are generated as required, with each new level housing twice as many positions as the previous level.
Positions in the binary team are filled via direct and indirect recruitment of affiliates. Note there is no limit to how deep a binary team can grow.
Binary residual commission volume is made up of booked travel and affiliate fees (both initial and monthly).
At the end of each week Countdown4Freedom tallies up new volume on both sides of the binary team.
A residual commission is then paid on volume generated on the weaker side.
How much a Countdown4Freedom affiliate can earn each week in residual commissions is capped based on rank:
- TSAs can earn up to $1000 a week (10% residual commission rate)
- Directors can earn up to $1500 a week (12% residual commission rate)
- Executives can earn up to $2000 a week (12% residual commission rate)
- Senior Executives can earn up to $2500 a week (12% residual commission rate)
- Sapphires can earn up to $3000 a week (15% residual commission rate)
- Rubies can earn up to $5000 a week (16% residual commission rate)
- Emeralds can earn up to $10,000 a week (17% residual commission rate)
- Diamonds can earn up to $20,000 a week (18% residual commission rate)
- Blue Diamonds can earn up to $30,000 a week (19% residual commission rate)
- Black Diamonds can earn up to $50,000 a week (20% residual commission rate)
- Presidential Diamonds can earn up to $100,000 a week (20% residual commission rate)
- Crown Diamonds can earn up to $150,000 a week (20% residual commission rate)
- Double Crown Diamonds can earn up to $200,000 a week (20% residual commission rate)
- Triple Crown Diamonds can earn up to $250,000 a week (20% residual commission rate)
Note that residual commission rates are also defined based on Countdown4Freedom affiliate membership:
I’m unclear on whether these are obtainable caps (i.e. only First Class affiliates can earn up to 20% based on rank), or whether these are bought residual commission rates (irrespective of rank).
Residual Commissions (unilevel)
A unilevel compensation structure places an affiliate at the top of a unilevel team, with every personally recruited affiliate placed directly under them (level 1):
If any level 1 affiliates recruit new affiliates, they are placed on level 2 of the original affiliate’s unilevel team.
If any level 2 affiliates recruit new affiliates, they are placed on level 3 and so on and so forth down a theoretical infinite number of levels.
Unilevel residual commission volume is made up of booked travel and affiliate fees (both initial and monthly).
How many levels of residual unilevel commissions a Countdown4Freedom affiliate earns is determined by rank:
- TSA – 10% on level 1 (personally recruited affiliates)
- Director and Senior Director – 10% on levels 1 and 2
- Executive – 10% on levels 1 to 3
- Sapphire – 10% on levels 1 to 3 and 8% on level 4
- Ruby – 10% on levels 1 to 3, 8% on level 4 and 7% on level 5
- Emerald – 10% on levels 1 to 3, 8% on level 4, 7% on level 5 and 6% on level 6
- Diamond and higher – 10% on levels 1 to 3, 8% on level 4, 7% on level 5, 6% on level 6 and 5% on level 7
Leadership Development Bonus
The Leadership Development Bonus is a generation bonus, paid on up to four generations of residual volume per unilevel team leg.
Countdown4Freedom define a generation in a unilevel team leg when a Sapphire or higher ranked affiliate is found in the leg.
This first Sapphire starts the first generation for that leg.
If a second Sapphire exists deeper in the leg, they cap off the first generation and a second begins under them.
If no second Sapphire exists in the leg, the first generation runs the entire length of the leg.
Using this generational structure, Countdown4Freedom pays the Leadership Development Bonus on up to four generations per unilevel team leg.
- Sapphires earn 2% on up to one generation per leg
- Rubies earn 3% on up to two generations per leg
- Emeralds earn 4% on up to three generations per leg
- Diamonds and higher earn 5% on up to four generations per leg
Lifestyle Bonus Pool
The Countdown4Freedom compensation plan refers to a Lifestyle Bonus Pool but fails to provide any details on it.
Basic Countdown4Freedom affiliate membership is $49.95 a month.
There are also more expensive Global Packages available:
- Coach Class – $250 + $49.95 a month
- Business Class – $500 + $99 a month
- First Class – $1000 + $99 a month
The more an affiliate spends the higher their commission rates in the Countdown4Freedom compensation plan.
Suffice to say clearly something is up between Holton Buggs and Organo Gold, there’s not a lot to comment on.
Buggs doesn’t refer to Organo Gold by name in Countdown4Freedom marketing videos, but makes repeat reference to his earnings there.
Notably any time Bugg’s references his Organo Gold earnings, it’s in the past. That’s probably about as close an admission as we’re going to get that the party is over.
Anyway like most of you I suspect, my first inclination was that coming off a failed Ponzi venture, Buggs was launching yet another MLM travel opportunity come pyramid scheme.
The good news is that isn’t the case. Well, sort of.
For all of David Manning’s compliance failings with Traverus, Paycation and all the recruitment schemes he’s powered through Xtream Travel, Countdown4Freedom is actually geared toward retail sales.
Unfortunately this requires ignorance on behalf of said retail customers.
As a retail customer, I have no problem with a percentage of what I pay being used to pay a commission (MLM or non-MLM).
In Countdown4Freedom however, retail customers are slugged with what is essentially a commission fee.
To recap, Countdown4Freedom is able to sell Trip A for $100, down from $200. And that’s what they charge their affiliates.
A retail customer is slugged with a $50 additional fee, just to pay commissions with.
This looks like a wholesale/retail pricing model but actually isn’t.
The retail/wholesale pricing of Trip A is between Countdown4Freedom and Xstream Travel.
Countdown4Freedom then provide Trip A to their affiliates at retail, and charge retail customers an additional fee.
Buggs’ defense of this in Countdown4Freedom marketing videos is that customers won’t care, because they’re still getting a good deal.
Given the iGo engine isn’t live and no deals have been published, who knows.
As a retail customer though, paying unnecessary fees is pure turn off.
One other thing I’ll mention is apparently anyone can sign up for Xstream Travel for $49.95 a month.
Not sure if this provides access to the same deals as Countdown4Freedom gets, but if the difference in savings is more than $49.95 – like I said, retail in Countdown4Freedom only works if the retail customer is ignorant.
I suppose part of that is the whole boomerang shtick, which creates the impression Countdown4Freedom affiliates are doing retail customers favors.
On some level I suppose they are, given affiliates pay for boomerangs both initially and again when they run out.
With boomerangs only providing access to the iGo engine though, it does beg the question what they’re actually worth.
Why go through Countdown4Freedom’s convoluted boomerang system when I can just book the same travel through one of Xstream Travel’s other clients?
On the MLM side of things Countdown4Freedom runs foul of pay to play and pyramid recruitment concerns.
TSAs get directly paid to recruit and also earn residual recruitment commissions.
There’s no requirement to generate retail sales at the TSA level, so retail can be ignored.
From Director upwards active boomerang retail customers are required, which when isolated is great to see.
A quick fix would be requiring TSAs to have one or two active boomerang customers.
As for pay to play, it is inexcusable that travel commission rates are determined by affiliate fee payments. Residual binary commission rates also appear to be determined on some level by fee payments.
Also the more I pay as an affiliate means the more discount categories I can offer my retail customers? What is up with that???
Pay to play is a regulatory compliance red flag, as it typically exists in MLM companies where recruitment is prioritized over retail sales.
There are already retail customer qualifiers in Countdown4Freedom ranks, so why not just tie commission rate increases to rank?
Oh right, then there’d be no justification for charging more for Business and First Class – other than boomerangs.
As previously mentioned, Countdown4Freedom isn’t your typical “recruit recruit recruit” MLM travel opportunity. But there’s certainly room for improvement.
And it’s obviously leaps and bounds from Buggs’ recent Ponzi adventures.
Separate affiliate fees from commission rates, set a minimal retail customer requirement at the TSA rank and go from there. And seeing as David Manning is double-dipping through Xstream Travel, maybe set retail pricing closer toward what affiliates are offered.
Presumably there’s an untapped margin on what Xstream Travel earns and is paid by Countdown4Freedom. And if the margin is too low, well surely anything is better than your customers realizing they’re losing 50% of savings to a comp plan.
Pending those changes (or at the very least a start on them), I’d be wary of handing over any money until the iGo booking engine is live and boomerang costs are disclosed.
Update 11th March 2019 – Countdown4Freedom’s actual company name has been revealed to be iBuumerang.
Seeing as the products and compensation plan are the same, rather than re-review the same company consider the above a review of iBuumerang.