Before I moved to Indonesia, I lived in Japan. I spent some time living and working in small towns, where there were few foreigners. It wasn’t uncommon to be invited to people’s houses for a meal. Sometimes it was so their kids could practice English and sometimes I think it was just out of curiosity. For me it was a great way to meet people and see how Japanese people lived.

One time I was invited along with a couple of other guys I was working with, by a Japanese colleague to his house for dinner. I hadn’t spoken to the guy much before, so I was a little surprised. His wife cooked the most amazing food and the presentation alone was just incredible. I don’t remember much what we talked about, but when the meal started to wind down, our Japanese colleague suggested we watch a video. Sure why not, I thought.

The video turned out to be a presentation for Amway. So for the next two hours I watched a video about soap detergent. I until that point in my life I have never even purchased soap detergent. Since we had just eaten this guy’s food, I knew we couldn’t just get up and leave. Thankfully, we weren’t pressured to join, but I did feel like we had been deceived.

The internet has helped these companies (usually referred to as MLM) explode and I have occasionally gotten into online arguments with people promoting them. I am sure there are many successful and well run MLM companies, but there seems also to be a high number of dubious companies. I have heard that the profits from these companies come not so much from the products they sell, but the marketing books, seminars and events they put on. I know some people enjoy being part of these kinds of companies and that is fine, but is just isn’t for me.

So what does this have to do with Bali? Well, lately I have seen posts mostly on Facebook, inviting people to “travel seminars” and “travel parties”, with few details given. Who wouldn’t want to go to a party? If you look at the people’s profiles promoting the events, the penny starts to drop. It seems that MLM companies have moved on from selling soap detergent and are now promoting various travel membership programs, with lots of promises of “reward points” and “discount travel”. The catch is that you have to pay a joining fee and there are usually ongoing monthly payments, conveniently deducted from your bank account or charged to your credit card, later finding it next to impossible to stop the payments.

I don’t think it is necessary to “name names” and the company names change as often as Indonesian immigration rules. I can imagine 99 per cent of the people reading this aren’t going to be conned into one of these schemes, but if you do end up one of these parties – enjoy the free food, but leave your credit card at home.