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My friend is caught up in a pyramid scheme

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my 60s, and a friend of mine has apparently gotten roped into a pyramid scheme. I’m worried about how I can be around her now.

Some time ago, I saw her and two other women for the first time in a long while. They’re all my good childhood friends. Then the friend in question began talking about socks, underwear and health equipment that she said were good for your health. She recommended I buy them. I was shocked because the items were all extremely expensive, but I patiently listened to her enthusiastic sales pitch.

After a while, I noticed the other two friends had already bought the items she was selling. At first, I thought maybe I’d at least buy some socks because she’s an old friend. However, she continued nagging me to buy something and I got irritated and ended up buying nothing.

After I got home, I did some Internet research on the company she mentioned and learned that it had been ordered to suspend its business in the past over illegal sales solicitation and other acts.

She is considerate, kind and a valuable friend. It would be easy for me to cut my ties with her completely, but I’m sure that would just make me feel sad and lonely. What should I do? Please give me advice.

J, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. J:

I’ve also been solicited by acquaintances to buy expensive goods many times. Like you, I won’t buy things unless the explanation about the items is satisfactory.

However, if people who tell us to buy them believe in the benefits of these goods, they won’t understand even when we tell them our concerns.

So I make a habit of turning them down by saying, “I have something I want to accomplish, so I can’t spend any money right now.” It’s true, so I can say it without feeling any guilt. It’s good to always have something you want to accomplish.

You should also tell her the negative information that you came across on the Internet. Your friend may not like hearing it and also may come to dislike you, but if she sells products from a dubious company, she will notice it sooner or later and perhaps come to understand your concern. Or it may prompt her to start doing research on the company on her own.

Try to face your friends frankly without fear of being disliked. If you keep this idea in mind, it may make you feel better. You may lose this friend and feel sad and lonely, but deal with her sincerely if she is important to you. That’s true friendship, I think.

Megumi Hisada, writer

(from March 14, 2015, issue)

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