50 women are crammed in the back room of Garcia’s Cucina Italiano. While gagging on a mozzarella stick, I examine the scene. Four long tables, all in a row, are threaded with women of various ages and sizes, all murmuring about an “amazing company” which has “changed their lives forever.”
Women stand up and list the myriad pleasures it has brought them — financial freedom, sisterhood, empowerment. This company is, of course, Pure Romance. Haven’t you heard of it?
If you’ve been to a women-only party with a girl passing around sex toys, it was probably Pure Romance. I was invited to two such soirees, and spontaneously volunteered to join my “consultant” Katrina’s team.
Whether it was curiosity or drunkenness, I will never know. What drew me into the lubricated depths of Pure Romance? Whatever the reason, it quickly dawned on me that it wouldn’t be all caviar wishes and orgasmic dreams.
I’m at the monthly meeting, held at this Italian restaurant/mall chain. Roberta, the entire team’s “director,” calls everyone to attention. Roberta is in her late thirties, a blonde in hot pink. Pure Romance is her full-time job.
“Everyone who would like to contribute to the raffle, the bowl is coming around,” Roberta says.
“Oh, I didn’t get a raffle ticket,” I say.
“It’s a come-on-time-only ticket,” scolds Roberta. Katrina tosses in a dollar while nibbling her Caesar salad.
“It’s okay, don’t feel bad about it,” Katrina reassures me.
It’s a week into my introduction as a “consultant,” and I feel like the blushing debutante of a sex toy cult. When I first met Katrina — a laid-back and gorgeous 22-year-old with dreams of becoming a sex therapist — I felt good about Pure Romance’s potential. So good, in fact, that I purchased the preliminary “demo kit,” which is mandatory to becoming a new “consultant.”
My demo kit was $250 and includes a collection of things like Whipped Vanilla Cupcake lube cream and a giant rubber dick. There are also office supplies like order forms and blank business cards. Consultants tote their demo kit with them to parties, hosted for women 18 and up. (Pure Romance will not host parties for men.) Katrina pulls her kit around in a leopard print suitcase.
My Pure Romance superiors have encouraged me to call every female I know. I’m not supposed to ask if they’d like to throw a sex toy party. I must tell them it would be unethical for me to go through life with these valuable products and information and not share it with my friends! I tried it on a very Christian coworker, who politely declined.
“I’m just nervous my party will be a flop,” I tell Katrina. We drain our wine glasses.
“Don’t even worry,” Katrina says. “The training on Monday will be super helpful.”
“Training on Monday?”
“LADIES!” Roberta shouts. “I would just like to go over some things about training on Monday.”
Everyone in the room falls silent and gives Roberta undivided attention.
“Our CEO, Chris Cicchinelli, is being so generous,” Roberta says, tears — AND I AM BEING DEAD SERIOUS HERE — welling up in her eyes. “He is devoting his time for a free training.”
Pure Romance manufactures a sex toy called The CEO, but any resemblance cannot be substantiated at this time. Katrina touches my wrist. The melodrama continues.
“Please, if you could be there Monday …” she continues, wiping away tears, “your business will thrive so much, I cannot even tell you.”
“So ... are you going to be there?” Katrina asks.
“I’ll try …”
“Get as many new recruits to be there on Monday,” Roberta says, no longer crying. “Do what you have to do.”
A snowstorm blows through Buffalo leaving most housebound and eight dead. Therefore, I don’t attend the training. I do, however, gain insight. Reality comes at me like a vibrator on high speed. Pure Romance is a scam.
Why, you ask? You start in the negative after purchasing your “demo kit.” Every time you turn around, you’ve got someone in your ear suggesting you print up materials (for a fee) in the Pure Romance Media Center. Or why not trick yourself out in a pink outfit that you can write off on your taxes? There’s a convention in Cincinnati that apparently I must attend. It’s not comped, of course, because this isn’t a real job. Being a part of Pure Romance is totally expensive.
Pure Romance’s spokespeople claim you will make hundreds of dollars in commission. Starting off, your commission is about 40 percent. What no one tells you is this will hopefully make up for the expenses you’ve accrued to be there. The probability is that you lose money, or just break even. I stuffed a $300 wad down Cicchinelli’s pants, and there was nothing down there for me to grab.
It’s called Multi Level Marketing. A supposed “business” which takes advantage of new “consultants” buying in for promises of an eventual profit. Sure, maybe you’ll turn a profit — but at what expense? Pure Romance Consultants insist they own their own business, and need to “spend money to make money.” This isn’t entirely true.
I find this video about Pure Romance and two other Multi Level Marketing Schemes. Comedians Penn & Teller on their Showtime series “Bullshit!” expose network marketing as nothing but a totally faux illusion.
Well, so I’m out a couple Benjamins. At least I can sell my ragin’ collection of sex toys on Craigslist!
Luckily I realized Pure Romance was bullshit before it was too late. What about the others, wheeling their demo kits through hell and high water, buzzing with potential?
When Katrina invites me over to make a vision board, I decide to remain a consultant. Albeit, a consultant undercover.
Did you know that if you recruit a new consultant to your team, you make a two percent commission on her sales? That’s a big way to generate income with Pure Romance, supposedly. There’s a lot of emphasis on “new recruits.” People like Cara, whom I met at last week’s meeting. She’s a “senior director” because she has fifty- odd schmucks on her “downline.”
She shouts about giving Michael Kors accessories as bonuses to her team. Legend has it she had $10,000 in personal sales this month. “But I think she just spent it all on her own stock,” Katrina whispers. “Because she wasn’t on the top performers list.”
Cara told me, “Anything you spend, it comes back tenfold. Everyone has the same opportunity. It just depends on hard work.”
Time to get tipsy on wine while making a vision board. The point is to illustrate three goals my Pure Romance income will make reality. I’m being generous with glitter in all different rainbow colors. Katrina starts talking about the Pure Romance etiquette policy.
“You’re not supposed to say ‘balls.’ Say instead, ‘testicles,’ ” Katrina says. “Never say ‘clit.’ It’s clitoris, always. Instead of ‘dick’ say ‘penis.’ ”
Professional attire is encouraged for corporate events and parties, and there’s a written rule that says you can’t get drunk at PR functions. The company doesn’t perform a background check on new consultants, to the best of my knowledge.
I slurp down a couple Penis Grigios, getting totally into the glitter-ization of my goals. My vision board looks like this:
We all ooh and ahh over one another’s creations. Katrina’s boyfriend is watching football in the background. I decide to go meet my boyfriend.
Maurice and I are sitting inside my Pontiac, seats reclined. A cardboard box is in the backseat. Maurice is a photographer, and we are going to do a photo shoot. I had a surge of inspiration.
“Smell my Coochy,” I tell him, holding out my leg. “That’s my Pure Romance ‘Coochy’ Shaving Cream from this morning. I also applied Body Dew oil and a pheromone-enhancing rollerball eau de toilette.”
Maurice is speechless. I turn around and start digging through the box, resurfacing with some plastic tubes. One is Whipped Vanilla Cupcake Lubricating Cream.
“I have to do a taste test. Is this any good?”
Mmm ... mmm! Whipped Vanilla Cupcake can double as icing on yummy desserts. I eat a few teaspoons before switching to Good Head Throat Balm in Succulent Strawberry. Yum ... like a liquefied gummy bear! Good Head recipe — mix yourself a Cosmopolitan, dab Good Head around the rim, and roll the rim in sugar. Voilá — the Good Head Deep Throat Cocktail Rim Job!
After my creamy snack, Maurice and I get out of the car. I binged on sex lube and may vomit. We are in the parking lot of Exotic Liquidators on Niagara Street, a perpetually-open porn store. I grab my Pure Romance party invitations and pose in front of a XXX Video sign. So, I guess they were right — Pure Romance is shaking up my love life. Sex lube pot brownies for all!