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Selling One's Self on a Multi-Dimensional Marketing Scheme

Steven Berger is a speculative fiction writer who occasionally veers into humor. Or maybe it's the other way around. Despite living in an endless summer since he moved to Austin, Texas, he still prefers his coffee hot and puts Chicago-style giardiniera on everything. Find him on Twitter @steber.
After Bas signed up to be a distributor for Healinair, he asked his uprift for tips on cold calling through the multiverse.
His uprift--who was also Bas, but from a parallel dimension--laughed.
"Don't waste your time. The training materials suggest starting with friends and family, but here's a question. Why not start with yourself? After all, if you don't believe in yourself, who will?"
Two days later, Bas was only 30 seconds into his latest pitch when the Bas on the other end of the 'lellophone interrupted him. "So how exactly does it work?"
Bas tangled the phone cord around his pinky and read directly from the brochure. "The Healinair Infuser taps into microscopic tears in your universe and introduces air from other dimensions. Extradimensional air has been shown to potentially have lots of natural healing properties, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidizing, anti--"
"Matter can't move through tears. Only information."
"It seems unbelievable," Bas said, and he knew it. "But it's true." That part he didn't know.
When dimensional tears were discovered four years ago, they seemed unbelievable, too. Tens of millions of 'lellophones were sold, and people spent months talking to versions of themselves and loved ones across the multiverse. Inevitably, the novelty faded. Apart from a dedicated niche, people could hardly be bothered to care about the welfare and dreams of those in another country, let alone another dimension.
And while life moved on for most, the financial markets never looked back, having completely unmoored from reality. Quadrillions changed hands over the DIMEX every day, packaged up in Collateralized Dimension Obligations and other alternate-alternative investments Bas could neither understand nor access. Healinair was one of the only ways for ordinary people to get a piece of the dimensional economy.
Bas tried a new approach. "If you've humored me this far, you probably need the money. Don't you want to work for yourself? You know, be your own boss?"
"Will you get a cut of my sales?"
Bas had asked the same question during his recruitment call, and provided the same answer his soon-to-be-uprift used. "It's more of a bonus. We all get bonuses when we help each other succeed."
"Is it a pyramid scheme?"
"It's not a pyramid scheme. It's dimensional marketing. And if there was something funny about it, why did so many of us buy into it?"
"Fair question," Alt-Bas said. "No luck with your friends? Daniela's friends?"
Daniela wasn't in the picture anymore in Bas' dimension, but he didn't address it. "I want to share this opportunity with you, Bas. Think about it. Not everyone lives in a dimension where Healinair exists. On top of that, not everyone has a 'lellophone, and even if they do, not everyone's likely to pick it up. But we do, and we are, so this is a unique and valuable opportunity."
"For you, maybe."
Bas gripped the phone tighter, his gaze drifting to the boxes of infusers in the corner of his apartment. They were $60 a pop and he had to buy five just to get started, plus at least two more every month to earn commission. Since they were actual, physical products, he had to sell them intradimensionally, so he put out an ad on his building's social network. Bas wondered how many unopened boxes his uprift was staring at while claiming they "sell themselves."
The call waiting tone sounded. That could only be one person. "I'm sorry, could I put you on a quick hold?"
"Go for it."
Bas tapped the switch hook. "Hello?"
"Bas, how's it going?" His uprift sounded overcaffeinated.
"I'm actually in the middle of trying to recruit another Bas."
"Oh, great, great." A mug clinked against a coaster. "You told him about extradimensional air, and its natural properties?"
"Yeah, but I don't think he's going for it."
Uprift Bas grunted. "Did you tell him that he would be letting himself down? All of him?"
How far did this chain of himself stretch? "Not yet, I--"
"I'm sorry, another downrift is calling and I've got to take it. Don't get hung up on him, plenty of Bas in the sea, right? Make us proud." The line disconnected, liminal static.
A deep breath later, Bas switched back to his prospect, surprised to find he was still there. Though he was the type to pick up in the first place.
Alt-Bas spoke first. "It sounds like Healinair isn't working out how you thought it would, right?"
Bas sighed. "Right."
"Look, if there's a normal distribution of us--of Bas--across every dimension, we're probably pretty close to the same spot. Not the lucky bastards at the end of one tail, but better off than the ones on the other." Alt-Bas' voice grew a bit louder. "You're probably already in the hole, right?"
Ignoring the urge to look at the unsold infusers, Bas clamped his eyes shut. "Right."
"Trust me, I've been there. If you're anything like me, I know you can be stubborn. And so as awful as it might sound, the best thing might be to walk away."
Clarity struck Bas in its familiar sporadic-but-welcome manner, like a flaky college friend dropping by for a visit. He realized he knew better than to get further tangled in Healinair. "You've saved me from digging an even deeper hole."
"Glad to hear it."
Bas held a finger over the phone's call return button. "I've got to call my uprift and get out."
"Hang on," Alt-Bas said. "I'm just glad that you're making the right move. And like I was saying, I was in a hole, too, and then I learned about an opportunity that changed my life."
Bas' finger hovered. Withdrew. "Go on."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, July 13th, 2021


In college, a classmate invited me to lunch in the student center cafeteria. He wanted to discuss a job opportunity. A short time later, I found myself at Starbucks meeting with my classmate's colleague, who walked me through a brochure that explained the mechanics of a sales process without mentioning what was sold, or even the name of the company doing the selling. The next step was to attend a seminar at a hotel in downtown Chicago. When I failed to show, the man I met at Starbucks called me, demanding to know where I was. I'll never forget the anger and the panic in his voice.

While that was the end of my multi-level marketing journey, I've been fascinated by them ever since, particularly for their ruthless ability to adapt to changes in the way people interact. If something like the 'lellophone became a reality, I have no doubt the brains behind "network marketing" would salivate at the prospect of building pyramids that stretched to infinity. Next time, I hope Bas carefully reads the Income Disclosure Statement.

- Steven Berger
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