This week, I’m talking about how essential oils are actually sold
You’ve probably noticed, if you’ve ever tried to buy essential oils in stores that they are pretty hard to track down. They aren’t really the sort of thing you “nip out” for and, even if you do find them, maybe in your local health food store, the selection will be likely be limited and you might find yourself wondering how long they’ve been there, or if they’ve been stored correctly. Dust on the bottles is a baaad sign! And if they’ve been sitting in direct sunlight you’ll definitely want to pass. The simple truth is, there is simply not enough demand at the local level, in most cases, to ensure a fast enough turnover of stock (so that goods they offer will remain fresh). This is why the vast majority of independent companies selling essential oils have online stores as well as their small shop-front (if they even have that) because without widening their customer base in this way they can’t ensure freshness.
Where the independent suppliers can fall down is that as essential oil specialists and teachers, they often lack the marketing knowledge and/or budget to ensure that their website can be easily found by people who don’t already know their name. Margins are small, and they often run educational courses as well, meaning that website management for search purposes isn’t high on their to-do list. It’s such a shame, because these sites often have real personality and offer a treasure trove of knowledge. The problem is compounded because the average lay-person simply doesn’t know how to find trustworthy suppliers or how to recognise one when they do. I’m going to address this issue next week, as I have gathered together the relevant information to help you find the best ones, no matter where you live.
Something that’s been bothering me for a while is the rise of multi-level-marketing (MLM) companies selling essential oils. I have taken time to do some research and found that MLM prices are on average 3.22x more expensive than traditional online outlets with some individual oils being up to 5x more expensive.
To be clear, I do not have a problem with MLM business in general. I actually still buy my skincare products still from an MLM company I started working with nearly seven years ago, which I credit with introducing me to the entrepreneurial world. I know that in order to survive and grow they MUST offer a quality product and a generous compensation structure, and I see the attraction and value of the “social selling” business model, because it’s a great way for people to support each other in business, rather than the faceless distributors in normal retail.
My issue with essential oils being sold via MLM is purely with the pricing – and here’s why: there is a standard price point for each oil worldwide, which makes sense because different things are grown in different countries, so they all have the same cost at origin – and that’s where the problem arises. The MLM companies simply cannot produce, or procure, the oils cheaply enough to ensure their retail price is in line with traditional suppliers, because everyone in the team (known as a downline) needs their slice of the pie. Sadly the MLM pie is a lot bigger than the traditional model in this particular industry and that means you’re going paying more to buy this way. There is nothing wrong with buying essential oils from your friend who has joined an MLM company if you want to support her business, and if you’ve made the decision you’re passionate about aromatherapy and want to build a business selling essential oils (whilst avoiding the need to travel the world sourcing growers and distillers, and buying in bulk yourself) that’s great too – it’s nice being in the MLM bubble and growing a business with like-minded people. You might choose to buy this way if you feel it’s just more convenient to buy from an established well known company as it saves you doing the research, and they ARE good quality. These are all perfectly legitimate, as long as you are making an informed decision and are aware you have other choices.
But here comes the kicker – it makes me so bloody cross when I see these companies trying to justify their prices by making inflated claims about the quality of their oils! Because there is no such thing as “therapy” or “therapeutic” GRADE essential oil!
Let me repeat that, for the avoidance of doubt, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THERAPY GRADE ESSENTIAL OIL.
Therapy Grade (and other similar phrases) is simply a marketing term coined, and in one case – trademarked(!) by the MLM companies. There are several companies using the word “Grade” after some medical sounding word or another but there is NO official grading system for essential oils, certainly not one approved by The FDA in the USA or by DEFRA or any governing body in the UK. If you are looking at a company that claims their oils are certified by a government department, steer clear! They are being disingenuous.
To perfectly illustrate this point I have a little anecdote – I once had a rather heated “discussion” on Messenger, with a woman who works for one of these companies. We aren’t connected, but have a mutual friend who had asked for advice on finding a good essential oil supplier. I gave my advice which included “avoid MLM suppliers – they are much too expensive” and this lady went on the offensive and sent me an extremely long standard questionnaire designed by the company she worked for. I can only assume it’s purpose, from the somewhat aggressive tone of the questions was to blind the recipient with science. It might have worked, if I was a lay-person, but I’m not – my response ended with “Have you even read the questions you sent me? They’re hardly intellectually valid. Once I started looking at them properly in order to provide your answers most of them are nothing more than mental masturbation and not worth my time. But Q4 – that would be me. I am also a trained perfumer.” She did not come back with any further questions.
By the way, Question 4 was “Does your company have a trained “nose” on site?” The point of sharing this with you, is that these companies have actually gathered together customer objections, supercharged the answers with a bunch of quasi-scientific terms and used them to inspire a list of questions designed to make the reader feel stupid. If these questions are being put to you by your friend, or a friend of your friend, especially in a group presentation situation, and you aren’t an experienced specialist, the chances are you will effectively bow down. At best you will stop objecting so you don’t put anyone else in the room off (which is the point!), and at worst, you will sign up because you feel bad about yourself!
Please don’t buy essential oils under duress – the whole point of them is to make you feel good, both physically and emotionally. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable because someone is hard-selling them to you, take a deep breath and say “No”. Remember that “No” is a complete sentence and play them at their own game by not speaking first! There are PLENTY of places to buy essential oils, you just have to know how to find them.
Next time, I’ll be showing you real-time prices (as of February 2017) of an assortment of oils, and giving you the low-down on exactly how to track down quality independent suppliers.