Logically, the differences are crystal clear:
Customer spends money, buys stuff (from distributors).
Distributor earns money, sells stuff (to customers).
However, in the MLM world, things are never so clear. And one of the arguments proponents often use is "if the distributor enjoys the product for internal consumption, they could not be considered having suffered financial loss".
Or as someone argued on reddit /r/vemma...
Because even those "poor souls" who join the business but don't earn commissions still aren't losing money, just like when you buy anything else in life that you ultimately consume or use you don't think of it as losing money.This is bogus logic. Can you imagine a bar owner drank all his own stock of liquor, and need to close the bar, and then tell himself, "I didn't really lose money because I got drunk"?
There's another reason though... consuming the stock prevents distributor from getting a refund.
MLM pioneer and proponent Richard Bliss Brooke wrote on his blog (I bolded two sentences):
So, although the failure rate here is all over the map, the question to ask again is what are the consequences of failure? Did the participant lose money? Perhaps. But the safety nets are generous here. Every Direct Selling Association member company is required to repurchase any product or marketing materials that are unopened and current stock. Contrary to public perception, it is hard to actually lose money at this level.You need to still have the product if you want a refund. If you consume/use the products for yourself you can't get a refund. Because you're now a customer, not a distributor. (And distributors have less rights than a customer)
So not only did the distributor wasted time and effort on this venture, if s/he used up the products s/he can't even get a refund, yet they will be ridiculed for "you obviously not worked hard enough" or "you didn't really lose money if you liked the product" by their "peers".
However, there's a deeper issue here... which was the issue we discussed at the beginning... what's a distributor, and what's a customer?
In Herbalife, according to Herbalife's own presentation for 2012 data (as rebuttal to Bill Ackman's accusations), majority of their distributor did NOT intend to make money:
officially change the name of those distributors who don't resell to "members".
Yet the issue remains. Customer spend money. Distributors earn money. So when a distributor spent money is he still a distributor? Thus is the question of "internal consumption". After all, if you consume the stock (you were supposed to resell), that's internal consumption.
The company doesn't care whether distributor resells the product or not because distributor already purchased the stock from the company. See Herbalife's Marketing Plan (bold emphasis added by me):
As you order products, you accumulate credit for the
amount of Volume Points that are applicable to the products
ordered. These accumulated Volume Points become your
sales production and are used for purposes of qualifications
--cited from http://factsaboutherbalife.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Marketing-Plan-and-Business-Rules-2012.pdf
In other words, Herbalife is basing your compensation based on what you BOUGHT ("... as you order products...") and what other people bought off you. And if you didn't sell anything, then you are the customer.
You joined MLM to EARN money, not to spend money (at least without reasonable expectations of return). If you drank (or otherwise consumed) your stock, you're literally pissing it all away as you could have obtained a refund. Anyone advocating "you could not have lost $$$ if you enjoyed the product" is in serious self-denial or downright delusional.