In the past few months, I have encountered several people who have brought to my attention the seemingly wonderful information that my old shopping receipts may be very valuable. Strangely enough, all of them seemed far more eager to get me to join them than to relieve me of as many of these (allegedly) valuable scraps of paper as possible. Now, I like the idea of easy money as much as the next person but, alas, I developed a healthy amount of scepticism far before I received my first email from Nigeria and several things about this “business opportunity” sounded off so I did some research.
A company called Elamant apparently finds people’s old shopping receipts so valuable that it will pay actual money for them. However, in order to be eligible to be paid for the receipts you collect, you must pay them a 100 USD subscription fee every month. Now as a rule of thumb, if a job—part-time or otherwise—demands that you pay money before you start working, run for the hills.
Participants have to collect receipts which total up to at least 1000 USD every month in order to get paid. Elamant would then reward them with 200 USD, of which half would go towards the payment of the aforementioned monthly subscriptions (so they actually get 100 USD). So far the only disturbing demand is the one where part-time workers are supposed to pay the company for the privilege of working for it.
This monthly subscription fee is, however, waived if you are able to get three people to join the platform. This explains all those people who were so eager to sign me up—they were simply trying to rid themselves of the fee so that they could concentrate on collecting receipts and earn double for their efforts (apparently you can also earn more if your three recruits get three of their own). The rest of the description of the scheme sounds very familiar—it is immediately clear that recruiting people onto the program is a far more lucrative than actually collecting any receipt.
Elamant and its multitude of ambassadors, who are scattered all over social media, describe the company as a “global membership, data company that specializes in point of sale (P.O.S) data collection” where said data is in the form of retail receipts. Apparently the company sells this data to manufacturers, investors, and retailers who then use it for market research. Elamant itself gets the receipt data from the network of people who, again, have to pay a hefty monthly subscription in order for them to be eligible to be compensated for their work.
The company was launched in late 2017 and operates out of Singapore under the name Elamant PTE LTD. You are free to speculate as to how a “market research” company based in Singapore can benefit from receipt data from a relative backwater like Zimbabwe. The CEO also happens to be a man named Ryan Evans who was formerly the operations director of the now-defunct Saivian, an operation which is now widely considered to have been a Ponzi scheme. If you think that Evans has since repented and Elamant is his foray into a more legitimate line of business you will be disappointed—Saivian touted a business model extremely similar to Elamant’s own.
Saivian promised members a 20% monthly cashback on their shopping purchases if they paid a 125 USD payment every 28 days. In fact, in some other countries, it appears that Elamant is simply marketed as a similar kind of rebate program. The difference is probably because the present economic situation in Zimbabwe means rebates from one’s own purchases are practically worthless when compared to the required monthly subscriptions. In effect the local version of the program was designed—or more likely, just reworded—to encourage local participants to dumpster dive for other people’s shopping receipts instead.
How it probably works
So here is how Elamant most likely operates:
The money that participants believe they are somehow earning in exchange for their old shopping receipts really comes from the “subscriptions” being paid by newer participants, particularly those who are terrible at recruiting. It is obvious that the scheme is designed to encourage aggressive recruitment over everything else—they literally make you pay money if you fail to recruit people. In fact the more people you recruit, the less necessary it becomes to collect the receipts, which in any case are just useless props used in the charade. The real money of the scheme comes from the “subscriptions”. Elamant is genius in that it actually bets on people to work overtime to recruit others instead of actually bothering to look for any receipts. If participants were to actually stop recruiting and start collecting the useless receipts instead, the scheme would come crashing around their ears. The 100 USD they supposedly pay those who are able to meet the difficult receipt targets is just a begrudging but necessary expense for keeping up the charade.
At the end of the day, Elamant is not any kind of data company. In fact, they most likely discard the receipt information as quickly as they receive it because it is worthless to them. The self-described business model of selling the receipt data is used to hide the actual nature of the company which is that it is something between a Ponzi and a pyramid scheme. Their fake business model was just created to make them appear more like a legitimate operation that merely uses multilevel marketing.
Remember that one of the easiest ways of telling a pyramid scheme and a multilevel marketing company apart is that in the latter, selling the actual products and services is more worthwhile than just recruiting others to join. Of course, there are still many pyramid schemes out there which are specifically designed to blur this line.