First off, I just want to be clear that I am not profiting in any way by writing this. No one is paying me or giving me any free stuff or even asked me nicely to say anything about their products. These are just some of my thoughts from my own personal experiences.
And I have absolutely nothing against doTerra. From everything I gather, it’s a perfectly lovely organization selling wonderful products. This is just an explanation of why doTerra ended up not being a great fit for me.
I started buying doTerra products about six months ago. I don’t have any complaints about the products, but I think I’m done with the company.
If you didn’t already know, doTerra is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company — you know, like Avon or Tupperware, or more recently Plexus or Scentsy . . . one of those companies that often puts you in the awkward position of having your loved ones invite you over to try to sell you stuff, and then trying to get you to sell stuff to your friends. They sell essential oils and other related products.
MLM companies work by recruiting people to become their distributors/salespeople, usually with the promise of discounts on their products plus the opportunity to earn commission. Distributors sell products directly to consumers by means of relationship referrals and word of mouth marketing. They then in turn try to turn their friends into distributors, because this means even more discounts, free products, and/or more commission, plus other possible perks (think trips to Hawaii).
Overall, I don’t think there’s anything terribly wrong with MLM. DoTerra in particular seems to have a good heart, provides opportunities for stay-at-home moms to earn an income, and I know they do charity work, too. There are a couple of aspects, though, that just weren’t a good fit for me, especially when it came to doTerra, and I’ll be focusing on these.
Way Too Friggin’ Complicated
My story with doTerra starts simply enough, as it does for most people: I wanted to buy some doTerra essential oils. To be clear, I never had any interest in selling them or making a profit. That just wasn’t in my agenda.
I had heard good things about their products, and was drawn to some of their “proprietary blends.” I wanted to give them a try. But in order to get them for a halfway affordable price (a.k.a. “wholesale prices”), you have to sign up to be a distributor. And that comes with a membership fee.
So I signed up. Buying a membership makes you a “wellness advocate” (which I found a hilarious title from the start) and you get a whole packet of information explaining all the various programs you can sign up for to get further deals.
All of discount programs, I soon learned, involve first buying more products, selling to others, or recruiting other distributors. You are generally rewarded with discounts on additional purchases or free products.
For example, there’s a “product of the month” loyalty program where you have to sign up for monthly purchases, meet a minimum purchase requirement, and have them shipped before a certain date of the month. Only then do you qualify for a free monthly product of their choosing, which you may or may not even want.
Other loyalty programs also allow you get a certain amount of “points” back which you can use towards future purchases. But again, you first have to commit to buying or selling a certain amount of product every month to qualify. There are so many stipulations and minimum purchase requirements, and then many of the products I wanted (like the diffusers) didn’t quality for the discounts.
I quickly found these requirements far too constraining, and even found myself buying things I didn’t necessarily want just so I could earn points to make the whole program worthwhile. But without signing up for any of these programs, the products remained unaffordable.
Now I’m just a simple Mennonite girl with a degree in literature. I felt like I needed a business degree just to make sense of all the offers and programs to get a decent price on the products. I knew I was spending more than I wanted. For what?
Finally, I decided enough was enough.
All I wanted were some oils in the most economical way. Was that too much to ask?
Too Much Fanfare
I think my eyebrows first started to rise when I saw a photo on Instagram from DoTerra of their conference.
“Over 10,000 flowers are being arranged for centerpieces on 540 tables for the Gala tomorrow night. #doterraalive,” the caption read.
Maybe I’m miserly, but that struck me as an excessive amount of flowers. We’re not celebrating the commencement of world peace here. This is a corporation that has developed some new products to sell, and are preparing to unveil them to their sales team. 10,000 flowers? 540 centerpieces? Is Jesus going to be there??
Again, I come from a Mennonite background, where we celebrate huge life events by adding jam to a feast of bread and butter in the unadorned church basement. At my wedding there were exactly six flowers — in my bouquet, which we picked up for $2.99 from the grocery store on the way to the church. So maybe I’m not the best judge of opulence.
I will fully agree that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with lavish conventions and parties. I just don’t necessarily feel like paying a premium for a product so that the company can fund such events. I’d personally rather go with a more modest company who just wants to sell their product in an economical (but still honest) fashion.
I’m not interested in the fanfare.
Look, I don’t mind paying for quality. I’ll gladly reach deeper into my pockets for products that support my values (fair wages for workers, earth-friendly practices, etc). I’ve written before about how I’m willing to pay a premium for organic, local foods, for example. And doTerra does sell really excellent products, I won’t deny that.
However, I just felt like doTerra seemed to be spending too much on marketing. Too much was spent on rewarding top sellers, on fancy galas and conventions, on luring in new distributors, etc.
Moreover, I’m Canadian. When I signed up with the Canadian branch of DoTerra, I was under the impression that the prices on the site were in Canadian dollars. Because I’m not too bright, it took several very large purchases before I realized they were actually in US dollars. With the plummeting Canadian dollar, this makes doTerra oils (which are expensive for Americans) obscenely expensive for Canadian buyers.
A 15ml bottle of frankincense, for example, which is $73.94 USD (wholesale), is $97 CAD. Holy crap! That’s a week’s worth of groceries for me!
I know that doTerra advocates will tell you that only doTerra products are “certified pure therapeutic grade” (which they are, since they’re the ones who made up that term), and that they’re the only ones you can trust to be totally safe. (Young Living distributors will say the same about their products). But I did some digging around, and found another company that seems to be their equals in quality, but for a much smaller price tag.
I’m not convinced that doTerra (or Young Living, for that matter) have cornered the market on high-quality essential oils. But they are by far the most expensive. I suspect it’s mostly for the reasons I’ve discussed above — tons of money poured into marketing and fanfare.
When I complained on Instagram about the prices of doTerra products, a friend recommended Edens Gardens. I finally decided to check them out.
The price difference was astonishing. I’m talking between 40-60% off on most products. So I decided to get serious. I did some research and I made some purchases.
Here are some features of Eden’s Garden that won me over.
- Excellent quality. From what I can tell, the quality of oils offered by Edens Gardens is every bit as high as doTerra’s. (Read their information on quality here.)
- Stupid simple: you see which oils you want on their website, you buy them. No commitments, no membership fees, no complicated rewards programs, no grandiose titles. No nonsense.
- Lower prices: like I said above: for most of the oils I wanted, I could get them for about 40-60% what I’d pay at doTerra. The website explains that they’re able to sell them for such discounted prices precisely because they don’t have all the fanfare associated with MLM. They sell directly to the consumer — no middlemen. No fancy office buildings, no special prizes for top sellers, etc. (Read more here.)
- Different size options: Eden’s Garden oils can be purchased in four different sizes, including a 5ml option. This is perfect if you just want to try out a certain oil without making a huge commitment — I bought a bunch of 5ml bottles for that reason. Many (most?) of them are under $6. (DoTerra, by contrast, only has one size option, which is typically 15ml, so you better hope you like it! Especially if you’re buying an $80 bottle!)
- Much greater selection: doTerra offers around 45 different single essential oils and 20 blends. Edens Garden, on the other hand, sells about 131 single oils and 39 blends. You’re sure to find what you want! (Sure, doTerra sells all kind of other products like lotions, cleaners, supplements, etc, but I wasn’t interested in those).
One warning about Edens Gardens for Canadians:
The one downside to Edens Gardens is this: shipping to Canada is insane. (In the US it’s fine — free for purchases over $50). It’s one of those bizarre situations where the more you spend, the more you have to pay for shipping. It doesn’t really motivate you to buy more!
Fortunately I live close enough to the US border that I can have it shipped (free) to a mailbox in Detroit, and then hop over and pick up my package when it’s ready. But for other Canadians . . . you might not be so lucky.
So there are just a few of my thoughts on a few different essential oil companies! I thought it would be nice to offer an honest, unbiased opinion where I can’t possibly profit.
Again, a reminder: Edens Gardens has no idea I’m writing this. Just wanted to spread the word! If you’ve been looking into essential oils, here’s an option you might want to consider!