Ethnography as Direct Sales

Paweł Krzyworzeka


By applying the “learning from looking elsewhere” approach I offer recommendations for the advancement of ethnographic practice derived from a study of direct selling distributors. The article is based on a long-term field study (observations and interviews) conducted among sales forces for a global direct sales cosmetics company. The study is supplemented with the inclusion of auto-ethnographic vignettes from the author’s personal experiences as ethnographic researcher and supervisor. I develop a typology of four coping strategies’ currently functioning in direct selling organizations: 1) offer routine to follow; 2) make the task manageable; 3) offer emotional purpose; and 4) provide an opportunity for gradual immersion. This typology can be usefully applied for categorizing, communicating, and developing strategies for ethnographic practice. Finally, new aspects of basic academic activities for organizational ethnographers are identified. 


ethnography; fieldwork; direct sales; MLM; emotions; methodology

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