West Meets East
In 1989, the most visible symbol of the Cold War, the wall that had divided East and West Germany, came tumbling down. Amid the celebrating and realization that a new world order was dawning, East Germans poured across the newly opened border.
A band of capitalists rushed in the other direction, flocking to the former Communist country to take early advantage of a promising new market. Among them was a handful of Amway distributors aiming to spread the word about the company and recruit budding new entrepreneurs in the eastern zone. Even comedian and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno took note of the Amway brigade in his monologue: “If you think they had trouble getting rid of the Communists . . .” he said, trailing off and drawing laughs. Rich DeVos took the joke as a compliment, “a tribute to the tenacity of Amway people worldwide.”1 The humor publication The Onion also took a jab, “reporting” under a contrived Moscow dateline: “The struggling nation of Russia took a major step toward getting out of debt and achieving financial independence Monday, when it became an official Amway distributor. ‘I can’t express how wonderful it feels to finally be in control of our destiny,’ Russian president Vladimir Putin said. ‘To be able to start up our company in our spare time with only a small up-front investment is an incredible opportunity.’” The president of nearby Tajikistan—once an Amway distributor, according to The Onion’s lampoon—warned that his nation ...