Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fuck you, Limu

Some asshat just tried to rope My Nigel into a multi-level marketing scheme under the guise of a job offer.

My Nigel has been out of work for just over six months, now, so this was a mean thing to do. He thought he had a job interview and gets handed a can of grossly over-priced energy drink (80 mg. of caffeine with some vitamins, big whoop) and a glossy brochure promising that there's a fortune to be made here.

My Nigel, besides his financial worries, has a progressive and possibly fatal disorder which, while currently in remission, may or may not have been cured by the rounds of treatment he's undergone in the past year. It's too soon to know if it's really gone, or just gone underground. So this asshat exploits the anxieties by telling MN that this product can "help" with his disease, and that there are "over 800" studies that support that. That was cruel.

MN was all excited.

So we went on line last night. God, I love Google. Our first discovery was that the founder, who is described as a successful businessman with 25 years of executive-level marketing experience, actually had an identical business selling an identical product yanked out from under him by the FTC for making identical claims. This is, of course, not mentioned in the glossy brochure.

Our second, of course, is that the studies mentioned are actually studies on the main ingredient of the product, not the product itself, and most do not appear to have utilized human subjects. There are 811 of them in MedLine's database, and short of pulling each and every one, there is no easy way to tell. Many, however, included in their titles rabbits, in vitro, and so forth. Also, they cover all sorts of topics, and not one appears at first blush to address MN's particular disorder.

Let me be absolutely clear here: There is not one study in a peer-reviewed journal (or anywhere else for that matter) of this specific product used as recommended (2-3 oz. daily) in humans. Not one. This misappropriation and misrepresentation of other people's work was specifically mentioned in the FTC's previous cases against this company's previous incarnation.

In the defunct company's literature, by the way, they only cited by name the Japanese researchers, knowing that anybody who Googled them would get articles in Japanese scientific publications, which of course nobody would be able to read. So they get to look like their product has a scientific basis while making it hard for the average layperson to check up on their claims that this potion cures everything from asthma to zither phobias.

And speaking of Google, if you Google the founder's name, what you get is page after page of his own websites, blogs, and on-line ads, along with page after page of distributors' websites, blogs, and on-line ads. He effectively controls, in other words, your ability to dig into his background with any ease. The average person looking into this wonderful "opportunity" will only find laudatory references. They are nearly verbatim from the company website and its other marketing materials, by the way, which lends support to the idea that the founder, always described in the reverential tones usually reserved for people like Mother Theresa, is controlling his public image. It takes someone pretty determined and creative to delve into his actual, objectively reported background.

Of course, the whole MLM concept, or "network marketing" as this company is disguising it, is a flawed business model. To make any money at all, you'd have to get in on the ground floor. The brochure tries to claim (a) that this is a ground-floor opportunity, and (b) that there are tens of thousands of "distributors" living large off their profits. You can't have it both ways.

To make any money at all, you'd have to have a theoretically infinite market for this ridiculously overpriced product (about $150 for a month's "supply"). Each distributor has to buy that much every month for themselves to "qualify" for commissions for sales in their downline. Each would have to have enrolled eight additional people to buy this amount every month just to break even. And then of course those eight have to have eight and so forth ad infinitum. Obviously, this is not tenable: Sooner or later everybody runs out of new prospects, and in the meantime they're all running around in the same market competing with each other for the ever-dwindling supply of new prospects.

Perhaps worse, it turns your friends, neighbors, and co-workers into prospects whom you then have to con into buying something that may or may not be good for them at a grossly over-inflated price. Ick.

I feel very protective of MN and have the nearly overwhelming urge to drive over to this asshat's place of business (yeah, this wonderful "opportunity" he was offering is so lucrative that the asshat has to have a day job) and shaking him until his teeth rattle.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Beautifully written and I agree 100%. I see all the flaws you addressed and haven't been able to express them as effectively as you did. Limu is taking over my area and many of my friends are claiming wonderful health and driving "free BMW's." It is a matter of time before the MLM bubble for their product pops and they are all left with $600 a month car payments. The lure of a shiny car and a "easy money" has them all hypnotized.