Herbalife tells distributors not to make miracle claims

Personal testimonials are great advertising. This is why we have infomercials and companies that make billions selling nonsense and junk. Herbalife, a $4 billion weight loss and nutritional supplement company, has its share of critical eyeballs on it right now. When faced with national TV exposure about how the distributors were making outrageous “miracles” claims in testimonials as sales pitches, Herbalife acted. They have agreed to take a stand against such claims that include suggestions of curing tumors, heart problems and diabetes.

Herbalife Launches ‘Re-Training’ In Response to ABC News Undercover Investigation.

The nutrition and diet shake company Herbalife has undertaken a “significant re-training initiative” in response to incidents captured by ABC News undercover cameras in which some of the company’s independent distributors were seen making medical claims about the products and boasting about the potential for riches.

During the ABC News investigation into Herbalife, two reporters went undercover as Herbalife recruits and recorded interactions with independent Herbalife distributors in the New York area. They attended entry-level training seminars run by local distributors and national corporate-run Herbalife conferences.

All of the sessions featured personal testimonials from distributors touting the nutritional and weight loss benefits of Herbalife’s products and the business opportunities presented by distributorship. But in some instances, the undercover investigation found examples of distributors boasting to potential customers that the company’s products helped treat maladies ranging from diabetes to heart disease.

A Staten Island, N.Y., Herbalife distributor even told a potential customer — who was actually an ABC News reporter wearing a hidden camera — that a woman with a brain tumor became symptom free after starting on Herbalife products.

Herbalife executives told ABC News that the company had taken pains to prohibit such tactics.

Good. But that’s sort of like cleaning up the graffiti on a big pile of garbage. There are bigger problems with Herbalife, namely business practices at the core, not the extremities. It’s a multi-level marketing company (some would substitute “scheme” for “company” because it takes advantage of people who really don’t know how it works.)

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The company has been accused of targeting low-income or out-of-work people for their “business opportunity” knowing that most of them will lose their money and have nothing to show for their “business”. The profit in such plans comes from recruiting others, not selling the product. In addition, the product has not been show to even work. Herbalife has had detractors for decades clearly establishing that their premise of the products are not good nutrition, and do not do anything worthwhile for diet and health.

Companies who market such products can’t easily control what their distributors will say to get the product sold, including making stuff up. The Federal Trade Commission can’t keep up with all such claims most of which go unreported. So while this story is about empty promises for the product, they have yet to show what it DOES do. Instead, anecdotes and testimonial (really poor forms of evidence) are the key to bolstering such a product and more importantly, getting someone else to sell it for you.

  5 comments for “Herbalife tells distributors not to make miracle claims

  1. May 7, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    I’ve run into too much of this stuff in my life (okay, it didn’t help that I started actively researching it – I found a lot of inside dope on Amway when I first got on the web in 1996, OTOH there were a lot of conspiracy pages on NutraPoison, er, NutraSweet). A friend became a Herbalife salesman for a short period, and gave me the sales pitch. I decided he wasn’t a friend after that. That’s not what friends are for.

    I think of MLM’s/Ponzi schemes a business cults, as they have so much in common with religious or “spiritual” cults, whether the promoted idea is “achieving the wealth you deserve,” eliminating hunger, inner peace, or world peace. (Prosperity Gospel is all of the above). The main “manufacturer” has to remain above-board to some extent, and also have plausible deniability of what the “independent” distributors do. “Each group [distributor] should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups …”

    It’s not ONLY signing up new recruits that makes the “upline” money, it’s also (as I saw when reading about Amway) charging admission to sales seminars where “We have the Secret To Sales all on this audio CD for only fifty dollars.” It’s the whole sales package of selling sales packages on how to sell sales packages … it reminds me of an infinite regress.

  2. Adam
    May 8, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    Seriously what does anybody expect. Herbalife is a MLM where the people on the bottom are strongly motivated to peddle snakeoil and build a downline of their own to advance. Of course they are going to lie. Of course they will continue to lie, investigation or no investigation. That’s what happens when people get sucked into these scams.

    It’s particularly unfortunate to see MLMs that focus on quackery because it means sites and shill reviews sprout like mushrooms. It’s almost impossible to control short of heavily fining the controlling company into compliance.

  3. May 8, 2014 at 8:43 PM

    I’m trying to raise awareness in my local area about Isagenix which is strikingly similar, only they aren’t covering anything up. They tout their products as “cure-all’ and it’s one big MLM scheme.

    It’s becoming popular in Australia and it’s been popular in New Zealand for some time now. I’m trying to get a skeptic non-profit together, but it’s difficult.

  4. Nck
    May 14, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    You CAN makes lots of money in an mlm…..at the price of ….LIVING the product, day and night, no life, no friends, honesty…….it’s a tough go…

  5. Wyrd
    May 19, 2014 at 2:42 PM

    Herbalife is a massive scam. I’m fairly certain that it is impossible for an MLM to be financially successful and not also be, in reality, a pyramid scheme.

    Yeah, it’s great they’re telling their “distributors” (recruiters) not to make misleading claims while selling the shake powder and other doo dads, but Herbalife is only doing this because they are under *intense* scrutiny right now thanks to Bill Ackman. If Ackman’s attacks are not ultimately successful–if Herbalife is able to weather the storm and come back out the other side, then in a few years time it’ll be right back to Business As Always.

    In any case–the cult-programming, deception, and self-deception run so deep that the majority of people deep into Herbalife will (correctly) interpret Herbalife’s warning as the doublespeak it was intended to be.

    E.g.: suppose Herbalife says to its “distributors”: Don’t make false and misleading claims. Then any of its distributors that are worth a darn at conning people will know that what this means is: Don’t [get caught making!] false and misleading claims.


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

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