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.
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.)
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.