Thursday 15 October 2009

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice

Please tell me more about GNLD products from South Africa. What’s the difference between them and other vitamins and supplements as they cost anything from P300 upwards for one month’s supply which I find ridiculous!

To me it’s clearly a pyramid style business or something like it, to my husband it’s an option for ‘better vitamins’ (that we don’t normally take anyway!) even though so expensive?

Thanks for getting in touch. This is interesting. Several points spring to mind.

Firstly, yes, this sounds remarkably like a "network marketing scheme. Technically it's not a pyramid scheme as there is a real set of products at the core of the business. However it's certainly pyramid structured. Their web site makes the usual suggestions about things like lifestyle, wealth and "being your own boss", all the hallmarks of a network marketing scheme. However, as with all pyramid-structured selling systems the only people to make real money from them are the founders and those who join VERY early on. Most people make nothing. A lot actually end up losing money.

Not that these companies are usually forthcoming about the earnings. It usually takes legal action to force them to disclose the information. When this has happened we learn how vastly overstated the real earnings are.

The evidence from companies like Amway and World Ventures shows that about three quarters of the people who get involved either make nothing from the business or lose money. The quarter that do make a little money on average make a tiny amount.

The GNLD scheme is a good example of this type of selling mechanism. Superficially the business is about vitamins. Their web page is full of images of health, vitality and implications of wellness. So far, so good. There are, as always, pictures of the CEO grinning inanely. There are sound clips of him selling the message of self-improvement and hints of wealth.

Let’s begin with the whole vitamin business. I'm not a doctor but I know this. Unless you are severely ill, pregnant, very old and infirm or immuno-compromised you don't need to take vitamin supplements. What people need is a sensible diet. We all know that, don’t we? We all know that eating fairly sensibly, taking some exercise and cutting back on the bad behaviour are what we need. Why would you want to buy a vitamin pill that actually offers the benefits of “carrots, red bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach” when you buy all of those things in your local supermarket?

For P300 you could buy a month's supply of fruit which would be much better for you and would taste a whole lot better.

Of course, the web sites selling these vitamins make frequent mention of how they can benefit your immune system. We all know what they are offering there and to whom they are offering it.

Our advice is simple. Unless you have a real need and your doctor has advised you to take them, skip the vitamin pills and eat a sensible diet.

However, just as important to companies like GNLD as the sale of vitamins is the opportunity to recruit you into their selling mechanism. This is the same old Amway, Success University, World Ventures and QuestNet multi-level pyramid. There’s even a diagram on the GNLD web site that illustrates how the system works. Take a look. “You” are expected to sell vitamins to 12 customers but they encourage you to recruit other sellers beneath you and more beneath them.

Let’s face it, this isn’t going to work. Please tell your husband that instead of spending your family’s hard-earned money on vitamins and trying to run a pyramid-structured business, he should just give you the money instead. Then you can either spend it on real food, splash it out on something that makes you feel good, or better still, put it in a savings account!

“University” update

Still no action from the so-called “University of SouthCentral Los Angeles”. They are the ones who threatened to take legal action against us for describing them as a provider of fake degrees. We recently suggested to a reader that they mustn’t think of buying one of their fake $850 degrees from them. This is a “university” that says you can get a degree by filling in multiple choice questions, is not accredited and which says that it’s based in the British Virgin Islands, not in Los Angeles. It’s a “university” that suggests that someone with no evidence of qualifications, skills or experience can get a doctorate in 12 months just by giving them a wad of cash.

Do you think that perhaps they weren’t serious? Do you think that they were just flexing their non-existent muscles? Do you think that Consumer Watchdog and The Voice are scared of scammers? Think again!

We’ll let you know if they ever get in touch with us.

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