Friday 5 November 2010

Remember, remember

When I was a kid, growing up in a foreign country far, far away, around this time of year there would be a rhyme we would repeat.
“Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.”
Of course this was in the build up to Fireworks Night when the Brits celebrate the narrow escape their parliament had on November 5th 1605 when a bunch of early terrorists including the infamous Guy Fawkes plotted to blow up Parliament and kill King James. Incidentally it’s been said of Guy Fawkes that he was the only man ever to enter the British Parliament with honest intentions but that’s probably unfair. I think.

This rhyme popped into my head a few days ago when it occurred to me that we’re approaching that time of year again and I wondered whether there’ll be another fireworks celebration at the Cricket Club this year. This has usually been great fun with thousands of people milling around, drinking and eating with friends and Ooohing and Aaahing at fireworks. Until last year. Last year it all went horribly wrong. Those of us who were there will remember fireworks shooting into the crowd, fires in neighbouring plots, an absence of any security and ambulances, people being hit by fragments of exploded firework casing and people on fire. Yes, on fire. No, I’m not exaggerating, I helped put out the flames on one person right in front of me.

So we’ll all be glad to have read the profuse apologies that emerged from the organisers after the incompetent fiasco last year, won’t we? Well, we would have been if such an apology had been given. But it wasn’t. Nobody had the backbone to stand up and take responsibility for their mistakes and carelessness and for the damage, fright and injures they caused.

So this year I will not be giving them my money. What about you? Do you really want to hand over your cash to people who don’t seem to care if they end up setting you on fire? I’ll be elsewhere, thanks.

Another thing to remember. Don’t trust advertisements that make, or even hint at extraordinary claims. I was shown two advertisements in a recent copy of The Advertiser. One simply said “Prostate problems” and gave a cellphone number. The other just said “CD4 count” and gave the very same same number. I SMSed the number asking if they could help with prostate cancer. I’ve placed the full transcript of the SMS conversation on the Consumer Watchdog blog so you can read for yourself how this charlatan claims that if you buy Herbalife products from him he can treat prostate cancer and raise your CD4 count. Now of course this is loathsome, dangerous and criminal nonsense. By advertising treatments for cancer he has broken the law. He also shouldn’t be offering any form of treatment for disease without being registered as some sort of medical practitioner. He is, by anyone’s definition, a charlatan and a crook.

Rather than call the cops I thought I would do something more creative. I called Herbalife and asked them for their reaction to this and I was very pleasantly surprised. Within an hour a very senior Herbalife honcho from the UK had emailed me and then another senior Herbalife manager was on the phone from South Africa.

I should point out that I have some problems with Herbalife. Firstly, although I’m not a doctor, I know that very few of us need any form of dietary or nutritional supplement. Those of us who eat a reasonably balanced diet need nothing extra. Of course there are some groups, such as pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems and perhaps the elderly who might need a little bit extra but even that is pretty minor. So I don’t see much need for a massive dietary supplement business. Then there is the Multi-Level Marketing aspect to their business. As with all MLM companies the income you end up making is a pittance. In fact Herbalife is forced to disclose the earnings their “Leaders” make each year. In 2009 they disclosed that less than 2% of their distributors earn more than two thirds of all the collective earnings. Nearly 90% of their distributors had an average “annual gross compensation paid by Herbalife” of a mere $478. By the way, that’s not profit, that’s the income before you’ve paid your phone bill, your travelling expenses, bought all the materials and taken care of every other cost. Like income tax.

Meanwhile, here’s a first for Consumer Watchdog. For the first time ever I’m going to praise Herbalife, not criticise them. They seemed genuinely horrified that their distributor was making these astounding claims for their products, thanked me profusely for telling them and insisted that I pass over the full details so they could take immediate action to stop him. I can’t really ask for more then that. This is a very mature, adult reaction. Unlike certain other infantile, or should I say “Hyunfantile”, companies whose distributors are incompetent or reckless these guys took it on the chin and promised to deal with the problem. Good for them.

Finally, remember to check out the Consumer Alerts we’re now distributing via the Consumer Watchdog Facebook Group. Recently we’ve alerted members to the World Business Guide scam, a very effective scam that tries to steal €995 from you. Don’t get caught out!

This week’s stars
  • Gofaone Orutile from the Orange Call Centre who our reader describes as “a genius”.
  • Thuso and Sebogodi, the Plascon guys at Game for being “really, really helpful”.

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