As New Years (and the resolutions it inspires) draws near, it’s virtually impossible to escape advertisements for weight loss gimmicks and shady miracle cures. There were three such ads in a row listed prominently on my newspaper’s homepage and out of curiosity, I clicked on the one for Amy’sDietingBlog. The site isn’t so much a “blog,” as it is commercial for two untested and unproved diet pill formulas, Total Cleanse and AcaiBerryDetox. The site “author” identifies herself as one “Amy Woods,” who has “3 kids and a wonderful husband,” and claims to have lost some 31 pounds in three months with the same pills she now shills to others.
I’m procrastinating in writing the last paper of the quarter, due sometime before midnight tonight, so I decided to delve deeper. “Amy,” apparently, suffers from multiple personality disorder — “Karen Evans,” “Sarah Johnson,” “Cindy Williams,” “Adrienne NoLastName (link removed because it now routes to a porn site),” “Tanya Edwards” and a host of other so-called personalities are one and the same. All show the same bulging before belly shot and the verbiage is near-identical. In fact, if you go to the site map on the “Karen Evans’” page, the link titled “Karen’s Dieting Blog” is erroneously linked instead to the site of “Sarah Evans.” Oops.
I checked the Whois domain registry to see what company these sites are all registered to, but the domain information on each has been made private and is blocked to the public. The Total Cleanse link redirects viewers to Total-Cleanse.com, operated by SFL Nutrition of Boca Raton, Florida. According to the Better Business Bureau, the company has a rating of “F.” You can read the dozens of consumer reports on the numerous ways in which the company scammed them and sold them an ineffective product here. It appears as if the company’s “free trial” offer carries a hefty price — if consumers don’t call and cancel within 15 days, they are billed the “super low price of $78.84″ for a 30-days supply. And when consumers do try to call to cancel during the limited phone hours offered by the company, they must endure 4-hour hold times or they find that the phone lines mysteriously disconnect.
SFL Nutrition also lists an Acai Berry formula on its products page, but the company manufacturing the Acai Berry Detox snake oil is FWM Laboratories. According to the BBB, this company has a rating of “C.” As with SFL Nutrition, if consumers don’t cancel their “free trials” within 15 days, they are automatically charged a whopping $87.13 for a 30-days supply. And again, consumers who do call in to cancel report that the number has been disconnected or are put on hold for inordinately long periods of time. Other disgruntled consumers have even reported that upon calling FWM to cancel orders, operators hang up on them.
And it’s not just SFL and FHM deceiving customers — there are lots of companies marketing acai berry pills as the nectar of the thin gods, while running outrageously priced auto-ship programs that consumers find difficult to cancel. There are no prices, no lists of ingredients and no guarantees for any of the products. Read accounts of other acai berry scams here.
A Cincinnati-based company called Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, Inc. — best known as makers of the “Smilin Bob” male enhancement product — made headlines not too long ago for much of the same kind of unethical business practices. The attorney generals of Ohio and 17 other states filed suit, claiming that Berkeley made unsubstantiated claims of its products and deceived consumers in the marketing of “free” 30-day trial orders. When consumers tried to call in to cancel or get a refund, the company made it difficult to impossible for them to do so. Berkeley just recently agreed to settle a multi-million-dollar lawsuit and to provide restitution to customers. And Berkeley founder Steve Warshak? Oh, he was found guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Back to the so-called personal blogs endorsing these products. I haven’t yet found a link between SFL Nutrition and FWM Laboratories, so I don’t know exactly who’s footing the bill for all of these sites, but I do know that AmyKarenSarahCindyTanyaAdrienneLisa? Are simply figments of some dietmonger’s imagination. And as for the acai berry, sure, its a great antioxidant, but it won’t net any lasting weight-loss. Buyer beware