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Prove It! Moby Dick 2 —

February 17, 2014

Weight LossFat HealthFat ScienceExerciseDiet Talk

Trigger warning: This post is about a bogus weight loss product.

tl;dr warning: This investigation is almost a month in the making and requires some depth to tell it right. Therefore, I have divided this into a two-part series. You can read the first part with transcripts of product claims here.

Welcome back to part two of Prove It!, in which I ask shady weight loss companies to back up their claims. I’m currently looking into Final Trim and AF Plus, the his and hers herbal diet pills being advertised in my hometown of St. Louis and, apparently, the Rush Limbaugh Show. In my last post, I dissected the claims made in the ad and cited the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and its guide for the dietary supplement industry.

To determine whether an ad complies with FTC law, it is first necessary to identify all express and implied claims that the ad conveys to consumers. Once the claims are identified, the scientific evidence is assessed to determine whether there is adequate support for those claims… When identifying claims, advertisers should not focus just on individual phrases or statements, but rather should consider the ad as a whole, assessing the “net impression” conveyed by all elements of the ad, including the text, product name, and depictions. [emphasis mine]

The net impression of the radio ads and robocalls to consumers is that Final Trim and AF Plus are “guaranteed” to be an “incredibly effective” and “extremely powerful” weight loss supplement; to be “a proven breakthrough that can cause dramatic weight loss”; to cause “maximum weight loss, pounds in days” and that results could be “too dramatic”; are for people who “need to lose at least 30 pounds or more”; have “powerful health and weight loss benefits”; and have “metabolism-boosting benefits” meaning that “you can keep eating your favorite foods and still lose pounds and inches.”

But can they possibly prove such bold claims?

Man the Harpoons

To know who I would be calling, I had to do some research into the company behind AF Plus and Final Trim. Obviously, due to the coordinated campaigns, there’s just one company behind them: Direct Alternatives. Direct Alternatives is an all-purpose supplement powerhouse, offering everything from your herbal cholesterol pills to your anti-aging ointments to your all-natural penis libido pills.

Bravado Clean

Oddly enough, there’s no direct website for Final Trim or AF Plus. So what comes up when you Google those terms is a bunch of complaints about Direct Alternatives, Final Trim and AF Plus on the Better Business Bureau (39 complaints), Ripoff Report (14 complaints) and ScamBook (25 complaints). Almost every single one had the same complaint. Here’s a representative sample:

I was not satisfied with the product when I called to cancel and request a return authoration number I was told that they couldn’t issue a RMA# yet and to call back two weels later on 10-31-2013. When I called back for a RMA# on the 31st I was told because it was the last day of the trial peroid that my account was going to be charged $79.95 the next day. However if I didn’t want that to happen I could aggree to a charge today of $19.95 a cancelation fee. This is extortion! This company has a long list of complaints of just exactally this type of extortion for their customers.

Gee, sounds an awful lot like what LeanSpa got busted for doing, as I pointed out in the previous post. Oh, and guess what else — one consumer even complained that Direct Alternatives wouldn’t honor their guarantee… until it was reported to the BBB. Of course, Direct Alternatives will point out that almost all of the BBB reports were resolved, but then again, so were LeanSpa’s. Of course these companies respond to the BBB; they can’t afford not to. But how many customers haven’t noticed they’ve been charged or didn’t fight to get their refund or didn’t know how to get their refund? Direct Alternatives gets to pocket that $80 overcharge.

As if this con game wasn’t shifty enough, they’re selling a product that is, for all intents and purposes, a placebo. Yeah, perhaps eating raw acai berry has health benefits, but so does eating strawberries and blueberries and any fucking berries. And there just isn’t an overwhelming body of evidence that there’s any weight loss benefit to drying and crushing berries, then swallowing them whole. It’s snake oil.

But as snake oil goes, acai has been a popular one recently. In fact, I stumbled across a previous acai product offered by Direct Alternatives called Acai Fresh. Watch what happens when you put the ingredients for Acai Fresh next to AF Plus:

Acai Fresh: Acai fruit extract, green tea leaf extract, Panax ginseng root extract, pomegranate fruit extract, and amla fruit extract
AF Plus:       Acai fruit extract, green tea leaf extract, Panax ginseng root extract, pomegranate fruit extract, and amla fruit extract

Notice anything?

Where’s the fucking “plus”? Acai Fresh is IDENTICAL to Acai Fresh Plus!!!

And Acai Fresh has been around since at least 2009. Yet the robocall says, “AF Plus is finally available to public.” More bullshit!

After doing some digging, I finally found what I needed: the customer service number for AF Plus and Final Trim. Same for both, obviously. The first time I called, I couldn’t help but prank them, especially since the commercial says, “If your weight loss is too dramatic, please reduce intake to one capsule.” [Note: All quotes that follow are transcribed from the recording I took, which is legal since the state of Maine, where the call center is located, is a one party consent state.]

The customer service representative picked up and said, “This is Sean, can I have your zip code?” I gave him mine. When he asked my name, I said, “My name is Bart Fargo.” For some reason, he couldn’t find my file. “Weird,” I said before pressing on. “Well I got the pills and I’m having kind of an issue and I really need some help, but I’m not sure who else to turn to. I’m losing weight too fast. I’ve lost 50 pounds in the last week.”

“Alright,” he said, completely unfazed. Then he doesn’t really say anything for a bit, before finally adding, “Huh… that’s a lot of weight.” Ya think?

“I switched to one pill and it’s not stopping and I’m kind of worried about it,” I said nervously. He helpfully suggested I only take the pill every other day. “Also, there’s a lot of hair growth,” I continued. “I used to not be able to grow a beard, but now I’ve grown a full beard. I’m becoming incredibly hirsute and I’m losing weight at a tremendous rate.”

Sean asked if I was taking any other medication and I assured him that I would never touch pharmaceuticals — herbal all the way for me. I then inquired as to whether the company would be interested in using me as a before and after photo since I was technically a success story.

“We pretty much have an 85% success rate with the product anyway,” Sean said.

“Wow, how do you measure that?” I asked eagerly.

“Reorders,” he said. “People that call every day happy with the product.”

Golly

That is some iron clad proof, right there.

Sean then asked for my credit card number and, in turn, I informed him that along with my hairy body vanishing, I was also having issues with memory loss.

“I just need your credit card number so I can look up your file,” he said.

“Okay, it’s a Visa… 4295 1000 — can I get a refund if this is working too much? If it’s too effective?”

“I just need your credit card number.”

“Okay, it’s a Visa… 4295 3100 — because I am worried about liver failure. Has your medicine ever caused liver failure? Because I’ve turned like a jaundiced yellow.”

“Sir, I just need your credit card.”

“Okay, it’s a Visa… 4295 3100 — but the memory loss is one of the more concerning things. And my wife told me that I have been easily distracted since I took it. The littlest things will sidetrack me.”

And it went on like that for waaaaay longer than was actually funny because there’s something seriously wrong with me. I did eight or nine iterations until Sean finally hung up on me. [I’m sorry for yanking your chain, Sean!]

I took a moment to chuckle at myself for being a right rapscallion, then called right back and got Sean again.

This time I told Sean that I got the number from a friend’s bottle of Final Trim and I was thinking about buying a bottle for myself, but first I had some questions.

“In the commercials for Final Trim, it says, ‘This product is proven and can cause extreme weight loss,'” I said. “I was wondering what the proof was.”

Once again, Sean cited “reorders and people that are actually satisfied with the product” as proof. The reason I’m quoting the customer service representatives (CSR) is not to pick on him, but to demonstrate what a potential customer might experience if they wanted to find out how Final Trim or AF Plus are “proven.” I worked as a CSR and telemarketers for years because I didn’t have a college degree. CSRs are given scripts and protocols to deal with most questions they will receive. If they can’t answer it, they can pass the call on to a superior. But if you’re selling a weight loss product, you should be taught to anticipate consumer questions.

I also asked Sean about the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Scambook and Ripoff Report complaints of being overcharged. “Most of them are because they actually didn’t cancel within time,” Sean explained. “It’s a 30-day risk free trial and if you don’t call and cancel within that 30 days, you will get charged, which is stated on the automated service that you call in the first place.”

Of course, that’s not what the actual complaints said, but Sean is small potatoes. He’s just the second wall between consumers and the answers I’m seeking, with the first wall being the robocall that doesn’t give you a human being no matter how many times you pound zero or attempt to barter with beaver teeth and skunk pelts. So I asked to speak to Sean’s supervisor.

I was patched through to Lawrence, the customer service manager. You could tell Lawrence was in charge because his patter was far smoother than Sean’s. I told Lawrence that I was calling about both AF Plus and Final Trim. “I’m curious what the actual proof is that they both cause extreme or dramatic weight loss.”

“AF Plus has been out for over 13 years and we’ve taken thousands and thousands of reorders,” Lawrence said confidently. “And we’ve had Final Trim out on the market for about 8 or 9 years.

“Typically proof is defined as a clinical trial,” I said. “Has AF Plus or Final Trim had any kind of clinical trial?”

“They have,” he said confidently. “They were developed by a team of doctors, and all the ingredients are a proprietary blend that the manufacturers put together.”

Feeling good about Lawrence’s confidence, I asked, “Can you help me track down the study? I would love to read it and see how people lost 30 pounds in a short period of time because most weight loss studies, regardless of the product or the diet being used, don’t achieve those kind of results,” I said confidently. “Do you know where I can find that study?”

“I would have to do a little research,” Lawrence responded. “Do you have an email address?”

I gave him mine and then asked him about the BBB, Scambook and Ripoff Report. “You know that’s a pay service?” he asked. “You have to pay for them to not put stuff like that on their website.” He went on to explain how he got calls from Ripoff Report asking if they wanted to buy an arbitration package. He even said the BBB charged to remove complaints.

And indeed, that is what both Scambook and Ripoff Report do, but I didn’t know the BBB in California was found guilty in a pay-for-play scandal as well (which I found disappointing, personally). Fair enough, Lawrence. But what Lawrence doesn’t say is that the accusations are false: just that Ripoff Report charges companies to do these arbitration settlements with legitimate, aggrieved consumers who are ALL saying that Direct Alternatives scams their credit cards. Pay-for-play or not, this is still a pattern of abuse that is reminiscent of the $7.3 million LeanSpa settlement.

Finally, I asked Lawrence why the commercial said they were introducing these products for the first time when, as he said, AF Plus had been out for 13 years. His response was that this was the first time Direct Alternatives was offering their product directly to the consumer.

I ended my call with Lawrence with him promising to email me any evidence he could find. I waited four days, then called back and asked to speak to Lawrence, but was told he was busy. So I decided to pose as an interested consumer again. This time, I got Arthur. I wanted to ask another CSR some basic questions that a consumer might ask to see how they respond.

“How much weight can I lose using your product?”

Arthur said, “On a good weight loss routine, I’d like to say about one to five pounds a week because anything more than that is overkill.”

Wow. For comparison, you’ll notice that all the big name low-calorie diet weight loss companies (Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, for instance) use the standard disclaimer, “People following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week.” This is based on the Harris-Benedict equation and the gross oversimplification of 3,500 calories per pound, which they get straight from the CDC. In the past, I had only seen very low calorie diets like Medifast and Optifast promise two to five pounds per week. So, Arthur’s making some pretty bold claims for crushed berry pills.

“So as long as I take that product, I will lose one to five pounds per week?” I asked.

“It’s not a guarantee,” he said, “but if the product works for you the way it’s designed — every person’s different, so I don’t like to guarantee anything — then that’s the weight loss you should see. The first and second week sometimes for some customers could be a little bit of a stalemate, but that’s just because it’s loading into your bloodstream.”

Let me break down Arthur’s explanation a bit more: If you lose one to five pounds per week then it’s because our product works, but if you don’t, then it’s because your body is different, but you should totally expect to lose one to five pounds per week, except during the first two weeks because…

Science
“If you’re exercising, you’re eating a proper diet and you’re on our program, our customers do have potential to lose up to 30 pounds in that first month.” Notice the vague insinuation that you could lose 30 pounds in a month? Still no proof, just warm, fuzzy feelings about incredible outcomes.

“The commercials also say you can eat whatever you want and lose weight,” I continue.

“You can, but the thing is it’s going to make our product take longer,” he said, trying to talk me out of the acai-induced gluttony in my near future.

“But you will still lose weight no matter what you eat,” I insist.

“Right, but the thing is, the way I look at that theory —” he began.

“Claim,” I corrected.

“It’s a push pull,” he said. “If you’re eating not to lose weight and you’re taking a pill to lose weight, they’re going to fight each other.” This is true, but I’m not interested in his attempt to the promote ideal situation.

“Right, but the commercial says you’ll lose weight even while you’re eating the foods you love,” I reiterate.

“I mean, yes,” he said. “Again, sir, that will work, but it’s not going to work as fast.” Fast schmast, I’m popping Final Trim on my way to Dirty Darryl’s Endless Waffles and Pork Products!

Finally, I asked Arthur about the proof. His response? “Basically our proof would be the customers that we had on this product,” Arthur said, establishing a pattern. “We have many reorders that we take every week.”

Toward the end of this conversation, Arthur indicated that he was text messaging with Lawrence who was in a meeting. Lawrence assured me he was still going to send research and gave me his email address to contact him. Reassured, I sent him an email immediately, but got no response.

Another week went by before I called back. This time when I asked for Lawrence, the CSR asked my name and put me to hold. To my surprise, Lawrence picked up.

He said he hadn’t received my email and he apologized profusely. He said that he contacted management and they were still planning to send him some sort of formal response they provide for people who request proof. I told him I would be very interested in reading that, and he assured me he would pass it along. But while I had him on the phone, I had a few more questions I wanted to ask.

“You had mentioned previously when we talked that the reason they’re saying it’s new is that it’s the first time your offering it directly to people,” I said. “That that’s what you mean by new.”

“No, because we used to sell it in the retail market and now we just sell it direct, so that’s why a lot of folks think it’s new, but the product’s been out for almost 13 years,” Lawrence explained, ignoring the fact that the commercial says Final Trim is “finally available to public.”

“You’ve sold a product called Acai Fresh before directly to consumers,” I said.

“Yup,” I said.

“And that was through an 800 number also, correct?” I asked.

“Yup.”

“When I’m looking at the ingredients of Acai Fresh it’s identical to AF Plus,” I said. “Same five ingredients.”

“Yes, because they’re both our product,” Lawrence said.

“So how are they different?” I asked.

“They’re the same product, we just updated the label,” Lawrence said. “Because we had the same label on that for about 13 years.” His explanation was starting to break down.

“Right, but you said you only offered it direct to consumers recently, but AF has been available direct to consumers since 2009.”

“That was in the retail market and then when we took it out of retail and we updated the label,” he said.

“But what I’ve read is people were calling an 800 number directly, buying it directly from Direct Alternatives.”

“For a short period of time we had it actually going through one of the call centers that we owned and that was ringing it to one of our call centers.” That sure as hell makes it sound like it’s been available direct to consumers before now.

Now, again, Lawrence is just a customer service manager. He probably started as a CSR and got promoted for the way he handles these kinds of questions along with his salesmanship. Lawrence was the third wall between me and the proof I sought. To get the answers I’m looking for, I needed to break the fourth wall.

The Big One

My interactions with Lawrence took place over the span of three weeks, during which time I was also calling another number for Direct Alternatives that I found during my research. This number was the main office, and each of the four times I called, I asked to speak with the owner of Direct Alternatives, Anthony Dill. I told his (presumed) administrative assistant that I was a freelance journalist wanting to interview Mr. Dill about his product. While true, I wasn’t actually calling on behalf of a publication and the AA didn’t ask which one. Each of the four times, I heard the AA tell someone I was calling and that person would respond, and the AA would ask for my number, which I gave him.

Not once did Anthony Dill call me back, which was fine. I didn’t really expect him to. But I decided to try one more time. This fifth time when I plopped down in the chair, I dialed up the number and expecting another brush-off from the AA.

“Hi, can I speak with Tony, please?”

“Tony who?”

And then my brain froze. Typically, I had my notes with me, but was only planning to leave my number again. What the hell was his name? “The guy who runs Direct Alternatives?”

The AA called my bluff. “Don’t you know the name of the person you’re wanting to speak to?”

“I didn’t bring my notes with me,” I admitted. The AA asked me why I wanted to speak with Anthony. At that moment, I knew then for sure that I was never going to speak with Anthony Dill. His lackey, Kevin, was the best I was going to do. And the argument that followed was so bizarre that I want to include it word for word.

I told Kevin that I wanted to ask Anthony about the commercials playing in my town and what evidence they had for their claims. “I was told there was peer reviewed research, that there were clinical trials,” I said. “I’m still waiting to get that information.”

“Okay and are there any requirements on us providing you this information?” he asked.

I was a bit taken aback. “Requirements?” I asked. “Well, you are offering a product to the public and saying that it’s proven, so I would think that proof would be pretty easy to come by.”

“Right, right,” Kevin said. “I mean obviously we wouldn’t make those claims if it wasn’t supported and backed by our legal team.”

“Can I talk to the legal team, then?” I asked.

“Potentially, but they’re a very expensive legal team, so we just can’t throw you on the phone with them at $600 an hour.”

“So what you’re saying is that the proof you have is some kind of semantic legal proof?”

“I’m not actually disclosing any type of valid information in regards to what proof we do and don’t have,” Kevin said.

“Because from what I understand from the FTC is that you’re supposed to disclose that proof,” I responded. “If you have proof you can’t just say it’s proven, you have to provide proof to consumers.”

“Are you a consumer?”

“Yes.”

“So you’ve purchased our product?” he asked

“No. I am a potential consumer,” I explained.

“Right, so you’re not an active customer?”

“No, but are you saying that you only give proof to people who have purchased your product already?”

“But you haven’t purchased the product,” he said with a note of finality.

“You’re saying that people who are contemplating purchasing your product, as I am, don’t get to see the proof that it works or does not work?”

And here’s the best part. Kevin says, “Results vary with each individual, so we don’t guarantee it works for anybody anywhere.” I bolded that because the asshole is lying through his teeth.

You may recall from my first post that the robocall say, “With the metabolism-boosting benefits of AF Plus, you can keep eating your favorite foods and still lose pounds and inches. In fact, we guarantee it.” Direct Alternatives doesn’t just guarantee that it works under normal circumstances, but that you can pig out on Twinkies and Ding Dongs and STILL lose pounds and inches. It’s fucking MAGIC!!!!

I start asking Kevin about the 85% call-back rate that Sean and Lawrence cited as “proof.” Kevin’s immediate reaction was “Well you’re referring to an automated system.”

“No, I’m actually talking about the customer number,” I said.

“Right, that’s a customer service line. That’s not a sales line,” he said, I guess because he thinks I’m a simpleton.

“Right, I’m talking to people, though,” I said. “It’s not an automated response.”

“You’re not talking to them in regards to your order,” he said. “You’re asking them generic questions. So they’re going to give you a generic response.” Um… 85% seems pretty damned specific.

“Here’s what I’m asking: the federal agency that regulates advertising says that if you say your product is proven it has to be a clinical trial,” I said as simply as I could. “It can’t just be ‘These are the people that reordered.’ People get duped into buying stupid stuff all the time.”

“Right, but we’ve been in business for ten years.” Irrelevant!

“That’s the other thing that I asked Lawrence about. It said that it’s a new product.”

“Right, sir, we have a diverse group of products,” Irrelevant!

“Yeah, but I’m talking about the ad for AF Plus and Final Trim,” I explained. “Both say it’s a new product available for the first time.”

“But we have different products that we put on the market.” IRRELEVANT!

Sweet Mother of Mercy, I cannot believe it. Kevin the Administrative Assistant just pulled off a flawless Triple Irrelevant!

Triple Irrelevant

Bravo, Kevin. Bravo.

I asked him once again if they have any proof and he once again points out that I’m not an active customer, just a potential customer. He also points out how “in this particular phone call I don’t necessarily have to explain to you how it’s proven.”

“What happens when a customer calls your number?” I asked, trying another tack. “Do you they get a person? Do they get a live person that they can ask that question to?”

“If a customer calls our customer service department they speak to live people,” he answered. I can’t tell if he’s being deliberately obtuse or not. It takes some doing, but I finally get him to say, “They can’t ask for the proof on the automated system, but they can choose to not place the order on the automated system.”

“Right, but you were still offering a product with the claim of proof and there is no proof.”

“You’re saying there’s no proof, but at the same time we’re not necessarily making any claims that aren’t legally supported.” Like I said, semantic legal proof.

“You say it’s proven,” I point out, yet again. “So how is it legally proven when there’s no proof available to the public?”

“But sir, do you think we would be running the type of volume we’re running and advertising these products without confirmation from our legal team that everything we’re doing is validated?” You know you’re in trouble when you keeping having to hide behind your legal team.

“Do you think that customers would buy your product if they knew that proof is not available to customers when they ask for it?” I retort.

“That’s irrelevant,” Kevin said.

“No, it is not irrelevant,” I said. “It is quite relevant.”

“You’re asking me specifics about whether our customers would purchase our product if they knew there was or wasn’t proof.” Yes, only a mystical time wizard can say whether customers would still shell out $80 a month for a product that can’t be proven.

So, clearly Kevin is not going to share the proof with me because I’m a journalist and he doesn’t have to, as he keeps reminding me.  Surely he can tell me what actual consumers can do.

“Okay, so what does a consumer do when they want to find proof that your product works?”

“The consumer contacts us and we provide them whatever information —”

“How do they contact you?”

“Through our 800 number.”

“Which one?”

“All of the 800 numbers that we have available.”

Right, and that’s exactly what I did, isn’t it? I come back to this later, so keep this in mind: first, Kevin tells me that if a consumer wants to get proof, any of the 800 numbers would help.

I ask him again what documentation they would provide if a consumer asks for it and Kevin said, “We would provide them with whatever we needed to provide them to suffice the situation.”

“There are weight loss products that claim that they can help people lose weight,” I said. “There’s Weight Watchers, SlimFast, Medifast, and all of them provide proof on a website, so you can read their studies.”

All of our products are backed by a full guarantee, meaning if you don’t like the results you’re looking —” DOUBLE REVERSE LIAR!!!

“But that’s not proof,” I said.

“It’s not proof — how is — that may not be proof, but it’s a guarantee of the purchase,” he said, self-impressed. “If you’re not seeing the results you want, you get all of your money back.” Remember that one time when Kevin said “we don’t guarantee it works for anybody anywhere”? That was awesome.

“Your commercial says it is proven,” I remind him.

“You’re still stuck on this word proven,” he said, seriously.

“Right.”

“We take care of all active customers accordingly. Bottom line.”

Once again I asked for proof and this time Kevin told me I would have to send him “formal documentation” of my request.

“Alright, what email address?”

“Email?” he asked. “Well, can you mail us the documentation?”

I haven’t sent a letter in ages, so my exact response was, “Really? You’re going to ask for mail?” But if that’s what it takes…

Curious to see what else I could press him on, I explained to Kevin that when I called up posing as a customer and asking for proof, I was repeatedly cited the 85% claim.

“Well, we obviously know that 85% of our customers calling back isn’t proof as far as the sales offer,” Kevin said.

“Okay, so that’s not your proof?” I asked.

“You can’t hold the credibility of our proof based off a conversation with a $10 an hour customer service rep.”

Okay, so if you’re keeping score at home: if a consumer calls any 800 number associated with Final Trim and AF Plus, then the person at the other end of that line “would provide them with whatever we needed to provide them to suffice the situation” BUT “you can’t hold the credibility of our proof based off a conversation with a $10 an hour customer service rep.”

Giving up, I tell him that I will mail the request, but that I’m pushing forward with my piece.

Kevin got defensive. “You’re now saying that you’re going to write based on the way my conversation with you to where I’m not disclosing anything. That means that we hide all of this information from our customers? That’s not true, you’re not a customer. That would be a false report.”

“What you’re telling me is that a potential customer first gets the 800 number with the robotic guy answering,” I said, rounding up what I have learned. “He can’t ask that person. Then you’re telling me that if they manage to get the 800 customer service number, that that person’s not going to be able to answer because they’re just a $10 an hour peon. But if I contact you, Kevin, directly as an potential customer, you would, if I were an potential customer, disclose the proof to me directly over the phone, correct?”

“If you’re a potential customer, we would have that conversation at that time.”

I then pressed Kevin on how hard it was for me to get actual proof when posing as a consumer and Kevin said, “This is your first formal communication with us.”

“No, I’ve spoken with Lawrence multiple times.”

“Our customer service reps are not formal communication,” Kevin insists.

“Don’t you think that you should provide proof for your customer service reps so that when people ask for proof they can give it to them?”

Kevin fell silent for a full seven seconds.

“Yes? No?”

Another three second pause.

“We’re very confident with what we do sir.”

I know, Kevin. That’s why grifters are called confidence men.

On and On

Kevin’s obstruction and stonewalling was intended to be the end of the line. In fact, at one point he told me “In this situation, I would be the head of this company as far as this type of issue. This is where it would stop.” But just in case, Kevin constructed a fifth wall on the spot: the United States Postal Service.

I tried posing as a potential customer and got nowhere. I tried asking the self-appointed buck-taker for the proof and got nowhere. Now I’ve got another way, another hoop that I have to jump through before someone will even consider sending me said proof.

So what now?

First things first: I wrote Kevin the formal documentation he requested (which you can read here) and bought stamps for the first time in years.

My Letter

You can expect one more post on Direct Alternatives at some point in the future, which will go into greater detail regarding Direct Alternatives; the publicly available research (equal parts weak and scanty) on acai berry and konjac root, the alleged weight loss miracle cures; any discussions I’m able to have with the FTC on this sham; and whatever response Direct Alternatives does or does not provide. But even without that post, what you have read today is a first-hand account of what a consumer should expect if he asks the company behind these deceitful radio ads that take advantage of desperate people.

Finally, I want to give an advance response to those people who will inevitably say, “So what? Everybody knows these pills are a scam and those who fall for it deserve to get ripped off.” Obviously you’re entitled to that opinion, but in the midst of this whole ordeal, my five-year-old daughter, Lottie, said something to my wife, Veronica, that I think explains my concerns quite concisely.

The ad was on in our living room, where V was watching Lottie play. Lottie looked up and said, “Hey mom, you can lose weight.”

“Why?” Veronica asked.

“There’s a new a breakthrough,” she said.

“Oh?” V said.

“It’s guaranteed,” Lottie assured her.

“It might not be true, Lottie,” my wife said.

Lottie thought for a second and asked, “Then why would they say it on the radio?”

Great question, Lottie. Great question.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mich permalink
    February 22, 2014 12:39 am

    I love it!!! These guys runs circles around following their own tails.

  2. June 3, 2014 11:07 am

    Fantastic description..well done. I love this line “We would provide them with whatever we needed to provide them to suffice the situation.” In other words, I’d like to introduce you to my wife…MORGAN FAIRCHILD!!! Yeah, that’s the ticket.

    Great job

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