Crimes against science

Here at Botwatch we respect science. We understand how important it is to look for evidence, evaluate it properly, and change your ideas according to what the research shows.

To be fully immersed in a Multi Level Marketing (MLM) scheme people need to be able to have a healthy disregard for science. They need to be able to ignore the cold, hard facts about their chances of success and to ignore any objectivity. They are encouraged to embrace a different way of thinking and to just ‘believe’ and ‘hope’ and ‘ask the universe’ for success.

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An intelligent person will look for evidence and listen to objective criticism. A person in the MLM mindset will be taught to shut down any criticism and shun people who try to provide evidence that goes against their beliefs. Lazyman and Money investigated why MLM reps think their products work.

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As discussed in previous posts, MLMs have overpriced products to enable the money to flow up the pyramid. This poses a challenge to the people trying to sell the products. They can only buy so much and stockpile a certain amount before they start to realise that they are wasting their money. They have to try and sell some product at some stage, or convince themselves their products are special.

In order to sell their opportunity or products, MLMs and the people in these schemes will revert to pseudoscience in order to back up their ridiculous claims. Here are some of the common scientific errors that people make.

Detox

The liver, skin and lungs remove toxins from our bodies. No amount of supplements will help this process. We do not need to detoxify ourselves. MLMs will have you believe otherwise. For further information read these articles from the Skeptoid, Guardian or just Google ‘detox myth’.

Here are some MLMs displaying their ignorance on ‘detoxing’.

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Monat here are explaining that when people’s hair falls out and  they get an itchy, flaky scalp, that is ok. It is just their hair ‘detoxing’. They say things like ‘as your pH balances equalize’- what does this even mean? Does any of this sound plausible to you?

 

Natural is good

Of course, natural is not good. Cyanide is natural. So is Ebola, volcanoes, scorpions, sharks, poison ivy. The list could go on and on. Just because something has come from a natural source (hasn’t everything?), does not mean it is safe. Take essential oils as an example. This is a substance that plants make to act as an irritant to put off creatures eating it. Essential oils are toxic and should not be consumes internally. But you will find people selling DoTerra and Young Living essential oils, saying you can drink it. It’s ok, they say. It’s natural.

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Here is a statement from the organisation that advises and tries to regulate the use of aromatherapy.

AIA does not endorse internal therapeutic use (oral, vaginal or rectal) of essential oils unless recommended by a health care practitioner trained at an appropriate clinical level. An appropriate level of training must include chemistry, anatomy, diagnostics, physiology, formulation guidelines and safety issues regarding each specific internal route (oral, vaginal or rectal).

For more information, please visit the AIA site.

Science Based Medicine have looked at DoTERRA a few times. Have a look at these articles here, here and here.

This quote is from a Young Living seller

“Young Living oils are therapeutic grade A oils and are produced so that they are pure. Although applying oils to the skin and inhaling them can be beneficial, sometimes ingesting the oils is even more effective. The Vitality line of Young Living oil labels say that they can be taken internally.

People can put a drop or two of essential oils into milk to drink or drop into empty gel capsules and swallow. Empty gel capsules can be purchased from Young Living; 250 capsules for $9.87 retail.”

Chemical free

This Arbonne advert says the product is chemical free. How can anything be chemical free? Gasses are chemicals, so are rocks and metals. We are made of chemicals, and so is water. There isn’t a substance on this planet that isn’t made of chemicals.

How would you like a chemical free toothpaste? What on earth could it be made of I ask myself?

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I’ll stop now because this could go on for ever.

Anecdotes are not proof

When there is no scientific evidence that a product can do what the seller claims, they often resort to anecdotes. They might have been told they are not allowed to make health claims as this would break the law. So they resort to saying that the product cured them of something. Or they share other ‘testimonials’ and, once a database is built up of these testimonials, it can look like there is lots of evidence for the claimed effect. Of course, these claims have not been researched properly and many are complete fabrications. I think this type of product promotion preys on people’s scientific ignorance and people’s general trust of what their peers tell them.

If someone tells you a product worked for them, question their motives. Are they trying to sell it? Are they allowed to make health claims? If health claims are not allowed, why?

JuicePlus+ reps have set up a testimonial facebook page where they can all share their stories, thinking they are getting around the law. This is very deceptive. The range of claims is astounding.

Juice Plus and its effects on #fibromyalgia #juiceplus www.facebook.com/ahappyhealthieryou

 

In the UK testimonials are not allowed to be used when selling a product unless very strict criteria apply. Check out CAP for the guidelines.

 

Interpreting scientific data

Sometimes you hear of an MLM company claiming there is proper scientific evidence for their claims. When you actually look at their claims though, they often fall far short of the evidence required to back up what is being claimed. The first company that jumps to mind is JuicePlus. They go on about the ’30 gold standard studies’ that prove their vitamin supplements can do the amazing things they claim. Have a look at the studies. They no way prove any of the claims made. In fact, the small improvements in any factors can be explained by the existence of the vitamins. In the EU it is illegal to claim that the results are as a result of anything other than the expected results of the individual vitamins. Have a look at the disclaimer they have to display on their website in the EU-

Disclaimer

* * Current EU legislation necessitates that health-promoting effects may not be attributed to the product as such (in this case Juice Plus+), but only to the specific ingredients.
** Mandatory information in accordance with Article 10 (2) of REGULATION (EC) No 1924/2006: As a general rule, you should aim for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. The indicated health-promoting effects can be achieved by taking the recommended daily amount of Juice Plus+ capsules.

For more information on the interpretation of the research, read this very good blog of someone who painstakingly analyses the research.

I had a look at the research behind one of Ariix’s products and found it did not stand up to the hype its reps were creating.

Of course, to be able to understand the research, you first need to have access to it. Some companies claim to have evidence but won’t show you the evidence. They won’t even elaborate on where the research might be found. Many Monat reps, for example, claim that their products were tested at Princeton University for three years (or variations) and they concluded it was safe.

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This blogger  investigated where the claims might have stemmed from. There has been no official statement from the company clearing up the issue. I have found the ‘research’ on this website. All it shows are the results and methodology of the testing of some individual ingredients. They don’t test the products in their sold form. They don’t show where the research was published, who wrote it, any conflicts of interests or any evidence of peer review. In this form, the research is useless.

Fearmongering

Some MLMs provide scary ‘facts’ that, whilst true, do not support their conclusion that you need to buy their products. Take Ariix as an example. They make and sell some products like air and water filters. They explain how contaminated water can be really bad for you.

DRINKING CONTAMINATED WATER CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH

Of course it is bad. They then go to great lengths to explain how their filters can filter out these harmful things. They conclude that you should buy these expensive products for your health. What they fail to explain is that in the developed world our water supply is already free of these contaminants.

Our indoor environments are not as bad as the global picture because modern houses have ventilation, do not have indoor fires and people are generally not living in close proximity to other people and sewerage. The people living in conditions who would benefit from these filters have other things on their mind, like survival. They certainly won’t be in a position to invest in these filters.

Isagenix try to scare us into thinking some really strange things about cows and the milk that they use for their whey powder.

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Dodgy ‘science’ experiments

Some Forever Living reps ‘prove’ how pure their product is compared to other aloe vera juices. They do this by mixing it with iodine. They claim that the iodine represents the impurities in our body. They add some of their aloe drink to the iodine and it goes clear. Wow! It doesn’t go clear with other brands. The reps say this proves their product is more pure and better at eliminating these dreaded ‘toxins’.

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There are many of these ‘experiments’ on YouTube. Here is one, here is another. And another.

The reality is the colour change is just a chemical reaction due to one of the ingredients in Forever Living’s product. The chemical that is reacting is the ascorbic acid (vitamin C) that is used as a preservative in Forever Living’s liquid, but not present in the other brands. This chemistry page explains the reaction.

Young Living

Some people in Young Living have been doing ‘experiments’ to ‘prove’ that their household cleaning products are better at killing germs than bleach. They put some germs on agar in a petri dish and put in squares of paper soaked in various substances, including bleach, nothing, Thieves essential oil and other cleaning products. The experiment is described here. This is the type of photo people are sharing-

 

Their conclusion may not be all it seems. The essential oil that is used in these experiments is a pure essential oil and is therefore not a fair test. People do not clean their bathrooms with pure essential oils. That would get very smelly and very expensive. Someone questioned this in the comments on one of the blog pages where this experiment was published. They wanted to see what would happen if they used the actual Thieves cleaning solution. This is the conversation that ensued.

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‘Healthy pH’

The human body is very good at maintaining its pH level. pH is how acidic or alkaline your body is and it regulates itself with the kidneys and lungs. In real life I have a very good understanding of pH and have personally measured, cared for and seen the effects of a pH that is outside of the normal range. Blood has to be between 7.35 and 7.45 and anything outside of this makes you very sick. You cannot adjust this number by taking any supplement or by altering your diet. It just isn’t possible. And even if you could adjust it, you wouldn’t want to because it would make you ill.

These basic biological and easily verifiable facts do not stop MLMs from spreading misinformation to sell their products. Here are some offenders-

Ariix

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Cleanshield

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A human body with ‘a pH near 7.0’ is a near dead human body.

Thrive from Le-vel

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Complete disregard for biology

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This is not how under eye puffiness is formed. Here is an article on the reasons scientists think eye bags are formed. There is no mention of tear ducts pooling.

 

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That pseudoscience has it all- biological nonsense, pH levels, health claims, and a claim that they use ‘evidence based documented evidence.’

Law of Attraction

This belief is rooted in the thought that bad/ negative thoughts will bring bad consequences. Likewise, good and positive thoughts will bring good consequences. The evidence that is presented for this pseudo theory is that ill people can often be heard complaining about their condition. It is therefore thought that it is this negative thinking that must have brought on the illness. Not only is this the fallacy of correlation and causation, it is beggars belief that anyone would make that conclusion.

Lacking in any proof or scientific evidence for this shaky belief has prompted some to look for a good meme or quote to back them up. This is what believers have come up with.

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It goes without saying that Einstein never said such rubbish. The actual quote came from someone who thought he was channelling an alien. Just in case you would like to check the authenticity of this quote, the people at Quote Investigator have looked into it for you.

Conclusion

People in MLMs will say any old rubbish to sell their products. Often the false information comes from the company themselves. The reps pretend to be knowledgeable in areas they have no understanding of. They are taught and encouraged to just believe in their company and their product and try to get others to believe in it. Pesky science and facts will not get in their way of trying to make a sale.

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The stages of leaving

From helping many people through their journey away from Multi Level Marketing, I have noticed common themes. I have attempted to describe them here. Have you been through these stages? Would you add any others?

Trigger

There is often a single event that unsettles people. This trigger goes against their personal ethics or crosses a line that is important to the person. For example, someone finds out that Younique is not as animal friendly as they were led to believe or they witness an upline encourage lying. Perhaps they find out the CEO is a homophobic tax evader or the charity the company supports is a sham.

Whatever the trigger is, it is enough to upset the person on a level where they cannot deny the wrongness of it.

Dawning realisation

Once someone has been awoken to the trigger they are more easily able to see other troubling things around them. They start questioning like never before. Niggling doubts become real concerns. The nagging upline can now be seen as the bully they are. The little lies they have been encouraged to make are now seen for the deceptive recruiting tactics that they are.  The rep becomes more and more horrified at what they have become involved in.

Fear

The fear at this stage is real. Timeless Vie looked into the fear that is instilled into MLM members. The fear is probably worse the longer someone has been involved in the company. They will have been faking it to make it. This would have involved presenting the image of success to their friends and family, telling them they are making money. They will have had conversations with friends and tried to persuade them to join them in this successful venture.  If they then decide to leave, they will lose face.

The worst fear will come from the realisation that friends will have been lost due to the MLM. Often people are encouraged to ditch their friends and family if they are less than totally supportive. They could have unfriended people and upset long standing friendships. Slowly their friend groups will have been replaced with their MLM family, their Senesisters, Y-sisters, other family/group name of belonging.

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It’s a bit culty actually. People spend a lot of time with their MLM ‘family’ and feel a real connection with them due to the immense amount of time they spend with them. The slow backing away from friends and the encroaching influence of the MLM group creeps up on people and they can feel quite isolated when they realise how alone they really are.

This isolation can be worsened when people left their normal jobs (‘sacked the boss’) or if they have mental health issues.

There will also be fear from the thought of how the upline and team will react. They will have seen people leave the team before and heard how they were treated. They may have witnessed the blocking, isolation and character assassination that often occurs to the traitors that leave. They are blamed for their failure and lack of commitment to the group. Again, the cult vibes surface here. The excommunication and vilifying of outsiders is a feature of cults and MLMs.

Action

In this stage, the person decides that they can no longer continue in the MLM and they have to do something. They know it will be hard to take action but they know that they must. The question here is what they need to do. Do they stay members and let it fizzle out? Do they have a raging argument with their upline? Do they just delete and block everything and pretend it never happened? Do they tell an old friend and seek some perspective? Do they contact Bot Watch, Elle Beau or Timeless Vie for support and advice?

There is no simple answer here as each person’s situation will be different and their ability to cope will vary. I would strongly advise, whichever tactic people use, that they stop spending money on the products/ training/ any MLM activity. Take time to decide what to do, but stop trying to make it work. Once you have gone this far down the decision making process, you will not be happy in MLM any more. The visor has been lifted and you can no longer pretend it might be ok. The person will be OK, but not if they stay in MLM.  It can be harmful to keep trying to lie to yourself and knowingly lie to others to recruit.

 

Consequences

This is the part where people have to deal with the upline, contact head office, admit to friends what happened. Sometimes people need to admit to partners about the money that they borrowed or face their downline and try to make amends. They need to deal with friends who can no longer quite trust them due to previous attempts to recruit them and the perception from friends that they were seen as a way to make money. There must be the problem of coming across people who are thinking ‘I told you so’.

This part can be very isolating and can be difficult when you have been told repeatedly to just follow the plan and to reject the ‘normal’ way of working by having a J.O.B. So much hope and energy and money will have been invested in the dream of succeeding in the MLM. The actual process of leaving will be unchartered waters and can be very scary.

Healing

This is a very important part.  People need to be able to sit back and lick their wounds. Often a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression could be worsened. Previously strong people might be feeling fragile. Their belief systems have essentially been shaken to the core and everything they were working for has come crashing down.  Sometimes a reaction can be to start blogging and becoming an active voice against the MLM can become all-consuming. The anger and distress can be overwhelming and people seek to channel it.

If you have been through anything like this, it is very important that you slow down and take time to process what has happened. Please realise that you have been subjected to many techniques designed to keep you in the company, spending your money and working every spare minute to send money up the pyramid to the owner. You have been manipulated and it will take a lot of healing to overcome the damage.

If you have a friend who has been through this process, be gentle with them and allow them to talk about their feelings. You may have to occasionally step in and offer  a different perspective when their faulty logic shines through. They may blame themselves for things that happened that wasn’t their fault. They may have a negative view of themselves and their abilities. Be gentle with them and be patient.

Please contact Bot Watch if you need help, support or advice.

Some other articles you might find useful on this site are

How to help someone in an MLM,

How to leave an MLM,

How to be a Bot Watcher,

Why do people join MLMs?

Network Marketing is a cult.

MLM Expectation vs Reality

Testimonial use in MLMs

We already know that MLM often sell products with absurd health claims. Health claims that are not allowed by law. See here, here, and here about the laws around what health claims are allowable.

People in MLM schemes end up with products that are usually overpriced and of little actual use. The only way they can sell these products is to exaggerate their uses and make it sound like it has magical qualities. Have a look at TINA’s findings of false health claims made by MLMs.

Hence, you see posts like this on Facebook-

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However, these sorts of claims are frowned upon by the law, advertising authorities and the companies themselves. The companies tell their reps, outwardly at least, that they must not make health claims. They have compliance departments that are supposed to be finding these claims and asking their reps to stop.

If these wildly inacurate and illegal claims are not allowed, how are people supposed to sell them?

Juice Plus have come up with a great idea. Share testimonials. Then people are not making claims, they are just sharing stories. Here is an email from their compliance department to a Bot Watcher.

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“If someone has seen that the product has helped them with a specific condition, then we encourage them to tell their story in the first person”.

 

“share this story with your readers or tag them in the post.”

 

 

From this belief sprung the Juice Plus Testimonials page on Face Book. Here, people tell stories about how they took Juice Plus and their health condition improved. Here is a selection of some of those testimonies-

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You can find any medical condition there and use their stories to put on your own page if you are selling Juice Plus and want to make health claims without actually making health claims. Reps end up discussing their customers and working out which of their products to recommend. Totally not making any health claims though. Here’s an example of one such discussion.

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Well there you  go, The shakes must be ok in pregnancy, the rep says so. Even though she has no training. I’ve looked up the ingredients to see if there is any vitamin A in the shakes. There isn’t. Vitamin A can be found in their capsules, but not the shakes. I did find something interesting though. There was a link to click that was labelled

“California residents: Click here for Proposition 65 WARNING.”

I don’t live in California but thought I’d click anyway. This is what I found

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The shakes can cause birth defects. This is pretty serious and it concerns me greatly that reps are telling other reps and customers that it is safe because they used it and they were ok.

It should be pretty obvious that sharing testimonials is a very bad idea. We don’t know the truthfulness of these claims and they could be very harmful. People may try and come off their medications, or have false hope for their condition. There are many, many conditions catered for on the Facebook page and shared widely.

The Law in the UK

Section 15 of the non-broadcast CAP advertising code states what sort of claims can be made for foods or food supplements.

 

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So claims that Juice plus capsules can replace anti depressants would not be allowed. The claims that can be made are very clearly set out I these registers. But what about personal testimonies? Is it ok for someone to say that a product has helped with a condition?

There are some general rules that marketers must comply with when sharing testimonials-

  1. The marketer cannot be the consumer and give their own testimonial.
  2. The marketer must have written permission from the person making the testimonial.
  3. The marketer mush hold evidence the claim is true- evidence of the ordering history, email records (not Hotmail, but a provable email address), address of the customer and be able to prove the testimonial is genuine.

 

This next bit is very interesting, found on this page on the CAP website.

“Marketers may not use testimonials to circumvent the Code by making claims in a consumer review that they would not otherwise be permitted to make. For example, if a marketer doesn’t hold the evidence to substantiate an efficacy claim, they cannot use a testimonial which makes that claim.

Testimonials alone do not constitute substantiation so marketers should not rely on testimonials as support for any direct or implied claims made in the marketing communication.”

What claims are Juice Plus allowed to make?

I asked the MHRA who regulate medicines and supplements in the UK if any health claims are allowed to be made by Juice Plus (and Ariix and Herbalife). This is their reply

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Essentially, this means no health claims can be made for products from Juice Plus.

I told them about the Juice Plus Testimonials page and one of their investigators joined and had a look. They were very concerned about the sort of posts there and wanted to inform Trading Standards about the group. Unfortunately though, they realised the page originated in America so they could not do anything about it.

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I never heard back about anything Facebook said. The page still exists so I am assuming they took no notice.

 

Conclusions

If you can’t make a claim for a product legally, you cannot get around it by using a testimony.

Making health claims that are not proven or allowed could lead people to believing it and ditching their medicines/ treatment. This could lead to significant harm.

If you sell a product, you cannot make your own testimonies when advertising it.

The strict rules around allowable claims are there for a reason, do not break them just so you can make a bit of money. Especially if you are taking advantage of ill people, this is despicable.

 

The scandal of ‘cancer care kits’

These ‘cancer kits’ or ‘positivity packs’ are appearing all over the internet at the moment, and on the face of it, look harmless. Helpful, and charitable even. Increasingly though, it is making people feel very uncomfortable. I will attempt to explain why.

I think the biggest element that makes people feel uncomfortable is that it is hard to criticise someone when they are helping to raise money for a good cause, especially if they are doing it without making any money. Who wants to stop people raising money for cancer patients?

Part of my job brings me into contact with people who have cancer. I want to help them, not stop them from having nice things. I also want to protect them from being exploited, especially if a massive multi national company in America is going to profit from the sales, as well as people in a multi level marketing scheme. The people selling these kits are being less than truthful and I feel a lot of people are being taken advantage of.

Let’s have a look at some of the calls for help to make these kits and see if we can analyse what is going on.

This one was spotted on Facebook on Thursday 9th November 2017, and the packs were due to be dropped off on Friday 10th November.

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Her friends and family have bought these products from her. Forever Living will make a profit, the woman selling the products will be closer to earning her bonus, and her uplines will get a percentage.

 

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The person writing the post says she ‘told her story’. Telling of a story is a common occurrence in MLMs. People stand up in front of a group and explain to them some health problem they had or some dreadful problem with a job, or something else that was bad in their lives. Then they explain how their MLM came along and everything changed. Their health problems went away, they left heir job, they found a ‘new family’ etc etc. Then they explain how they are so thankful for the amazing opportunity and then they subtly/ or not so subtly (depending on their audience) try and recruit people. The people in the above picture could be being subjected to a recruitment attempt.

The post claims that the products can ‘help with certain side effects’. It is very common for sellers of these products to make false health claims.

 

Have a look at this attempt to make sales and false health claims. This person has set up a Just Giving page where she can appeal to people to send her money so she can purchase products from Forever Living and give them to cancer patients. She wants to raise £1500 to make 100 packs. (Not sure why she says £300 when she says each pack costs £15 to make).

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She claims that the aloe vera toothgel helps with mouth ulcers. This is an illegal health claim. Aloe Vera cannot be claimed to help with mouth ulcers.

She claims that aloe gelly can help with hair loss and dry skin. Again, this is an illegal health claim.

She recommends taking the gelly internally. This is not actually recommended by the scientific bodies that regulate medicines and herbal remedies. There is no evidence it is good for people, and some evidence it can cause harm.

She claims that aluminium is linked to breast cancer. It is not. She is scaremongering people into buying her products. Cancer Research UK are among many websites that debunk the myth that aluminium and cancer are linked.

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She claims here that the packs are ‘none profit’ (sic). This makes it look like she is doing this out of the goodness of her heart and not making any money. In reality, she has to sell these products in order to earn her bonus, and her upline will be getting a cut of the profits, as will their upline. By selling these packs, she is losing nothing, whilst gaining financially and making herself look good.

So what is being bought for £1500? A deodorant stick, lip balm, nail varnish and a card. I can’t help but wonder what else this amount of money could be spent on that would actually be useful.

 

This person is trying to raise £898 to purchase products from her team. She will benefit from all sales from people below her in her team.

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It’s not just Forever Living that use this tactic, Modere are at it as well.

They use the exact same techniques- cancer patients, bogus health claims, aluminium free deodorant, being kind to needy people.

Here is a NuSkin rep raiding money for her kits. She omits to mention the NuSkin element in her Go Fund Me page. You have to go to her Face Book page to see that is what she is actually selling.

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Some reps have been more creative with their links to charities when getting people to buy their products.  This one seems to have swapped a proportion of her proceeds to a hospice, gaining sales and contact details of customers/ potential recruits.

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This one managed to persuade at least four people to buy C9s from her for a hospice fundraising activity.

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C9s cost £108.95 each. That’s £435.80 if only 4 people bought them. This effort raised £100 in total for the charity, costing the ‘customers’ £485.80. It earned the FL rep some great sales, enough to qualify for her bonus, new customers and some publicity.

 

This Consumer Reports article examines the phenomenon of ’cause marketing’ where product sales are related to a charitable cause. There are many negative aspects to it.  Here are a few  interesting quotes from the article.

After all, companies don’t do cause marketing solely to give, but also to get more of your business. Surveys show that almost 90 percent of consumers say that given similar price and quality, they’re likely to switch to a brand associated with a good cause. (Case studies suggest that is actually what happens in stores.) And businesses get to bask in the warm glow of good PR. “Nonprofits are lending their good name to the business, and consumers are well aware of that,” Irvin said.”

Think before using a product as a go-between, Krishna says. “Are you buying a $30 T-shirt from which $2 will go to the charity?” she said. “Or could you give $30 to the charity and do without the T-shirt?”

If you see someone selling some expensive products that they and their company will benefit from, think hard. Would it be better to donate the £10 directly to a charity? Where they can directly benefit, spending it where it needs to go? Would the cancer patients benefit from being given some toiletries and used as a sales prop, handed false health claims that could harm them, or would they be better served by their ward being given £1500?

I think cancer patients would be better served with direct donations to charity. I think friends and family of the reps would prefer not to be tricked into thinking they are doing a good thing. Many people find it hard to decline making a purchase to MLM reps at the best of times. People want to help their friends out and are often guilted into supporting them. If the donor is told their purchase will help someone fighting cancer, they will find it even more difficult to resist purchasing.  This is a very manipulative tactic.

Summary

Friends, family, social media contacts and the wider public are not told the whole truth about who will benefit from their purchase.

Cancer patients are given expensive packs of toiletries with false health claims.

Cancer patients are used to persuade people to help them. Sometimes their photos are used. All with the aim of making more sales.

Opponents of these schemes are reluctant to speak up, because who wants to be seen denying nice things to ill people?

 

 

 

 

 

Why Network Marketing is a Bad Thing.

What’s the harm of network marketing/ distance selling/ multilevel marketing? It’s just normal, everyday people making a bit of spare cash from selling things harmlessly to friends and online, right?

MLM creates victims

Victim 1- friends and family of the rep

You should see some of the heartbreaking stories I hear from people about their worries for their loved ones. It has ruined relationships. Not only can it dramatically ruin close family relationships, it can make working relationships and friendships awkward when someone tries to involve you in their scheme.

Here’s a selection of messages from Bot Watch’s Facebook inbox.

 

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Victim 2- customers

The people who buy the products are most likely only buying out of pity for their friend or relative. They might be trying to support their friend but do not actually want the product. Have you seen the inflated prices? They have to be high in order to pay all the people up the pyramid.

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This is water available to purchase from Forever Living. 12 bottles for £14.76.

Here is exactly the same water from the same source, not from Forever Living.

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24 bottles for £12.72.

Forever Living sell at £1.23 a bottle, 53p from another company.

 

Victim 3- legitimate homeworkers/ small businesses

How many real small business people/ home workers and life coaches have been met with scepticism or an eye roll when they reveal what they do? People who have spent time and money and skills building up a real business are not taken seriously because MLM have sullied the reputation of genuine businesses.

Some reps describe themselves as life coaches, which must sting genuine life coaches who have had training and built up a reputation, helping people to make the best of their lives and overcome obstacles they are experiencing. Reps come along and call themselves coaches, with the express aim of recruiting people, coaching them to recruit people to coach them to recruit people to coach them to recruit….You get the idea.

 

Victim 4- The rep’s finances

It has been well established that it is impossible to earn a good wage in MLM, unless you are high up with the right connections. The people that earn money are reliant on having a large team beneath them, most of whom will lose money, before they feel a failure and slink off feeling worthless.

There have been many, many people coming forward with stories about losing money. Have a read of Elle Beau and her story of Younique. People hide their losses to themselves and family. Most do not even realise they are losing money because they do not keep a proper track of their expenses.

Victim 5- Women

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Women are targeted for this industry, often in a patronising way, using their vulnerabilities and patronising them along the way. What is this, the 1950’s? Have a look at Timeless Vie for some of their work on feminism and MLMs. This article is a particular eye opener.

Here is one example from Bot Watch’s inbox of vulnerable women being specifically targeted.

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Victim 6- free thought

It is becoming increasingly evident that MLMs are cults. People are subjected to techniques that condition people into thinking and speaking in a certain way. They are taught to ignore their inner questioning thoughts and to blindly do as they are told. They are conditioned to think all fault lies with them and anything good is down to the MLM. They speak of their team members as family and are encouraged to reject friends and family that raise concerns. This post goes into more detail about it.

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 Victim 7- People with health conditions

For some reason, many MLMs tout products with amazing properties that can cure any illness. People target sufferers with conditions and tell them their products can help. This is not only deceptive and fraudulent, but illegal and dangerous as well.

Truth In Advertising have looked at the bogus health claims made by MLMs and they came up with quite a list.

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DoTERRA got in trouble for saying their oils could cure Ebola and got in trouble with the FDA about it.

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Below is a common type of social media post. What are they trying to do? Tell you that any condition you have can be cured by their oils/ juices/ tablets/ coffee? Yes, that is exactly what they are doing. I hope that they are just deluded and really believe in their products. Because otherwise, they are deliberately getting people to spend over the odds on products that will have no effect on anyone’s health. At least it won’t improve any conditions.

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What to do about it

If you are an organiser of an event please consider banning MLMs from attending. People are becoming wise to them now and are are generally displeased when they see these stalls. People who do not know about them could be vulnerable to being recruited. This is especially bad when the event is a jobs fair, targeting a particular profession or aimed at people with health conditions or new parents. You could be enabling these companies to cause many problems for the people you are trying to serve.

If you see adverts for events that include MLMs please speak up about it. Read this article on what you can do to help.

If you have a friend or relative in an MLM and you want to help them, look here for inspiration.

If you are in an MLM yourself you might want to read ‘How to leave an MLM’ if you are at that point. If you are not sure what to do and are having a bit of a ‘moment’ and tying to work out what is going on, read this article on ‘having doubts‘. It might help clarify a few things.

 

Dodgy MLM Products List

Some products are legal to sell in one country but illegal in another. If you are in an MLM, you might want to check you are not breaking the law by selling prohibited products. It is no defence to say that you did not know. If you are saying you own a business and are selling products, you have taken on the responsibility for checking them out.

If you are a Bot Watcher, you may want to check the activity you are observing is legal, in case you want to complain.

Here is a list of some of the prohibited items I have come across. It is by no means an exhaustive list. Please send me information on any products you come across that need to be added.

Vida Divina

This item is a drug in UK law and needs to be sold with a prescription. It cannot be sold through MLM channels.

 

2017-09-17 (3)Sleep N Lose by Vida Divina has Melatonin in it which is not licenced in the UK to be sold outside of a pharmacy without a prescription.

People selling this could be reported to the MHRA or the ASA.

 

 

This email was sent to a rep and she put it on Facebook.

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See Botwatchblog’s analysis of Vida Divina.

 

Forever Living

Forever living do not have any products listed with the MHRA for medicinal use, including for use as a Traditional Herbal Remedy.

There are no allowable health claims for their products.

In the EU, companies can apply to their own country’s authorities for authorisation to sell their Aloe Vera products as a constipation cure, but that would be the only allowable claim.

In the USA, the FDA removed Aloe Vera as an allowable drug to be sold over the counter. It is now used there as a supplement. The US Department of Heath and Human Services say this about Aloe Vera.

Forever Living’s products are not illegal to sell, but it is illegal to sell them as being medicinal in any way in the UK. I imagine it would be pretty hard to sell the products without being able to make any claims about Aloe Vera, especially when you bear in mind that testimonials are not allowed either, even verbally.

 

Juice Plus+

Juice Plus+ are not registered with the MHRA in any way so they are not allowed to make any health claims for their products in the UK. Their products are classed as supplements.

Please be aware that there is vitamin A in these products so they really should not be used by pregnant women.

 

Ariix

On the 11th September 2017 I came across this message on Facebook from an Ariix seller.

“Higher levels of ingredient than UK legislation likes” means illegal then!

So Optimals, Power Boost, Beauty Boost and Restoriix are illegal to sell in the UK. I have asked Ariix for clarification. Here is their reply

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Valentus

Valentus are trading illegally in the UK. See what happened to Charlotte Thomson in this Daily Mail report.

Do not buy or sell any of these products in the UK.

For more on this MLM, see this post on Botwatchblog.

 

Xerveo

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Ganoderma mushroom does not have any allowable health claims in the UK. If this coffee is sold in the UK, there can be no weightloss claims made about it or any other claims that it can do anything to your bodily functions. It can only be sold as a normal coffee.

At £40.95 for 24 servings, that is expensive coffee.

 

How to check for illegal health claims

In the EU, there is a database you can check to see if the claims for your product are illegal or allowed.

Please check here before making claims or copying adverts for products with medicinal properties. Clicking on the link takes you to this page-

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Please click here to check out claims made for food ingredients. This is the page you get when clicking the link.

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Search here for the scientific information about an ingredient and its uses.

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To check if a product has this allowable use in individual countries, you need to check the individual country’s databases. In the UK, it is the MHRA that police this.

This database lists all the names of products, the company that makes it, and the allowable claims for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents page

I have written a few posts and it is sometimes hard to find the one you want. Here is a list of some of the most popular/ useful ones and a quick summary. I hope you can find what you are looking for.

Follow Bot Watch on Twitter (@MLMBotWatch) or Facebook to keep upto date.

 

Why Network Marketing is a bad thing.  This is an introduction to Multilevel marketing/ network marketing. It explains why it is not the innocent small work from home type opportunity people say it is.

How to leave an MLM This helps people who are in an MLM and want to leave but are worried about how they should go about it. It can be a stressful time. This is also useful if you have already left and are grappling with the emotions that are left.

Network Marketing is a cult. This title is not as mad sounding as you think. It provides an analysis of what a cult is and how MLMs fit the criteria. This is quite a stressful read if you have been involved but things may make a bit more sense to you after reading.

MLM and the Enterprise Allowance This is a continuing investigation which is nearing completion. The article lays out the problem and the beginnings of my sleuthing. More progress has been made and it will be updated when completed. The Enterprise Allowance is a government scheme that funds new businesses.

You are not an independent Business Owner A quick look at what these words mean and how ridiculous they sound when applied to someone involved in MLMs. Quite funny, and a good one to link to in an argument with someone involved in MLM!

Directory of MLM information This one provides general MLM information and then gives an alphabetical list of some of the MLMs we have come across and details on them. I need to update it a bit to reflect some of the companies failing and creating new scandals, but it is a good place to start looking for information.

How to help someone in an MLM. This is a good read if you have a fried or relative involved in an MLM and you are at a loss as to what to do. You may be worried about damaging your relationship with them. This article will help you through the difficulties and offer practical advice.

In need of an alternative/ extra income? This is a resource for people who are in need of earning some money and need an alternative to MLM. This could be useful for someone who has been considering an MLM or people who are leaving and are still left with the problem of wanting to make money at home. I gain nothing from any of the links in this article. No affiliate marketing going on here.

The things MLMs say (or MLM Bingo) People arguing for MLMs will always come up with the same tiring arguments all the time. Here, they are laid out and explanations given as to why they are not true. If you get in an argument with someone in an MLM, refer them to this piece.

MLM Expectation vs Reality This was produced in partnership with someone who was quite high up in Forever Living. She spills the beans on what she was promised and what actually happened once she joined. The themes are relevant to all MLMs. It is quit an eye opener.

Forever Living using sick children, Great Ormond Street Hospital and a charity to make unsubstantiated health claims. This is an investigation that exposed some lies that some people were caught telling. The title tells you all you need to know.

People who care about you are worried A good one to link to if you have a friend or relative who has become embroiled in MLM but you don’t know how to approach them. People have actually sent this to people and had good results. It could also help you get your own thoughts together and working out why you are worried.

Are you or someone you know in an MLM? Having doubts? Aimed at people who have just joined an MLM and are thinking ‘what on earth have I got myself involved in here?’ Maybe it was going well at first but now the doubts are creeping in. Read this to find out what is happening to you.

Making False Health Claims. Part 1 and Making False Health Claims. Part 2 These explain the laws around making heath claims for products in the UK. This covers medicines, herbal remedies and any products that claim to alter the body’s functions. Seen an advert for a product that can cure diabetes or help you lose weight? These articles help you work out if those claims can be made, and if not, what you can do about it.