UPDATE & REVIEW: Nerium International refuses to answer key questions about its science, and uses Watergate style bullying tactics to try to silence critics. What does nerium oleander science reveal? What is the truth? Is Nerium AD safe, or actually harmful? Real, or scam? Read these most popular posts reviewing Nerium AD, nerium whistleblowing, and the NeriumGate scandal. —>
ORIGINAL POST (June 17, 2012) : In the last installment, we raised some red flags about the newest fad to hit the internet, and everywhere else commerce is practiced – Nerium. Today we are going to explore the MD Anderson Cancer center connection, the early testimonials (from places not owned by Nerium Distributors), and the whole world of MLM and what it means for those involved.
Let’s start with what the Nerium people themselves say about why you should join their cult:
- Jeff Olson has excelled in network marketing since 1989. He has been a top distributor all over the world.
- The science is from a pioneering research institute in many different areas of medicine, especially cancer research. (from MD Anderson Cancer Center, no less).
- Nerium is a ground floor opportunity with all-star leadership
- Nerium has a simple system that focuses on sharing the product, not selling.
- Nerium AD actually works! (We shall have to look at the truth of this claim.)
- Nerium International has a fun culture where everyone feels welcome.
- Nerium has first class marketing tools. No expense was spared in branding!
- Nerium has a management team with tremendous success in the MLM field.
- Nerium has an incredible compensation plan.
- Nerium has the potential to become a recognized brand around the world.
- Nerium is REAL! (yes, but real what?)
So there you have it. Eleven reasons and nearly all focus on the MLM. None clearly defines the science. Where do I sign up? Get in line quick before the real rush begins.
The MD Anderson Cancer Center is an internationally recognized institute and place of excellence in cancer care. As part of their mission, they look at many areas of research, some not always so obvious to western scientists, but worth a serious look nonetheless. Their website mentions the following areas of research.
- Studying the bio-behavioral effects of mind/body-based interventions such as stress management including Indian-based yoga, Tibetan-based yoga, qigong, meditation, music therapy, expressive writing and other behavioral approaches
- Examining the anti-cancer potential of natural animal or plant compounds such as dietary supplements, vitamins and herbal remedies. Products being studied include green tea, turmeric, oleander, melatonin, shark cartilage, fish oil, mushrooms and many others
- Using acupuncture to treat some common cancer treatment related side effects including pain, xerostomia, nausea and others. Determining the biological bases of acupuncture also is an important part of this research endeavor
- Examining traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for cancer. Part of this research is being done with colleagues at the Fudan University Cancer Hospital clinical trial.
So where are all the glowing reports about Nerium on beauty blogsites?
I searched a popular internet beauty forum while writing this and found three entries about Nerium, two of which were obvious pitches to join the MLM. I found this one fact an astounding indictment that serious beauty bloggers are paying no attention to this product. (I ask readers to comment on their experience here at BFT. This tells me the product has not made it into the “mainstream” of informed consumers, or could there possibly be nothing to share? What other “user experience” comments are out there?
“Smells like a combination of ball-sweat and earwax. With minimal results, Nerium AD was not for me.”
“I was given an opportunity to test and review an Age-Defying treatment called Nerium AD. This product seemed like a great way to fight the reaper although I don’t have a lot of wrinkles or age spots. After 2-3 weeks, I realized something. I’m not seeing a lot of results. I was taking before/during/after pictures like recommended, but there was no change.”
“ I am 53 years old, have always taken care of my skin and did not notice any benefits using this product for 3 weeks. I am also very surprised to see Oleander Leaf as an ingredient in this product because it is poisonous.”
Other dislikes include:
“The pump mechanism didn’t work properly. I was told how to fix it, but the matter was brushed off like “oh, that happens all the time. Deal with it.”
“I’m testing the product for a review, and all of a sudden I get bombarded with “BECOME AN AFFILIATE” information in the mail and in my email’s inbox. It took a while to get the ‘unsubscribe’ to finally stick. Thanks for the unwarranted solicitation.”
“And the smell…OMGTHESMELL..”
“I tried the product for a month and got absolutely NO results. I took before and after pictures as well. It makes me sick to see friends and acquaintances jumping on the Nerium bandwagon. This is such a scam.”
“Smells like something between ball sweat and rotting ear wax”
“I tried Nerium AD for almost a full month and did NOT notice any results on my wrinkles, skin texture or discoloration. The product smells nasty. Not for me!”
“I just sat on hold for 10 minutes with customer service. The pump does not work and now I have to leave for work. I feel ripped off.”
“I’m so glad I tried the product before being tricked to join this “amazing” company “on the ground level” because it’s a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” Gag. This product is complete garbage. I actually tried it a second time, because I thought there was no way my “friends” could be lying to me. Guess what, I was right the first time. This product is useless. So sad that people would try to trick their friends and family. The photoshopped “after” photos are a joke.
Problem 1: Pump didn’t work. They told me how to fix the spring and mentioned it happens all the time. 20 minutes on the phone and playing with the product I’ll never get back.”
“After 20 days, I’m not noticing any differences.”
“IT IS ON YOUR FACE AND SMELLING HORRIBLE!! I go to sleep with it on and my boyfriend refuses to kiss me goodnight. The smell drives him crazy!
“I’m being hounded to become an affiliate, and start selling myself. God, I’m being sucked into a *&^# % pyramid scheme, aren’t I??
“Nerium AD, I will not be buying your product again. Waste of time, waste of money, and HIGHLY UN-RECOMMENDED!!! I have been invited to a meeting, and first of all, I wonder with all the natural ingredients… why in the heck does it cost so much. And, secondly, when I google the product, most of the information is about becoming a partner in this MLM business.”
“Ye gads, I signed up for the autoship program and now I can’t cancel it…HELP!!”
In all fairness, I must say I did see a LOTof positive reviews for this product. All of them were written by someone who is either already part of the MLM organization, or is more than willing to sign you up…one level under them.
The evil MLM’pire.
I am going to borrow heavily here from Robert Fitzpatrick, president of Pyramid Scheme Alert and co-author of the book, False Profits: Seeking Financial and Spiritual Deliverance in Multi-level Marketing and Pyramid Schemes. There are some very interesting facts here. I’m doing a digest version.
“Research has shown that the MLM business model, as it is practiced by most companies, is a marketplace hoax. In those cases, the business is primarily a scheme to continuously enroll distributors and little product is ever retailed to consumers who are not also enrolled as distributors.
In general, MLM industry claims of distributor income potential, its descriptions of the ‘network’ business model and its prophecies of a reigning destiny in product distribution have as much validity in business as UFO sightings do in the realm of science. Financially, the odds for an individual to achieve financial success under those circumstances rival the odds of winning at the tables in Las Vegas.
MLM is not defined and regulated like, for instance, franchises are. MLMs can be established without federal or state approval. There is no federal law specifically against pyramid schemes. Many state anti-pyramid statutes are vague or weak. State or federal regulation usually involves first proving that the company is a pyramid scheme. This process can take years and by then, the damage to consumers is done. Indeed, even when MLM pyramids are shut down, often the promoters immediately set up new companies under new names and resume scamming the public.
MLM’s economic score card is characterized by massive failure rates and financial losses for millions of consumers. Its structure in which positions on an endless sales chain are purchased by selling or buying goods is mathematically unsustainable and its system of allowing unlimited numbers of distributors in any market area is inherently unstable.
MLM’s espoused core business – personal retailing – is contrary to trends in communication technology, cost-effective distribution, and consumer buying preferences. The retailing activity is, in reality, only a pretext for the actual core business – enrolling investors in pyramid organizations that promise exponential income growth.
As in all pyramid schemes, the incomes of those distributors at the top and the profits to the sponsoring corporations come from a continuous influx of new investors at the bottom. Viewed superficially in terms of company profits and the wealth of an elite group at the pinnacle of the MLM industry, the model can appear viable to the uninformed, just as all pyramid schemes do before they collapse or are exposed by authorities.
Deceptive marketing that ably plays upon treasured cultural beliefs, social and personal needs, and some economic trends account for MLM’s growth, rather than its ability to meet any consumer needs. The deceptive marketing is nurtured by a general lack of professional evaluation or investigation by reputable business media. Consequently, a popular delusion is supported that MLM is a viable business investment or career choice for nearly everyone and the odds of financial success in the venture are comparable or better than other trades, professions, employment or business ventures.
MLM’s true constituency is not the consuming public but rather hopeful investors. The market for these investors grows significantly in times of economic transition, globalization and employee displacement. Promises of quick and easy financial deliverance and the beguiling association of wealth with ultimate happiness also play well in this market setting. The marketing thrust of MLM is accordingly directed to prospective distributors, rather than product promotions to purchasers. Its true products are not long distance phone services, vitamin pills, health potions or skin lotions, but rather the investment propositions for distributorships, which are deceptively portrayed with images of high income, minimal time requirements, small capital investments and early success.
The word, lie, is provoking and it is used here for provocative purposes. At some level, everyone who participates in MLM in which little retailing is occurring is unconsciously lying to himself or herself. Many at the top of these organizations are consciously lying to everyone else. Deception is inherent in this type of MLM scheme and is pervasive in its marketing. Here are 10 of the biggest lies I have found to be present in almost every MLM I have encountered.
Lie #1: MLM is a business offering better opportunities for making large sums of money than all other conventional business and professional models.
Truth: For almost everyone who invests MLM turns out to be a losing financial proposition. This is not an opinion, but a historical fact. Consider some notable examples from among the largest MLMs.
In the largest of all MLMs, Amway, only 1/2 of one percent of all distributors make it to the basic level of “direct” distributor, and the average income of all Amway distributors is about $40 a month. The MLM type of business structure can support only a small number of financial winners. If a 1,000-person downline is needed to earn a sustainable income, those 1,000 will need one million more to duplicate the success. How many people can realistically be enrolled? Much of what appears as growth is in fact only the continuous churning of new enrollees. The money for the rare winners comes from the constant enrollment of armies of losers.
This pattern of 50-70% of all distributors quitting within one year holds true also for NuSkin, the industry’s second largest MLM. NuSkin also exemplifies the accompanying pattern in which a tiny percent of the distributors gain the majority of all company rebates. In 1998, NuSkin paid out 2/3rds of its entire rebates to just 200 upliners out of more than 63,000 “active” distributors. The money they received came directly from the unprofitably investments of the 99.7% of the others.
If ALL distributors who participate are included the losses and the average incomes are exposed as much worse. And, if all the distributors who enroll and quit over several years are included, the odds of success for a new distributor/investor are shown to be absurdly low. Yet, these companies typically advertise their business as “an opportunity of a life time” with “unlimited potential.”
Lie #2: Network marketing is the most popular and effective new way to bring products to market. Consumers like to buy products on a one-to-one basis in the MLM model.
Truth: If you strip MLM of its hallmark activity of continuously reselling distributorships and examine its foundation, the one-to-one retailing of products to customers, you encounter an unproductive and impractical system of sales upon which the entire structure is supposed to rest.The unfeasibility of door-to-door retailing is why MLM is, in reality, a business that just keeps reselling the opportunity to sign up more distributors.
Lie #3: Eventually all products will be sold by MLM, a new form of marketing. Retail stores, shopping malls, catalogues and most forms of advertising will soon be rendered obsolete by MLM.
Truth: MLM is not new. It has been around since the late 1960′s. Yet, today it still represents less than one percent of US retail sales. Most MLM customers quit buying the goods as soon as they quit seeking the “business opportunity.” There is no brand loyalty. Its real products are distributorships which are sold with misrepresentation and exaggerated promises of income. People are buying products in order to secure positions on the sales pyramid. The possibility is always held out that you may become rich if not from your own efforts then from some unknown person who might join your ‘downline,’ the ‘big fish’ as they are called.
Truth: The most prominent motivating appeal of the MLM industry as shown in industry literature and presented at recruitment meetings is the crassest form of materialism. Fortune 100 companies would blush at the excess of promises of wealth and luxury put forth by MLM solicitors. These promises are presented as the ticket to personal fulfillment. MLM’s overreaching appeal to wealth and luxury conflicts with most people’s true desire for meaningful and fulfilling work in something in which they have special talent or interest. In short, the culture of this business side tracks many people from their personal values and desires to express their unique talents and aspirations.
Lie #5: MLM is a spiritual movement.
Truth: The use of spiritual concepts like prosperity consciousness and creative visualization to promote MLM enrollment is common . The misuse of these spiritual principles should be a signal that the investment opportunity is deceptive. When a product is wrapped in the flag or in religion, buyer beware! The ‘community’ and ‘support’ offered by MLM organizations to new recruits are based entirely upon their purchases. If the purchases and enrollment decline, so does the ‘communion.’
Lie #6: Success in MLM is easy. Friends and relatives are the natural prospects. Those who love and support you will become your lifetime customers.
Truth: The commercialization of family and friendship relations or the use of ‘warm leads’ which is required in the MLM marketing program is a destructive element in the community and very unhealthy for individuals involved. Capitalizing upon family ties and loyalties of friendships in order to build a business can destroy ones social foundation. It places stress on relationships that may never return to their original bases of love, loyalty and support. Beyond its destructive social aspects, experience shows that few people enjoy or appreciate being solicited by friends and relatives to buy products.
Lie #7: You can do MLM in your spare time. As a business, it offers the greatest flexibility and personal freedom of time. A few hours a week can earn a significant supplemental income and may grow to a very large income making other work unnecessary
Truth: decades of experience involving millions of people have proven that making money in MLM requires extraordinary time commitment as well as considerable personal wiliness, persistence and deception. Beyond the sheer hard work and special aptitude required, the business model inherently consumes more areas of ones life and greater segments of time. In MLM, everyone is a prospect. Every waking moment is a potential time for marketing. There are no off-limit places, people or times for selling. Consequently, there is no free space or free time once a person enrolls in MLM system.
Under the guise of creating money independently and in your free time, the system gains control and dominance over people’s entire lives and requires rigid conformity to the program. This accounts for why so many people who become deeply involved end up needing and relying upon MLM desperately. They alienate or abandon other sustaining relationships.
Lie #8. MLM is a positive, supportive new business that affirms the human spirit and personal freedom.
Truth: MLM marketing materials reveal that much of the message is fear-driven and based upon deception about income potential. A sound business opportunity does not have to base its worth on negative predictions and warnings.
Lie #9. MLM is the best option for owning your own business and attaining real economic independence.
Truth: MLM is not true self-employment. ‘Owning’ an MLM distributorship is an illusion. Some MLM companies forbid distributors from carrying additional lines. MLM distributors are not entrepreneurs but joiners in a complex hierarchical system over which they have little control.
Lie #10: MLM is not a pyramid scheme because products are sold.
Truth: The sale of products is in no way a protection from anti-pyramid scheme statutes or unfair trade practices set forth in federal and state law. MLMs that sell useful, quality products have been successfully prosecuted under anti-pyramid scheme laws by state and federal officials. Recent court rulings are using a 70% rule to determine an MLM’s legality. At least 70% of all goods sold by the MLM company must be purchased by non-distributors. This standard would place most MLM companies outside the law. The largest of all MLMs acknowledges that only 18% of its sales are made to non-distributors.”
I don’t know about you folks, but this expose’ makes me sick. I feel so badly for the people caught up in this lie. It makes me very angry at the exploiters at the top of this pyramid. They know what they are doing.
Mr. Olson, I have but one question for you …. how can you sleep at night, knowing that you are adding so much misery to so many people’s lives?
NEXT IN THE SERIES: Exploring the MD Anderson connection in more depth. Will we find Dr. Newman? What will he have to offer to enlighten us on the science? Will it help us to stomach what we just learned about MLM’s? Is it ever ethical for doctors, or major NIH-supported cancer research and treatment centers, to push MLM schemes? Stay tuned. Oh, and leave your comments. We haven’t heard from Neriumites yet.