Kschang knows a fair amount about frauds, scams, Ponzi schemes, pyramid schemes, and multi-level marketing.
After studying the multi-level marketing industry for several years from the outside, it is not hard to find products that we normal people would find hard to believe ANYONE would like to buy, yet pushed by multi-level marketing as if it's "the next best thing since sliced bread".
These products are real, yet they claim benefits that are impossible to verify, do not do what they claim according to their own sources, violate laws of physics, chemistry, medicine, science, and so on. Anybody with a slightly skeptical mind would have seen through this immediately, yet people who are in it seem to be enraptured by the potential to ignore all these problems. They are... for lack of a better word, gullible.
To protect the innocent, no actual company name will be mentioned (except one, as they've been outlawed). However, a link is provided should you want to see for yourself.
Following is a selection of seven of these oddball items, in no particular order...
Buy My Canned Air That is Certified to Do Nothing (Really!)
A certain company based in southern California, though selling out of Illinois, has been marketing their "canned 95% pure oxygen" through MLM channels, at about $10 for one can with about 50 1-second shots. Apparently, the president of the company sent a lot of free bottles to various Mixed Martial Arts fighter on the UFC and other circuits, and some of them liked the product well enough to use it at ringside, and that caught the attention of a lot of fans.
The company president was quoted stating (the name was blanked):
“I think all athletes should use it in MMA and here’s my stance on it, if you allow subliminal oxygen for both fighters in between rounds they’re going to be fresher and the fights are going to be more exciting,” _____ said. “There are no harmful effects to it. There are no downsides to it. It makes the sport more excited.”
However, the same article where he was quoted also pointed out that...
The portable canned oxygen, which was cleared from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substance list as of this year, sponsors over two dozen athletes from multiple sports.
Which basically proves it does absolutely NOTHING. If it provided ANY sort of advantage WHATSOEVER to the user, World Anti-Doping Agency (that caught the various cheaters in cycling and other things around the world) would have banned it.
Or in other words, this product is certified by WADA to provide NO advantage to its users, therefore is no longer banned.
Or to put it even more succinctly, this company wants you to pay $10 for a can of air that is certified to do absolutely nothing.
My Product Can Change Laws of Thermodynamics (Not!)
Most products that claim to improve the mileage of your vehicle are completely bogus, and most of them don't actually claim so, or they give such weasel statements like "your results may vary". However, it is rare to find such an additive maker actually claim that they can change the laws of thermodynamics, by claiming their products can lower the flashpoint of gasoline by SEVERAL HUNDRED DEGREES.
Quoted from their product page...
_______ contains an oil-soluble organo-metallic compound which functions as a “burn rate modifier” and a “catalyst”. It lowers the ignition point of fuel by several hundred degrees…about 400 to be more exact!
Folks, first of all, anyone with chemistry knowledge knows that nobody actually says "ignition point". The proper term is FLASHPOINT.
Flashpoint for gasoline is MINUS FOURTY-THREE DEGREES CELSIUS. That's right, BELOW ZERO. If you subtract 400 degrees from that, you get -445 degrees Fahrenheit, which is right next to absolute zero (which is MINUS 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit)! (And it surely cannot be Celsius, as that would put it BELOW absolutely Zero!) (For comparison, the South Pole, at its coldest ever, is maybe MINUS 80 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Now you may be asking, perhaps they are referring to the autoignition point? That cannot be, because the high autoignition temperature of gasoline is what prevents your engine from "knocking", which means ignite without the use of a spark plug. As the autoignition temperature is 475 degrees Fahrenheit, subtract 400 degrees would mean it's about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. That is ROOM temperature! Gasoline would be igniting spontaneously if this is added and it does what it says!
Clearly, the claim of reduction of ignition point is completely bogus and physically IMPOSSIBLE!
So what are we supposed to conclude from the fact that a company that prints absolutely bull**** on their website about how their product works? Their product is bull****, of course.
My System Makes Water Molecules Do the Conga Dance! (Ha!)
Quacks have been pushing various magnets that are supposed to improve various parts of your life, including "transforming water". All you have to do is put your water in their special pitcher and let it sit for a little while. Somehow their special magic item will "align water molecules", i.e. they'll all line up in a conga line.
However, some have the temerity to cite Nobel Prize winners as if they validate their science! This particular one cites Dr. Peter Agre, who indeed won a Nobel Prize in 2003 for the discovery of "Aquaporins", a special protein in the cell membranes that acts as 'water funnels' that transfer water molecules INTO the cells. However, this discovery says NOTHING about the transformation of water into aligned molecules. The cell membrane itself controls what goes in through these aquaporins. Aligning water molecules (assuming the product does what it says, and that's not proven) has nothing to do with how aquaporins work.
Furthermore, the natural entropy of molecules and Brownian motion would ensure that such microstructure would never survive shipping and handling, even if they exist in the water.
Thus, citing Peter Agre is shady in the extreme, and the claims completely bogus and pseudo-scientific (as in "fake!")
And this company is not alone. There's PentaWater (got busted in the UK for bad science), Hexagonal Water (still sold today), e-Water (purveyor convicted and sentenced to 11 years), and so on and so forth available on the market, some of these devices cost hundreds of dollars, and is available for purchase through Amazon.
Your Finger Proves You Need to Buy My Vitamins (No way!)
This is a personal experience.
Back in... 2010, one of my friends asked me to stick around, as some lady is coming by with some sort of a magical scanner that would tell us about our health, supposedly borrowed from the University of California (wait, which campus? Do they lend out equipment to be carried around? Really?) The whole thing smells fishy already.
So I stuck around, and the lady arrived. This scanner is about the size of a small shoebox, with a receptacle in one end where you poke in your finger. The lady explained that it will tell you your carotenoid level in about one minute. That's a measure of your antioxidants in your skin, which indicates your general health.
As I expected I scored quite low. So I was not surprised that this lady started pushing this special vitamin pack that she also happens to sell... Take this for a month, and come back for another test. I guarantee you'll test better! She said. Or your money back!
Thanks, but no thanks.
My research through my smartphone quickly pinpointed this scanner. While it is based on real science (a non-invasive method to measure the level of lutein in an eyeball), there is not enough proof that your skin anti-oxidant level has ANY correlation to your body's overall anti-oxidant level, much less your body's overall anti-oxidant level is an indication of your overall health.
Furthermore, this scanner is marketed by a COSMETICS COMPANY (yes, they sell MAKE-UP and LOTIONS).
Besides, the only thing it guarantees is that you will test better in a month if you buy a month's worth of their vitamins. ON THEIR DEVICE. Or in other words, I have to pay $$$ to prove myself on a test of dubious value on a device THEY created.
Sorry, but I'd rather give you my MIDDLE FINGER instead (instead of my money).
Feed this Pill to Your Car and get Improved Mileage and Reduce Emissions! (Not!)
At the height of the gasoline prices (over four dollars per gallon in California), which was about, oh... 2005-6 or so, a slew of "fuel-saver" devices hit the market, all of them have various bogus claims of saving fuel using various pseudo-science "proof". They vary from some device claimed to "optimize intake airflow", to "plug this in your power adapter and it will improve your ignition power" and so on and so forth. Those at least sounded "somewhat" scientific (even though both are bogus science).
However, the worst case of all is... the gas pill, as in you buy this bottle of pills, but you feed it to your car. Really. You're supposed to shove one into your gas tank. (Petrol to the rest of the world). It will somehow dissolve and do some magic to the fuel. It's a miracle vitamin for your car! (Also available in powder form!)
One of which was "Bioperformance" out of Dallas, Texas. They had seminars and website claiming their "gas pill" can produce gains of 30% or more in mileage and cut emissions by up to 50%. With such claims, they signed up thousands of people all wanting to sell this new "miracle" to more people and to sign up even more distributors.
They signed up so many members, Texas Attorney General shut them down as an illegal pyramid scheme because BioPerformance members are paid NOT by business volume (i.e. amount of sales), but by the number of people recruited. This was confirmed by an audit of their finances.
Furthermore, chemical analysis of the pills at two separate independent labs (not even in the same state) shows that its primary ingredient is naphthalene... i.e. the primary ingredient of mothballs. Naphthalene a toxic substance, though the pills are repeatedly marketed as "non-toxic, safe for the environment", etc. etc.
Do we anthropomorphize our cars so much that feeding our car a "pill" somehow makes sense?
Just Shine a Light Through it to Improve Your Food (WTF?!)
When I first saw this product, I thought I encountered a hoax website, where everything is so exaggerated it MUST be a hoax. Among the uses for this product includes:
- Pour water or other liquid over it to energize the liquid (for drinking)
- The same water used to wash food would make them last longer
- The same water poured on plants would make them grow faster and better
- Shine a light through it on your food to enhance the food (I kid you not)
- Put it in your refrigerator to make your food last longer
- Put your bottled water on top of it will 'energize' your water
- Put your facial lotion and such on top of it will make them easier to absorb by your skin
- Carry this with you daily will make you feel better
However, this product is apparently actually available for purchase, and its effectiveness is certified by a "Holistic Competence Center" to be more effective than its predecessor. Physically, it's a piece of glass size of a coffee cup saucer, supposedly infused with "positive energy" during manufacturing.
How does it do what it supposedly does? .... "[product] greatly enhanced energy field, attributed to the seven wave-form rings on the disc's surface. The seven ribbed rings speed up the biomolecular structure process of liquids poured over the disc, improving the biocompatibility of water molecules with your body more than ever before. The liquids are energized faster and more efficiently via the wave-form produced by the rings. " (Yes, this is an actual quote from their OFFICIAL website, not a fan promo site)
This is technobabble that's even worse than a Star Trek convention where fans argue over how warp engines work, and none of it actually has any science behind it. They may as well talk about "aura" and other psychic mumbo-jumbo.
Then the followers started going crazy with the claims, such as
- Salt placed on this thing tastes... saltier (I kid you not)
- Pet goldfish in the water passed over this thing is livelier
- Keeping this next to your car's gas tank improves mileage
- And so on and so forth
What is the price of this miracle disc?
$500 USD, not counting any "markup". You can still find comments and descriptions on Youtube that want to sell it for $530.
This thing was so profitable, a variety of imitators have launched very similar products for 1/10th the price.
I doubt those do anything either.
This MLM is for... UFO Believers?!?!
When someone told me that there was an MLM for UFO believers/conspiracy theorists, I thought he was joking. Turns out, there really was such a thing. Its founder wrote:
This is how the idea came to me one day in developing [censored], the majority of Networkers for what ever odd reason, have a strong fascination with this conspiracy world we live in, including my self for the last 10 years. Everyone is always sending links to Videos & alternative news. One day it hit me!!! & I thought hmmm... why not develop a Co. around this conspiracy market by allowing folks to utilize the latest sophisticated software, enabling us to reach the masses in the effort of waking them up & possibly recruit them into a new business venture?? Make the Software that allows us to ACCOMPLISH THIS "commissionable" with 2 killer compensation plans, one for fast money (Paid Weekly), the second comp plan for long Lasting residual. Folks once all this manifested in my tiny brain & with the help of our brilliant team adding some of their magic dust, I just knew we we're on to something, & off to the races shortly there after, THAT IS THE SHORT AND SKINNY VERSION.
This guy actually created a matrix earning plan (i.e. pyramid scheme) for conspiracy theorists and UFO believers! Though that "short and skinny" version can really be summarized in a single sentence (written by me)
You people, who are gullible enough to believe in UFOs and conspiracies, ought to be gullible enough to join my pyramid scheme and make me a lot of money.
Fortunately, this thing never really launched, and died on the vine back in 2009, but its legacy in the weird and wacky world of MLM shall live on forever. (And their promo videos are still on YouTube, really)
I hope you have enjoyed this little trip into the wacky side of MLM and network marketing, which is full of bogus claims, wild exaggerations, and silliness that would leave most people rolling on the floor laughing. However, some people apparently believe this sort of ****. For those people, I recommend my gullibility article.
A Few More "Weird" Lists
- Top 11 Funny, Weird, and Ridiculous Car and Truck Decorations and Accessories and Ornaments: VW Beet
Car owners get car accessories. here are the some of the most ridiculous car accessories... such as car lashes, truck nuts, and many more...
- 7 Weird Odd Android Phones and Devices Ever: Microwave? Espresso Machine? 3D Picture Frame? Flip Pho
Here are the 7 Strangest Android devices (including but NOT limited to phones) that exists... Did you know there is an Android-powered espresso machine? Find out more here.
- Seven Outrageous, Weird, or Bizarre Computer Mice on the Market
Here are 7 very weird but functional computer mice. You probably won't need them, but you may take comfort that they do exist...
- Seven Most Outrageous, Weird, or Bizarre Cell Phone Accessories from all over: metal holster? sweate
Seven Most Bizarre Cell Phone Accessories... Sweatshirt? Wrist-Carrier? Who came up with this stuff?
Pseudo-Science and Scam
- Crap Detector: How To Find Real Nuggets of Information in a Sea of Crap
The term "crap detector" was probably coined by Ernest Hemingway. Do you know the 3 tests to detect crap? You really should. Find out here.
- Why Following the Crowd is Stupid: how speculation bubbles busted fortunes, then and now
Are we repeating history as we have not learned from it? Here are four economic "bubbles" that lead to huge financial losses and economic downturns, and what lessons we should have learned back then, but didn't.
- Four Common Stages of a Scam (internet or not) : tease, please, seize, squeeze, using mystery shoppi
Do you know the four stages of a scam? They are "tease", "please", "seize", and optionally "squeeze". Learn how they work on your risk, cost, and reward perception.
- Pseudoscience and Scam: discourage science, bend facts, disguise beliefs as theories (and how to spo
Do you know what's in common between a scam and a pseudo-science? Both are trying create a false impression of something. Learn how they share the same tactics.
- 9 Signs Your MLM Opportunity is Really a Pyramid Scheme in Disguise
Are you in a real MLM, or a fake MLM which is in reality a pyramid scheme in disguise? Here are 9 signs you must be aware of to not get scammed.
- Why "Seeking Positivity" actually makes you stupid and reckless, and I have proof
Some MLM coaches and uplines tell you to "avoid negativity". That is actually a VERY BAD THING to do, and in fact may be cult indoctrination. Find out why here.
- Market Saturation and 14 More Network Marketing (MLM) Myths Busted. There is a lot of money scheme,
MLM, or Networking Marketing, has a lot of myths around it. Here are 15 of them busted, and reality explained. How does each misrepresent the risk, cost, and value calculations?
- The 5 fatal flaws of Network Marketing: does your MLM plan sell the dream, not the reality?
Multi-level marketing, i.e. MLM / network marketing, has five fundamental flaws that you need to know before you join.
carozy from San Francisco on January 11, 2013:
Great, funny article, and I just wanted to comment that it can be dangerous to take supplements according to Dr. John McDougall, a board certified internist. The carotenoid beta-carotene can cause a heart attack if taken in supplement form. It's better to get your vitamins from fruits and veggies like nature intended. I'm glad your "crap detector" operates well. :)
kschang (author) from San Francisco, CA, USA on February 05, 2012:
Glad you liked it.
Hally Z. from Madison, Wisconsin on February 04, 2012:
Wow, you packed a ton of info into this article- and it was a great read too. Thank you for looking over my Herbalife article as well!
hush4444 from Hawaii on December 14, 2011:
Very well-written and funny! It makes you wonder if anyone paid attention during those high school/college chemistry and statistics classes...