Saturday, 28 July 2012

why I believe MLM is a scam

I have had a couple of life partners that have become involved in network marketing, otherwise known as MLM or multi-level marketing. For more on why MLM is a scam, see

This is why I think MLM is a scam, however:

1. They approach you dishonestly. They talk about "working from home", "being your own boss", "ditching your boss", "earning thousands from home", etc. But when they approach you they never tell you that it's MLM, otherwise they know you'll run miles. They trick you into letting them into your house, like certain religious groups, by preying on your hopes and dreams of being rich for getting money for nothing. Apparently there's a new scam out called 'prosperity theology', which does more or less the same thing, except the promise comes from God.

2. Sometimes they'll lie and say it takes "hard work" and "lots of selling" - but actually what they don't make explicit is that the only way you can get rich with MLM is with LOTS OF RECRUITING, ie tricking your friends and family into joining.

3. The rely on guilt. When you accede to their request for an appointment, they sit in your house and make you feel guilty about all the time they're taking to talk to you and come see you, and don't you want to make lots of money working from home? In my case they effectively bribed my partner to force me to sign up as well with "Don't you want a free trip to Paris?" Liars. What they don't mention is the "Free trip" involves spending your whole time in Paris in a conference centre praising the company and shouting hallelujah, and paying thousands to go to the conference.

4. They lie. They tell you about hundreds or thousands of success stories and how much the main company is worth. They will tell you that it owns a large ranch in the USA, or that it's the biggest landowner in the USA, or similar arbitrary statements. This is to impress you that it is a legitimate company. Imagine going to a shop and they say, "hey, you should buy microsoft office! It's written by a really wealthy company and their CEO is the richest man on earth!" -  you'd be like - "go away! you don't need my money, then!". Of course, you've never heard of the particular MLM company before, generally, because they're not legitimate. They're clandestine and cult-like. How could they be that rich, and you've never heard of them? I smell a black market or underground market of some kind, like drug dealers, when someone is rich and you've never heard of them. MLM advocates don't tell you that 98% of people lose money to MLM buying overpriced products to earn "points", and that only less than 1% make substantial money - by recruiting, not by pushing products. They don't tell you that most people drop out once they realise that MLM is parasitic and that they're poorer than when they started off.

5. MLM is a pyramid scheme, illegal in most sensible countries, but because they're "selling" a "product", they're generally allowed to operate in countries that ban pyramid schemes. The fundamental premise of a pyramid scheme is paid membership fees go to the level above. Look at how it works. Suppose you want to make money for nothing. The easiest way is to persuade people to give it to you for a future benefit. The church is an example; you pay a tithe, and they promise you a future in heaven. Same thing. Now: how does it work? Well, suppose there are 10 people who sign up, and they pay $100 to join (excluding monthly membership fees). That's $1000 that goes to the two people that signed up those 10 people (the "uplines"). So they (the uplines) each get $500. But because they have to pay $50, say, to their uplines who are higher-up in the chain, for each new member, they each give $250 to the person higher-up, who gets $500 for nothing. And so it grows. If each of the 10 bottom-feeders picks up 5 people, there will be 50 underneath the pyramid: the 3rd level then "earn" $5000 each, and the money filters upwards. In MLM, what typically happens is this money is exchanged for "training materials". Just try to opt out of these "training materials" and see how much pressure they put on you! The "training materials" mostly consist of books, CDs, DVDs, etc., that "teach" you how to sign up others, or, how great the product is. They're sold as "sales training" but actually, they're just a highly-marked-up and expensive way of ensuring that money goes up the pyramid with the pretext of a legitimate product purchase. Some MLM companies charge for membership or charge direct debits to your bank, monthly, for membership or "regular new training material".

6. You have to buy "stock" to "sell". In reality, the stock or products are just a smokescreen to ensure that the government doesn't shut the operation down. The stock is invariably way more expensive than equivalent products in stores. Many MLM companies do sell good products. I will grant that. There are exceptions - for example, one company that my current partner was involved in sold cookies and energy drinks. They were mediocre and crap, respectively. On the other hand, another company they signed up with sold aloe products, which we still use, because they're good. The trouble is, you end up buying $100s-$1000s worth of stock, and you're forced to try sell it to friends and family - because the MLM company prohibits you from selling online or in stores. Why? The reason they give is that it will "give you an unfair advantage over other sellers" and "MLM is the future of marketing". Both are crap. The future of marketing, is, and has been for the past 17 years, internet/online shopping. Physical shops are likely to disappear. MLM is a throwback to the 1970s, where unemployed housewives would have nothing better to do than get together and enthuse about kitchenware. Yes, that famous kitchenware company is an MLM company. The only reason they still exist is because their stuff is actually good. But technically, they're just as creepy and refuse to let you sell your stuff properly. They really want recruits, that is how their 'uplines' make the real money. But selling face-to-face and door-to-door by devious means (i.e. by not warning the person that you're selling MLM), is archaic and, more importantly: dishonest.

7. MLM isolates you and forces you into a cult-like social circle. Because you become a nuisance to your friends and family, you end up being forced to socialise with other members of your MLM company. The reason it becomes cult-like is that you become isolated and start to get into a kind of groupthink, where everyone cheers and gets enthusiastic about the great company and the great products and this great way of making money. No-one dares admit they're losing money in buckets. Where's my proof that it's cult-like? Well my partner went to a certain meeting of a certain company and found that their WAY of doing things was to play music and cheer and clap along - like a born again christian meeting. My partner's "upline" - ie the person who signed her on, recently contacted her and said that it was "worship" time again (the upline's exact word!). When you try to leave they pressurise you to stay on and say "Oh, so you don't want to ever live your dream?!" or "Look at how many people you're letting down!" etc etc. Guilt and manipulation. Only a cult forces you to never leave it.

8. MLM is profoundly devious and dishonest. I've said this before. Let me list why. (a) They don't tell you what they're about; they trick you into seeing them, like timeshare salespeople who trick you with "you've won a prize, do you want to come to our offices and discuss your prize?". They use guilt and psychological manipulation. They play on your hopes and dreams of financial success and an easy income that just is self-sustaining without work. (b) They don't tell you that their products are way more expensive than equivalents in stores. If you notice this, they excuse it as "higher quality". Meantime it's not - it's usually the same quality. In some cases it's good (and in rare cases better), in most cases it's equivalent or crap, but it's certainly not twice as good as what you find in stores, to justify the double price tag. (c) They don't tell you that the real objective is recruiting more "sellers" or as they evilly call them, "prospects". (As in, "prospecting for gold"). They tell you that the objective is to move stock. That is a complete lie. If they were interested in moving stock, they'd let you sell online and in stores. The fact that you legally may not do so in terms of the contract that you accept when you sign up, is proof that they want you to do facetime - speak to people and recruit them. (d) The bulk of MLM earnings is from selling training DVDs, CDs and books to your downline or getting them to pay membership fees, i.e. recruitment. The only people who make a lot of money with MLM are those who are able to recruit all their immediate friends, family, and their friends and family, ruthlessly, without regard for how they appear to people (namely as money-obsessed cultist freaks.)

If you want to spend the rest of your life in a desperate pursuit of "prospects", annoying people to join a cult, being rejected by friends and family, and trying hard to explain why MLM is not a pyramid scheme and not evil, go ahead, join it.

--ps. addendum: Vimeo's TCs: "You may not upload videos pertaining to multi-level marketing (MLM), get-rich-quick schemes, cash gifting, work-from-home businesses, or any other dubious money-making ventures."

quackery and the causes of disease

I've seen two signs outside two different chiropractor's offices saying "Dr So-and-so". Let me just advise my readers that chiros are not doctors. Their views are not endorsed by the medical fraternity. Individual doctors (real ones) may send you to a chiro, but if they do, it's probably because they harbour the same confusion you do: viz that chiros are doctors of some kind, ie physiotherapists. They're not. Chiropractic is the belief that all diseases are a result of spinal problems. ALL diseases. And that by manipulating your spine, you can be cured of ANYTHING. If you challenge your chiro on this, he'll deny it, but if you actually read their literature, especially their founding literature, you'll see that is what it is. It is NOT the same as physiotherapy, and it has not been scientifically shown to work. It is in the same category as acupuncture, aromatherapy, yoga (the exercise), homeopathy, iridology, chakras, and reflexology. If your chiro calls himself "Doctor", please ask to see his PhD certificate, and ask him what university awards PhDs in chiropractic. I am fairly confident that NO respected, actual university, does so. I know of a university here that runs courses in chiropractic, but then, we also tolerate witchdoctors in our country too, and they never get sued for malpractice because they can apparently curse you too. So I'm talking to the first world. "Doctor" means only one of two things: a GP or general practitioner who has an MBBCh degree (a masters' degree, lower than a PhD). In this case, the term 'doctor' is honorific, not due to the person having a PhD. An MBBCh is a six-year degree. A real Doctor, with a PhD, has probably studied at least TEN years to get it, since a real PhD takes at least three years, and a masters should take six at least (counting undergraduate). PhD is higher than Masters. So no chiropractors are entitled to call themselves 'Doctor', since they have neither MBBCh's or PhD's, unless they did that first and then went over to the ... er... hippie side of the force.

All of these pseudosciences - acupuncture, yoga (as an exercise), aromatherapy, homeopathy, iridology, chakras, and reflexology - claim the same kind of thing that chiropractic claims, and are founded on the same beliefs - that a crude mechanical, electrical or 'imbalance' problem lies at the base of disease, and that a crude mechanical solution can fix it. Most of these 'cures' originated in primitive prescientific cultures (yes, that's not politically correct - but the truth hurts) - OR even worse in the malpracticing quackery of the 1600s in Europe (which was primitive and prescientific too), and which was mostly guesswork based on medieval assumptions and Da Vinci's drawings. (Of course, I'm ranting a bit here). 

E.g. Homeopathy refers to "sameness to the disease" - the idea that inducing symptoms of a disease will cure it. It involves shaking up ingredients - herbal - in water, at 1:100 dilution, then taking 1:100th of that, and repeating, if I recall correctly, about 30 times. IE 1 x 10 ^ -31 dilution. Any chemist will tell you that that is negligible. In a single tablespoon of homeopathic medicine, given that the Avogadro constant is 6.023 x 10^23 (molecules per mole, and taking a tablespoon as one mole of water - 18g, actually, so a bit more), it means that you have at best (power of 31 minus power of 23) - ie - eight zeroes below zero probability, or one in 100 million chance, of finding ONE molecule of the original herbal ingredient. To get one molecule, you'd have to have about 100 000 000 spoons, which is 1.5 million litres. We're talking a dam here. The claim is that water has "memory" and "remembers" the healing power of the herb. Really. I wonder, then, why water doesn't remember the poop that's been in it from when it was in Shakespeare's bedpan? That's about the odds that you're talking about. In fact, more molecules will be absorbed from the air as the 'doctor' goes through the dilution process, than the original herb. The non-water content of your 'medicine' is most likely house dust or pollen. Those pills: they're zinc- or calcium-carbonate, commonly known as chalk. Yes, the same chalk your schoolteacher used. Note how they're labeled with the symptom name, not with the composition. They don't say "zinc carbonate" or whatever, they say "headache". If they're made in a bulk factory, they may list ingredients, but casually fail to mention the percentages. Those bottles: they're ethanol (surgical spirits, highly concentrated alcohol), or, water. Ask your homeopath for the ingredients list in the pills or bottles. Notice how they suddenly become evasive and cagey, and list plant ingredients, not the actual ingredients. Then ask them for a journal article in an "allopathic" journal (ie a real science journal) which demonstrates if there are any better than placebo results for homeopathy for anything other than acid reflux (the carbonates will help with that, sure - but so will Tums or Rennies, or plain old school chalk, and they're much cheaper per gram). You'll find, if you do this research yourself, that only homeopathic journals report success with homeopathic medicines, and vice versa. Check the research methodology used and the sample sizes. You'll notice that homeopathic studies tend to use anecdotes (it cured person X) rather than mass samples (it reduced incidence of measles by 90% in Chile), for example.

Do NOT also confuse homeopathy with 'naturopathy' or herbal cures. These are slightly less quacky, eg making tea from willow bark may help a little with a headache - because that's where aspirin originally came from! Salix = willow in Latin, and salicylic acid = aspirin. But you'll also get all the other undesirable byproducts, e.g. possibly methanol if the tea is allowed to ferment (since methanol distils from wood). So frankly, it's bollocks. If you take any homeopathic 'medicine' and get a chemical assay done on it or a mass spectroscopy (something I've personally done in a lab, so I know what I'm on about), I'm willing to bet that the organic non-carbonate content will be absolutely zero - ie 100% CaCO3 or 100% H2O.

All medicines should be subjected to scientific testing and review in anonymously peer-reviewed journals, and should be tested independently by separate laboratories. As long as big pharmaceutical companies are doing this review process/procedure properly, you can trust them. Obviously, however, the profit motive kicks in and they may allow some sloppy work, which is why some medicines get recalled. But have you ever heard of an 'all natural' medicine or healing practice being tested BY ITS OWN PRACTITIONERS using a SCIENTIFIC process? Have you ever heard of any of THEM recalling their stuff and admitting it's harmful and doesn't work? No. So in my view, they're WORSE than "big pharma" because they're never owning up to quackery, they're not even testing their stuff properly.

PS. Do you know what you call herbal medicines that have been proven to work? Medicine.

These are the actual causes of diseases:

1. Physical injury/blockages/Parasitism. In this case, it's not a disease per se, but an injury. It causes a disease when bacteria or viruses or whatever invade it. So this covers cases like gangrene or malaria; the disease comes after the injury. Exceptions here are parasites that live inside you, e.g. tapeworms and amoebas. In the case of each of these, the 'disease' is not so much disease as that the parasite is taking your food. Obviously, some parasites live on blood, but it's still ultimately just to take your food. Blockages include constipation, strokes, and heart disease.

2. Poisoning (e.g. carcinogens, arsenic, lead). PS. There are no such thing as 'toxins' that are not also poisons. There are no toxins in your food, unless you regularly eat lead, arsenic, uranium, etc. "Toxins" is a foo-foo word for "bad manufactured food". "Detoxing" is another myth. Look up "toxins" in any real journal and you'll see it refers exclusively to actual poisons, which are chemicals that disrupt your body's functioning. So, CO (carbon monoxide) chelates haemoglobin, and thus prevents blood oxygenation. That's the kind of thing poisons do; disrupt normal metabolic processes. Sugar, for example, is not a toxin. Nor is salt, or MSG, any other significant food ingredient. (I'm less confident about preservatives and artificial sweeteners, and this new fad of using silicon dioxide (sand/glass powder) but that's irrelevant). Examples of toxins are lead, mercury, uranium, arsenic, chlorine. Unless the ingredient list contains those, your food does not contain toxins. In fact, even the hormones they feed to beef cattle don't count as toxins either. They're just artificial metabolites. Antibiotics fed to cattle are debatable, because they might affect human metabolism, e.g. hormone production. But this is wild speculation on my part. Cirrhosis is an example of poisoning.

3. Cancer (bad genetic mutations that grow out of control in your own cells as a result of cell replication aka growing or healing - mitosis and meiosis).

4. Viruses (tiny boxes of DNA that get your cells to replicate the viruses' DNA). Antibiotics do not do anything to them. Vaccination does, but it has to be done beforehand. You give the body a sample of dead/inactive virus protein, and the body attacks it, and learns to attack it in future. Example: flu, herpes, AIDS, etc. They evolve, which is why you can never really get immune to them. They can be wiped out if your country has a vaccination programme and applies it 100% to everyone. E.g. Smallpox was made extinct through vaccination. No, it does not cause autism. Read something newer than 1998 if you still believe that garbage.

5. Bacteria, tiny boxes with DNA, RNA, mitochondria, vacuoles, ribosomes, etc., which eat stuff in your body - including, sometimes, parts of it - and poison you with their excretions - apart from the actual damage done. Antibiotics work on these, but they evolve to become resistant to them. Example: bronchitis, pneumonia, TB.

6. Then there're amoebas. They're like bacteria except they have no strong defined cell wall, they ooze along like little blobs of jelly and eat stuff. (Note spelling, please. Jell-o isn't a word. Jam is the stuff you put on toast, jelly is that wobbly stuff made from gelatine). I can only think of Dysentry here.

7. Fungal infections. Tiny mushroom-like entities growing on or in you, spreading roots. Examples: ringworm, athlete's foot. Most fungicides are creams or powders and most work. Note that fungi are not plants at all, since they don't photosynthesize, they're just structurally similar to plants. 

8. Allergies. This is where your immune system has nothing better to do, so it decides that any arbitrary unfamiliar protein is an enemy, and must be attacked. The system goes into overdrive, and starts inflaming and attacking your own cells. Apparently the solution to this is to grow up on a farm and get dirty. Too late if you didn't.  

9. Non-intentional Malnutrition. Eating wrong can cause many problems eg vitamin deficiency, ulcers, acid reflux, kwashiorkor, etc.

10. Lastly, bodily abuse. Eating incorrectly, not exercising, inhaling or eating carcinogens, deliberately over-dieting or over-eating, etc., cause diseases too, but only some of the types listed above, specifically cancer, poisoning, possibly allergies and blockages, malnutrition. Bodily abuse does not cause viruses, bacteria or amoebas. At worst it can lower your resistance to these by depleting resources normally used to defeat these diseases. So, for example, if you get a certain metabolite (vitamin, say) from only certain plants (citrus, say), neglecting these from your diet will cause the relevant form of disease to occur (e.g. scurvy). The human body is not 'designed' to 'defend' itself against all diseases ipso facto on a good diet; it doesn't matter how good your diet is if a virus, cancer or bacteria is aggressive enough. You could eat perfectly and still die of ebola or TB.

PS. I am not acknowledging environmental factors here. Diet, exercise, and avoiding sources of radioactivity, or air pollution, etc., are all obvious other things one needs to do to stay healthy. Obviously. I'm talking about superstitions. Like colds causing colds. Why are the Inuit not extinct? They live in -50 deg C most of the year. Scientific facts must be checked before you accept medical advice. Even from a doctor. There's a new fad to recommend a high-protein, low-carb diet. I remember what happened to Mr Atkins - he died. It sounds bad to me. Aristotle was right: balance and moderation is the answer.

phone phishing

OK so the latest scam is a bunch of indian guys phone you claiming to be calling from california. If you press them for address details, they're vague and give you a bogus street address. Their website is

They start by telling you that they're helping all the windows users on earth to remove a virus. They take you through steps to find out whether you "have" the virus, which actually involves turning on your remote administration features and allowing them to remotely manage your machine. Thereafter they can do what they like; install viruses, spambots, keyloggers, etc., and get all your personal information.

Interestingly, if you tell them you have a mac or linux they go away.


Be warned:

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

customer service

This is the difference between doing business in South Africa and in America.
In South Africa, the customer is always wrong and has to scream till they're blue in the face before anything is fixed.
Case in point: Just today:
1. Tried to change a flight booking on The charges for the flight change were exorbitant, and the customer care centre argued for 10 minutes about why it was our fault that their website design was crap and why it will take them at least 24 hours to investigate the problem. No mention of refunding the excessive charges incurred through their bad site design. At no point, for example, did the site say "you are about to change the flight times of ALL passengers".
2. Emailed about a watch strap whose colour has faded from black to bright blue (ink rubbed off). Response: "Please send us your address and we'll courier you a new strap straight away". In fact they sent two brand-new watches, not just a strap.
That is the difference, and it's vast. The cost to company for both incidents is around R 500. Petty, but guess who will retain their customers in future? The Americans.

--- follow up dated 2014.
Guess which company is closed, out of business, and which is still in business?
No need to guess.