It is a sad circumstance when the promises of those who state their assertions do not necessarily correlate with the truth of the matter about which they speak. So, with this, we may too often observe someone promise results for various product, yet as it may happen, those promises are nothing more than shadows, which conceal empty words, which translate into money spent for results not gained.
To speak more specifically of the industry in which we partake, in the hopes of bettering ourselves through our pursuit of physical progress, we shall investigate the many ways in which those who attempt to deceive us, do deceive us. We shall learn how we may see through the smoke in order to see the truth, in order to make better purchasing decisions. Your dollar is your vote, and when your dollar is given toward the honest, it is honesty which you place in the seat of power; if it happens that your vote is cast upon the dishonest, then it shall come to be that dishonesty reigns in the process of pursuing your vote — your dollar.
Those that put the cart before the horse, believing that all companies deceive us, and we have no choice in the matter, would do best to see that it is the philosophy of the common individual that dictates that manner in which companies are run. If people believe in foolish things, then it shall come to pass that, in order to gain the vote of those potential customers which a company seeks to gain, they shall have to speak the words of foolishness, to attract such fools. This psychology is also the psychology that is behind political campaigning. When one is found to speak of the corruption and the lies of politicians, they should be forced to see that they are spitting in their own face. If people believe in nonsensical notions, then of course, it is only logical that politicians will then speak nonsense to appeal to the nonsensical.
As someone once so eloquently stated, “If you believe that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, do not be surprised if there is a charlatan offering to sell you the map to that pot of gold”. To translate this more specifically to our industry, we can say “If you wish to believe that you can accomplish your goal without work, do not be surprised if there is a company offering a supplement or machine that promises exactly that.” We shall keep this mind, as we proceed with this discourse on the various ways in which scams can take form, and the many ways in which we can detect them, even from a distance.
The Nature of a Scam
A scam can generally be stated as a promise that is not kept. Simple as that. Now, as to what form a scam may take, that is more difficult to define, as we shall come to see. A scam may take the form of one person offering to deliver an article (of any given nature), for which, upon your payment, you receive nothing in return. This may happen in a variety of schemes, in which you pay for something beforehand and do not receive the product for which you spent your money. As this is quite simple, and the numerous instances of this are quite easy to imagine, we shall not discuss this in detail.
Now, another scam may take upon the form in which you pay for a given product, of supposed quality, then find out that the product is not of the quality that you made your decision to purchase based upon. Used cars are quite the notorious example, which we need not detail, as this is fairly self-explanatory. With regards to this industry, which is the proper subject of this discourse, it can take the form of a company’s product intentionally, or unintentionally, not meeting label claims, due to lack of quality control or purposeful deceit. This, of course, is quite prevalent and notorious in this industry. We shall discuss detection of this form of a scam, amongst other, a bit later. But for now, we shall delve into the depths of psychology and philosophy to uncover the minds that are behind the shadows that deceive us.
In matters of business, and in all matters of human endeavors in which we interact with others in order to achieve a given goal, a variety of personalities and philosophies interact in order to form a union. This union, in the form of politics, will take the form of the foundation of States and Countries, for which a group of people, with a common philosophical disposition, form together in order to live according to their common terms of philosophy. This, as the world around us shall attest to, is common place, as from the times past, to the times present, men have sought to form political unions for which they can assert their beliefs. I do not believe that I have to go into detail regarding this matter, for it is meant as a basic analogy, and is not meant as the proper subject of this discussion.
Another form of union, brought together by philosophical disposition, is business. All businesses act to fulfill various wants of human nature, whether they be the wants of creature comfort and survival necessity, or those wants for which we do not truly have need, but take pleasure in. Men offer payment for the delivery of these wants, so those who do the best job of fulfilling such wants will do the best in terms of payment received, and as such, achieve the greatest degrees of prosperity, thus increasing their abililty to fulfill their own wants.
One cannot become financially rich without the process of receiving money, so as it happens, other than the outright process of looting someone (or groups of people), money that comes within the grasp of any particular man or business has to have been put there by the voluntary act of payment. The greater our understanding of this, the greater our understanding will be in the process of seeing as to how a man, or a collective entity such as a business, strives to become rich. For the sake of simplicity, and for the sake of keeping upon the proper subject of this discussion, we will not mention outright thievery, whether this is in the form of one person robbing another, or the form of involuntary taxation via political union. We shall speak only with regards to breaches of contract, be they explicit or implicit in nature.
The Psychology of a Business
As an example of the psychology of human interaction, we have the process of voting. To touch upon this briefly, to serve as an example later, we have this political process of voting, for which a given candidate seeks to obtain a given position, and in which case, he must lobby for the vote of those who, upon casting their vote, decide if the candidate may come to gain this seat which they seek.
Now, as many are fond of saying, politicians “lie” and “deceive us.” When these assertions are made, though, the assertors do not realize that they are speaking of their own inability to pick such men for such positions. If, in the process of human affairs, it is generally found that the average person has irrational beliefs, then it shall come to follow that a candidate, who seeks the vote of the general populace, has to speak nonsense in order to appeal to such irrationalities. You are only as good as the person you vote for, and the person who is voted for is only as good as the people that were persuaded to cast their vote upon him. As such, it follows that the irrational men who are generally thought to be in power are indicative of the irrational people who placed them there.
Now, as we saw earlier, the process of spending money (voluntarily), is much like the process of a vote. With our dollar (our vote), we make decisions as to whom may stay in business, who may flourish, and those who are destined to be covered by a storm of dust and ashes. And, much like the process of voting, businesses have to “lobby” for your dollar by appealing to your values. If pornography and violent music prevail in the dominant space of culture, then this is indicative of the people within that culture. That is not to say that all of those within this culture are violent, sexual deviants, but it is to say that these businesses would not be as prevalent, were it not for the people who voted for them (by spending their dollars upon such material). Thus, it comes to follow that in order to succeed in the union of business, if the beliefs of the consumer are irrational, so to will be the machinations of the business.
Now, so as not to delve into a different topic, we shall see how this applies to our industry. Before we delve into the psychology of the patrons, we will simply state the following: “In the industry of nutritional supplements, if it so happens that people are generally found to want something for nothing, then it shall come to pass that in order to appeal to this consumer philosophy, companies will attempt to make their products attractive to this market by speaking only in that regard (“easy gains”, “miraculous fat loss”, etc.).”
Those that wish to offer honest products, to people who honestly want to ACTIVELY pursue their fitness and body composition goals, will be limited to the much smaller segment of the population that understands that supplements are only meant to aid us in our active pursuit of health, not replace it.
The Psychology of the Consumer
It is with great certainty that we can state that the notion of the consumer having any direct effect upon the honest or dishonest nature of a business is quite the unpopular notion. It is much easier to attack that which we do not understand than it is to actually see what gives rise to those problems in the first place. Keeping in mind the process we discussed earlier as to what manner a business comes to receive money, and therefore prosperity, we shall now detail the role of the consumer in the perpetuation of good or bad business. Those of us that are within the sphere of influence of the drive for self-improvement take great pride in the progress toward, and the conquest of, the goals which we seek. Whether this takes the form of gaining muscle, gaining strength, losing bodyfat, or some combination thereof, we all seek better ways to achieve our goal, and therefore, we seek out that which may help us more efficiently achieve those goals. With that in mind, one place we turn to is the nutritional supplement industry. We strive to find those supplements that can help us in our quest, and likewise, with that in mind, supplement companies offer products with the intent of appealing to our desire for self-improvement. Whether via pills, powders, protein, or pro-hormones, all of these products have been brought into existence in this industry because of those that wish to improve themselves. Of course, a company cannot simply make a product, and then blindly hope to sell it in the silent company of the dark, so, said company must find a way to sell their product, to market it, and as such, they must advertise it. If people believe that they can grow muscle and lose fat overnight, then it will surely follow that companies will try to capitalize upon this by advertising their products exactly as such. With this, you will see mention of “miracle” diets, products that help you to gain “10 times more” muscle mass, and so on, and so forth, ad nauseum. In this industry, like all industries, it is the dominant philosophy of the potential consumer that will directly dictate the manner in which companies make, and market, their products. This is not to say that their will not be honest companies, or honest consumers (those that use their intellectual capacity to actively approach their health, instead of asking for something for nothing), but it is to say, that because of the intellectual minority this market represents, it will come to pass that it will only be a minority of companies that are actually honest in their business endeavors. So, we come to see the perfect union, between the philosophy of those that buy, and the philosophy of those that sell. As I think that I have adequately explicated the general means of business, the general psychology of business, the general psychology of the consumer, and the resulting combination of all, in union, we will now speak, in detail, on the various forms of scams, including a difficult form of a scam, the scam which predominates in this industry.
The Straightforward Scam
I do not think is necessary to detail a scam in which you send money and receive nothing whatsoever in return. So, we are left with products that do not meet label claims. This is an issue with some companies, and this can only be established by the testing of said companies products. However, since most do not have access to a lab, we should see if the product is comparable in price to other products of such nature.
If the product is far below the average price of a product of comparable nature, you should wonder as to the reason why. Low price does not necessarily mean low quality, but, at the same time, if something seems to be excessively low in price compared to products of the same ilk, this should make you research the company further. Does this company have a home page? Do they have a contact number or e-mail? Have you ever even heard of this company? Have you heard anything about this company? How does this company advertise? All of these questions, among others, should form in your mind with regards to companies, which you are not familiar with, that sell products far below any price for which you have ever seen.
You may not have access to a lab, but you can utilize some degree of common sense in order to mitigate the possibility of getting ripped off. However, the modern pestilence that ails this industry is not one of lack of quality control, as we will see.
The Legitimate Scam
Now, how can I assert that a scam can be termed “legitimate”, as this may seem to be a contradiction of terms? I term this as such, for the fact that the modern scam is not one of product not received in the process of payment, nor is it even an issue of quality per se; this scam takes the form of the promise of explicitly stated results which do not come about, or if they do appear, it is not to nearly the extent to which you were led to believe.
It was much easier in the past, to define a scam as a product which simply did not meet its label claims, or a product which did not work, even if the label claims were met. But now, we have a different scenario, in which we have products that do work, and do meet label claims, but can still be termed a scam. How can this be? We shall explore this further, keeping in mind, again, that we cannot attack that which we do not know, so we will seek to explicate the blur that prevents us from objectively seeing the truth.
Now, it may happen that a product “works,” so in order to define something such as this as a scam, you have to consider this in a different context. If someone were to tell me that they can ride a donkey to California, because “it works”, they certainly would be correct, as an ass is still a means for transportation, for someone may indeed ride to California upon said donkey. If I wished to attack this assertion, I could not state that it does not “work”, since, indeed, as we have stated, you can still get from here to there on the back of a donkey.
But, with the aid of objective definitions, I would counter such an assertion by stating: “ Yes, riding on the back of an ass may surely “work”, but within the context of efficiency, and keeping in mind the various competing methods of transportation, and the price for each one, though the method of riding upon a donkey will work in absolute terms, it falls far short within its existing context ”. Thus, by having defined, objectively, the manner in which one may make an assertion about donkeys and transportation, I can dismiss it as a proper means of transporting oneself.
How does this fit into our argument? How does this help us to see the nature of a scam with more clarity? This, my friends, is simple — because we learn to base our arguments within specific and proper contexts, instead of spitting our venom at fleeting shadows. If we can objectively define the nature of a company’s scam, by placing claims within their proper context, then we can certainly avoid blurred distinctions and vague notions.
Vague assertions, such as “this product is garbage”, “this company is a scam”, and so on and so forth, do nothing to give clarity to an issue, especially when it comes to a product which may indeed meet label claims, and may indeed work. In fact, it actually makes matters worse, in that with numerous opinions on the same subject all contradicting each other, people become disillusioned as to whom to trust, finally lumping it all together as equally valid or invalid, thus placing objective critiques backed by facts of science on the same level as mere unsubstantiated statements in an ad copy.
In such a case, those who shout the loudest and use the most exclamation marks usually win. But, when we learn to define context, we learn how to attack said companies and their products within that context. So, with this being stated, let us define certain contexts with which we can objectively judge the legitimate, or illegitimate, nature of a product or company:
Here is the progressive criterion for which we can judge, within contexts:
* A) Does this product make claims for an ingredient that does not work? Here, we enter an area of difficulty, certain products do not work at all, and others work only at very high, cost prohibitive dosages. As this discourse is meant to be a handbook, more so than an explicit guide to every product, we will only speak in general, and as such, here are general guidelines:
Does the product, judging from the variety of studies cited, work at all, or does it work within a given context? This is assuming studies are even cited — if legitimate studies are not cited, even if they throw around words such as “research”, “science”, and “doctor”, alarm bells should immediately go off — and they should go off loudly, and you should run, just as surely as if you had your neighbors TV in hand, and the alarm was from their ADT system.
In general cases, most ingredients in a product do work, but only in certain circumstances, so we have to look at:
1. Do the studies mention a specific, dose dependant response? If so, does this products have the corresponding dose?
2. Do the studies state who the subjects were, as this can skew the research? Were they particularly old or young? Did they have hormonal dysfunctions? What was their gender? Were they rats or humans? All of the aforementioned are factored into the results of a study, and as such, this has to be taken with due regard.
3. How was the product administered in the study: IV, oral, ICV (directly into the brain), etc. This does have great bearing upon real world results, since a study that states that a given product works via IV, does not prove that it will work via oral administration, and a substance that does not cross the blood brain barrier will not work unless it is injected into the brain — and no supplement that I am aware of uses this method of delivery.
4. Do they cite results from studies using exogenous administration of a substance, when the product only increases endogenous levels? If so, is the increase in endogenous levels comparable to the dose delivered exogenously. This scam is particularly prevelant with products intended to increase Growth Hormone levels.
* B) Does the product have pseudo-pharmaceutical names, meant to either trick the consumer, or at the very least, invoke a positive association of the product with various prescription or illicit bodybuilding drugs? Does the company itself have a name similar to a pharmaceutical company? One notorious example has a name similar to the pharmaceutical giant Smith-Klein-Beecham. Almost without exception, such practices scream “scam”.
* C) Does the product use “proprietary” Tradenames in order to sell their products? That is, do they claim to have found a revolutionary compound, for which they call “X_________X”? “Proprietary” should be generally taken as a euphemism for “a group of nutrients that can not be patented, since they are in the public domain, but which we can group together, and give a new, exciting name and treat it as though it were a new and exciting ingredient.”
So, as an example, I can take Ma-Huang, Guarana, and aspirin, and call it “Dante’s patented thermogenic stack,” or even better, “Maguas”. And while it may be true that the product is patented, it is only the name and formulation which the patent protects, not the individual ingredients. You can not patent drugs/herbs/nutrients that fall within the realm of the public domain.
So, as a general rule of thumb, when a company claims to have a “revolutionary”, “proprietary”, or patented compound, take a look at the label, and you shall all too often merely see common place nutrients which are grouped together, into a patented NAME, which means that nothing new has been invented or disovered, and that the only thing that really makes this product distinct is the name, not the compound.
* D) The aforementioned is usually accompanied by outrageous prices (relative to products of similar comparison), and as such, the companies justification is that the product is “patented”, a notion which we have already exploded. So, another way that a scam may take place, is the process of charging an outrageous price (again, relative, as in a free market, prices are voluntarily determined, and there is no such thing as the “right price”). In addition to the afore mentioned justification, the charging of absurd prices often merely takes advantage of the “you get what you pay for” mantra.
* E) And, how enamored we are with the obscure, the mystical (hence the mention of “Russian secrets”, and other such terms), and bold, exciting numbers (hence our love for economic forecasting, Alan Greenspan, and other such methods of manipulating numbers, while dropping the context of what those numbers represent).
Numbers represent actions, whether in the form of microscopic bodily occurrences, or methods of human action, but, again, numbers merely represent actions. In order to understand a statistic, you have to understand what that statistic represents.
How easy it is to manipulate numbers to the advantage of any charlatan that wishes to hide his logical flaws, and how easy it is to see through the scheme of statistical manipulation by knowing what those numbers are supposed to represent. Many companies are notorious for such inflated figures (“1850 % better”, “ 300% more effective” etc..), but consider this logically. If a supplement, such as creatine, will produce a gain of 5 pounds in one week (this is just a simple example, it is not meant to be taken as exact), and another company claims that their product is 1800% better, does this mean that you will gain 90 pounds instead? Always, with logic, think as to what a number represents, and see if it is logically feasible for a numbers to actually represent a real world effect, for if you do, you will easily see through the smoke.
As we are starting to see, the legitimate scam is not one of pure quality as such, nor is it one of product effectiveness as such, but, even more insidiously, it is the manner in which these products are marketed in order to gather hype, and therefore, market share.
So, now that we have determined the various contexts in which we can judge a product, we may see, clearly and objectivity, how to make intelligent judgements about a company or product. And, keeping in mind what we said before regarding the unity of the psychology of the seller and the buyer, remember that as long as we are enamored by large, exciting numbers; new, flashy names; excessive hype and incredible results; and mystical notions (“Russian Secrets”), we are the ones providing the canvas upon which companies proceed to paint their deceit.
Honesty and Influence
So, as has been explored and explained, we conclude that the honesty of the world around us is directly determined by the intellectual honesty with which we live our lives. If we use our emotions as a means of forming conclusions and making decisions, then it is our emotions that businesses will appeal to, and in such a world, dishonesty reigns. If, however, we use science, and the cold process of reasoning to evaluate that science, in our process of voting — our process of spending our dollar — we shall come to punish those that choose to deceive us, and we shall make prosperous those who come to inform us.
Legitimate companies take the time to explain what it is that they are selling, with science and cold, logical reasoning, since they need nothing but that power (since their products can withstand logical scrutiny) to convince the thinking consumer. However, when you see hype, in the process of a sale, it is likely that they are using this hype to overcome shortcomings of substance, to obfuscate the holes in their reasoning and their science, much like putting Spackle upon a hole in a wall.
If you choose to assert that a company is a scam, you must make your argument with science and logic, and in no situation may you be permitted to speak without a proper context. Until we come to the point were we can coldly and logically state the reasons for any and all of our assertions, we shall do little more than to give those companies free publicity, for we know not how to form a substantive argument.
With the guidelines mentioned above, we can force the creation of a better industry, relegating those that deceive us into the ephemeral realm of dust and ashes, and elevating those that approach us with appeals to facts and logic to greatness, building their empires out of steel and stone.
And, for those of us that wish to remember, you shall know that: “If you wish to believe that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, there will always be a charlatan offering to sell you the map to that pot of gold.”