I had sent articles about Herbalife to two popular English dailies about a year ago cautioning the public at large to keep away from the MLM company, Herbalife. Unfortunately, my articles were never published. This company is operating out of a swanky building, opposite the Ashok Nagar Police Station, Bengaluru. This so-called MNC (Herbalife) has only a ‘Post Box address’ in Los Angeles (visit http://opportunity.herbalife.com/ ) Their agents at Bengaluru put out small ads in local newspapers tempting housewives and people who have taken voluntary retirement to ‘earn thousands sitting at home’. When one contacts them, one is never told what it is all about. Interested people are invited to attend a seminar. After reaching the venue, there is an entrance fee of Rs50.
Then the lecture starts. The speaker—an immaculately dressed gentleman—says that Herbalife is a listed company on the New York Stock Exchange with turnover of several billion dollars. He is an engineer but he had left his previous job to devote full time to Herbalife. He claims that he earns over Rs2 lakh per month just selling the wonder products of Herbalife.
The speaker takes out a carton which contains a few medicine bottles. He does not say what the medicines are, but calls 6-8 people from the audience (probably planted by him) and asks them to tell the audience about their experience after taking the medicine. Each one gives a three-minute lecture (timed by agents standing behind the audience). They narrate their experiences after taking the Herbalife medicine—a lady has been cured of some uterus problem; someone else has been cured of asthma; another person has lost weight; some others have gained weight; one man who had undergone angioplasty has not visited the doctor for the past six years; someone has been totally cured of blood pressure, diabetes and someone’s migraine has been cured. Some other people come to the stage and claim to have been sent to Malaysia, Hong Kong, etc, by Herbalife. They are earning several thousands selling this wonder product to others who are interested in wellness. Others (who are planted among the audience) keep clapping after every speaker finishes his speech.
Then the speaker continues: “The wellness industry in India generates several thousand crores and it is very easy to sell this great product which can cure all diseases.” He urges the audience to buy this carton at 40% discount, which is available only for one day. He also appeals to the audience to become salesmen to market this product and be ‘proud working for the multinational company’. Then he comes to the point—“if you want to know more about this product and learn how to sell this product, buy this carton for Rs3,000 and attend the next lecture on so and so date.”
On discrete enquires, I found that if anyone from the audience buys this box for Rs3,000, the ‘agent’ who has invited him for this seminar gets a cool Rs1,000 per box. (I think that they have increased the price now). So if you recruit three people, you recover your money. Every bakra just keeps this medicine carton in his house, hoping to recruit more bakras, since no one is foolish enough to buy an untested, unknown medicine for Rs3,000. None of them admits that they are a part of an MLM network. They just say they are sales guys working for Herbalife. There are several layers in this MLM chain with agents, distributors, supervisors, etc, each earning a portion of the commission, whenever a sale is made in their chain.
NN Bala, Bengaluru, by email
This is with regard to “Facts about Salt” in Moneylife (10 January 2013) by Prof BM Hegde. He has answered some salt-related issues that have been worrying me for long. I entirely agree with him that ‘no two human beings are alike’ and ‘the one-size-fits-all approach does not work in medicine’.
The clarification on the salt-dependent hypertensive and salt-independent hypertensive, more particularly the statement, “There is a small group whose BP (blood pressure) levels actually come down with salt intake; for these people salt might be one of the treatments!” is exactly what I was looking for. This is essentially, because even if there are no curries on my lunch/ dinner plate I would prefer Indian pickles, more particularly South Kanara variety, heavy with salt as preservative. We are borderline hypertensives and my siblings have been constantly warning me to reduce my pickle intake, in vain. Now that I have ‘authoritative’ information from a person of Prof Hegde’s eminence, I am free to consume more to my heart’s content!
The statement, “Two preventive measures to postpone osteoporosis, especially in women, are to take as little salt as possible and exercise regularly. The latter conserves bone calcium. Taking calcium tablets orally sends out more calcium in urine (calcium-induced-calcium-loss),” is very revealing and a must-read for all women.
Eagerly look forward to more of such enlightening writing from Prof Hegde!
Nagesh Kini, Mumbai, by email
Through your publication, I would like to bring to notice the shabby treatment meted out by senior personnel of the post-office. I had issued a cheque for Rs4,900 on 24 December 2012, which was presented by my bank, Bank of India, to the GPO Poona. They returned the cheque to Bank of India on 26 December 2012 with a comment ‘insufficient funds’.
On close scrutiny of the entry in the passbook of my GPO account, I observed that I had a clear balance of Rs5,210 on the date of presentation of the cheque. Further, they also levied a charge of Rs50 for return of cheque. However, there is no entry of debit or credit of Rs4,900.
When I brought this to the notice of the senior post master, GPO (after getting no response from his juniors), he said he would look into it. When I approached him again on 5 January 2013, he simply refused to listen to me and said that his stand of rejecting the cheque and levying a fine of Rs50 was justified. When I tried to explain to him that my Bank had levied a charge of Rs150 towards return of the cheque, he did not bother to listen at all. On the contrary, he made an allegation that, as a senior citizen, I should not create such a ‘nuisance’. He said that he was a public servant and his time was precious and he had more urgent work to do. He also made a sarcastic remark that if he had paid Rs50 to me from his own pocket, then perhaps I would not have raised the issue.
I was shocked to hear the senior post master, but he called his deputy and simply walked out of the cabin, with a comment that post-office rules are framed by the parliament and that there is no comparison with banks. It is such attitude of government servants that puts senior citizens to loss (monetary and physical).
If the balance amount had fallen below the statutory limit of Rs500, then he is entitled to deduct and charge the penalty of Rs50. However, the balance did not fall below the amount mentioned (Rs5,120); yet, the cheque was rejected as ‘insufficient funds’. I was charged by GPO as well as Bank of India.
Ravi Chhabra, Pune, by email
This is with regard to “Remembering Swami Vivekananda” by SD Israni. It is a very thought-provoking article. If we imbibe the teachings of Swamiji, in our day-to-day life, it will definitely help in alleviating misery.
Revive mutual funds
This is with regard to “Equity schemes suffer more outflows and a huge decline in folios” by Jason Monteiro. It is going to be extremely difficult to revive mutual fund (MF) industry. Most measures taken post-August 2009, including the entry-load ban, have proven counterproductive. These ‘reforms’ have hurt more than they have helped the cause of the retail investors as well as the mutual fund industry. The effect of the most recent MF reforms must be reviewed after giving it a fair trial over a reasonable period. If some or all of these reforms are found useless, they should be scrapped without delay.
This is with regard to “Social Media Restraints” by Sucheta Dalal. Not to worry. Our laws will be issue-specific or person-specific. One advocate, who was asked about the source of a huge fee he received for representing a criminal, told the media that there was a provision in the law not to divulge such information! There will be no dead-end; there will always be a diversion.
This is with regard to “American financial watchdog launches investigation into Herbalife.” Thank you for exposing this scourge. The Herbalife/ Ackman battle is a significant one; anyone who wants to know more can simply go to http://factsaboutherbalife.com
. Readers must compare the case of Herbalife with other MLM schemes. Moneylife has done well to uncover QNet, another fraudulent pyramid scheme. I must commend Moneylife Foundation for the valuable work it does.