A new generation of snake oil salesmen are hawking alleged medical miracles, claim elected officials, community activists and former product distributors.
On Wednesday, December 9, Senator Jeff Klein, Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, Councilwoman Annabel Palma and Community Board 9 chairman Rogier van Vlissingen hosted a round table discussion at CB 9’s office to educate Soundview residents on the dangerous Herbalife get-rich-quick scheme.
These deceptive Herbalife Nutrition Clubs are prevalent in Hispanic communities, more specifically in immigrant communities, they charge.
According to Klein, six Herbalife Nutrition Clubs conduct business in Soundview while an additional 26 Bronx-based and 60 citywide Herbalife clubs were found to exist.
Soundview residents Francisco Payano and Maria David shared their negative experiences with Herbalife during the discussion.
Payano, who lost the $50,000 he invested in Herbalife, was with his then wife when both were approached by a woman preaching the wonders of Herbalife.
The couple was told they could make a fortune selling the Herbalife supplements, Payano recalled, and that led him and his wife to sign up as a distributor.
The couple could not afford to rent a storefront to open a nutrition club, so his wife conducted the business from their residence.
“I tried to convince her this business was a pyramid scheme, but she was so into it,” said Payano. “I was very worried. I would have people ringing my doorbell at 5 a.m. to get shakes. This was very much affecting the life of my children and my marriage.”
Fed up, Payano gave his wife an ultimatum between him or Herbalife, but she choose the latter.
Payano filed for divorce and claims Herbalife ruined his family due to his ex-wife’s Herbalife obsession.
David, who lost her $15,000 Herbalife investment, along with her three female co-workers, was attracted to Herbalife’s weight loss products after a nutrition club opened next to her job.
David and her friends frequented the club each morning to purchase shakes and tea.
One day, the club’s manager convinced them to start their own nutrition club. The four women ran a club for almost two years.
“It was very hard to recruit new members and according to our recruiter that’s where the big bucks were,” said David. “One day, I was very frustrated because we had to keep buying so much product that I decided to count how many servings I could get out of the protein powder. I discovered that you can only make $15 out of it, but it cost $34 to buy.”
This discovery made David and her friends sever their business ties with Herbalife and to rail against the product.
Klein said Herbalife International is an over billion dollar corporation structured so its products can only be purchased from a distributor.
These distributors, who are not Herbalife employees, peddle products at their own prices to their family, friends and neighbors.
Distributors earn discounts on nutrition shakes, supplements and exilirs when they buy in bulk.
Prospective recruits are told a Herbalife start-up pack costs between $60 to $100, but they often spend more after being encouraged by their recruiter to order larger quantities to qualify for discounts.
On average, a new members spends $1,800, however some make initial investments as high as $10,000.
“This is alarming because so many people are losing their money,” warned Klein.
Herbalife has been in contact with Klein who says he will meet with Herbalife corporation executives in the next few weeks to discuss the situation.