'Superjuices' Touted as Cures for Cancer, Swine Flu and the Recession -- Are They Dangerous Scams?
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According to MLM enthusiast Jonathan Budd, if you have slick powers of persuasion, it doesn't matter which juice you choose. He advises readers, "This is what most MLM companies like Zrii don't tell people. They don't tell people that the product is virtually useless to their success."
Robert Fitzpatrick, author of the book False Profits, keeps an eye on MLM companies through his site pyramidschemealert.org. He agrees on the irrelevance of the product being sold. He told me, "Juice is not what MonaVie and the other companies are about."
The question of how superjuice companies can thrive during a recession by promoting $40 bottles of semi-palatable juice to a cash-poor public is no mystery to Fitzpatrick: "They don't have or need a retail customer base. They're selling an income proposition."
But, Jon Taylor reminded me, the juice does serve one important function: "Because the MLM model is fundamentally flawed and cannot work mathematically, there must be claims of almost-magical properties for the product being sold." The attractively bottled elixirs, he says, are ideal for that purpose.
Anonymous complaints by former and current MLM distributors are not hard to find; see, for example, the site purplehorror.com. But few go public with charges that the companies are hoodwinking them. According to Taylor, the MLM game has built-in protection against whistle-blowers: "The people doing the recruiting are victims themselves, and if they file a complaint, they will be turning in not only themselves but the friend or relative who recruited them."
Any unhappy distributor who remains under contract with a superjuice company loses the right to speak out. MonaVie's policies and procedures instruct distributors, "You must refer any media inquiries immediately to MonaVie corporate." Zrii uses similar language: "All inquiries by any type of media must be immediately referred to the company."
That doesn't necessarily mean that the folks at company headquarters are eager to communicate with the media either. My own attempts to obtain responses from MonaVie, Xango, Zrii and Tahitian Noni International regarding the charges of their critics were unsuccessful.
All four of those companies, along with a throng of other MLMs, are based in Utah, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have been involved in the superjuice industry's founding and growth. The Mormon connection may be just a coincidence, or maybe not. Most speculation about that focuses on Mormons' vaunted capacity for networking.
An estimated 88 percent of people involved in multilevel marketing are female according to DSA, and that suggests another explanation for high Mormon participation. Taylor, a Mormon living in Utah, says MLM schemes tends to have great appeal in his community because "there is strong emphasis on women staying home until all of their children have moved out. Therefore, home-business opportunities are very attractive."
Mormon Church leaders teach forcefully against gambling; therefore, says Taylor, "I have tried to get them to speak out against multilevel marketing as well." He has calculated that the average casino player is more likely to turn a profit than is someone who signs up with an MLM.
But the superjuice industry doesn't grow out of some sinister Mormon conspiracy. People of all persuasions have jumped in; one of them is mystical health-and-happiness sage Deepak Chopra. Zrii's Web site declares that its juice "is wholeheartedly endorsed by the Chopra Center for Wellbeing ... Because of the high standing and unshakable integrity of the Chopra Center, its endorsement is arguably the most credible in the history of our industry."
Chopra himself, however, is taking no chances. Zrii's policies-and-procedures document warns distributors ("executives" in Zrii-speak) that the best-selling guru is off limits to them: "Independent Executives are prohibited from publishing the name, likeness, or image, of Deepak Chopra or any likenesses thereof. Independent Executives are also not permitted to contact any associate or employee of the Chopra Center. Any violations of this policy are subject to termination and possible litigation."