here in utah there are a lot of mlm‘s (see post mormon bob mccue’s take on why). many of them nowadays are based on who’s got the baddest-ass super antioxidants in their chocolate bars. i actually signed up for one almost two years ago. i forked out a thousand bucks to have the honor of selling the companies product to friends and family. luckily for me, though, i had recently stumbled upon skepticism and the skeptic’s guide to the universe podcast. yes, i could have been more savvy merely on my own by being less credulous to claims, but i actually needed to learn about critical thinking in order for my right brain to overpower my less-critical fantasy prone lefty. actually, is that the other way around? nope, i don’t think left and right even have anything to do with this. so anyways, i was sitting in a meeting where the mlm company was trying to sell their product (or more importantly the money-making side of it), and one of the speakers was crucial to the validity of their product and its claims.
the man was a doctor, and a cancer patient, and finally a user and product-pusher as well. he told us firstly the medical benefits to ridding your body of free-ranging radical antibodies (or something like that), we calmly nodded in agreement to his arguments (see just taking a doctor’s word for it), and he told us “go look for yourself on the internet” all of the research being done proving the importance of anti-oxidants. he then proceeded to share his own experiences (see anecdotal evidence) of how he has been getting much better with regards to his cancer, after using the super fruit. and finally he told us that he had friends in the audience who he is bringing into the mlm to show how exciting the business-end of it is as well.
with that triple-whammy of a presentation, you’d feel like a fool to not take advantage of this cash-producing health elixir. like i said, i had recently got into skepticism and critical thinking. instead of taking doc’s word for it, i checked out the research going on on pub-med. after a half an hour of research i could find hardly anything supporting the exaggerated benefits of anti-oxidants, and i actually came across several sites (from other doctors and scientists) countering the claim of these super fruits. one said that a $40 bottle of Noni (or other comparable product) will produce the same health benefits as a $2 bottle of orange juice.
another site warned of these kind of companies who use mlm as their method of distribution, the site advised “most of the time a company like this will have a spokesperson, who is currently using and selling the product, and may even claim to be recovering from cancer as a result”. well those kind of things hit me right between the eyes as it had called out the exact structure of the company i had just invested a grand in!
happily i quickly got out with a full refund (and bought a nice sofa with the money instead). but interestingly enough, when i tried to share this same information with some friends of mine who had also got into it, they quickly dismissed the information. yes, they were already true-believers. and you know how hard it is to change someone’s beliefs once they’ve made up their mind about something. it was interesting to see cognitive dissonance at work even in the market place, but it’s there and significant. (Michael Shermer has a great new book out on how we evolved to think and act in the marketplace. i just listened to an MP3 of him speaking on the subject but i can’t find it again, so no link for you!)
so anyways, i was and am proud of myself for taking the time to do research about something and not just believing someone because of their apparent authority on the subject and their testimonials. i am also proud of myself for doing the exact same with religion (see the parallels, anyone?)
great, skeptical articles: