Color me unsurprised.
You have no doubt seen the commercials for the herbal penis-enlarging supplement Enzyte. They feature a guy with a weird smile and his grinning wife. The pills themselves come in suspiciously medicinal-looking packaging. (With a picture of a race car on the package, you begin to wonder who their target market is...)
Well, all of those guys are getting prosecuted for fraud. And one exec -- likely to save his own ass -- is coming clean.
James Teegarden Jr., the former vice president of operations at Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, explained Tuesday in U.S. District Court how he and others at the company made up much of the content that appeared in Enzyte ads.
He said employees of the Forest Park company created fictitious doctors to endorse the pills, fabricated a customer satisfaction survey and made up numbers to back up claims about Enzyte's effectiveness.
"So all this is a fiction?" Judge S. Arthur Spiegel asked about some of the claims.
"That's correct, your honor," Teegarden said.
Teegarden's testimony is key to the case federal prosecutors are making against Berkeley and its founder, Steve Warshak, who is accused of orchestrating a $100 million conspiracy to defraud thousands of customers.
Warshak faces up to 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in penalties if his trial ends with a conviction.
Several other company employees, including Warshak's mother, Harriet, also are charged with participating in the conspiracy.
Teegarden, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors, said Warshak oversaw the phony ads and every other aspect of Berkeley's business.
"He was intimately involved with all of it," Teegarden said. "He knew what was going on in the departments all the time."
Teegarden said Warshak told him to create two spreadsheets of data to support claims Berkeley was making in Enzyte ads.
One spreadsheet purportedly showed how the pills increased penis size by an average of 24 percent, when in fact no customers had reported such results. Instead, Teegarden said, he made up the numbers.
With respect to these herbal remedies, they are always advertising suspect data -- studies that aren't conducted with scientific rigor -- but only rarely in my experience are they totally making stuff up. These guys are slimy. Exhibit B:
When customers ordered a product, the company's goal was to keep charging their credit cards for as long as possible, Teegarden said.
He said first-time customers were automatically enrolled in a "continuity program" that sent Enzyte to their homes every month and charged their credit cards without authorization.
"Without continuity, the company wouldn't exist," Teegarden said. "It was the sole profit of the business."
If customers complained, he said, employees were instructed to "make it as difficult as possible" for them to get their money back. In some cases, Teegarden said, Warshak required customers to produce a notarized statement from a doctor certifying Enzyte did not work. (Emphasis mine.)
So I was talking to a friend of mine speculating about how these companies make money. I mean some people gave them $100 million. Here is my theory.
Herbal remedies rely on two elements to attract customers: novelty and placebo. They rely on novelty to lull people into believing that even though previous concoctions of weeds and twigs did not produce magical results, this newer, better shrubbery distillate will. The placebo aspect is important too because people will give something the benefit of the doubt particularly if they really want to see results. I would probably add word-of-mouth to that list, but it doesn't really apply when you are talking about penis enlargement supplements.
Guy: "So, let me just tell you about this penis enlargement supplement I tried."
Friend: "Oh do tell. I love it when you discuss your member with me."
Guy: "Whereas previously my penis was non-existent, it has now grown to gargantuan proportions."
I think we can assume word-of-mouth does not play for this.
On the other hand, as a business model it isn't bad. People are credulous, and in all likelihood you could make a lot of money on their ignorance before they get wise. And by then you can just move to the next scam. The only remarkable thing about this case was that they lied to such an extravagant degree that they ran into trouble with the law.
Here's a word to the wise: if it is too good to be true, it probably is. Don't buy this junk.
Hat-tip: The Consumerist
I'm shocked by this development, actually. Not because I expected better of these people; but because I expected them to be a bit more competent. The standards of evidence and restrictions on false or unsubstantiated claims are so pitiful for "supplements" that it seems it would take real carelessness to do something that would let charges stick.
Particularly given the (alarmingly) large number of experts in barely-legal boardroom action, it is rather surprising that these guys would expose themselves.
The problem may be that their marketing worked TOO well. I suspect that Enzyte's modus operandi isn't that different, nor any more insidious than other infomercials/supplement products.
Perhaps their success garnered too much attention.
I can't believe they'd be surprised at the attention they received. Their commercials are on all the damn time... I'd bet they could've made the same profit by scaling down the advertising and reducing the customer base. Just sell the damn placebos at GNC, and stay under the radar forever!
"Do you have any Advil or aspirin?"
Helpful GNC guy: "We have a homeopathic pain reliever"
"Goodbye." ::leaves GNC forever::
Sweet justice! I hate their commercials (I watch a lot of sports and I am bombarded by their ads and those of Rogaine, Cialis, etc.).
Btw, word of mouth could work a little. All it takes is one guy anonymously posting on the internet somewhere that he's using it.
I felt so bad for them, I wrote them a little song...
I have seen my share of these advertisements myself.As a woman, I feel that the man's insecurity over the size of his penis makes a man vulnerable to such targeted advertisments.What makes a man so insecure?Since a woman entry is only 2-3 cm, in its natural state,a man with a penis over the size of his pinky is enough to "fill" it.Why worry?It is a problem that has been created in the locker room and media.Having a penis is only half of the equation. It also includes what ELSE you can do with your body...There are so many ways to give and receive pleasure between people that it makes the size of the penis... Well, I wouldn't want to say inconsequental to all of those sensitive to the nuance,, but let's just say that I wouldn't kick them out of bed if they knew how to use their imagination and sensuality. Biologically, the size of a man's penis doesn't impact his ability to engorge or ejaculate..Do these men think that it is the simple answer? Make it so big that they do not have to use their brain?Or that a woman cannot think? Ridiculous.That is the simple reason that such "remedies" and such advertisements are outlandish, and shows the inability for individuals to sus things out for themselves, because if you really thought about it for yourself.. and I do not pretend to be particularily intelligent, but I can at least hold this conversation with myself.As far as the fraud goes, yes, shame on tham because they were intelligent enoough to recognize thie insecurity and took advantage of it, and as the previous blogger mentioned, it probably got larger than they intended, they got big and bad instead of flying under the radar.Emperor Caeveat. There is no miracle dick.You've got what you got. Learn to use it.If you really want to waste your money, invest in a hot tub, Molly Maid service and a night out.If they are with you, then it surely wasn't the size of your BVD's that attracted them in the first place.
YAY FOR AVERAGE!
Thanks for the great piece Jake - I fell about laughing - and thank you America for fanging a herbalist. They roam like rats in Australia. A celebrity here owned up to lying for pay about an impotence remedy and people just laughed.
May I suggest though that today's herbalists are often worse than the ones Jake's mocking. In many cases now the "distillate" is so strong that the stuff really does affect and alter the body! To my mind herbs that kinda "work" are far worse than the probably-harmless "concoctions of weeds and twigs" and "shrubbery distillates" of the old time con artists.
And recall the scary cases when large jars of unherbal stuff have been quietly tipped in with the weeds and twigs, including hormone-like compounds and anti-inflammatories.
You've got the right idea - more power to you - hit them again!
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