In 2001, my husband and I worked outside the home, were both unhappy with our jobs, and were probably vulnerable at that time to a “work from home” sales pitch. One morning there was a business card in our door with a link to a website. We checked out the website and were intrigued and requested more free information. After reading a blue booklet, we opted for more information, which cost about $35. When it arrived, we realized that the business was Herbalife, as the package contained some free samples. At that point, we should have followed our gut instinct and backed off, but we didn’t.
We were contacted by phone by a couple who would eventually be our sponsors, and also by their sponsor in Wisconsin. It was always a 3-way phone call. They persuaded us that the only way to start making money quickly was to come in at a supervisor level. We wanted time to think it over but they objected. Perhaps if we had given it more time, we wouldn’t have done it at all. Everything was rush, rush, rush — time was of the essence it seemed. They were very good at the sales pitch, made glowing promises of making money, brushed away our concerns. Very high pressure here from the lady in Wisconsin. We entered at the supervisor level, which required purchasing $4,000 worth of inventory (products). After that was done, there was no going back, no way to refund on that. Then we were told we needed to purchase voicemail accounts, one for products & one for recruiting, at $20 a month, each! We were told we needed to switch our long distance carrier for a Herbalife carrier, we needed to purchase blue books, cassette tapes, videos, distruibutor kits, open a business bank account, and purchase business checks, product catalogs. The list seemed endless. We were told we needed to switch from DirecTV to Dish Network so we could purchase the Herbalife channel. We refused to do that. We laid out hundreds of dollars to purchase everything else we were told we HAD to,. It wasn’t until much later we found out all these were actually options and could have waited.
We tried very hard to build our new business. We sent out the letters to friends, associates, and relatives. We placed ads in newspapers across the U.S. and put up flyers, distributed business cards everyplace we went. We worked all day and then spent 3-4 hours every evening, 5 days a week, distributing flyers and cards, making cold calls, or making preparations. We talked weekly with our supervisors (at our expense), who told us how to advertise and how much to do. The newspaper ads alone averaged $300/month. We went to seminars, wore buttons, and talked to strangers constantly, all encouraged by the company. Most people requested the free information (blue books). We were required to mail out at least 25 of these a week. However, few people were willing to spend the $35 for additional information. We eventually sold two or three distributorships. We had very little luck selling the product itself. People thought it was just too expensive. I made 3-way calls (once again at my expense) with potential customers and my supervisor, trying to sell product. My supervisor eventually gave up trying to help me sell the products this way! We were left to flounder by ourselves. Friends and relatives were the only people we were ever able to sell products to.
When we complained to the supervisor, we were told to keep doing what we were already doing, only double our efforts. We were barely making enough money selling products to cover our business expenses. We were also required to call the Herbalife network phone directory daily to listen to pre-recorded “pep talks.” They calls averaged 30 minutes to an hour, and we also paid for the these calls. Herbalife also requires that it’s distributors pay annual “membership dues” of over $50 to remain a distributor.
My husband and I gave this business adventure 20 to 30 hours per week, doing everything we were told to do while our advisers continued the empty promises of residual income checks. The most we ever got from Herbalife was a check for $3, not the thousands as promised. We were also required to place a personal order for ourselves that HAD to total $100 or more a month, each and every month. After almost a year had passed the Herbalife business left us thousands of dollars in debt with nothing to show for it. At this point our immediate supervisors had quit the business and we were dealing with their supervisor in Wisconsin. She just flat-out quit helping us or returning our calls. We decided to cut our losses and the supervisor in Wisconsin agreed to buy our recruiting supplies and pay for the shipping. I sent off 3 large boxes to her and had to contact her repeatedly to get her to pay for the items. She finally did, but she stuck us with the shipping cost of over $80. We finally sold the rest of our inventory on eBay for a pittance of what we originally paid for it
Herbalife distributors used to plaster flyers everywhere and put up signs in vacant lots. After the Arizona Republic published an article about it, many people felt it was akin to littering and the city passed a ordinance prohibiting these types of advertising practices. Many other cities have similar laws, and I believe that enough fuss was made that most Herbalife distributors are now using the Internet and newspaper ads.
To sum up: Herbalife pressures, bullies, promises and pledges to support and help. We were lied to and basically left on our own. Even though we tried as hard as we could, our supervisor decided we were more trouble than we were worth. The only people that make money in this business are those who have an army of distributors under them and an unlimited income to flood the market with advertising and mass mailings of blue books.
My husband and I were left thousands of dollars in debt, but much wiser.
This article was posted on February 14, 2004.