So there I was, working away at my desk this afternoon listening to streaming radio through iTunes when an ad for "Focus Factor...the number one selling brain support supplement in America." came on. "They let you try it for free? It must be good." says a woman. "Yep, that must be the reason why we've sold millions of bottles of Focus Factor. So call 800-413-2704 and for $4.95 to supplement the cost of shipping and handling, we'll send you a free month supply, worth $75."
Sounds like a scam in the making, but I'm always looking for new ways to market Jigsaw Health, I wanted to see what this experience what this was like. So I called the 800 number advertised.
The woman on the line started asking for my first name, last name, zipcode, etc. I asked, "You know, I'd really just like to know what's in the product first." She started reading a script that was pretty well-written. I had a little trouble understanding everything she said because of her thick Spanish accent, but after she got through the ingredients like "proprietary mix of botanicals", I did recognize ingredients like DHA (omega-3) and huperzine.
Vital Basics is a Maine company that sells a line of multivitamins, Omega 3 fish oil pills and other commodities that you could buy for a few dollars per bottle at the corner drugstore. We suspect that would be quite a bit less than you would spend with Vital Basics. (It claims that its fish oils are "fully traceable" with a "fully documented" "manufacturing process" resulting in a pharmaceutical grade oil with "fewer impurities" than other oils.)
We have more than 100 complaints about Vital Basics and Focus Factor in our database (as of March 2005). Most of them concern the supposed free trial and disputed charges.
The Federal Trade Commission obtained a $1 million settlement from the firm in 2004. Prosecutors charged them with making unsubstantiated claims for their products.
The FTC charged Vital Basics, Inc. of Portland, Maine, and its principals, Robert Graham and Michael Shane, with not having adequate substantiation to back up claims they made about the efficacy of Focus Factor, which supposedly helps memory, and the safety of V-Factor Natural Pack, which supposedly enhances sexual performance. They were ordered not to engage in similar acts in the future and to pay $1 million.
Our advice? If you're having trouble concentrating or feel your sex life is inadequate, consult your physician. Don't start swallowing gobs of dietary supplements or supposed secret formulas. This is especially important if you are taking prescription medication for a chronic condition, since many "natural" substances can cause dangerous side effects when mixed with prescription meds.
After skimming that I said, "I've got another call coming in, let me call you back." and I jumped off the line. So no "free" Focus Factor for me after all.
Rather than focus on Focus Factor, I'll talk about this from the perspective of someone in the industry. There are two sides to this coin for me. Selling crap like this with big promises and amazing claims makes my job both easier and harder. Harder, because a certain set of the consumer mindset thinks that all supplement companies are made up of used car salesmen. Easier, because when so much of the industry is used car salesmen, it's easier to differentiate yourself as a reputable company.
So dear readers, what's your opinion on offers like this? I'm naturally suspect of them myself. (And I have no desire to tango with the FDA and especially not the FTC.)
But what is effective for getting the word out without sacrificing our ethics or reputation?