Mail order madness

12 Apr 11 12:00PM EST
Post by Karina Bray  Karina Bray Google Plus
Full mailbox

My dad was after some in-shoe supports for a pair of shoes that couldn’t accommodate his regular orthotics, and was convinced by an ad in Seniors magazine for some Foot Cradles. They promised pain relief for everything from neck to toes, but that was neither here nor there, he was mainly interested in the support. He sent off for them, received them quickly and is happy with them.

However, he now finds himself on mailing lists for mail order companies selling products making grand medical claims and promises for great health and eternal youth (well, just about).

As he has a medical background, Dad finds the more preposterous contentions amusing at best, or downright contemptible, but certainly not a temptation. But he’s concerned that some people might be taken in by the claims. By targeting readers of Seniors magazine (perhaps indirectly), they might be taking advantage of vulnerable consumers who are anxious to cure various ailments, easily swayed by medical-sounding claims and yet perhaps not financially prepared to cop the loss for products and services that don’t live up to their promises.

Dubious products, he decided, were CHOICE’s department, and he duly forwarded the stuff to me. Here are some gems that caught my eye:

Diet without the diet?

The Doctor’s Diet ($34.95) by “leading slimming expert, Dr Michael Spira”, who claims “with my method you can eat all you want and still lose weight”. Littered with pictures of celebrities, chocolate and cheesecake, it claims that the “latest research proves this method works” and quotes some vague references from the “highly respected, highly authoritative” Cochrane Collaboration. So, a Cochrane-endorsed diet where I can eat all I want AND “lose 7 kilos in 10 days”? Where do I sign?

Sadly, nowhere. Further investigation revealed that the UK Advertising Standards Authority dissected a similar ad in the UK in 2008, and upheld nine points of complaint against it along the lines of truthfulness, appropriate means of weight control and substantiation of claims. And the biggest blow: “We considered that eating chocolate, bread, cheesecake, wine and full breakfasts ‘until you are no longer hungry’ was unlikely to lead to a loss of body fat in most cases.”

Double your wrinkles

Sudden Change Instant Eye Lift Serum, which costs $49.95 for a bottle and claims that “Dark circles, wrinkles and lines disappear in seconds without surgery or silicone.” Sounds too good to be true? I searched the internet for reviews and found some people were quite happy with it, while others found it gave a very obvious – and ageing – crepe-y look under the eyes.

But the review that caught my eye was this from Lindsay, Tampa, FL USA: “I am so disappointed with the Sudden Change Under Eye Lift Serum not just because it was almost $10 and didn't work but it actually GIVES YOU NEW WRINKLES - twice as many as you had before.” Huh? Did she say “almost $10”? Sure enough, a quick international price check found you’d be paying about GBP3, or USD7 per bottle overseas. I reckon Lindsay would be even more disappointed if she’d paid $49.95!

A cure you can wear?

And just one more: an ionotherapy bracelet. Iono-what? Certainly the spellchecker hasn’t heard of this one. It’s an (admittedly not unattractive) open-ended bangle that you wear on different hands and with the ends facing inside your wrist or outside, depending on what illness you want to cure: arthritis, tension, insomnia, varicose veins, hip pain, tendonitis, a tendency to obesity or constipation, among others.

More alarmingly, it claims to act on more serious conditions like respiratory problems and kidney complaints. Throw away your puffer and cancel that dialysis appointment, folks, all you need is The Ionic Bracelet: “A cure for all ills” with “unlimited effectiveness”. At just $39.95 (plus postage and handling), imagine the massive savings Medicare could make by distributing one to every Australian!

I could list plenty more, but you get the idea – and CHOICE will be following some of these up with the relevant authorities. Do these sorts of ads bother you? Do you know people who get taken in by them? Or is it more a case of “it might work, so what’s the harm?”


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