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Sensa… I smell another scam

May 27, 2010
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I was surfing the net and came across this article…  It starts out quite innocuously, with a story about a scientist who may have discovered a pathway to creating a sense of fullness–from the olfactory nerves to the hypothalmus–but from there it clearly travels into the infomercial world with an offer to try the product for free at the end of the article…  Ya, real articles, written by actual journalists (do journalists still exist by the way?) always contain free offers on the end…  I remember back in the day, Dan Rather hawking Amway memberships at the end of each of his newscasts, those were the days…  I am sure I have shown this video before, but could this be the future of news.  Next year will people be looking at this entry and missing the clear sarcasm because, yes, all news will be sponsored by 2011, with products bidding on newspots.  I can picture the news now, ‘This just in, a new report shows that french fries are yummy, so get yours at McDonald’s now…. We didn’t have a sponsor for that earthquake in California, so instead, coming up this hour we have a report on car safety brought to you by Toyota.’

How Life Works

So, HowLifeWorks.com runs a story that looks a little more like an ad than a story, but who is to say that How Life Works actually whores itself out and sells advertising space intermixed with news stories to try to confuse you into buying products and in turn selling ad space for How Life Works?  Oh, wait, In the about section they actually say that they do this exact thing….  It doesn’t appear though that they actually get paid to run the ads as they make their money as an affiliate site…  They are owned by ASN, a junk email and low cost advertising network…  I am guessing whatever soulless people in our world who don’t work for David Zinczenko or over at Life & Style magazine are gathered around the water cooler here.

So, How Life Works is an advertorial site.  Here is how the sites work according to ASN:

  • ASN’s Advertorial offers advertisers a vast new pool of highly qualified prospects. This traffic generally converts at considerably higher rates than search and display advertising.
  • ASN’s staff of editorial/copy writers produces short informative reference articles about the client’s product or service. These articles are published on heavily trafficked information and reference sites, attracting tens of thousands of readers daily.
  • The client’s offer is explained in the article and the reader has the opportunity to click through to the clients landing page. The client only pays for these clicks.
  • Advertorial traffic converts particularly well when the advertisers offer requires consultive selling.
  • This 2-click model (the prospect clicks to the article, and again to the advertiser’s landing page) results in extremely strong conversion rates. When a prospect clicks to the advertisers landing page they have already selected the article, read the article’s 3rd party endorsement of the advertisers offer, and clicked again to the advertisers landing page.

Sensa

So, this brings us to the Sensa website.  The website is covered with logos of media outlets, including a huge ShopNBC logo.  I clicked on it and apparently NBC is branching out into selling unvetted and unresearched crap.  Thanks NBC, just what we need is another outlet for crap that no one has tried and no one needs.  If the shopping channels aren’t one of the biggest apologies our culture will be making to the rest of the world for the rest of time, I don’t know what is.

The Clinical Research

The claim to fame for Sensa is their Clinical Study:

Then, in one of the largest studies of a non-prescription weight-loss system, these Tastants were tested for effectiveness as a means of weight loss.

The results were significant. Over a 6 month period, 1,436 women and men sprinkled flavorless “Tastant” crystals on everything they ate, and lost an average of 30.5 pounds – nearly 15% of their total body weight.

Participants achieved these results without having to follow any special exercise regime or diet.

I am very intrigued.  30.5 pounds is a huge amount of weight in 6 months!  Huge!  I cannot wait to read this study, and boy am I lucky.  Right here on the web page they have an entire tab dedicated to clinical research, so I clicked on it and… WTF?!?!  Seriously, there is a small graph, and just a re-utterance of the claims above.  There is one more tidbit of news though.  Apparently the test group was 1,436 people but the control group was only 100…  Why?  Why not a random split…  wait a minute, they don’t even tell us how they populated the groups?  How did they administer the tests?  Were both groups given crystals to pour on their food?  What did the testees report?  It says here that they were not ‘required‘ to change their normal diet or exercise program, but that ‘required‘ looks awfully suspicious.  Were they encouraged?  Were they educated?  Were exercise facilities made available to them?  Were they paid by how many pounds they lost?

It may seem that still, regardless 1,436 lost 30 pounds and the 100 people only lost 2, so it must do something, right?  No, although it is possible that it may work, there isn’t enough information in this report to answer whether it does or not.  Imagine if the groups were selected by amount of weight to lose.  Those in the control group were at their own target weight.  The others were obese, with hundreds of pounds to lose.  Imagine that they were paid to lose weight and given support such as healthy eating tips, diet counselors and trainers.  Do you think it would make any difference if you sprinkled crystals on your food, obviously not.  The people in the non-control group would lose a lot of weight, the people in the control group wouldn’t.

Without the actual study, this ‘clinical research’ is literally useless.  It has no value.  The fact that the study isn’t available on this page indicates to me that there are massive flaws in the study and they are actually burying it.  Given the fact that a research scientist and doctor is behind this product, I personally wouldn’t need to go any further.  Unless this study is peer reviewed, I am calling SCAM plain and simple.  You cannot cite a study and not make it available.  This is quite honestly a scientific scam.

Free*

So far they are using so many scammy techniques to  sell us this product that I am seeing red flags everywhere.  How about reason #10 on the Top 10 Reasons to Try Sensa.  It is free*.  When something is actually free, it comes without an asterisk.  So, how not free is this stuff, lets see.

  1. Tell us where to send your FREE 2-Month Starter Kit!*
  2. Pay only $4.95 for S&H
  3. See weight loss results, guaranteed!

2 month starter kit?  That strikes me as odd, because they say that:

*Product is free to try for 30 days. Pay only a small shipping & handling fee. Customer responsible for return postage.

So, no matter what I am out $4.95 for shipping and handling, and because they send me 60 days, I have to send back 30 days, so I am out another $10 or so.  Here is where it gets odd though.  According to the terms and conditions:

You have a full 30 days to try your Sensa 2-Month Starter Kit. If you enjoy Sensa, do nothing. You’ll be billed one low payment of $89.95 on 6/26/2010.

So, the free part refers not to the product being free, but from the freedom of paying for 30 days.  That stinks!  That is stretching the notion of free to the point of stupidity.

Okay, so we now know that *free means you will pay an insane amount of odorless, tasteless sprinkles!  Almost $90 for 2 months of it.  I just love all of the straight talk from these guys.  I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t trust them.

Where things really start to get questionable

Simple:

This product is simple to use.  Reason #8 on the list of reasons to use this stuff is:

It’s as easy to use as salt & pepper.  Just sprinkle it on .. and watch the pounds come off.

Great, it sounds easy, but wait a second… The product comes with a ‘How – To Guide’…  Why on earth would I need a how to guide with something as easy to use as salt & pepper.  I bought a salt shaker recently, it didn’t come with any instructions.  Come to think of it, neither did my pepper shaker.  I even have a more complicated pepper mill and it didn’t have a ‘how to guide’ either.  Maybe it is just a little pamphlet that says, ‘sprinkle on foods like salt & pepper’.  Wait, it also comes with a Getting Started DVD?!!?!  You are kidding!?!!?  I need this to figure out how to sprinkle it on all of my food.  Wasn’t the guide enough.  Here is a part of the video at least, courtesy of YouTube.

The pseudo scientific interview with the good doctor and the success stories are there to try to convince you to believe in their product and stick with it for more than 30 days by the way.  I am betting the DVD comes with diet and exercise advice as well.

And who doesn’t need a book to learn how to sprinkle flavorless crystals onto your food…  Seriously, he has a book!  The Sensa Weight-Loss Program!  It has officially sold more copies than my book (true, my book is looking to be published in June and it is only May, but seriously).  What kind of a world do we live in where there is a Sensa Diet Book?!!?!??

You can view some people who were in the research study here as well, and hear some dipwad from Dateline acting like a shill from the Sensa company, reporting how successful the study is before it is even concluded (what a moron) and then suggesting that there are no plans to market or sell this stuff in the future.  Can anyone really be this stupid?  This is the face of our media…

Ingredients:

“Sensa stronly urges consumers to read ingredient labels closely before using any weight-loss product.”

This is a statement about avoiding certain diets such as hydroxycut…  The thing is, nowhere on this webpage does Sensa tell us what the ingredients are in their product.  The closest thing you can find is:

Sensa consists of FDA-GRAS listed ingredients.

GRAS stands for Generally Recognized As Safe.  This means that Sensa falls under the incredibly lax and embarrassing Supplements Act (DSHEA) which I have commented on before.  Thanks Sensa, so I should be really careful about what I put in my body, and read all ingredients, but I don’t really need to know what the hell you are telling me to liberally sprinkle over all of my food.  I should just accept that the government has me covered on this…

Guaranteed:

According to the website, right after I buy this stuff I will:

See weight loss results, guaranteed

The ‘Guarantee’ is the ultimate weapon is the scammer’s tool kit.  It gets everyone.  It has single-handedly sold 10 million Ab Circle Pros (or more).  Everyone see guaranteed and thinks: ” They wouldn’t guarantee it if it weren’t true”.  That seems logical, and it would be if the guarantee actually means something, but it doesn’t.  In every case, even if you don’t like the product and you send it back, you are already out your shipping and handling, which has some profit built into it, so the company isn’t really damaged by the loss.  Sure if everyone shipped it back, they would be out of business, but if only 10% keep it, they are flying high.  So they will sell you on a guarantee that is anything but.

Imagine if I offered you a guarantee that if you pay me one dollar, you will earn a million dollars, and I guaranteed you this would happen.  If you asked me what my guarantee was, and I told you, well, it is guaranteed or I will give you $0.90 back, but you had to fill out a bunch of forms and send me a letter to get it back.  You would smell out the scam right away.  Do this with weight loss products and no one sees it.  The real meaning of a guarantee would be that I would give you a million dollars because that was what I told you my product would do for you.  That obviously isn’t going to happen, but that is what a guarantee should mean.  I believe so much in my product that I will back it up with something more than just taking less money from you.  That is all these products are saying.  If you keep the product and like it, I make a pretty penny, but if you don’t like it, well, I don’t make as much.  Thanks for the useless guarantee.

Be aware though, the sensa community will try to convince you to keep your sensa, and stick with it.  You can see in the video that the soulless Sensa shill tells you that although most people see results in 30 days, if you don’t, just stick with it and keep sprinkling.  The added incentive to keep your Sensa on top of all this, is that you have to package it up, obtain a return package number and then ship it back to them within 30 days at your own cost.  They know that you are probably not going to bother and kaching!! More money for them.

The Joy of being automatically billed

If all of this wasn’t enough to convince you of the questionable quality of these sprinklings, how about the fact that you are autoenrolled in Sensa club:

That’s a 35% SAVINGS off the retail price. Plus, you’ll enjoy free enrollment in our Sensa AutoShip Delivery Service. You will automatically receive a fresh supply every 2 months so you never run out of Tastants. Plus, you will lock in the low price of only $89.95 every 60 days, billed to your credit card, plus $0.00 shipping and handling.

Ya, that is what I call a joy, as apparently do the over 100 people who bothered to complain to the BBB about your auto-enrollment.  In your defense though, you did refund most everyone’s money,  so that is good to see.  Mind you, you have so many reviews that are clearly company written  in the list of comments that I am sickened to see you continuing to do business this way.

Mind you, what did I expect from a company that hires an advertising firm whose sole purpose is to confuse news and ads.

Oh, and Dr. Alan Hirsch, I would like to welcome you to the Rogues Gallery!  This is for being a doctor and a research scientist and advertising a clinical study that you have not produced for review!  Then using this as a basis to sell a product that you have clearly spent millions of dollars marketing, but not one second making your study available.  Only a douchebag would do something like that.  Many of you may not understand how wrong that is in the world of science, but I am sure that if Dr. Hirsch ever went to a convention for one of the professions that he holds a title in, you would see him shunned an hiding in the corner covered in the stink of a sell out.  Damn I hope I can find a full body shot of you!

24 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen permalink
    June 23, 2010 3:37 pm

    Mark, I would love to know how much it costs these companies that are advertising (oops, I meant “sponsoring articles”) on howlifeworks.com. Any idea?!

  2. Jan permalink
    September 12, 2010 11:39 am

    I tried Sensa and it did not work, plus I ordered a six month supply. Basically, I didn’t lose weight and got tired of shaking it on all of my food.

    It is also fraudulent because there is not such thing as a gurantee for a refund. That means I am out more than $200.

    Right now I am having success with Herbalife shakes. I am in no way affiliated with the company. I am 72 years old have a sluggish thyroid and have lost 10 pounds without exercise due to arthritic knees. I watch what I eat, which is important. You need to get a snack list to follow. You can have one regular meal a day. Those who exercise have the greatest success with the program. I will always use the shakes even when I lose another 10 pounds (my goal is 20). My daughter in law who was terribly overweight has lost over 64 pounds. She exercises and is very wise about what to eat especially the approved snacks.

    Best Wishes to everyone,
    Jan

  3. Cindy McFerran permalink
    October 2, 2010 3:24 pm

    When I called Sensa for information on returning item–i was asked for 4 shakers and I only had received 2 and for the instructions,box,and DVD’So how many people keep the empty shakers. or instructions of a FREE trial?

  4. Mark permalink
    November 27, 2010 9:38 am

    Nice job on your article. How life works is full of mostly bogus testimonials. Nice to see how Google ads has placed Sensa ads at the bottom of your webpage….
    Bunch of scumbags.

  5. scarlet permalink
    December 3, 2010 7:54 pm

    Thanks for this. I’m not surprised, in one Howlifeworks.com “article” they wrote how the majority of participants in a study found an item improved their life — but when I then watched the product video, they said there were only 11 people in the study – and they didn’t say how many made up the “majority” — I wonder if it was just 6 people?

  6. Melinda permalink
    May 27, 2011 5:44 pm

    I did buy Sensa and in the first week I lost 6 pounds. I kept at it and continued to lose. My Mom started using it and she is losing also. It does work.

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      May 27, 2011 5:54 pm

      I am happy for you Melinda, but without any other information I don’t know how to take your information… things like ‘kept at it and continued to lose’… That sounds like the past tense? How much did you weigh, how long were you using it? What else did you do, exercise, eating better, portion control? There is nothing here to tell me or anyone else if it works at all. I bought new running shoes and I began to lose weight. The connection of buying the shoes had nothing, or at best very little, to do with how I lost the weight. All of this is assuming you are Melinda and not a plant for Sensa… Without a lot more information I really can’t take your comment as having any value at all. If you did lose some weight though, good for you, I know how tough it is.

  7. Pamela Knecht permalink
    July 9, 2011 6:46 am

    Thankyou so much for you blog, I am a 59 yr old woman looking for something to help me to lose weight.I had back surgery 3 yrs ago and I do go to the gym but I still need help and was thing of ordering Sensa. So I thought why not check it out online, I’m so glade I did now, because now I’m not going to waste my money. God Bless You !!

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      July 11, 2011 10:42 pm

      Are there some eating interventions you could make? Have you eliminated refined sugars from your diet yet? Could you increase your workout intensity?

      • Teme permalink
        August 5, 2012 8:05 am

        Do you know about the DASH Eating Plan which is designed to lower blood pressure and in fact, loose weight too? It comes from the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES,National Institutes of Health,National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Our doctor suggested this to help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well. Weight loss is slow and stable. Lowered BP and cholesterol and triglyceride as well. No big sacrifices or removing of major food categories. Worth a look.

      • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
        August 5, 2012 1:32 pm

        It definitely is a good diet, but I believe it is a little mistaken in its dislike of fats, and it’s positive attitude about grains. It is a little behind the current knowledge of obesity, but it’s focus on long term diet changes are great. Also, incorporating exercise is fundamental, which the dash diet does, but it doesn’t have a recipe for fitness. Still, if You can’t find a copy of You Are Not A Fit Person this is an excellent option instead.

  8. mimi permalink
    July 11, 2011 9:02 pm

    I have orderd it yesterday, I am looking to lose only 10 pounds, so will keep all of you posted on what changes I made and how much it helped me.

    For a starter, I am 33 weigh 132 lbs and work out 1hour/ 3-4 times a week and still unable to budge my weight, its because I enjoy eating and often eat out. Will see if sensa puts some sense into me to avoid eating so much.

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      July 11, 2011 10:41 pm

      See if you can make healthier selections when you are out, or eat less of a portion. Those 2 things alone would have a massive impact. Can you increase the intensity of your workout?

  9. kai permalink
    July 21, 2011 5:32 pm

    I am trying sensa at the moment, just started yesterday. i do not know if its effective or not yet. we’ll see… by the way the dvd doesnt come with a diet and exercise advice. it shows how much you should sprinkle and testimonies.

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      July 21, 2011 6:24 pm

      Thanks for posting! Keep us in the loop as to how it goes. Hmmm… thanks for clearing up what is on the DVD… A whole DVD dedicated to how much to sprinkle and people paid to say good things about the product… Sounds even more suspicious…

  10. Bertha permalink
    August 26, 2011 8:06 am

    There is no easy fix when it comes to weight loss, eat right and workout, bottom line.

  11. Donna permalink
    November 3, 2011 7:15 am

    Sensa’s ads are like all the rest. Everything you can try for free comes with a price.I ordered this tooth whitner and I ended up getting caught for over $200. The kit arrived 2 days before I was put on their monthly whatever. We called them, and told them I hadn’t even had time to try the product for 30 days. They were going to adjust the time but never did even after many calls. We called our M/C and they told us this happens all the time and all these try for 30 days are scams and don’t ever do it again. We learned our lesson the hard way. If you are going to try something, just buy it out right or you can get caught in the monthly arrivals you don’t want for more money than it is worth!!!!

  12. Bill permalink
    January 8, 2012 9:19 pm

    suppose everyone would keep clicking on their adds, would that run their costs up and stup the BS they spew?

  13. January 22, 2012 1:34 am

    This is incredibly gratifying! I’ve run into HowLifeWorks more than a few times in a some of my boredom-induced StumbleUpon Marathons. Every time, I’d cringe at what I’m looking at, as it’s never anything but an absurdly deceptive ad, meant to resemble (and possibly pass itself off as) a genuine review site. So, thank you, thank you!

    • YouAreNotAFitPerson permalink*
      January 23, 2012 4:04 pm

      Thanks for the comment Laura. I was floored to see HowLifeWorks actually works. These people do this with no sense of remorse or apology. It is shocking. It is also the future of news. It won’t be that long away that corporations that don’t own the media will pay the companies that do to run stories about them. All other ‘news’ will be ignored.

  14. Tig permalink
    February 14, 2012 5:18 pm

    It Does NOT work not at all!

  15. Paul permalink
    October 19, 2012 2:30 am

    Oh… And your blog has a link that goes straight to Amazon to buy your book…. Using Sensa to sell your BooK!!???

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