Opinion: How I Was Scammed by Herbalife – It Does Not Get You The 'American Dream'


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By Jose Vargas

To hear Herbalife, a multi-level marketing firm under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive practices, describe its “business opportunity,” you will get rich quick, become a successful business owner and join a community of entrepreneurs. It’s the American dream, if only it were true. The reality is that hard-working people like me have lost a lot of money – in some cases, their life savings – as they are sucked into a scam that robs people of their time and hard-earned money.
I became involved in Herbalife in 2012 when my brother, who was introduced to one of the local “nutrition clubs” to aide in his weight loss. After about one month’s time, he introduced my brother-in-law and me to the owners of the club. After consuming the shakes for about 1 month or so, the owners persuaded my brother to enroll in the program. The Owners then persuaded my brother-in-law and I into becoming Herbalife distributors.  We were each persuaded into purchasing $2500 worth of products to attain the rank of Supervisor, which would allot us a 50% discount on the retail price of most products.  I was convinced, by the owners of the club, that I would make more money if I opened a Nutrition Club (a storefront Herbalife center) and recruited others to join. By the way, we could not advertise anything about Herbalife on the exterior of the club. I bought a Nutrition Club from another distributor and was told I would see a steady stream of customers. I worked very hard, every week, attending training sessions, events and meetings—some of which were far away and cost a lot of money to attend. Despite my time and efforts, I never made the money I was promised. And, on top of that, I was left with excess products I couldn’t sell. Eventually, it came down to a choice: keep the club or pay my mortgage. Like others in my situation, I closed the club and sold my inventory at a loss – worst of all, at first, I thought it was my fault I didn’t succeed.
Ultimately, I learned my nutrition club was not a place for people to join a community and lose weight – it was a recruitment center to support Herbalife’s pyramid scheme. After approximately two years, I lost $10,000 and had significant credit card debt. I also encouraged a lot of other people to join Herbalife—all of us thinking we were embarking on this fantastic “business opportunity” that would make the American Dream a reality for us. But Herbalife is not a legitimate business. It is a pyramid scheme built on deceptive claims that is intentionally targeting the Latino community—more than 60 percent of Herbalife distributors are Latinos.
With National Consumer Protection Week coming up on March 1-7, 2015, I want to share my story. Consumer fraud happens all too often—but talking about it helps increase awareness and educate other consumers so they do not face a similar fate. Although it pains me to admit that I have been a victim of Herbalife’s deceptive business practices, more than anything, I would like other victims of fraud—and victims of Herbalife—to know they are not alone. The overwhelming majority of people who join Herbalife will make nothing—and even more, like me, will lose money. The best thing I can do as a victim of Herbalife is to share my story, with the hope that it will encourage others to come forward and, together, we can stop companies like Herbalife that are intentionally targeting and scamming the Latino community.
If you have lost money or have been negatively impacted by Herbalife’s deceptive marketing practices, the Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain is here to help you by calling 855-805-5437.
Jose Vargas is a resident of Waterbury, CT