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October 26, 2009

Acai Berry “Reports” Misleading

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:39 am

The buzz on many websites seems to be about acai berry supplements that purportedly can help you lose weight. Here is one such site (click to enlarge):


This looks like a local TV news station’s report on acai berries, reporter and all, who tested the stuff herself.  The station, News 8, WKRV-TV is in Florida, according to the masthead.

*MOUSE PRINT:  WKRV-TV in Florida is non-existent.  WKRV is a small FM radio station in Illinois, and may once have been a TV station in some other cities.

But what about our intrepid investigative reporter, Rachel Frank, pictured above?  Well, it seems she has a twin sister named Julia who wears the exact same clothing and works at some other health news website:


The “sisters” wrote about their experience using the product in a diary-format for a four week period, including saying “My energy level seemed to steady climb each day during this first week.”  Funny how the sisters made the exact same typo in each of their reports.

*MOUSE PRINT: Even more coincidental, women named “Jackie”, “Christine”, and “Kate”, and one unidentified man who looks strangely like NBC’s white house correspondent Chuck Todd, all said the same thing in those exact words on their websites.

In the first ad above, there are two disclaimers at the top.

*MOUSE PRINT: One says “advertorial” and the other says “this website is not affiliated with any news outlet.”

Hmmm.  So those few words are somehow supposed to overcome the net impression created by the website that this is a television station doing an investigation of a diet pill?

We saved the best for last:

*MOUSE PRINT: At the very bottom of the website in tiny type on a grey background is this disclosure:

“This website, and any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this blog, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story.” –Ad 1


Finally, there have been some real news reports of consumers who took advantage of “free trial offers” and wound up being billed for hundreds of dollars of unordered products.  (See also our story on tooth whitener offers.)

Buyer beware.

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  1. I see this type of ad often, for everything from wrinkle cream to coins to another miracle diet. There should be a better way to keep these liars from promoting their new age snake oil, though I don’t know what or how it would work. Morals should keep ‘them’ from promoting such false claims, but in today’s work, that’s probably a lost cause. It’s unfortunate many people just don’t pay attention, to realize the scams, or know enough about what’s going on to know better than to believe these claims in the first place. Oh, but we can’t all be know-it-alls! I’m sure though, IF they would admit it, even the smarties have fallen victim at least once before to something that wasn’t all it was meant to be!

    Comment by KinKStar — October 26, 2009 @ 9:43 am
  2. “All of the content regarding our claims is 100% true, except for the stuff we lied about*.”

    * – lies may constitute 100% of the content re: our claims.

    “Hey, at least we admit we’re liars!”

    This is as good as one of those infomercials I saw one Saturday morning a few years ago. I can’t remember what specific money making opportunity they were peddling, but the disclaimer at the bottom I’ll never forget: “Testimonials are furnished by PAID ACTORS. Results EXCEEDINGLY RARE.” (my own emphasis added) I burst out laughing, wondering who, if anyone, would actually call the number on the screen.

    Comment by Ron — October 26, 2009 @ 9:52 am
  3. “IF they would admit it, even the smarties have fallen victim at least once before to something that wasn’t all it was meant to be!”

    This made me laugh because do you remember DIDI 7 (stain remover)? Well I bought it back in the 80’s, no surprise it didn’t work.

    About the above type of ads, the government should require that ALL disclaimers be printed in the same size font as the body of the ad!

    Comment by Gert — October 26, 2009 @ 5:25 pm
  4. I think I also saw her building an Amish Mantle. People are fat and it is a health issue so the scammers are out in force. Here is a clue…eat less, eat healthy and exercise a bit more.

    Now, our nanny state is soooo concerned over protecting us from ourselves yet con artist proliferate and little is acomplished in addressing that issue.

    Comment by bogofree — October 27, 2009 @ 9:33 am
  5. You can still get your didi seven. [ website link removed]

    Comment by Shawn — October 27, 2009 @ 11:30 am
  6. It’s been proven that many people who are fat or obese suffer from psychological problems that cause them to overeat…food gives them comfort.

    It’s nothing new, we all deal with our “personal problems” in different ways ie: shopping, drugs, gambling etc.

    It’s just that this type of problem is visible.

    The individuals who promote these products are preying on these people and offering false hope to make a buck.
    Those of you who say such things as “Here is a clue…eat less, eat healthy and exercise a bit more.” make specious arguments about how simple things are when you simply have no clue about the frailty of the human psyche.

    These hucksters are targeting people who most likely have tried EVERY imaginable weight loss program out there to no avail.
    They’re desperate to try anything so they can feel a sense of worth and for once in their lives feel as if they belong in society.

    There’s a simple to solution to every product like this that makes false claims.
    The vehicle used to promote the product (TV, Radio, Websites etc.) must be given valid proof that the products work or they (the vehicle) won’t carry it!
    Of course that won’t work because top to bottom it’s all about the power of the almighty dollar…..

    Comment by Bob — November 2, 2009 @ 7:35 am
  7. I ordered the free trial from a different site. Now I’m charged $48.31 for the AcaiBerry and $87.26 for the revital (colon cleanse). In small print at the bottom of the page it states. Free trial for 14 days – must call to cancel if not satisfied. I ain’t satisfied but did not see the “call and cancel” disclaimer. SOOOOOOOOOOOO, I’m stuck $135 for BS product. BUYER BEWARE!

    Comment by Bruce Martin — November 5, 2009 @ 6:35 pm
  8. One of our local newscasts did an investigative report on the Acai services like this and found they are a ripoff – you get charged a recurring monthly fee and it’s hard to cancel. Yet they still show ads for that exact service and run them during their newscasts.

    Comment by alba — November 6, 2009 @ 11:52 am
    The Better Business Bureau’s Warnings
    Those “free” 14-day trial offers for “super food” diet supplements claiming celebrity endorsements may be too good to be true, according to the Better Business Bureau.

    The bureau released a statement this January warning consumers to be wary of online sales offering acai berry-related weight loss products, saying the marketing of these products is often misleading. The bureau said it has received “thousands” of complaints from consumers about online sales of acai berry products.

    In a scheme called “negative option” advertising, dozens of companies nationwide offer “free” trials of acai diet products, claiming endorsements from Oprah Winfrey, Rachael Ray and others, but then charge month after month unless the consumer cancels the order, according to the bureau.

    “BBB [the Better Business Bureau] can’t speak to the restorative or weight-loss properties of acai-based products, but we are taking companies to task for their misleading sales and marketing practices,” bureau spokesman Steve Cox said in a statement.

    “Many businesses across the country are using the same selling model for their acai products: They lure customers in with claimed celebrity endorsements and free trial offers, and then lock them in by making it extremely difficult to cancel the automatic delivery of more acai products every month,” he said in the release.

    The endorsements are also misleading, according to the bureau, and some lawyers representing those celebrities have already gone after these online companies.

    “Consumers should be aware that Oprah Winfrey is not associated with nor does she endorse any acai berry product or online solicitation of such products. Attorneys for Harpo are pursuing any companies that claim such an affiliation,” said Don Halcombe, spokesman for Harpo Productions, Winfrey’s production company. Rachael Ray has also complained to companies that falsely claim she has endorsed their products.

    Consumers can check to get a “reliability report” on particular companies before purchasing an online product.

    “These companies are simply abusing general acai berry endorsements from well-known, trusted celebrities by using it as a tacit endorsement of their company and products specifically,” added the bureau’s Cox.

    “Consumers trust Oprah and unfortunately, if they are tricked into believing that she is putting her stamp of approval on a product then they are definitely more likely to purchase it,” he said.

    Comment by tamie — April 12, 2010 @ 3:06 pm
  10. yea I got ripped off also as they took my money before the trial period ended so it is off to the attorney generals office and the FBI internet crime division to get them put out of business and maybe get my money back
    ripoff artists to the max

    Comment by paul — May 10, 2010 @ 2:13 am

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