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Hoodia gordonii

Legitimate hoodia seller targets dishonest competition with national "Hoodia Scam" ads

Wednesday, August 23, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: hoodia gordonii, hoodia frauds, weight loss

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The hoodia gordonii succulent, which has been used as a hydrator and appetite suppressant for centuries by the San tribe of the Kalahari Desert, arrived in the U.S. and Europe with such an impact that it created a market fraught with peril -- and both the consumers and the manufacturers are to blame. Hoodia was found by scientists to contain a molecule dubbed "P-57," which tricks the brain into thinking the body is not hungry. When the mostly obese citizens of the Western world heard about this new magic bullet that could slay hunger, a different kind of feeding frenzy ensued.

If you type "hoodia" into any search engine, you will be inundated with millions of pages from companies trying to get you to buy their hoodia product, and each one will say that they are the only legitimate hoodia retailer. Obviously, some fakes are easier to spot than others: If the site looks unprofessional, is rife with misspellings and grammatical errors, and claims that one pill will turn you into the supermodel they have pictured, then they are probably frauds.

The majority of hoodia sellers are people who spent a little money on a website and a bottling machine with the intention of disappearing as soon as they've sold a few thousand bottles and made away with a ridiculous ROI.

However, some hoodia frauds see a sustainable market in ever-increasing consumers with their corresponding waistlines. These crooks are clever with their deceptions, even going as far as forging the certificates that legitimate hoodia exporters must obtain and display. Regardless of their long-term goals, most hoodia retailers are fooling customers into buying anything from rice protein to sawdust, and while these counterfeit ingredients may not physically harm them, they can turn people away from a potentially helpful weight-loss product.

The consumer is not the only party to suffer from this deception. Hoodia sellers who adhere to honest business practices are suffering -- every consumer who decides hoodia doesn't work because they tried a fake is lost as a customer to those selling the real thing.

Hoodoba's Brad Foster is one of those businessmen, and he is tired of his business suffering due to the hoodia fakes:

"The hardest thing is convincing people," Foster said. "Every day we get tons of calls from people saying hoodia doesn't work, so (dishonest hoodia sellers) are giving hoodia a bad name, and we're suffering as well."

Many honest hoodia sellers are frustrated with this state of affairs, and now Foster is doing something about it. Foster, who has been in the hoodia business from the beginning, has taken out some full-page ads in popular magazines that are set to expose the hoodia scams and scammers.

"(We are placing) some full-page ads in various magazines like Women's First health magazines, Time magazine -- not Time magazine itself, but the health magazine they put out -- and we're looking also at Newsweek, Foster said. "We have some in ones like Women's Health and Fitness, Men's Health and Fitness magazines and magazines like those."

Foster said his ads are going to be noticeable by their big-type headline that will say "Hoodia Scam." Beneath that will be important information for any consumer considering hoodia to assist with their weight loss needs. "We're going to be talking about the various ways that (dishonest hoodia sellers) are pulling off the scams and how they are getting away with it, and what to look out for," he said.

The ads will hopefully keep customers from blindly trusting the first hoodia supplier they come across by encouraging them to research the product. Foster does not expect any lawsuits to be brought against him for the ads, despite the controversial market they detail.

"(The ads are) as detailed as you can get without naming names. At this time, we'll be focusing on the (hoodia products) that are being sold in the stores, and we're a bit hesitant about naming the stores, although I don't see why we couldn't," Foster said. "If (a product is) sold there, it's sold there. That fact can be substantiated, so I don't see why that would be a problem, but we're going to check with an attorney to make sure of that."

Some of the more contentious content in the ads is likely to be the result of tests, paid for by Hoodoba, in which Alkemists Pharmaceuticals have tested some of Foster's competitors for hoodia content. The products that fail these tests -- those found to contain little or no hoodia -- are the names that Foster wishes to name, his attorneys' protests notwithstanding.

In the past, other hoodia sellers have suggested that Alkemists' tests are not definitive, and are inconsistent. We at NewsTarget.com, although not specifically endorsing any one lab or hoodia seller, have found Alkemists to be entirely forthcoming with information. The very nature of hoodia and the market lends itself to inconsistent results. Factors such as hoodia sellers being unaware they are selling illegitimate hoodia, and those that are aware sometimes sending real hoodia to a lab while selling something different, mean results are going to be questionable no matter what.

Hoodoba's relationship with Alkemists differs from the average hoodia seller because Hoodoba has an agreement with Alkemists to test in a slightly different manner from the norm. "We are allowing Alkemists to buy our products directly off the shelf -- the way a customer would, without our knowledge, at various intervals, and publish their findings directly on their own web site," Foster said. "And then what we do is we provide a link from our web site to their findings; the page where they update findings whenever they do a new test, and so it's there for everyone to see."

Foster notes that some of Alkemists detractors may be people who think paying for a test is the same thing as paying for a result. "(Alkemists) just tests products and they have problems with people who think that by paying the $700 for the tests, they should automatically get a yes," Foster said. "And when they don't get a yes, they get upset, but Alkemist doesn't play that game."

Foster's trust of Alkemists's results is such that he is sending samples of several of his hoodia competitors to Alkemists, and intends to publish the results of the tests.

For now, it is enough to say these ads may mark the declaration of the hoodia war. Since they are set to run in popular, national magazines, Foster's ads could be the big bomb of the war, and consumers can only hope that those who are out to defraud them will suffer the most casualties.


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