Buyer Beware: Purchasing Fat Burners and Other Supplements Online

Each month I receive hundreds of e-mails from consumers who have been bilked out of their hard earned dollars by unscrupulous supplement / fat burner manufacturers. Manufacturers who have added them to monthly recurring billing cycles without their permission. Manufacturers who don't honor their money-back guarantees, and, while providing a 1-800 number for refunds, but don't hire a real, breathing person to monitor this number. These manufacturers treat their customers with disdain, and in general, regard them as little more than sheep who need to be parted from their money.

The vast number of complaints I receive involve products marketed almost extensively via...

i) radio advertisements

ii) Internet e-mail and advertising campaigns

iii) television infomercials

These products tend to be marketed by companies who do not have a regular presence in the marketplace. These companies like to make this sound like a good thing (i.e., "exclusive T.V. offer!", and "this product is not available in any stores, so order now!"). However, the opposite is generally the case. Why? Selling via the 'Net, T.V. or radio makes it very easy for the manufacturer to...

a) avoid accountability to the customer

b) continue to sell an inferior product to a receptive audience

To further outline the issues, let's create an example scenario with fictitious companies "X" (which will sell its products in stores), and "Y" (which sells online).

Suppose company "X" creates a new fat burner product with a full money back guarantee. They sell it in local marketplaces through well-known retailers. Suppose you come in to the retailer and purchase that new fat burner. Four weeks later, in accordance with the label guarantee, you return the empty bottle for a refund, feeling the product didn't live up to your expectations.

A quality, customer focused retailer will refund your money right away, no questions asked (if they don't, make it clear you'll be taking your business elsewhere). That retailer will then demand their own refund from manufacturer.

What's my point here?...

1) Inferior quality products threaten the local merchant's credibility, and their ability to do business with the local audience. After all, no merchant who claims to have your best interests at heart while flogging an inferior product can stay in business for long.

2) It is impossible for any manufacturer to avoid accountability in the local retail market. If a product yields too many refunds, the local merchant will have to stop selling it. That's because that merchant needs your repeat business for his/her other products. If the merchant does not treat you well, s/he loses the risk of losing ALL your business. Regardless, the bottom line is that the local retailer has to stop ordering from the manufacturer.

3) Products that generate lots of refund requests are much more work for the retailer than ones that do not. Merchants will not carry such a product for long.

OK, now for the other side of the coin.

Suppose company "Y" creates a new fat burner (covered by a 100% money-back guarantee) and markets it via infomercials, radio ads, and the Internet. Suppose "you" purchase the product, and later try to get a refund when you find the quality of the product unsatisfactory. Here's where things get interesting...

Unlike your local merchant, who needs to keep you happy to earn your repeat business, company "Y" knows it is unlikely to ever hear from you again. So it makes it as difficult as possible to obtain a refund. Its 1-800# plays an endless loop message for 45 minutes. It's nearly impossible to get a real human being to talk to.

Good luck getting your refund.

And when you buy products in this manner, often you'll get added to a recurring billing option without your consent. In other words, you'll receive another bottle of the product every 30 days and your credit card will be charged accordingly.

Again, good luck getting your refund.

Bottom line?

Advertising and selling in this manner makes it very easy for the manufacturer to avoid the issue of accountability to the customer. And most manufacturers use call centers, professional warehousing and drop shipping facilities to further isolate themselves from contact with their clients. Chances are that should you order such a product, you won't get a company representative on the phone, but a call-center employee with performance-based incentives. Is that the sort of company you'd like to do business with?

By declining to sell their products in a local retail environment, manufacturers are able to isolate themselves from the local merchants who could demand large volumes of refunds, and threaten their business by refusing to stock a low-quality product. Additionally, it also makes it more difficult for bad product word-of-mouth to circulate amongst consumers.

So...

There are several recommendations I have for purchasing fat burners or any other supplements...

1) Do not buy products advertised on TV, the radio, or the Internet unless...

a) those products CAN by purchased from a local retailer. That way, you'll have some recourse should you be unhappy with the product. While not all companies who advertise in this manner are deceptive or unethical, there is greater likelihood you will experience an issue with a merchant who advertises in this manner and does not maintain a local presence.

b) the product is sold by a well-recognized, respectable brand company.

2) Buy only well-recognized brand names with a established history in the supplement industry (e.g.., MuscleTech, Isatori, Champion Nutrition, BioTest, EAS, and so on). I'm not saying the major brands always create better products. I am saying, however, that their "brand" and reputation does mean something to them, and they do recognize the value of a long term repeat customer. 9 times out of 10, if you have a problem with a product, you can phone such a manufacturer for a refund directly.

On the other hand, products marketed online or on TV do not have a "brand". So it does not matter what the reputation of that brand is, or how it resonates with consumers, since the manufacturer will simply create a new one for the next product.

3) Establish a relationship with a local or online merchant, and make all your purchases from that merchant. Trusted, valued customers can always take their complaints to a good merchant, who knows it is in his/her best interest to look after them.

In the end, losing weight is hard enough without having to worry about losing your money, too. Your best bet is always to purchase brand name products from a trusted local retailer.

Paul Crane is the webmaster of Ultimatefatburner.com. Ultimatefatburner.com is your "one-stop" destination for reviews of fat burners, diet supplements and prescription diet pills, bodybuilding supplements and programs, and weight loss programs. http://www.ultimatefatburner.com/

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