Archive for January, 2016

The Consumer Team: Understanding The Organic Food Scam

Organic….Natural…..Locally Grown.   These words are common in the marketplace because consumers are demanding fresh and healthy.  Natural News estimates that 2014 profits from the sale of organic and natural food were over $35 billion.   Consumers want healthy and we’re willing to pay for it.  The prices of organic food products are often much more than food that doesn’t have the organic seal of approval.  In some cases the price is over 100% more than non-organic products.  The profits from organic food combined with a weak inspection system in the US has resulted in a consumer world where food that is advertised as organic is often far from it.  We’re paying a ton of money for organic food and, oftentimes, getting junk.

The Organic Food Scam - The Consumer Team Investigates

The Organic Food Scam – The Consumer Team Investigates

In 2015, Forbes published an investigation of the organic food industry.  “The Colossal Hoax of Organic Agriculture” is a well researched work that shines a light on a number of issues, including how misinformed the consumer is regarding organic food.  Consider pesticides.  Although it’s generally true that chemical pesticides are prohibited in organic products, there are exceptions including natural pesticides.  Natural pesticides can be toxic.  Another consumer misconception is regarding GMOs, genetically modified organisms.   Consumer perception is that organic means GMO free.  It doesn’t.  As long as organic food is produced using an authorized process (which is not closely inspected), the presence of GMOs in food is not a violation.

So how can this all happen?   Why aren’t testing standards protecting the consumer?  Just follow the money to understand the scam.  The sheer profits that organic food produces, including a super-high premium paid by consumers, has created an incentive for food producers to create a system that is lax and offers plenty of wiggle room.   According to the Forbes study, for the majority of organic products, no tests can determine the difference between organic and non-organic.   And when tests or inspections are present, they’re often incorrect or incomplete.  Forbes cites a 2014 Wall Street Journal investigation that found that almost half of USDA inspection agents failed to uphold USDA standards.   The organic food inspection system is totally loose.   And the organic food lobby is so big and well-funded that their lobbying effort has been successful in preventing any changes to the system.  Show me the money.

The poster child for bad behavior in organic foods is Whole Foods Market.  According to the Forbes investigation, the food retailer was found to be importing large amounts of produce from China. Yes, the same China where the air is not breath-able.  And the Whole Food’s scam gets even better.  They advertised their Chinese “glow-in-the-dark” produce as “California Blend”.

So, what can a consumer do?   First, unless you can personally identify and confirm how a product is produced, packaged and stored, don’t pay a premium for organic.  Beyond that, do research for yourself. Below are several resources we believe are viable:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2015/07/29/why-organic-agriculture-is-a-colossal-hoax/#2715e4857a0b2c835e9f38e4

http://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2011/09/05/we_must_end_the_organic_food_scam_now_106251.html

http://www.naturalnews.com/048024_organic_industry_factory_farms_food_fraud.html#

http://www.scambusters.org/foodscam.html

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/07/23/334073167/can-you-trust-that-organic-label-on-imported-food

Lastly, call or write your representatives in Congress.   Let them know that you’re informed regarding the organic food scam, including their complicity in maintaining the corrupt organic food system in the US.

Pete Thomson

CEO – The Consumer Team

Editor’s Note:  The Consumer Team with Pete Thomson is heard Saturdays from 6-8 PM (Central) on CBS Radio’s 1080 KRLD, Dallas-Ft. Worth.  The Consumer Team features news and information on consumer issues.  Additionally, the program recommends ‘best in class’ business sponsors in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas area.

“But Wait There’s More!” 10 Warning Signs of an Advertising Rip Off

As a reformed advertising salesman, I’m all too aware of the tricks, tactics and schemes used by marketers to get you to buy their stuff.    Every day on radio, TV and the internet advertisers use buzzwords that, if you pay attention, can alert you to rip offs.  P.T. Barnum, circus entrepreneur and scam artist in his own right, used to say “There’s a sucker born every minute”.   Don’t be a sucker.   Beware of these 10 warning signs of an advertising rip off.

P.T. Barnum - "There's a sucker born every minute"

P.T. Barnum – “There’s a sucker born every minute”

Hurry! This is a Limited Time Offer!”    What they’re really saying is “we have a ton of this junk to unload so please make call today and help us get rid of it!”   The same logic applies to sales people from any profession.   The minute anyone indicates that you have to buy now or lose the opportunity, disengage from the discussion.

The Next 20 Callers will Receive this Offer!”    This is another version of the “Limited Time” offer above made by marketers who are fully delusional regarding the benefit their product offers.   They’re saying, in effect, our product is so hot, so amazing that we can only give it to the next 20 customers.   When they’re really feeling bold, these hucksters get their commercial production guys to add a digital counter to the upper corner of their television spot that magically counts the number of people who have called in.   That’s right, they’re giving a “live” update on a commercial that was recorded months ago.

Our Product is Free.   Call now!”    Nothing is free.   Marketers making this offer easily make up the difference in ‘shipping and handling’ charges, which is a huge profit center for mail order junk merchants.   I repeat, nothing is free.

Money-Back Guarantee!”   See “Our Product is Free” above.   Shipping and handling are used for this scam too.

This is a Rare Product”    The numismatic coin guys use this all the time.  “We’ve found a rare batch of coins from the era of Theodore Roosevelt!”   Buyer beware.   The only thing that’s rare in this deal is any value to the consumer.   Nothing ‘rare’ or ‘valuable’ is sold via an 800 number.

Spacey's Frank Underwood Character Won't be Fooled by 800 Marketers

Spacey’s Frank Underwood – Speaks Consumer Wisdom

Over 1 Million Products Have Been Sold“:    Sadly, these claims are often true.  (See P.T. Barnum quote above).

Buy Now and We’ll Give You a Second Free“:   Buy One, Get One (BOGO) is the latest tactic being used to fool consumers.   Retailers often mark-up BOGO products just before they’re offered for sale.  Shipping and handling can also be used to hide profits.   Before you fall for this scam, do a search on eBay or Amazon to check the real, competitive price for a product.

Today We’re Taking Calls from States That Begin With the Letters A-L“:    I’m getting sick to my stomach now.   This tactic  came from the same ad agency that dreamed up the digital counter.    I assure you, anyone who can fog a mirror and has a valid credit card will be most welcome.

“Get Your Free Trial Today, Call Now!”:    While there are some legitimate try-it-before-you-buy-it offers, many are dangerous for consumers.   Because the ‘free offer’ requires that you place a credit card ‘on file’,  consumers are required to go through a cancellation process to prevent future charges from hitting their card.  And, to no surprise, the process of cancelling your commitment is often difficult if not impossible to accomplish.   Unless you’re dealing with a well-respected company, it’s best not to sign up for any free trials.   And, generally, 800 line marketers don’t fall into the ‘respected company’ category.

Use of “Amazing”, “Incredible” or “First Ever”:     Using superlatives in describing anything is a red flag.   In fact, in many cases just attach an ‘un-‘ to the beginning of the descriptor and the description will be more accurate.

The Consumer Team Solution…..Vet Your Purchases:   The easiest, most effective way to fight back against scans is to thoroughly vet your purchases.   Get multiple bids for any service related purchases and price-check anything past $30 or so.   Smartphone Apps, such as Red Lazer, are an excellent way to quickly find the lowest price available on a product.   For more information on being a more savvy consumer, join us for The Consumer Team radio program, Saturdays 5-7 PM Central, on 1080 KRLD Radio, Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Frank Underwood, the totally depraved character from House of Cards, does occasionally speak wisdom.   In one episode, when his wife Claire is trying to coax him to use a rowing machine she recently purchased, he said “I refuse to be a slave to anything you order through a toll free number.”    His sleaziness notwithstanding, in this regard, Frank speaks the consumer truth.

Pete Thomson

The Consumer Team

http://www.myconsumerteam.com

 

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