Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Enzyte at Slate

While this excerpt from a new book on internet crime by Nate Anderson is pitched as "how Enzyte helped email privacy," it's also a stunning catalog of deceptive and abusive practices. 
What customers got for their money was a supply of herbal supplements designed to look as much like a pharmaceutical as possible, right down the shape and color of the tablets. Berkeley lacked scientific evidence that Enzyte worked, but it’s fair to say that efficacy wasn’t one of the company’s chief concerns. For instance, Berkeley at some point reformulated Rovicid, its prostate-health/sex-enhancing supplement, as a “heart-health dietary supplement” instead. Rather than throw out the old Rovicid, Berkeley simply slapped new labels on the old containers—even though the new ingredient list didn’t match what was in the tablets. In 2004, when Food and Drug Administration inspectors came through the company’s warehouse, the second shift manager went to the “sick aisle” of mislabeled products, packed the relabeled Rovicid into a rental truck, and drove it to the parking lot of another Berkeley-owned building. He restocked it after the inspectors left. ... 
Berkeley’s approach to marketing its products was perhaps best summed up by a February 2005 email from Warshak that explained the secrets of his advertising success. “GET 3–4 BOTTLES OF WINE​...​THEN SIT AROUND AND MAKE SHIT UP!!” he wrote. “THAT’S WHAT I DO​...​BUT WRITE IT ALL DOWN OR YOU’LL FORGET IT THE NEXT DAY.”
It is not an accident, I think, that the underlying products made unsubstantiated claims and then the seller deliberately enrolled consumers in an autorenewal program it refused to disclose (sometimes enrolling people who specifically declined) and made almost impossible to cancel. Sellers who have contempt for their customers tend to express that in multiple deceptive ways.  (And given the company's reliance on credit cards, there was additional deceptive conduct involved to keep processors from cutting them off for unacceptable levels of chargebacks.)

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