Saturday, April 5, 2014

Beware of People Bearing Slick Stories

This happened to me very recently:

I was sitting in a Dunkin’ Donuts, enjoying a guilty pleasure (actually two, both frosting-covered). I had planned to finish my food quickly, when I picked up the frequency of a rather interesting conversation behind me. Two young men were talking -- or actually, one was doing most of the talking. He seemed to be telling a long story in a patient, smooth way. I recognized the patter as a well-practiced sales pitch, so I waited to see what the payoff would be. His listener appeared to be Hispanic, maybe a manual laborer, kind of quiet -- the sort of guy used to taking orders, and maybe not too sharp.

Mr. Salesman was saying how it would be great to work for yourself, then I recall him mentioning how much Elvis and Tupac made last year -- north of $10 million -- and they were dead guys, dead, and his listener kind of chuckled, because the implication was: “Hey, you can make more than a couple of dead guys.” And then the story shifted focus to a couple of men who became successful selling a product that was recession-proof -- soap -- because no matter how poor you are, you’re still going to bathe, right? And his listener had to agree this was true.

The mostly one-sided conversation was ongoing when I left. But I stayed long enough to hear one word that explained where all this was leading: Amway.

Amway, which has been likened to a pyramid scheme, is a multi-level marking system. As I understand it, Amway has a kind of pyramidal structure, where salespeople earn a certain percentage of sales they make, and a fraction of the sales by people who they brought into the selling network, and a fraction of the sales by people those people brought in, and so on. So if you were among the first generation of say five Amway salesmen, who then each brought in five people, each of whom brought in five, each of whom brought in five ... well, you get the idea. All of a sudden you’re making thousands a month (assuming your salespeople are good) without having to lift a finger!

Wow -- it seems. Actually there are a number of problems with this sales model, which I won’t get into, because that’s not the point of this blog.

My point is there are lots of smooth stories out there, promising suspiciously high returns for low investment.

In the world of knee pain, the biggest slick story I would be wary of is that of glucosamine. A pill a day chases the knee pain away! Could it be that simple?

Actually, no, as I’ve noted here, here and here for starters. Glucosamine’s story is appealing -- the supplement supposedly helps rebuild lost cartilage -- but the latest studies are suggesting that it’s a dud.

(Next week: I review the most recent glucosamine-doesn’t-work study.)

So beware slick sales pitches for knee pain relief. Hope is good, but make sure it’s informed hope.


  1. Most of my doctors have asked that I take it. They all informed me that it won't cure my pain, or reverse the aging process in my knees. Their belief is that it can possibly help slow down the process.

    We have really good OS and PT's here in Plano, TX so I will just have to take their word for it. I think they just want you to become an active participant and help your self. Pills, exercise, weight loss. My doc said most folks don't follow through with rehab after surgery, or really give PT 100% chance before you decide.

    Btw I read your book and really liked it. My problem's started long ago with a football related surgery when I was 16. That surgery did me quite well for 23yrs until the patella issues started.

  2. Thanks for the kind words on the book.

    I would give PT a 100% chance before deciding, for sure. I'd just make sure it's the right kind of PT -- or you might wind up with even worse knees. :)