Remember Sensa, the weight-loss “miracle” that was advertised all over the Internet and on television a few years ago? If any product deserves to be enshrined in the Supplement Hall of Shame, it’s this one.
Sensa was flavored granules that you were supposed to sprinkle on your food to make you feel full faster. It was “guaranteed” to help you lose 30 pounds without dieting. Cost: $60 a month plus shipping. We hope you weren’t one of the millions of Americans who lost money on this scam.
Sensa’s inventor was Alan Hirsch, a Chicago neurologist and psychologist, who licensed it to a California company that promoted it aggressively online, taking in more than $360,000,000 between 2008 and 2012. It was also sold in Costco warehouses, on the Home Shopping Network, and at GNC stores.
Hirsch’s “research” behind Sensa turned out to be worthless, failing to meet even the most basic standards of scientific studies. Worse, some of the weight-loss data were fabricated. Customers appearing in ads claiming they lost weight with Sensa were paid up to $5,000 for their testimonials.
In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission finally stepped in and charged Hirsch and his accomplices with deceptive advertising and ordered them to repay consumers $26 million, which is all the defendants claimed to have left from their scam. They were also prohibited from promoting or selling any weight-loss products in the future without adequate evidence that the products worked as advertised.
FTC eventually mailed out 477,000 refund checks averaging only $54 each.
Scores of consumers have left comments on the agency’s website about their awful experiences with Sensa. Here’s a couple of them:
“I used Sensa for a year because every time I called and complained it wasn’t working, they would send me more product. Is it too late to get my money back? It didn’t work at all.”
“I tried and paid for a 3 month supply initially but when I tried to cancel the ‘subscription’ they kept billing me and sending me more product that I didn’t want. They wouldn’t take my calls and kept putting me on hold for hours. I was finally was able to get through to someone but by then I had 5 months of unwanted supply and over $200 which they had deducted from my credit card account.”
But, unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the story.
Today, you can still get suckered by companies that sell Sensa on amazon.com and on ebay.com. You can also buy Sensa from other merchants on the Internet.
And surprise! They don’t inform potential customers about Sensa’s notorious past or the lack of any credible evidence that the sprinkles work. (These companies don’t appear to involve Hirsch or his co-defendants.)
There’s something wrong with a system where consumers are left responsible for performing “background checks” on products sold on major Internet retailers.
Had an unfortunate experience buying supplements online? Let us know about it.
- Don’t fall for these dietary supplement ad tricks
- Watch Out for Deceitful Marketing of Dietary Supplements
- Beware of These Dietary Supplement Advertising Tricks (Part 1)
- Beware of These Dietary Supplement Advertising Tricks (Part 2)
- Beware of These Dietary Supplement Advertising Tricks (Part 3)
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