As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been fat. In Hong Kong, that’s just not acceptable. Or at least that’s the message the local media is trying to hit us over the head with, over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from a beach whale and no where near morbidly obese, but still, the pressure is on to be thin and beautiful. And to a lot of brainwashed, naive locals, thin IS beautiful. That’s why the weight loss business is such a runaway hit in this superficial wasteland known as Hong Kong.
My phone is ringing… I do not recognize the number… Who could be calling?
(translated from Cantonese)
“Hi, we are from XXXXX (weight loss provider). We are contacting you regarding our current spokesperson (纖體代言人) promotional program. We are offering completely risk-free weight loss packages to our 2009 spokespersons. All that’s required is for you to come in for an interview and if you are accepted as one of our spokespersons for 2009, then you’re eligible to enjoy our award-winning weight loss program at absolutely no charge to you. May I ask what is your current weight please?”
This was not the first time I’ve been contacted by a weight loss provider wanting me to become their spokesperson. In fact I’ve gone in for an interview once already for a different provider, but in the end my charming personality and ridiculous good looks wasn’t enough to score me some free weight loss love. Not then and not now.
Things I’m still wondering about all these weight loss providers and their shenanigans:
- How did they know to call me? Since when is me being a fat-ass public knowledge?
- Do these programs really work? If so, why risk the negative PR with such shady methods of recruitment?
- How can I try out their services completely risk-free? Will anyone sponsor me for part 2 of this investigative report into the inner workings of weight loss providers in Hong Kong?
- If I am able to find sponsorship and successfully infiltrated their lair, will I come out alive? Or will I end up in jail for violating some kind of NDA exposing them?
- Do they find their own business practice unethical? Or do they not know the meaning of the word here in China?
The bottom line is, I DO want to lose weight. A program allegedly with doctors, machines and other forms of professional assistance to help achieve said results sound pretty tempting, even if my instincts tell me that it’s going to be a ginormous waste of my time. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I’m oh so very ashamed right about now.
Here are some observations confirmed by my second rejection as a weight loss poster boy:
- No one gets rejected. You either fall into their trap, or you get smart and walk away.
- “Absolutely no charge” is a relative term. “Deposits” that you “can” get back apparently doesn’t count. They even guaranteed me on the phone that I won’t be paying a cent. I guess credit card or bank transfer doesn’t constitute payment.
- It’s not a scam. They do intend to help you lose weight. It’s just never really free.
- In their game of mathematics, the house always win. They’ll lure you into a false sense of security, boost you up on cloud 9, then take you to the cleaners; or in this case, into instant debt.
- If they lie to you, it’s not their fault. They’re just doing it for a paycheck like everyone else. They personally want you to succeed and get your money back.
- Their company is running a business and is only trying to protect themselves from being taken advantage of, which is un-freaking-likely.
- If you do lose weight (with their help) and manage to keep it off (also with their help), you can get your money back. But you’ll probably have to be as vigilant as Hitler is ruthless.
- The BMI (body mass index) machine they have you go on IS NOT rigged. But the suggested number of pounds they say you should lose IS.
- It’s Hong Kong, so you’re allowed, and expected to haggle. They’re more than willing to go down in price for the “deposit” you’re suppose to get back anyways. But if you want a more realistic and reasonable weight loss goal, they’ll not compromise.
- I suspect that they have a chart indicating the probability of you failing to keep off the weight and thus forfeiting your deposit. If the probability isn’t high enough, they tell you to lose more so that they can see more dramatic results. What they mean is, they’ll lose money if you don’t fall off the wagon. They don’t want that.
- As a spokesperson, you will not be doing any speaking, nor will you be involved in their PR efforts. They’re paying a lot of money to celebrities for that, you’re their ticket to getting that money back.
- They will ask you to fill out a questionnaire that they did not once look at. I know this because if they did look at mine, they will have noticed my sense of humor and intellectual prowess and immediately know that I’m the key to their marketing success, as you do now.
- In the end, if the math doesn’t add up in their favor, they’ll release you back into the wild having only wasted YOUR time and gathered YOUR personal information to sell to other weight loss providers, or worse, loan sharks.
- They’ll try to convince you that they don’t need you; it is you that need them, and they’re only trying to help. No, they don’t need you, but they’ll surely go gaga for your mula.
- I don’t know how effective these programs are for the rich or the financially stable, but for the regular broke-ass Joe like myself, I would bet that it’s absolutely effective. Because even if they can’t help you loss weight, your subsequent starvation from being in debt certainly will.
I won’t publicly name names here because I’m a freelance consultant and could very well work for these guys in the future so I don’t want to burn any bridges. But feel free to comment if you want me to get back to you privately with the names of the offending providers.
BTW, with this report, I’ve become a spokesperson for you, Mr. weight loss thing-a-ma-fux! (excuse my french)
How do you like me now?
Call me if you want help fixing your ethically challenged business. You’ve got my number already.