Monday, October 3, 2011

BEWARE THE SNAKE OIL INFOMERCIAL

Donald Lapre is dead.

Many of you may not know the name, but if you've stayed up to watch late night syndicated television, you must have seen his seemingly ubiquitous face in those hours. He knew how to make you rich, he would state enthusiastically with exhuberance etched in his cherubic, youthful features. In the late 80s and through the 90s he was the face of the infomercial, second only to the pseudo real estate guru Tom Vu, whose infamous slogan was "If you don' come to mah fwee seminas', you deserve to be bwoke!" Lapre initially sold books and tapes on real estate secrets but his most recent business foray was into the world of nutritional suppliments, specifically "The Greatest Vitamin In The World"...a product that eventually led to his Federal arrest on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, promotional money laundering and transactional money laundering. He was found dead this past Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. in his cell at the correctional facility where he was held, an apparent suicide, two days before his arraignment.

So why mention any of this? Because, to steal from a corpulent cartoon character from Fox's Sunday night line-up, it "grinds my gears" when someone touts a "get rich quick" scheme and tries to sell it with fuzzy logic and numbers, living by the mission statement as espoused by Joseph  Bessimer (not P.T. Barnum) that "there's a sucker born every minute". Yes, it is a fact of life that snake oil salesmen will prey on the hopes, dreams and yes, fears, of individuals who yearn for a better way of life. In fact, these types of salesmen are a perversion of the American dream; it's dark flip side where, for a time, crime does seem to pay. But it's not only a financial crime that's being perpetrated; its also emotional with often devastating results. True, Lapre and others like him did not hold a gun to their victim's heads to hand over their hard earned cash. However, despite the caveats regarding something being too good to be true (and especially in these uncertain economic times), the chance at a better life for oneself or loved ones is sometimes too great to ignore. In the end however, another cliche applies "easy come, easy go". 

For Lapre, his business indiscretions finally caught up with him. I am no legal expert, but I would surmise that the case against him was iron clad for him to have despaired to the point to take his own life. It is sad that he believed that the way to get ahead was to bilk others out of their dreams and savings (in one case, according to one complaint listed rip-offreport.com, one person was taken by Lapre to the tune of $100,000.00), but there is one less huckster in the world. On a larger scale, you have Bernie Madoff, who has paid for his own larceny not just in his arrest, but in the smearing of his own name which led his son to suicide a year into the former's incarceration.  They may have "gotten rich quick", but sometimes the cost of such ventures carry a price higher than they can cover.

So the next time so see an infomercial late at night due to insomnia or because your significant other decided sleep was a better option than other activities, ignore the get rich quick schemes. If you have to succumb to the temptation of ordering something, order the "Magic Pellet" or somesuch item; at least with that you have a chance of getting your money back.

No comments:

Post a Comment