Herbalife, Isagenix, and The Scheme of Trolling

Supplements are a big business, but they may not be as big of a business as we’re led to believe by the earning reports of Herbalife and Isagenix. Both companies have had to defend themselves from murmurs of being pyramid schemes. However the allegations ultimately pan out, the back and forth discussion inspired me to troll these companies.

HuffPost Live Herbalife Expose

It was originally sparked by a HuffPost Live segment I watched back in March; Herbalife representatives swarmed the comment well, defending their multi-level marketing scheme from Bill Ackerman’s assertions the company is a pyramid scheme. The main point of debate was whether or not the company generates revenue from selling the product to users or regional sales teams.

Essentially, it looks as though Herbalife has a lot more sales than they do, because large portions of their technically unsold inventory has been paid for by their street sales team and is sitting in their garages and homes. These sales teams seemingly profit more from signing up sales reps to pay a fee for training materials and work under them.

This start-up fee became a point of contention for me, as I held a variety of sales jobs in my life, and, while salary and commission structures varied, they all paid me for my services. I never once had to pay up front. After a spirited back and forth on all fronts, I decided to conduct a little research and perform an experiment with Herbalife.

Researching Rip-Off Report

Whenever I want to check a company’s credibility, I search for any fraud or rip-offs. I googled “Herbalife Rip-off” and was presented with multiple complaints about the nefarious nature of the supplement. Isagenix, a a competitor with a strikingly similar business model, caught my eye as well. Reading through the complaints, it was clear that, like Amway before them, these companies were wasting people’s time and money.

The problem is a pyramid scheme looks exactly like a pyramid, which would be a legitimate business in this scenario. Pinpointing the difference between a pyramid and pyramid scheme while also attempting to squeeze out a living seemed a difficult task, but I was willing to take it on.

Affiliation with Amazon

I decided to check Amazon for Herbalife and Isagenix products. As a blogger, I work with Amazon Affiliates to attempt to generate revenue. The program is free, and you’re given the ability to build referral links, banners, etc. for pretty much anything sold on the online retail giant’s site. Lo and behold, they carried both Herbalife and Isagenix.

Seizing the opportunity, I crafted careful responses to the rip-off complaints for both companies throughout the internet. In each response, I included an Amazon Affiliate link, which an explanation that I can sell Herbalife/Isagenix for free and earn a commission, and this is why they’re a pyramid scheme.

On top of this, you don’t even have to purchase the product in the link directly – anything you put in your cart during the session you started from my link will generate a commission for me when you complete the order. This means when an Herbalife rep fails to sell any of their inventory, they’re sitting at a loss, whereas I have no overhead, and it doesn’t matter what you purchase.

The Payout

I do quite a bit of trolling online, and it’s often difficult to predict which ones will stick or make any impact. Nearly six months later, though, I’m still getting over 100 clicks per month off these ads, and still no one has bought either product. It does, however, increase my overall Amazon Affiliates pot, as occasionally I get a random purchase of another product from these links.

The success of these affiliate links doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon, either, as Herbalife representatives have been happy to attack me in the comments wherever my links are posted, keeping consistent traffic flowing through. The inability to sell Herbalife has become one of my strongest online ads over the long run.

Trolling is often portrayed as a criminal act by law enforcement and media, but sometimes trolling can be used for the power of good. Trolling as a marketing ploy, however, is something I only recently discovered. I encourage you to continue finding ways to creatively troll people to make them think.

Want more? Check out The Art of Trolling…

Versability Brian Penny WhistleblowerBrian Penny is a former Operations Manager and Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower. He’s a frequent contributor to The Street, Huffington Post, Cannabis Now, and Fast Company.


Dr. Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. You can find his work in Cracked, High Times, HuffPost, Lifewire, Forbes, Fast Company, and dozens of other places, although much of it is no longer under his name. Dr. Penny loves annoying fake media.

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