Sunday, July 02, 2006

"I found you a new job."

That's the subject line of an email I received this past weekend from Robert G. Allen, who has carefully and cannily positioned himself as America’s foremost wealth builder (though I'd think that honorific more properly belongs to someone like, say, Warren Buffet). Allen is a man we've met before, apropos of his partnership with Mark Victor "Chicken Soup" Hansen.

It turns out--here's a shock--the thing about the job is a bit misleading. What Allen really found for me is his "simple, yet proven strategies for generating multiple streams of unlimited income." Much of the rest of the pitch, which goes on for 11 printed-out pages, appears to have to do with activities you perform online, though Allen never quite describes his magic formula. (Naturally. Because that's what he hopes to sell me.) He does tells me I'd better act quickly: This is such a special, "time-sensitive" offer that I have just one hour to respond. To drive home the point, the email includes its own little "Invitation Clock Count-Down," which dutifully ticks away the seconds as you read. Now, the email arrived in my inbox on Saturday, July 1, at 11:57 a.m; I happened to be online at the time. I opened it and scanned it briefly, curious about what my wonderful new job might be. Then I logged off and busied myself in 4th-of-July-weekend miscellany. So you'd think that my window of opportunity would've slammed shut at around 1 p.m. Saturday. Right? Well guess what! I opened it again this morning and read it word-for-word...and discovered that I'd been given a whole new hour to respond! In fact, I've opened the email several times since then, and lo and behold, the clock starts over on each and every occasion, dutifully ticking down from about 57 minutes, 45 seconds*. I therefore assume that at least in my case, this amazing offer never expires. I get a fresh hour every time I open that email! What a colossal stroke of good fortune!

FYI, I've been lucky before with Allen and his pal Hansen. In my post of November 29, linked above, I talked about the promotional campaign for their co-authored book, Cracking the Millionaire Code: Your Key to Enlightened Wealth. The ad copy for the $23 book offered an astonishing $4,900 worth of free bonuses--but those goodies were available "TODAY ONLY! This offer will EXPIRE AT MIDNIGHT Pacific Time—TONIGHT. So be sure that you don't miss out.” I checked several times when I wrote that blog item, and again now just before I wrote this one, and my luck ongoes: The same offer is still running, a full seven months' worth of tonights later.

But back to the promotion at hand. Early on, Allen is uncharacteristically, perhaps unwittingly, forthright, saying he's "on the prowl" for new buyers. (You have to wonder about his choice of words. Is Allen that oblivious to the predatory connotations? Could this be something Freudian? Or is he so smug about all this that he's almost thumbing his nose at his prospective buyers?) He also asserts that "Time and time again, I've proven to America that my strategies work." This may be a bit of an overstatement. Clearly he did not prove his case to MSN Money writer MP Dunleavey, who tracked Allen and his disciples and found that in one recent year, he only fell about 1000 short of creating the 1000 new millionaires he'd promised to create at the beginning of the year. Dunleavey also discerned problems in Hansen/Allen's "Millionaire Hall of Fame," some of which we examined in even greater detail back in November's post.

Undaunted by any of this, Allen has packed his latest solicitation with plenty of big promises and empowerment bluster. For example: "You have everything it takes to break the mold of an average income earner--but you just need to decide to do it." First of all, since Allen has no idea who he's mailing to (if he did, he'd certainly never mail to me), the you is nothing more than a generic placeholder. What he's really saying is everyone has "everything it takes to break the mold of an average income earner etc." He pairs this with the observation that you just need to "decide" to do it, which by now faithful Shambloggers recognize as that old chestnut about how it’s all mental, there are no limits, you can do anything you put your mind to, blah blah blah.

But interestingly enough, it doesn't take Allen long to tiptoe back away from his "anyone can do it!" assurances. After giving space to several success stories (one of whom, "Greg. W." of New York, in his "first-ever deal," is "acquiring a $5.7 million 91 unit apartment building for $4.25 million using none of my own money"**), Allen throws in a disclaimer in literal fine print: "Remember: I will always be up front and honest with you [ED. NOTE: you will?], the amount of success you may have will depend upon important key variables. These experiences are not typical. You may not be as successful as these testimonials show." So wait--you mean, I'm not likely to buy a $5.7 million apartment building at a 25 percent discount my first time out of the box...?

Allen spends some time describing his self-imposed internet challenge: “Sit me at Any Key Board [sic] Of Any Computer In The World With Internet Access, And I Will In 24 Hours, Earn At Least $24,000 CASH!” He then recounts the compelling story of how, “with camera’s [sic] rolling,” he once sat at a computer and proceeded to rake in $96,532.44 in 24 hours. This was well beyond the $24,000 ($1000 an hour) he had promised to generate. I would say this: I know that Robert Allen earns serious money. Dunleavy estimated that he makes roughly $3 million a month from his seminars alone. But $96,000 a day is also, roughly, $3 million a month. Why would someone go through all the trouble and expense of traveling from place to place, incurring the considerable overhead of seminars, if he could simply sit down at “any computer in the world with internet access” and generate a cool $3 million a month? Why would he ever leave his house? Heck, why would he ever take his fingers off the “key board”? I am somewhat reminded of that old line about psychics and shamans and the like: If they really have the power to do what they claim, why are they earning money in $20 and $50 increments, serving a single nervous client at a time? Why aren't they down at the track, betting on sure things?

Let me be clear about something. I do not assume—nor should you—that just because an offer sounds fabulous, it is fraudulent. I happen to agree with Allen and Tony Robbins and many of the other gurus in one sense, which is that too many of us forfeit the game before it’s ever played: We think that something sounds so fantastic that we dismiss it out of hand—“oh, that’s too much to expect’ or “oh, that would never happen to me." By default, therefore, we allow others to attempt, and sometimes achieve, those fabulous dreams. One reason why most of us will never be president, after all, is that we never even try; we leave that opportunity to others. But the fact is—and this is key—statistically speaking, even if every eligible citizen did try to become president, only one such American would succeed every four years. So it is with offers like Allen’s. I’m not saying they’re too good to be true for anyone. Allen’s anecdotal case histories may be legit. I’m saying that they cannot, by definition, be good for everyone. Especially since these wealth-building schemes are often competitive in nature, pitting one aspiring millionaire against the rest of society. We can't all bid successfully on that foreclosure down the street. (And if we all do bid, it will drive the price so high that it loses its advantage as a wealth-building tool.)

So if these offers are bogus, it isn’t just because they promise wonderful things. They're bogus because they break down under even the most cursory logical analysis. They’re bogus because they draw unwarranted generalizations from anecdotal data that may be suspect to begin with, and their methodologies have not been validated in any kind of scientific, systematic way. They're bogus because, often, they don't even meet the most minimal standards of internal consistency. They're bogus because they incorporate devious shtick--like the time clock that restarts at 57-and-some minutes every time you open the ad.

Finally, here's an interesting page on real estate gurus as a class, with Consumer Reports-like ratings, by one John T. Reed. (Fairness compels me to note that Mr. Reed is an investment expert in his own right who has authored numerous books on real estate in particular. You may wish to keep that in mind as you read what he has to say.) I give his site no special endorsement here except to say that Reed apparently has put a fair amount of effort into it...and it's a pretty good read. Mindful of the law about republishing a libel, I hasten to add that I am in no way vouching for the authenticity of the information Reed presents. However, he says some awfully inflammatory things about some awfully visible, awfully powerful people, and has been awfully well represented on the Net for some time now (Google him and see for yourself)--all of which leads me to believe that if the info he presents it not basically true, he'd have been hauled into court (awfully fast, no doubt), ordered to cease and desist, and slammed with all kinds of punitive damages for defamation by now.

* Why not a full 60 minutes? I have no idea. But I'm sure there's a very good marketing-related reason for it.
** I wonder too about this "is acquiring" business. Out of the hordes of people whose lives Allen has touched (or she he implies), doesn't he have anyone to feature in his brochure who's actually closed on the deal?


Rodger Johnson said...

Okay, here's something interesting! For some reason Allen has been SPAMming me with his GRQs for about four months -- try opting out of getting his pitch -- YOU CAN'T!

He uses a phoney opt-out link that does nothing but tease you with a false sense of control and choice.

Here's another thing about people chasing GRQ scams -- they're Quixote wind-chaser. Just get a job, work, live modestly, save, invest -- wait.

In the end, for that wealthy person -- as few and far between as they are -- no truth nor safety buy.

Steve Salerno said...

Yeah, Rodg, you're not the first to note that Allen's opt-out links go nowhere. In fact, one of his blogger critics pointed out that when he clicked the opt-out link, what he got first was a dialogue box encouraging him to participate in a "live chat" about the worth of Allen's offerings!

Anonymous said...

just send any opt-out request you may have to

they will take care of your request in short order

send it to the attn: of "Heidi"