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Special Report

Buyers Beware
Mail-Order Muscle Ads

By Dennis B. Weis “The Yukon Hercules”

Distributed By www.dennisbweis.com

© 2003
© 2003
All rights reserved. No part of this e-report may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, or by any
information storage or retrieval system, except as may be permitted by 1976
Copyright Act or in writing by the Author.

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About Dennis B. Weis, a.k.a. Yukon Hercules
Dennis B. Weis is a Ketchikan, Alaska-based power/bodybuilder. He is a hard-
hitting, uncompromising freelance professional writer and investigative research
consultant in the fields of bodybuilding, nutrition, physiology, and powerlifting.

Dennis was first published over two decades ago (1976) in the pages of Iron Man
magazine. Since that time he has become known to almost every mainstream
bodybuilding/physique magazine's readership throughout the United States and
Europe. The magazines that publish his articles include and are not limited to
Bodybuilding Monthly (U.K. publication), Exercise For Men Only, Hardgainer
(Nicosia, Cyprus, publication), Iron Man, Muscle & Fitness, Muscle Mag International
and Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness.

You have undoubtedly read dozens of his 100+ feature-length articles in many of the
popular worldwide magazines -- under his own name and under the names of
certain top physique stars and power lifting personalities.

The credentials of this prolific writer extend beyond the scope of just writing articles,
for he is the author of three critically acclaimed best-selling books: Mass! (1986),
Raw Muscle (1989), and his newest release, Anabolic Muscle Mass: The Secrets
of Anabolic Reinforcement Without Steroids.

In recognition of his writing accomplishments, he has received Meritorious Service


Awards relating to all published works as a magazine consultant and published book
author. In addition to these honors, he has performed Barnes & Noble and
Waldenbooks autograph parties and window displays for his books. He has also
been a featured guest on various radio talk shows around the country, where he
shares his knowledge and experience regarding such issues as bodybuilding and
the super-fitness lifestyle.

During the past two decades he has established a small but dynamic one-man
business to service male and female bodybuilders, fitness buffs, and powerlifting
enthusiasts of all types with very personal (one to one or mail order), and highly
professional instruction on all phases of physical excellence.

He has coached literally hundreds of select clients, one of the most notable being a
personal training advisor to the 1983 Miss Minnesota winner. One of the training
tools he uses as a personal trainer is the revolutionary and famous Samra R.E.S.T.
principle.

Contact Information:
Dennis B. Weis
e-mail: yukonherc@kpunet.net
Website: www.dennisbweis.com

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Don't Be Held Hostage
By the Mail-Order Muscle Ads

Attention! The purpose of this e-report is to give you a personalized


glimpse, glance, and analysis regarding the true factors and the charades behind
select mail-order marketing trickery (or proliferation) classified and display ads. The
information that I will be providing is based upon my insights and expressions after
nearly 40+ years of involvement in the iron game, purchasing strength-related
memorabilia by direct mail-order.

The "iron guru" of bodybuilding (the late) Vince Gironda stated on numerous
occasions that "There are more gyms, books, magazines and training courses on
bodybuilding than ever before in the history of the iron game." Vince went on to say
that "people crave one thing over everything, bodybuilding know-how and good
information." I couldn't agree with Vince more.

I can remember just a couple of decades ago when books and courses relating to
bodybuilding and strength training were scarce in the bookstores and mail order
alike. At the most, there would be five or six titles relating to the topic of
bodybuilding. However, these books were rather academic and rudimentary at best
and certainly didn't resemble the hardcore information we have available today for
our personal wants and needs.

Today a person can walk into any major bookstore and find a rather expansive Sport
and Health section that offers books on every imaginable topic (specialty works as
well) related to the iron game.

Granted, some of the books are based on conjecture (and sometimes "baffling
B-S"), but the greatest majority of them are recognized by the bodybuilding
community as being valid. Aside from this, we also have the opportunity of choosing
from a myriad of books (e-books), cassettes (audio, CD, DVD and video), courses,
and manuals by direct mail through magazine advertisements.

Purchasing books on bodybuilding and strength training from a bookstore isn't any
big deal, for the obvious reason that you, the consumer, can scan the contents of the
book(s) right then and there. Then it's only a matter of whether or not you want to
purchase it.

Direct mail-order is slightly more difficult, because you are making a purchase sight
unseen, without the opportunity to do a quick review of the book's content.
However, this isn't as monumental a task as it may seem, especially when you make

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a purchase of a book, etc., from one or more of the reputable companies that
advertise in the mainstream bodybuilding industry periodicals.

Some of the most reliable Stand and Deliver advertisers in the iron game
include and are not limited to:

Angles Camp Mercantile, Arcidi Strength Systems, Canusa Products, Chelo


Publishing, CS Publishing Ltd., Crain's Muscle World, Ltd., Elite Fitness
Systems, Everfit, GMV Productions, Health For Life, Home Gym Warehouse,
I.A.R.T., IronMind Enterprises, ISSA, Mike Mentzer, MGD Press, QPT
Publications, Ripped Enterprises, Larry Scott & Associates, Sports Training,
Inc., Whelan Strength Training, Westside Barbell Club, and Frank Zane.

These advertisers have literally walked on the mud of overgrown trails with a proven
track record for selling quality information-dense books, etc., at affordable prices.
The businesses that I have just listed are synonymous with one or more of the
following bodybuilding industry periodicals:

BUILDING THE BODY, EXERCISE PROTOCOL, FLEX, HARDGAINER, IRON


MAN, MILO, MUSCLE & FITNESS, MUSCLE MAG INTERNATIONAL,
MUSCULAR DEVELOPMENT, MUSCLE MEDIA 2000, NATURAL
BODYBUILDING & FITNESS, PLANET MUSCLE, and POWERLIFTING USA.

The main problem I see with purchasing books, cassettes (audio and video),
courses, and manuals by direct mail-order has to do with the new and unproven ads
(especially the One-Step Classifieds) that seem to appear with regularity in the
magazines.

In our disposable, casual, and microwave-quick world, it can be quite a task trying to
separate the facts from the fiction. Durk Pearson, co-author of the book Life
Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach (Warner Books, Inc., 1982), shares some
revealing insights in Part 1, Chapter 13 ("How Do You Know Who's Right?") on how
to evaluate what is in print. I suggest you go to the public library and check the book
out.

The vast majority of mail-order companies that place ads in the iron game industry
periodicals, such as the ones I have already listed, are honest and stand behind
their products and services. Every once in a while, some fly-by-night business will
take advantage of the unwary reader/customer by running ads for worthless
products, and with one purpose in mind: to cheat the customer out of their money.
Remember, it's not the scam that counts, it's the sell.

The unscrupulous mail frauder quickly tries to exploit our current thinking by placing
good ads for a bad product (or no product at all) in the industry periodicals.

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Quite often a mail fraud scheme is hard to detect because the ad copy is so cleverly
written that it broaches right on the fine line of being untruthful, but not quite. You
don't realize that you have been scammed until the product arrives in your mailbox.
Direct mail-order is sight unseen, and this is what the "con man" is counting on.

What is mail fraud? It is a scheme to extract money from you (the consumer) by
offering a product or service that does not live up to the claims in a (deceptive)
advertisement. It is slyly marketed ads like this that prey on the dreams and
aspirations of those who think of themselves as bodybuilders.

There are some reasons why we as consumers get "conned" when conducting
purchases through direct mail-order. Here are just a couple of definite ones.

Reason #1

The first reason we get "conned" is because we may actually believe the
extravagant claims mentioned in the advertisement. It is not by accident that this
can happen, because the claims are sometimes backed up by all sorts of pseudo-
scientific, intellectual literature and glowing testimonials backing the product.

Testimonials of this nature may be nothing more than someone (pro-bodybuilder,


etc.) being guided by a profit margin ($$$) to speak well of the product. Beware of
testimonials that you have no way of checking for credibility purposes.

There will always be many people who actually believe the words of the advertisers,
just as P. T. Barnum was believed by the simple and naive. Always remember that
claims and advertisements are not truth itself.

When I first became interested in bodybuilding, I began a project to gather as much


information as I could on bodybuilding, nutrition, and strength training. Over the past
four decades, I have gleaned this sought-after information (audiotapes, books,
courses, and videos) from bookstores and private collectors such as William F.
Hinbern (www.superstrengthbooks.com) and Howard S. Havener, but mostly from
mail-order advertisements in the bodybuilding magazines.

Many of my close friends and associates jokingly call me "Dennis, the mail-order
maniac," because even today as an avid reader of iron game literature I am always
thirsting for more knowledge with the innocence reminiscent with that of a wide-eyed
child and just can't wait to order the newest released book, course, etc.

It doesn't matter to me if there is one new advertisement or a dozen. With money in


hand, I'll respond to each and every one of them. Then, after I mail off my order(s), I
wait in eager anticipation for the books or courses to arrive in my mailbox. I can still
remember my first-time mail-order ever. I sent in an enrollment fee for the Charles
Atlas (he was one of the first progenitors of successful mail-order ads) 12-lesson
"Dynamic Tension" course (www.charlesatlas.com).

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Each week the mailman (not Karl Malone of the NBA Utah Jazz) would deliver a new
lesson in the familiar brown manila envelope. This was only the beginning, but to
my mind this was mail-order therapy at its best.

Frequently people ask me what my personal bodybuilding library consists of, and I
answer by giving them the shorter list of what I don't have in it.

When a person such as myself is very active in direct mail-order response, it's only
natural that sooner or later you will get the subtle feeling of "about to be
conned", "being conned" or actually “been conned”.

For me personally, I can think of three distinct examples of the subtle feeling of
“about to be conned”, “being conned” and one very classic example of having “been
conned”. I'll call these examples the: Mr. America In Six Months, The Nine
Months Experience, Cash In The Mail, and Flagrant Consumer Reaming. The
following is an encapsulated summary of each.

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Mr. America Competitor in Six Months

Back in the 1960s, Iron Man magazine brought to the attention of the bodybuilding
public the unmatched success rate a nutritionist named Rheo H. Blair, aka Irvin
Johnson, was having for supervising the nutritional programs of top physique
champions from all around the country. My knowledge of Rheo H. Blair was
primarily from what I read in Iron Man magazine.

I learned that physique champions such as Dave Draper, Vince Gironda, Don
Richard Howorth, Larry Scott, and Frank Zane would go to Rheo’s white stucco
house in Los Angeles and load up on his wildly popular and result-producing milk
and egg protein powder and other Blair supplement formulas. It wasn't long before I
got a bug in my can to investigate the possibility of a personally supervised nutrition
program for myself, so I gave Rheo H. Blair a phone call.

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Rheo had a reassuring quality about himself that put me at ease. He patiently
answered all my questions regarding his program, and then he declared that I could
become a Mr. America competitor in six months if I would follow his highly
sophisticated and intensive Advanced Program of nutrition, which he would
personally supervise. He went on to say that the full-blown program would not only
include his famous "Super" milk and egg protein powder (mixed with raw cream), but
also some of his other "private" supplement formulas, which were not available in
stores or by mail order to the general public. "What's the cost?" I asked. Rheo
quoted a figure of $375 per month!

I couldn't believe my ears, and it wasn't about the cost. "Wow! A Mr. America
competitor in six months," I gasped. I was ready to cut him a check for the first
month's worth of supplements that very day.

However, a training buddy of mine intervened and talked me out of going on the full-
blown plan. He said that it would be a huge personal and financial sacrifice ($375
was a lot of dough to spend per month back in the 1960s, even though I was living
with my parents almost rent free). My buddy also reminded me that Rheo Blair
had only shaken hands with me over the phone he had never seen me in person,
nor did he have any photos of me.

As a result of my conversation with my buddy, I decided not to go on the Rheo H.


Blair Advanced Program, but ultimately I did use the Regular Program (less
intensive), which included all the famous Blair formulas available on the public
market (in health food stores and gyms or by mail order). I have to say that the
Rheo H. Blair protein cocktails were luscious even by today's standards of quality
and tastes in protein.

Was my first-time call experience with Rheo H. Blair a case of "Sounds Too Good
To Be True"? Speaking for myself, I would have to say "YES!" While I found him
to be very enthusiastic about the merits of his intensive nutritional programs, I feel it
was this same enthusiasm that caused him perhaps to over-hype the actual results it
could produce for a hard gainer such as myself.

Having mentioned the words over-hype, I have to say however that Rheo did
have some remarkable success in the physical transformations of young children,
high school students, sedentary business people, show business personalities, and
people well into their seventh decade and beyond.

All of the top physique champions, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, were already
at an elite level before they came on board the Rheo H. Blair intensive Advanced

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Program of nutrition. Still, it did give them a competitive edge nutritionally over many
others who weren't on the program.

Was Rheo H. Blair a fraud? Was I about to “be conned”? Not in my opinion, but
you must decide for yourself.

Visit: www.rheoblair.com.

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The Nine Months Experience

The particular events of the following direct mail-order venture takes place in the
1960s. As usual, I was reading through Joe Weider’s Muscle Builder magazine,
combing the pages for any new ad on training. I came across one for what looked
like some nifty little training booklets by Larry Scott. Larry was the first
bodybuilder to win the three most important titles the IFBB had to offer.

"Man, I gotta get me some of those booklets!" I said to myself, so I purchased a


money order and sent for them straightaway. For some reason, I managed to get a
brain cramp and totally forgot about them until they showed up nine months later!
The only way I knew that it was nine months was by looking at the posted date on
the money order receipt.

If I had thought about it any time during the nine months, I would most likely have felt
I had “been conned” due to the extreme amount of time it took me to receive them.
To this day, I don't know if the booklets were on backorder or if the package got lost
in shipping or a combination of both. Fortunately, I received them, and that was
when I first began to respect the integrity of Larry Scott and have to this day.
(Visit: www.biophase.com).

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Reflecting back on this, nine months of waiting was extreme, perhaps not in a
country like Romania, but in the contiguous United States it is. Speaking of
overseas....

Cash In The Mail

A few years or so ago, I was standing in line at the local post office, waiting to
purchase an international money order in the amount of $37.00 (U.S.). My intent
was to send it off in payment for some Ultimate Strength Guides that had been
advertised in MILO magazine (www.ironmind.com). The guides were written by
Gary Taylor, a former World's Strongest Man winner in 1993. For some
reason, still unknown to me, I stepped out of the line and put the $37 (cash) in a pre-
addressed, postage-paid envelope and mailed it off.

What! Send cash in the mail? NEVER EVER!!!. It's a deadly mail-order sin. But I
did send cash, and boy, did I start having my doubts after doing it. I wondered if
Gary Taylor or one of his associates would open the envelope, see the cash, use
it to have a nice dinner on me, and never bother to send the four Ultimate Strength
Guides.

Well, one month passed, then two months, and finally three. I started thinking that I
had “been conned”, but part of it was my own fault for sending cash in the mail in the
first place. I figured the money was history, and the Ultimate Strength Guides as
well. However, the fourth month after sending off the order, I received it one day in
my mailbox.

The informational materials I received from Gary Taylor are some of the best I
have ever purchased. I was impressed because the Ultimate Strength Guides
exceeded my optimistic expectations. Sometimes it's the other way around --- you
expect a lot and get nothing. I am really impressed with the honesty and integrity
Gary Taylor exhibits with regard to direct mail-order. For sure, he could have kept
the cash, since there was no documented proof I had sent it in the first place.

Even though this situation turned out to be a positive experience, I still strongly
suggest that a person NEVER EVER send cash through the mail. As I mentioned
before, It's a Deadly Mail-Order Sin.

I have to say that 90% of the time I have been pleased with my purchases of
bodybuilding and strength-related memorabilia by mail order. However, back in
1994 I experienced a real travesty in this regard, at least for me personally. I call it
the…

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Flagrant Consumer Reaming
Back in 1994, I couldn't help but take notice of a 5 item display ad that appeared in
Muscle Mag International month after month after month. The ad was from Sergio
Oliva, the ’67, ’68, ’69 IFBB Mr. Olympia. One item in the ad quickly caught my
eyes and read exactly as follows:

ITEM D – THE MYTH WORKOUT BOOK (not shown)


A six day special split routine workout with The Myth
Victory Pose photo autographed specially for you!
$40.00. Shipping and handling add $5.00.

The key word in item D of the ad for my personal wants and needs was the word
"BOOK" and it was written by Sergio who was one of the top pro bodybuilders in
the history of the sport, and with over 30 years of training know-how. I've been a
bodybuilding author for the past 27+ years, and maybe I'm a little naive; but when I
think of a book, I visualize something with a front and back cover jacket and a
printed work of at least 15 continuous pages in between.

I sent a postal money order off in the amount of $45.00 for a book that I thought
might reveal some of Sergio’s training secrets. The ad never implied this, but I just
assumed it would.

What I actually received was measly two scruffy pages and an 8x10 autographed
photo attached inside the cover jacket. The special six-day split was nothing more
than three simple high-volume workouts. The information was typed and double-
spaced. Does this seem to be stretching the definition of "book" a bit? I'd say a
huge YES! Boy, did I get hammered on this mail order. But for the sake of fairness,
I'll assume the autographed 8x10 photo (Sergio misspelled my name. Instead of
"Dennis" he signed it “To Dommis from Sergio the Myth”) has a value of $20.00 +
$5.00 for shipping and handling. That leaves each scruffy page costing $10.00 each
of what I consider to be incomplete, superfluous "stock" information.

This is a huge mark-up considering it costs no more than twenty cents for copying.
This is definitely reminiscent of some purchases made by the Pentagon.
To put this in a little more perspective: If Robert Kennedy (co-author) and I could
have convinced the publishers to charge $10.00 per page for our book MASS!
(Contemporary Books, Inc., 1986), it would have had a list sticker price of
approximately $2,640.00, and this is not even factoring in the actual costs of the
200+ interior support photos.

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Impact Pictorial
of the
Flagrant Consumer Reaming

USPS Money Order

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Actual photo 8 x 10
Photo with my name misspelled
(Nothing like showing your fans how much you care)

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To sum up my distasteful experience, I'd have to say that this kind of thing hurts
everyone connected with the iron game. It hurts the guy (myself and others) who
shelled out the forty-five bucks, because he knows he got ripped off big time
(Sergio got the name of “The Myth” during his heyday Olympia years but the only
myth in the forty dollars offer is actually receiving a “BOOK”). It hurts the magazine
that carries the ad, because the reader(s) may think the magazine is helping
marketers to cheat the reader.

Needless to say, I don't place an order for the newest released bodybuilding book,
etc., with the same naive joy and excitement as I used to. Now I tend to look at the
type of ad used for promoting a product. There are three distinct styles of ads
published within the scope and space of most bodybuilding and fitness magazines.
They are one-step classifieds, two-step classifieds, and display ads. Here is a brief
overview of each.

One-Step Classifieds

One-step classified advertisers usually have limited capital to promote their product,
and as a result of this they offer very little information. However, they do ask for a
direct order ($$$). Be wary of this ad format.

Two-Step Classifieds

Two-step classified advertisers are far more credible than the previous, because
they introduce the product, don't ask for any money, but best of all they offer free
additional information.

Display Ad

The display ads are seen within the scope and space of the mainstream
bodybuilding and fitness magazines. Generally, if the product-audience and the
magazine-audience match up, this type of ad will have a good response journey.
When the ad is pulling well, it runs as a consecutive monthly insertion in the
magazine(s).

However, when the product-audience and the magazine-audience don't match, then
you will only see the ad for a few short months and then they will drop out of sight. I
personally know marketers in the industry who invested thousands of dollars into a
hearty advertising campaign and didn't even reach the break-even order level.
I've read some of these attention "grab-you-by-the-throat" ads and wonder why the
poor response. Some of these ads, especially the full-page ones, aroused my
desires, needs, wants, and motivations.
Realize that, as sound as the Two-Step Classifieds and the Display Ads seem, every
once in a while an unscrupulous marketer will market a product that doesn't even
exist as a means of making some quick cash illegally. These mail frauders will run

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camouflage ads that echo a sound that is too good to be true; and, as you might
suspect, the ad is nothing more than mail-order sensationalism.
These kinds of advertisers make it harder for legitimate operations to overcome
customer wariness.

There are 5 select credibility builders that can help strengthen an advertisement:

1. Street Address vs. P.O. Box: A street address (and/or mailing


center, which has a street address with a suite number) gives
the image that the advertiser is conducting business out of an
office. While 99% of all P.O. box users are legitimate
businesses, many would-be direct mail-order consumers
associate P.O. boxes with the "fly-by-night" mail-order scams.

2. Phone Numbers: When I see a phone number (especially an


"800" number because it's a free call), it tends to build
credibility with me as a customer, but only if it is located at the
actual business.

3. Money-Back Guarantee: A money-back guarantee suggests to me


that the company is confident in its product and assures me, the
consumer, that the product will deliver varying results depending
on the person using it.

4. Delivery: A company that offers prompt delivery is a plus as long as


it doesn't force the consumer into an unwanted Fedex or UPS
delivery. Unless otherwise requested, these services end up
being for the convenience of the company and not the
consumer.

5. Free Information: As I discussed earlier, it is always nice to receive


more details on the product (i.e., book, course, etc.).

I'll be talking about the second reason why we as consumers get conned through
direct-response mail-order; but before I do, I'm going to share a crystal-clear insight
about marketers in general. The reliable advertisers (even those on the internet
such as; http://www.charlesatlas.com/, www.chekinstitute.com,
www.criticalbench.com, www.davedraper.com, www.dragondoor.com,
www.drugfreebodybuilding.com,and www.trulyhuge.com) for bodybuilding and
strength-related memorabilia depend upon repeat orders and good will to stay in
business. These are the advertisers you want to go with, the ones that appear in the
various bodybuilding periodicals month after month, year in and year out.
Here’s another reason why we can get conned.

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Reason #2

The second definite reason for getting conned when ordering a product by direct
mail is that most consumers don't take the time to read the ad copy carefully, in
explicit and calculated detail. Here's an example of how the lack of thoughtful
reading panned out for me in yet another one of my direct mail-order ventures back
in the 90’s.

I placed an order through an ad in Muscle & Fitness magazine for an audio cassette
on "How to Build the Back". The cost of the audio was just under ten dollars, but
more than that, it was recorded by one of the world's top pro physique stars Albert
Beckles who a few years previous, at the age of 55, placed second in the 1985
IFBB Mr. Olympia competition.. Upon my first (rushed) reading, I mistakenly thought
the ad stated that the audiotape was going to contain sixty minutes of complete
training instruction. I was "jacked" just thinking about the up-to-the-minute "living
sound" from that I was going to be receiving from Albert Beckles.

Upon receiving the audio cassette, I was shocked, puzzled, and then furious
as I listened to the audio portion of the cassette conclude after just over 14 minutes.
Right then and there, I decided to reread the ad copy (see below) in order to
determine if it had misrepresented the product.

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As you can see in the ad copy the key words are “in-depth 60 minute cassettes”
and in no way suggests that there is 60 minutes worth of actual instruction. This was
an oversight on my part. What had started out in my mind to be approximately 17¢ a
minute (.17 x 60 min. = $10.20) for audio bodybuilding information ended up costing
72¢ a minute (.72 x 14 min. = $10.08). Pretty expensive considering this was back
in the early 90’s.

From that day forward, I began to read ads with a lot more thoughtfulness and as
the saying goes "between the lines.” I suppose it's only human nature to want to
blame the magazine and/or its publisher when there is a screw-up by the consumer
(i.e., me for not taking the time to read the ad copy carefully), or simply being
conned by an unscrupulous mail frauder.

Bodybuilding magazines like, 99.9% of all magazines, accept advertising as a


means to make additional income. The truth is that most magazines would be
unable to stay in business without the income from advertising. A full-page ad rate
in some of the most recognized mainstream bodybuilding magazines can range from
$6,000 to $22,000, depending if it is a black and white or four-color ad. However,

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the cost of the print run of a monthly magazine such as Muscle & Fitness is in the
high six figures and beyond.

The products advertised in such magazines can range from exceptionally good to
awful, and this isn't unique to just bodybuilding magazines. The bottom line is that
bodybuilding magazines, the publishers and editorial staff don't have the time,
monetary funds, or research modalities to screen individually each and every
product and/or advertiser for its credibility or lack thereof.

Rather than misplace the blame on the magazines and/or the publishers, let me
share with you a list of some common-sense winning strategies that will help you
become a more informed consumer and thereby avoid the costliest mistakes made
by many people when they shop by direct mail.

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WINNING STRATEGIES
To Avoid
Becoming a
Mail-Order Muscle Ad Victim

No. 1 NEVER put yourself in "heat" (under pressure) to order


immediately the latest new release: audiocassette, book,
course, or video. All the "hot buttons" that motivate you are
probably pushed to make a direct mail-order (impulse) purchase
on that "irresistible offer."

But Don't! Instead, allow yourself to cool down for a minimum of three days to
perhaps as much as ten days before taking any action to order. The cool-down time
will give you ample time to think about the ad thoughtfully (what about it attracted
your attention and interest?). Then, based on your personal wants, needs, and
motivations, you can clearly decide whether to purchase it or not. The reality is that
the legitimate companies will more than likely have the advertised item ten days to a
year from now.

For me personally, I tend to purchase hardcore bodybuilding and strength training


audiocassettes, books, courses, and videos that offer plenty of informative tips on
diet, high-intensity training, and motivation from the top people in the iron game
profession. There are four criteria’s I look at to accomplish this successfully. The
first criteria are the credentials of the author. What is his or her background and
teaching experience? Is the author an armchair expert only, or a proven veteran
iron game warrior?

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A few proven iron game veterans that quickly come to mind are Dave Draper, Cory
and Jeff Everson, Leo Costa, Jr. (Optimum Training Systems), Skip La Cour, Fred
"Dr. Squat" Hatfield (co-founder and President of the ISSA), Phil Kaplan (America's
most in-demand Fitness Professional) Dr. Ken E. Leistner, John Parrillo (Nutrition
and Training Guru), Bill Pearl, Larry Scott, Louis Simmons, "Maximum" Bob Whelan,
and Frank Zane.

The second criterion is content. Is there a wealth of fascinating information, useful


advice, and special tips? A third criteria is practicality. Has the represented
information been time tested and proven in the hardcore trenches of the gym? And
finally the fourth criteria is instruction style. Does the author or producer of an
audiotape, book or video present the subject material in an articulate, detailed
manner and with clarity.

One of the biggest problems iron game authors face in explaining exercise (or
movement of any kind) in print is translating the kinesthetic sense into words. This is
especially true when novice bodybuilders are not familiar with the feeling the author
is trying to describe in a book. Audiotapes (listening) and videos (listening and
seeing) are ways around this problem.

Any commercially released audiotapes, books or videos from the iron game
veterans mentioned previously echo’s a huge "YES" with regard to content,
practicality, and instruction style queries.

As a result of this, I enjoy responding to any of their mail-order muscle ads that
appear in the mainstream bodybuilding publications. As Crocodile Dundee says,
"No worries, Mate!" I agree totally. It's the new and unproven mail-order muscle ads
that I'm a bit skeptical about (you should be as well), and this is where the second
winning strategy comes into play.

No. 2 BE SKEPTICAL and give the ad in question the "Sounds-Too-


Good-To-Be-True" test. There is one common formula used by
marketers when creating an advertisement. It is called the
AIDA approach, meaning that the advertisement should evoke:

Attention: Attention to the product/ad


Interest: Interest to learn more about the product
Desire: Desire to desperately want and need it
Action: Action to inquire or purchase

A marketer uses the AIDA formula with two important goals in mind. The first goal is
to make you read the ad. The second and most important goal is to get you to place
an order for the product.

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Here are a few examples used in the bodybuilding industry that accommodate the
AIDA approach.

At Last! The Secrets to Rock-Hard Bodybuilding Revealed...


HOW TO BUILD HUGE MUSCLE FAST!

The Most Revolutionary Training Techniques


and Personalized Programs Ever Developed

FINALLY...A TRAINING PROGRAM THAT GUARANTEES


RESULTS 200% FASTER THAN ANY OTHER PROGRAM
ON EARTH...OR DOUBLE YOUR MONEY BACK!!!

BUILD YOUR
ULTIMATE PHYSIQUE
Massive...Symmetrical...Ripped...

NEW!
ANNOUNCING A REVOLUTIONARY NEW SYSTEM
FOR DEVELOPING HUGE MASS!
THE MOST IMPORTANT IMPROVEMENT
IN BODYBUILDING SINCE
THE INVENTION OF
THE BARBELL!

Each of the examples suggests to the reader (consumer) that there has been some
cutting-edge scientific "breakthrough" that for some reason has been held back or
overlooked by the bodybuilding community. Observe informational ads of this nature
with a cautious eye. During my nearly 40+ years in the iron game, one of my long-
term goals has been to find the "perfect training program” and this is one of
the primary reasons that I continue to gather as much information on bodybuilding
as I can, through the vehicle of direct mail-order.

I still haven't found the "perfect program," and I'm certainly old enough to know I
probably won't but young enough to keep on searching. Many people look to the
"rent-an-expert" pro bodybuilders for the perfect program. You must realize that
these individuals, regardless of what they eat or how they train, will develop
outstanding physiques and win the top bodybuilding contests. Their way of training
or eating should not be set up as the standard to follow. The training and eating
methods of these few cannot possibly be followed by the average bodybuilder with
the same results.

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Bodybuilding is a very individual project, and one should not be misled by the
methods of these "genetic superiors." The fact is, the body evolves through many
physiological changes during a lifetime. As a result, you will discover (regarding
training programs) that "Everything works, but some things are better than
others.“ “Everything works, but not all the time."

The best we can hope for is that a particular training ideology that we may want to
implement passes the "Sounds-Too-Good-To-Be-True" test. To pass this test, a
training protocol should be piggybacked with current accepted exercise (science) or
physiology. Please keep this in mind when you read a bodybuilding advertisement
that uses the AIDA approach.

No. 3 Let the Buyer Beware: If you are the least bit suspicious
about the behavior practices of a particular mail-order company
and/or doubt the reliability of their ad copy, then get the leading
edge by finding out more about the company.

The first thing you can do is write or call the company and request a "Corporate Fact
Sheet. If the company is on the up and up, they will in most cases send you one.
The Corporate Fact Sheet usually includes such information as the following:

• Company Headquarters: Includes a complete physical business address and


a real business/phone number.

• Company Executives: Names of the principals and officers.

• Founded: The number of years in business.

• Number of Employees: 1 to ?

• Charter: Truthful goals of the products.

• Market Base: The types of people the program(s) are designed for.

• Distribution: Whether the courses, etc., are available by direct mail


from the company and/or independent outlets located
through out the United States.
.
If, for whatever reason, a company is not able or willing to provide you with a
Corporate Fact Sheet and you still wish to investigate the company, then you can do
so by writing to one or more of the following benign agencies, offices, or
organizations:

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• The Better Business Bureau -- or Chamber of Commerce if you cannot locate
BBB (www.bbbonline.org).

• Consumer Protection Agency.

• Local, state, or federal offices or agencies such as the Federal Trade


Commission (www.ftc.gov/) or your local Postmaster or Postal Inspection
Service.

By asking questions, you will find out if the company has a real business address
and a real business/phone line. Some so-called businesses have been known to
operate out of a telephone boiler-room and a mailbox.

Don't be overly impressed when you see an "800" number in an


advertisement. Quite often the 800 numbers are manned by operators at an
inbound telemarketing service (ITS). Their only purpose is to process orders over
the phone. More often than not, the ITS isn't even in the same town and/or state as
the company.

Legitimate companies use an ITS as well, but a fly-by-night business will use it to
insulate themselves from unwary consumers as they take advantage of (con) them.
If a number of red flags go up after corresponding with one of the agencies listed
previously, then save your money and shop elsewhere. If you find out the company
is a trustworthy solution seller, then you are at the point of a purchase.

No. 4 Strategies for Ordering: First and foremost, NEVER


SEND CASH!!! The reason for this is obvious; it doesn't need
any further discussion. There are two major strategies for
ordering. They are the Dinosaur Payment Plan and the Warp-
Speed Payment Plan.

Dinosaur Payment Plan

This plan is implemented by physically putting a bank draft, personal check, or


postal money order in an envelope along with the completed order form and mailing
it to the seller. Here is a look at the advantages and disadvantages when using
personal checks and money orders.

Personal Checks:

Advantage: The immediate advantage with a personal check is if it becomes lost.


You can simply call your bank and issue a "stop payment" order on it. Depending on
the type of checking account you have, there may be a bank fee for this service.

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Disadvantages: There are a couple of drawbacks with checks that are sent through
the mail. The first is that most companies will not send out your order for at least ten
business days until your check clears the bank. The second drawback with personal
checks is if they are stolen. The routing number and account number printed on the
check are there for anyone (con man, swindlers, etc.) to see and possibly use to
their advantage.

Many bank accounts have been tapped by con men who have this information, long
before the victim realizes it and has a chance to stop further payments and/or get a
new checking account.

Postal Money Orders:

Advantage: A postal money order, upon being received by the seller, will almost
guarantee an instant mail-out of the product(s) ordered. To the seller, it's just like
receiving cash, and to the consumer it has the guarantee of a refund on it.

Disadvantage: If a money order becomes lost or stolen, all you have to do is


present your customer receipt to begin the process of a replacement or refund.
However, the guaranteed refund of your money will not take place until 60 days after
the purchase date of the money order. This can add up to a lot of lag time,
especially since the seller hasn't received the order and accompanying money order.

The US Postal Service (www.usps.com) provides a frequently updated listing of


lost or stolen money orders on line.

Personally, if the item(s) previously ordered has a cost factor in the low double
figures and I need the items or products immediately, I'll send the (legitimate) seller
another money order and wait for the refund of the previous (lost) money order.

If for any reason you have concerns with the account numbers revealed on your
business, personal checks, and/or credit cards, then you may want to protect the
largest sum of your savings and go with bank drafts and postal money orders when
making purchases by direct mail.

Generally, only about 10% of mail-order customers pay by the monetary means I
have just described. The remaining 90% of direct mail-order consumers use the:

Warp-Speed Payment Plan

Within this plan, the majority of mail-order consumers will use major credit cards
because they are universally available and they are the currency of direct mail.
Credit cards offer the advantage of almost instant mail-out of the product(s) and a

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money-back protection if it doesn't arrive in a timely manner or isn't what the
consumer expected.

Another advantage that credit cards have is that the consumer can cancel a mail-
order purchase and the seller (marketer) must credit the account within one billing
cycle following the receipt of the request to do so.

When giving credit card information over the phone, make sure to include your name
exactly as it appears (on the card) and your complete billing address if it differs from
your shipping address.

I tend to include my street/apartment and Post Office box numbers. This saves a lot
of hassle, especially if the company for some reason or another opts not to ship
through the United States Postal Service in favor of UPS and Fedex. These latter
two carriers will deliver to a physical address but not to a post office box.

There are some other warp-speed means for paying for merchandise. You can go
with electronic check transfers simply by giving the routing and account numbers
listed on your check to the person taking your order. Another means is by sending
checks by fax, and finally, you can order on Websites, but do so only if the site has
encryption technology to prevent unauthorized interception of account information.

No. 5 The Standing Mail Order Rule: The Federal Trade


Commission has a standing "Mail Order Rule" that states that
the company you order a product(s) from must ship your order
within the time promised. Most ads will state "Allow 4-6 weeks
for delivery."

If there is no time of delivery specified within the ad copy, then the order must be
shipped within 30 days of receipt of your order. This can be a little iffy if you are just
doing a regular mail out, because there is no way of knowing when the piece of mail
actually arrived. A company could sit on your order for, let's say, 2-3 weeks and
then, upon your inquiry, tell you, "Oh, we've just received it." There are a number of
delivery confirmation services to choose from and purchase at the Post Office if you
are worried about a situation of this nature occurring.

The FTC Mail Order Rule does not apply to the spaced delivery of magazine
subscriptions or book and record clubs. If there is a delay in processing your order
beyond the specifics of the FTC rule, the company must notify you and state when
your order will be shipped.

It has been my personal experience that some companies fudge on this rule (or by
chance they don't even know the rule exists). In some extreme cases, I have waited
up to nine months for my order to arrive; and when it did, there was no

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correspondence indicating the reason for the delay I guess I should be grateful that
I received the order at all.

Regardless if the delay in processing your order is more than 30 days, it is your right
to ask for a refund, but it must be done in a written communiqué. The company is
then obligated to refund your payment within seven working days after receiving
your cancellation notice.

No. 6 Package Pickup: If your order has been sent to you


Certified, COD, Insured, or Registered, do not sign for it or open
it if you suspect interior damage. If you sign for a certified
package without first checking it, you are in a sense saying "I
accept the parcel as is." If you notice the damage after signing
for it, it is then your obligation to pay the cost of the return
postage, should you decide to return it.

If a marketer includes merchandise that you did not order, you are not obligated to
pay for it. This right only exists when orders are shipped through the U.S. mail and
not through other forms of shipment. However, some companies reserve the right to
substitute a product of comparable quality (unless you indicated otherwise prior to
shipment), and you will have to pay for it.

No. 7 What To Do If You Feel You're Being Conned: Here's a short


fictional (but probably true) story of how you might feel you're
being conned. You've been waiting 8 to 9 weeks now for your
merchandise to arrive. There has been no correspondence
from the seller regarding your order, so you might assume that
there is a violation of the Standing Mail Order Rule (see
Strategy No. 5).

Your preferred method of payment for the merchandise was a credit card, and you
notice on one or more of the monthly statements that you have been charged twice
for the same order (this can't happen when payment is issued in the form of a
personal check or postal money order). You're probably starting to feel a little bit
leery about now. I know I would.

Consumer Complaint Strategies


Begin by calling the company directly and voice your complaint to the person in
charge of consumer complaints. Of course, to complete the call will require a real
business phone number (with a little luck, it could be a direct 800 number to the
business itself) and not an ITS 800 number where what I call the Stepford telephone
operators (compliant, never-say-no, non-personality types just like those portrayed in
the movie ‘The Stepford Wives’) process incoming order information only.

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If you are dealing with a reliable company, more than likely the consumer complaint
representative will help you resolve your complaint. Be assertive, but not aggressive
when phoning and/or writing a letter(s) of complaint. Being aggressive immediately
puts the other person on the defensive.

Generally, a phone call or two should calm your concerns, but if it shakes down any
other way and the representative plays "phone tag" or puts up a wall of resistance
(trying to make you feel foolish for complaining, etc.), or just flat out ignores you,
then it's time for more assertive action. Sadly, 96% of consumers who have
complaint issues never bother to get them resolved.

Assuming your phone call(s) has not produced the results you were hoping for, then
the next step is to start a hardcopy paper trail by writing a letter of complaint (and
follow-up letters if necessary) to the appropriate company executive. If you don't
know the elements of style for writing a potent, result-producing letter of complaint,
then I would suggest you contact one of the public domain or government agencies
such as the Federal Trade Commission, which publishes detailed pamphlets of this
type. All of these government agencies have Websites and e-mail addresses.

Before you mail your letter of complaint, make sure to certify it with
a return receipt requested at the Post Office.

If the mail-order transaction problem you are experiencing is not resolved after two
or three weeks' worth of phone and complaint letter correspondence, it is time to
start playing hardball.

Begin by involving the agencies listed earlier (see No. 3, "Let the Buyer Beware"),
plus, if you haven't already done so, call your credit card company. Get every
agency necessary involved as third parties on your behalf.

You are going to experience a "paper blizzard" like never before as each of the
agencies will be asking you for the following information:

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• Full name and address of the individual seller or firm.

• Copies (not the originals) of the advertisement relating to the order.

• Method of payment, including a copy of your credit card statement, canceled


checks (front and back), or money order receipt.

• Copy of the phone bill.

• Copies of all written correspondence to and from the firm, including copies of the
envelopes if possible.

When talking with the Postmaster, request a MAIL FRAUD Complaint Questionnaire.
The wheels of resources at the state, local, and federal government levels are now
starting to turn as the ax begins to fall and you avoid becoming a mail-order victim.

***

Hopefully, the insights and expressions contained in this treatise will help you
escape the sometimes "blind alley" of separating facts from fiction in bodybuilding
advertisements and the purchases made.

Please understand that many of the suggestions and guidelines can be adapted to
most any form of mail-order advertisements and not just those in iron game
periodicals.

Limited
Mail-Order Muscle Ad
Questions Answered

Don't be manipulated into buying unproven bodybuilding and strength-related


information. If you have any queries regarding a particular book, cassette (audio or
video), courses, magazines, and/or the advertisers, get in touch with me.

30
I would be more than willing to reveal my current insights and expressions on a
particular work by giving you an enlightening look at the merit of it or lack thereof.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about.

Suppose you wanted to know about the editorial mix of, say, a new bodybuilding
magazine and whether you should subscribe to it. To begin with, I would probably
suggest that you purchase the first two or three issues from the newsstand prior to
subscribing. This will give you an opportunity to observe the pattern of publication.

In the past I've subscribed to a new magazine for six bi-monthly issues. I'd receive
the premier issue, and then it would be months before the next issue was published.
The worst-case scenario is the time I gave a publisher (with whom I was acquainted)
$40 cash in hand for a subscription. I received one issue, and the magazine ceased
to be published. Forty bucks is a lot of dough for one issue and is an example of just
how costly a subscription can be over the newsstand purchase where you commit to
only one issue at a time. Of course, if the magazine in question doesn't have a
newsstand base for sales and can be obtained only by subscription, then you don't
have a lot of options to go with.

No matter how honest and forthright a publisher seems, once the magazine folds,
more than likely there won't be any money refunded to you, the subscriber, for
remaining issues owed.

The publisher has invested all money received from advertisers, newsstand sales,
and subscribers into a failed venture, and there isn't enough money left for you, the
subscriber. That is why I recommend only subscribing to a magazine for six to
twelve issues at the most. And I would never invest $$$ in a lifetime subscription.
Why? To begin with, the scenario above would deter me from doing so; and in
addition to that, just because the editorial mix is to your liking now doesn't mean it
can't change from, say, hardcore to mainstream fitness from time to time. Muscular
Development and Muscle Media 2000 magazines have shown that to be true. If you
do get fed up with a magazine, it is much easier monetarily to cut your losses and
cancel a six to twelve issue run than it is with a lifetime subscription.

In my opinion, the only way a lifetime subscription might prove to be a financial


advantage and otherwise would be if it carried an ironclad guarantee of publication
for at least 20-25 years, the future trend during this time would be totally hardcore,
and it would never go from a monthly and/or bi-monthly format to a quarterly (every
three months) publication.

I guess if someone forced me into a corner and said I couldn't leave until I
nominated four muscle publications for a lifetime subscription, I would personally go
with the Hard Gainer, Iron Man, Muscle Mag International, and Milo.

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As a final note, I mentioned earlier that there is some rather general, incomplete,
superfluous "stock" information being peddled, but there's a lot of worthwhile, ethical
audiotapes, CD’s, books, videos and DVD’s as well.

If for any reason you'd like to talk about the subject material in this report, or if you
have a question(s), then take the initiative to e-mail me at yukonherc@kpunet.net .

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