Friday, September 13, 2013

An open letter to Alma Morales Riojas

MANA, an establishment National Latina organization wrote an open letter to the Federal Trade Commission requesting that they investigate Herbalife.

This is my open letter to the author of that letter, Alma Morales Riojas.


Dear Alma Morales Riojas

You recently wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission suggesting they investigate Herbalife as exploitative of Latinas.

May I suggest you visit an Herbalife club (ask the company for the address of six or seven) and turn up unannounced in the morning 7.30 am and sit there till about 10 am.

The business model is exploitative (in that the people at the top do disproportionately well vis people at the bottom) but your letter is factually incorrect in several ways and patronizing to many of your constituents.

I am an Australian. I do not speak Spanish but I took a Spanish speaking Korean guy with me. We saw about 60 people drop by the club and mostly chat. This was a social community. They had before and after photos on the wall and most members had lost considerable weight.

The couple who owned the club were a husband-and-wife. They had both gone from morbidly obese to merely modestly overweight. The wife had gone from a three insulin shot a day diabetic to a half insulin shot a day diabetic. Herbalife had probably saved her life.

Moreover every single member of the club was also signed up as a distributor. They all earned precisely no income. They signed up as distributors so they could buy Herbalife product for home use at a discount - in the same way as a young woman might sign herself up as an Avon or Oriflame distributor to buy cheaper cosmetics. [This is the 88 percent of participants that receive no payment from the company that you disparagingly and ignorantly refer to in your letter.]

Your letter - well written as it is - is quite in contrast to what I saw when I visited the club. And I believe you have been played by a billionaire hedge fund manager. I guess getting cosy with billionaires is good for your funding...

The billionaire hedge fund manager playing white-man's burden to protect those poor, helpless Latinas is comical. But you - a Latina leader signing up to help him - that reminds me of little more than the countless Indian Princes and petty rulers who sided with British Rule in India. They, like you, took the white-mans' burden on themselves. They, like you, formed a sycophantic and patronizing elite.

Bluntly, in the case I saw Herbalife had probably saved the life of one owner of the club - and I find it hard to get too angry about that.

Your view may differ. [You may not value your constituent's life or you may have another explanation.]

Either way go to a club. Sit there for a few hours and listen to your constituents. Or sit in your Princess's Palace sucking up to the white billionaires. You too can share the white mans' burden.

John Hempton


Anonymous said...

Good letter, but I don't understand this part of your analysis:

"The business model is exploitative (in that the people at the top do disproportionately well vis people at the bottom)"

Everybody who starts at the "bottom" can get to the "top" and even earn more than the people at the "top" - many Latinos have btw..

Anonymous said...

Sad fact of life in the USA. When the facts fail you, just cry racisssss/grievance group/protected class.

Anonymous said...

Sad fact of life in the USA, when the facts fail you, just cry racisssss/grievance group/protected class.

How long until Bill DeBlasio promises to regulate HLF if he become NYC mayor?

Anonymous said...

If most of the people sign up to be distributors but don't actually distribute the product (they do it for the discount), doesn't that make HLF a pyramid scheme? I imagine like most MLM's, the distributors pay a fee to become a distributor? I haven no position in HLF but have been following the news.

Let's create a healthier and wealthier world together. said...

I have a team of distributors (down-lines) and many make more money than me. That is to say, I signed up first in HLF and then they signed-up under and now make more money than me.
And rightfully so, they helped more people with their efforts, commitment and actions. The products are the same for everyone, but they can't talk or do meetings...etc

Anonymous said...

If Ms Morales Riojas ever stumbles upon and reads your open letter, she may take some offence at your description of her as a Latino.

Of course, she'll probably be offended by a lot of other things you say in your post, but you'll be less able to offer a defence to describing her as a man.

Anonymous said...

The letter is great. Speak the truth. It happen in the other part of the world too. Thanks John.

Anonymous said...

You are unbelievably unobjective. you have picked a side and now you will not listen or tolerate anything that would go against it. Nothing is black and white and you should listen and give a chance to everything and everyone. .

You mention billionaire hedge fund investor - but he wasnt born a billionaire, he actually made that money, and there is a reason he is a billionaire and you are not

HAHAHA said...

"I am an Australian. I do not speak Spanish but I took a Spanish speaking Korean guy with me."

You surround yourself with an interesting crew of people.

Anonymous said...

Normally I'm a fan of your posts and analysis. But this post of your is ridiculous and you probably don't even realize it. Why bring in race into this debate? Your critique of Alma's letter is valid on the grounds that Herballife is not exploitative. But to imply that Alma did it to curry favor with a "white man" is ridiculous. Alma is getting some sort of favor or cash from Ackman to have written this letter - but would he have still written it if Ackman was black, brown, yellow or orange? Probably, yes. To put it down to Alma trying to suck up with White Man you reveal your own (subconscious?) belief that the White Man is somehow more deserving/superior (even though you ironically try to play it down in your post. Get over yourself buddy and save us from your patronizing bullshit. People who judge the world based on race amuse me.

John Hempton said...

I think the good woman bought race into it first. She, and Bill Ackman before her, made it an Hispanic issue.

In Australia Herbalafe is not associated with any particular race. In the US it has a very definite Hispanic tilt.

The marketing of the company also has that tilt - eg sponsoring soccer (LA Galaxy).


Absalon said...

You should not have held back like that. You should have told her what you really thought. :-)

Adam said...

I thought I would try my post again...

It seems that a third party or Federal investigation of Herbalife would be welcome by both the bull and bear camps. John, why are you seemingly opposed to one?

One side would be proven right and the other side wrong, or at the very least there would be more transparent information available.

The only issue with a Federal investigation that I can see is that it would bear a cost on taxpayers. Instead, Ackman and Icahn and even the company could join together to fund the investigation as it would be a small cost relative to their economic incentive of being proven right.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

John, maybe you can broker it?

bbk said...

I agree with you. "Sad fact of life in the USA."

Anonymous said...

It seems like you got a bit harsh and unprofessional towards the end.

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