February 22–March 1, 2001
Medicine Man, part 2
part 1 | part 2
"Like you, my reputation means everything to me. So it was with great care that I chose 4Life Research. I won’t go into details here but suffice it to say this is an extraordinary company with extraordinary opportunity. There are many people earning a few extra hundred per month, a few extra thousand per month, and some that are earning more in a month than most people make in a year — all from the comfort of their home."
—from The Larry Bowa Line, November 2000
At the Valley Forge seminar, Kevin O’Connor, the high-seller who acted as master of ceremonies, was the first to utter the P word: pyramid, as in scheme.
Pyramid schemes are illegal in most states, including Pennsylvania. They involve "investing" money by giving it to people already in the organization, then making a lot more money (theoretically) by recruiting new people, who must give their money to you. In an illegal pyramid, no goods or services are sold.
O’Connor apparently presumed that words like "pyramid" and "scam" might be passing through the minds of some of those at the Valley Forge meeting, so he addressed the matter head-on. Is this network a pyramid, he asked. Sure. But look at the structure of General Motors, or General Electric or any corporation, he continued, with a CEO at the top, and several executive vice presidents under him, more vice presidents under them, and so on.
Clever, perhaps, but incomplete. Employees of GM and GE don’t have to peddle their companies’ products to relatives, friends and neighbors. Nor do they have to convince those folks to join their companies, if they want to earn raises and promotions.
The system through which Transfer Factor is sold is known as multi-level marketing. Amway is probably the best-known MLM plan, but there are many. The particulars may differ, but in each, success relies on bringing ever more "distributors" into the fold.
"These plans typically promise that if you sign up as a distributor, you will receive commissions — for both your sales of the plan’s goods or services and those of other people you recruit to join the distributors," according to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advisory on MLMs. "Multi-level marketing plans usually promise to pay commissions through two or more levels of recruits, known as the distributor’s downline.’"
At the seminar, O’Connor made it clear that the Transfer Factor opportunity is what you make of it. Work it a little, you’ll make a little. Work it a lot… well, "the opportunity here is literally without limits," as he put it. Set up other distributors, and you get a commission on their sales. And when they set up still more new distributors, you get an even bigger commission on their sales. Income goes up, effort required goes down.
Sounds too good to be true? That’s often the case, according to the FTC. "Be cautious of plans that claim you will make money through continued growth of your downline’ — the commissions on sales made by new distributors you recruit — rather than through sales… you make yourself," the advisory warns.
In an interview after another Phillies’ press lunch, which began with a rousing five-minute video of highlights from Bowa’s playing days, Bowa said his relationship with 4Life is not a straight-up endorsement deal — he is not paid to appear in ads or at seminars. He says he makes some money from commissions on other people’s sales, as the MLM system allows, but not much; certainly not enough to support his family. He does not actively sell the products or recruit new distributors, either, and he has not and will not advise a player to try it — but would be happy to discuss his experiences with it if asked.
"I basically just use it because [of] health reasons," he explains.
Bowa says he started using Transfer Factor products about a year and half to two years ago, at O’Connor’s urging. "I said I’d use it but I [didn’t] want him using my name until I actually used the product for a period of time," he explains. "And I wouldn’t back this if I didn’t get the product delivered to me once a month.… I literally got it sent to my house once a month. It would be hard for me to ask somebody to try this if I didn’t, I’d feel like a hypocrite."
So he tried it, and he liked it.
"I’ll tell you where I really saw [the effects], more than anything," he says. "I mean, I’ve read the data on building up the immune system, but the only thing I can judge that on is my colds — I haven’t had nearly as many." He also has been able to run every day — for the previous six years, he couldn’t run more frequently than every other day. "… [T]he more I took it, I started running more and more, and man, I haven’t had any problems. Again, knock on wood. It’s on the level.… It might be mental, I don’t know. But I know I couldn’t work out every day [before taking Transfer Factor], but now I have no problem doing that."
But is he, or has he ever been, skeptical of any of the testimonials suggesting successful treatment of serious illnesses like cancer or AIDS?
"Yeah," he admits, without hesitation. "I see that, and as much as I like the product, I still am, you know, that’s saying a lot. But I guess it’s been documented. I mean, [O’Connor’s] boy… had a severe asthma [problem] or something. He had to use one of those inhalers all the time. And [O’Connor] swears the kid never touched the inhaler after he’s been taking Transfer Factor." (O’Connor told this story at the Valley Forge seminar.)
Bowa jokes that his involvement with 4Life must not be helping sales or recruitment, because if it were, "my checks would be getting a lot bigger!" But then he admits that it probably has.
" I think people listen when an athlete gets up and talks about how his health [is better], how he can work out — I think they listen to that," he says. "But I don’t pound on doors and say, You got to try this, it works for me.’ I don’t want that responsibility. I don’t want to have that hanging over me if someone gets misled. But I do know that if I didn’t take it, if I didn’t think it worked for me, I wouldn’t go to seminars … If people want to use it as a career thing, for money, that’s fine. But I’m not doing it for a career thing. But again, like I said, maybe in five years I might have to. Right now, that’s not the reason I’m in it."