"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 7 February 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Dysfunction's Function Got the Unction



Dirt cheap, and still mostly

unregulated, the net is

an ideal place to anchor the

kind of cult marketing that

made Amway famous and Anthony

J Robbins rich. And anyone

who's ever had a family member

or neighbor fall victim to

Amway knows that schtick is not

current. Members chanting, "God

doesn't want you to be poor"? Screw

that, I don't want me to be poor.



It's a savvy mix of

therapeutic selfishness

and absurdly shallow

environmentalism that make

upstart Equinox a marketing plan

for the 90s.



Equinox's position is part cult,

part homeopathic voodoo, part

get-rich-quicker scheme.

Sprinkle in the guise of

"earth-friendliness" and a

recruiting agenda that would put

a Jehovah's Witness to shame,

and you've got something akin

to a cheap scam threatening to

take on the dimensions of a

massive revolution. But then,

nothing short of a revolution could

convince even the most gullible

consumer to buy a $125 water

filter for their showerhead.



The pyramid cons of previous

generations might seem quaint to

the twentysomethings of today.

After all, weren't Tupperware

parties standard practice back

then? But while we'd like to

believe that the X-Files and

Mentos are the only products

with a Gen X cult following,

Equinox seems to be proving

otherwise. Suddenly, strange

tales abound:


[Jim Jones]

1) An acquaintance, "Greg," shows

up for a job interview with,

coincidentally, a former college

classmate of his. Once

comfortably perched on leather

chairs amid elaborate orchid

arrangements, the classmate

waxes poetic re: six-figure

incomes, win-win situations, and

early retirement. When Greg

finally asks the million-dollar

question, "What exactly do you

do?" the classmate looks him in

the eye with a manly squint and

breathes, "Greg, do you want to

be rich?"


[Jim Jones]

2) Another acquaintance, "Mary,"

quits her job to sing the

Equinox tune. Now she regularly

plagues her friends with calls

urging them to buy. "So [mutual

friend] said you were interested

in maybe buying some Equinox soap.

No? Well I don't know why he

would say that then. Are you

interested?" She sends unrelated

notes and photos to her friends,

slipping in a few catalogues as

if they're an afterthought. She

frequently attends meetings that

last until 2 in the morning.

When asked about the last meeting's

activities, she replies, "Oh, we

were talking and crying... we

got so much done." Mary, can you

say "indoctrination"?



The products themselves range

from air filters for your car to

weight management formulas to

intriguing homeopathic remedies

like "Tranquility" and "Mind

Power," all too overpriced to

compete in any other channel,

despite claims of wholesale

prices. But overall, the Equinox

scheme is flawless.


[Water Filter]

The company ensnares through

appeal to greed, facilitated by

exposure to Dynasty during the

formative years. A painfully

steep induction fee ensures

mental commitment and creates a

debt that can only be paid off

through a deeper, more fanatical

investment in the company,

necessitating recruiting

techniques that would

make an evangelist blush.



The Earth-saving illusion helps

to ease the guilt of sucking

friends and family into buying,

if not selling, merchandise with

the same appeal that drove GNC

out of the local mall. And,

feeding on disgust with the

corporate treadmill, Equinox

waves the fattest of carrots in

front of distributor's faces:

you and your "downline"

distributors sell enough stuff

and you're an IMD (International

Marketing Director). It's the

ultimate job - the title sounds

impressive, but you basically

don't do shit.


[Weight Pills]

Witness Equinox's prose, which

stirs the emotions like

transmogrified versions of

Reagan's State of the Union

addresses: "Now is the perfect

time for people who care about

the world, themselves, their

families and their futures to

share in an extraordinary dream -

working together, creating

together and sharing the

personal and financial rewards

together in this perfect company

called Equinox." It's brunch in




Of course, the company mythology

is carefully crafted to ensure

further chest-beating loyalty.

Founder Bill Gouldd's trials and

tribulations are specific to the

company's so-called vision: "In

his mid-thirties Mr. Gouldd

suffered from environmental

toxification, and this

first-hand experience of our

environmental decay and its

impact on his health changed his

life forever." Or maybe he just

got sick of that '75 Impala.



But whether "toxification" or

toxicosis, in the land we love,

either condition translates into

paydirt. And if you can't take

an apparent defect - deep-seated

resentment, egocentrism, a

penchant for manipulating

friends and family, skin cancer -

and cash it in for some tall

dollars, what can we say about

the American dream? The

functionality of being

dysfunctional sure got us where

we are today.

courtesy of Polly Esther