A glass bottle with brown liquid in it has a picture of an eye on the label. There is a yellow snake wrapped around the glass bottle.

Vetting Out the Snake Oil Salesmen

One of my pet peeves is what I refer to as “snake oil salesmen.” The term snake oil refers to deceptive marketing and fraud in health care. Back in the 1800s snake oil was peddled at “medicine shows”. If you watched Westerns when you were younger, you remember the medicine show coming to town. Very often there was a snake oil salesman and his shill. The shill would buy the snake oil and suddenly be “cured”! These shows ended with the sheriff returning everyone’s money and running the medicine show people out of town. Cut! Fade to black.

Falling for the snake oil salesman

We like to think we are more sophisticated than settlers in some one-horse, Western town. We like to think we would never fall for such nonsense. Unfortunately, the snake oil salesman is alive and well. He preys on folks just like us. In fact, sometimes “us” is a perfect target for him!

Finding clinically proven treatments

Remember a few years back when those women in Florida were blinded by some guy claiming he was providing stem cell treatments? Stem cell treatments for a very hefty fee, I might add. If those women had done their homework, they would have known stem cell treatments are not FDA approved and that clinical trials do not charge thousands of dollars. In fact, except for routine treatment you would have needed anyway, clinical trials cost nothing. T could have told them that. Hey, wait...I already told a lot of people that.

Fear is a motivator, not a navigator

Anyway, those women, as well as often “us,” were generally panicked and desperate. Losing your vision is frightening and fear is a great motivator but not a great navigator. The direction fear sends us is often right off a cliff.

Snake oil salesmen prey on emotions

Looking through my April/May 2030 AARP magazine, I found that Irving Shadel gets what I am talking about. In his Money Saver column, he says you should not get emotional. In his words, crooks have learned how to bypass our thinking brains. They play to our emotions.

Vision loss brings about many emotions

While Shadel is talking about run-of-the-mill financial scam artists, those of us losing our vision are often ripe for snake oil salesmen simply because we are so emotional. Fear, remember? Being in a state of emotional arousal is pretty much a guarantee you will fail to think logically. It has to do with the old and new sections of the brain. Get back to me if you want it explained.

Remaining skeptical about miracle cures

Back to Shadel’s article. He write about several things we need to look for. His phantom riches translates into our miracle cure. Did Daddy ever tell you, if it seems too good to be true it probably is? Yep. Listen to your father. If it seems amazing or the answer to a prayer, be skeptical.

Fear, intimidation, and scarcity

After that Shadel lists fear, intimidation, and scarcity. We talked about fear and I really cannot see someone “hard selling” a vision “cure,” but I can definitely see them playing the scarcity card. But think about it. Not to be unkind, but why offer it only to you? Why are you so special? Also, aren’t they supposed to be making money on this? I assume there is plenty more where this “cure” came from.

Look for credibility

The last three things that Shadel suggests we look for and beware are source credibility, commitment and reciprocity. Not all doctors are created equal. Do not just believe because of the letters after the name. Don’t make any promises and don’t accept any favors. We don’t want to be beholden to a snake oil salesman!

Sleep on it

And one last point of my own: If you want to get out of emotional mind, sleep on it. Taking a step back gives you a chance to reconnect with your logical brain. Remember, your logical brain is your own version of the sheriff. Give it the chance to run that snake oil salesman out of town!

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