Pick a card… any card…

Pick a card… any card…

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IHRB’s contract ought to be used as a case-study at the Institute of Magic. It seems that magic-tricks and tricky-contracts use the same principles. They both rely on illusion and warped perception. They both use the power of distraction. While you are fixated on one thing, something else is taking place, right under your nose. At the end of it, you will confidently bet on the outcome, and you would be wrong. What you see, may not be. What makes Sam Cohen’s magic-trick worse, is that in the end, we lose real money. We admonish ourselves for being so gullible, and then we turn to our friends and say, ‘How can our authorities let him operate? Why has no-one stopped him? Is there no government department to investigate his operation?’

Eventually, we realise that the world is a busy, messy place. The police cannot be everywhere. A community relies on people to stand-up and be counted. Alas, very few people want to become involved. They stand back and presume that someone else should stick their neck out… and then they wonder why nothing has been done to arrest charlatans in the hairloss industry who scam, cheat, lie, and bamboozle clients whose mind is distracted by a hopeful outcome. They are not reading the fine-print with a legal mind. Instead, they are thinking about the day that their someone looks at them with adoring eyes. It’s no different from the scams in the weight-loss industry. Both hair-loss and weight-loss concern people deeply. They just want to try anything. And when given a money back guarantee, they think that they have nothing to lose. Until they lose their money, their time, and their faith in business operators, thanks to shonks who prey on people’s insecurities. What is worse, after they realise that they were conned, they kick themselves for being so trusting. The result? Humans who become distrustful and more guarded — all because of a few bastards who have no conscience and no ethics and no decency, and who ought to be locked-up on a far-away island.

Let me show you some of the magic tricks performed by Sam Cohen and the Institute of Hair Regrowth & Beauty.

The first trick is found in the fifth clause: ‘We are sincerely interested in your satisfaction. We say honestly “If you have diligently followed the hair regrowth treatment program, using the hair hygiene and supplementary products as recommended and faithfully applied the prescribed pharmaceutical solution, following each and every part of the program explained herein, but you have experienced no improvement in hair re-growth after 12 months (other than as a result of pre-existing medical or physical condition, which we did know of) we both agree that you will receive a refund of: $____’

Let us examine this clause. It says, ‘We are sincerely interested in your satisfaction’. During my several meetings with Sam Cohen, he kept tellinig me that I, as the client, will have the final say about what constitutes ‘success’. I wanted to be sure that we both knew who would arbitrate. I asked him, ‘So at the end of the twelve months, who is to say whether or not the program was successful? Supposing you said that my hair had grown back, but I could see that it has not, who is going to have the final say about whether or not this has worked?’ And Sam kept saying that I would be the judge. He said, ‘You can ask members of your family. You can ask your hairdresser. It will work. It has never failed. All that is hypothetical because I have never failed.’

So under the heading of ‘More Hair or Your Money Back’, Clause 5 refers to a client’s satisfaction. This gives the client the feeling that it is all about one’s own comfort level and one’s own assessment and one’s own arbitration. Sam says, ‘You be the judge’. So this first line in the clause tricks the consumer into thinking that the promise of ‘Money Back’ is somehow connected with one’s own satisfaction/assessment. This is a red herring and a work of genius because in Clause 2 of this contract, it states, ‘The paragraph headings do not comprise a part of the terms and conditions of providing the treatment program. They merely illustrate the descriptive text they contain.’

If you invoke Clause 2, you cannot link the words ‘money back’ with the word ‘satisfaction’. Your satisfaction is now not connected with a promise of money back. So now this statement, when the heading is removed, is a lofty motherhood throw-away line that has no place in the contract. It just sounds good and serves no purpose, other than the real harmful purpose of tricking the client who is told that satisfaction rests on self-assessment. So this line is slimy and tricky and unethical, and a downright plot to deceive.

The next line states, ‘We say honestly…’ Why does a contract need to emphasise that it is honest? There is no place in contracts for such sales spin. A contract is a commitment on both parties, and it presumes that both parties will be honest. So you can see the play-on-words to keep the client in a cosy sales mood while signing this contract. Then it says that the client has to diligently follow and use the supplementary products. This has two issues. The first is that Sam is asking us to follow his instructions. This is illegal. He has no right to instruct us on how to use pharmaceutical or medical products. He is skating on thin ice here.

Sam gave me a topical solution to apply on my head. I followed the instructions as were written on the bottle. The bottle was prepared by a pharmacist in Melbourne who noted on the bottle that I should apply a certain amount, and I should follow the instruction sheet. Little did the pharmacist know that Sam Cohen never passed on that instruction sheet. The only sheet I received was an IHRB instruction sheet, which is different, with an increased dosage. When Sam asked me what dosage I was using, I told him that I was following the instructions on the bottle. He was annoyed and he told me to follow his sheet. The pharmacist was giving the instruction sheets to Mr Cohen who never passed them on to the clients. The bottle instructs the client to follow the sheet, which is substituted by Sam Cohen, which alters the dosage. On what authority does Sam instruct a client to alter the dosage? This is another of many irregularities for another article.

And while I am digressing, consider also that the same bottle says, ‘Apply one ml twice daily or as directed…’ Prey tell, as directed by whom? Does the pharmacist really mean to tell the user that they should take direction from a no-body called Mr Cohen? The average customer has no idea about the relationship between this bottle and the pharmacist. Although the pharmacist’s name is on the bottle in fine print as the last line, the average customer would not understand how Mr Cohen is sourcing his material, and the average customer would have no idea that the bottle should never have been given to them in the first place. The average person has never heard of Minoxidil. Sam makes out that this bottle is his innovative creation after 35 years of study and development and research. The bottle looks medicinal in nature. Therefore, when the bottle says take one ml ‘or as directed’, the customer is going to assume that the bottle is from Sam, by Sam, formulated by Sam, and the customer will be directed by Sam. Pretty bad all ’round, and more on this later as we get the legals on this mess sorted out. Besides, the bottle says, ‘Specially formulated according to IHRB’s specifications’. It says that IHRB has specified this bottle, so people would assume that IHRB is authorised to direct its usage. Sam’s suggested usage caused me to have a rash which was painful and which looked ugly and which required a course of antibiotics.

For now, note that this clause mentions the word ‘supplementary’. This is hugely misleading. During the sales pitch, Sam speaks about supplements and herbs and Indian Curries. So with that flow of thinking, customers could assume that the word ‘supplementary’ products is referring to his herbal supplements. Indeed not. This tricky word is referring to ‘other’ products. The word supplement means ‘something that is added’. And so this refers to other medications that might be added and requested. Sam could request that you go to your doctor and add some medications to the program. He might want you to go and take other medications that your doctor would advise against. What if you are pregnant or if you suffer some other conditions, and your doctor says, no way, you can’t mix those medications, or you can’t take this product that Sam is recommending.

The Doctor might say, as my Doctor said, ‘What Sam is asking me to prescribe is not approved by the TGA for the purpose of hair growth, and you might become impotent and end up with erectile disfunction and your heart can start to play up…’ Sam wants the customer to obtain prescription medication that is not approved by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration which is like the FDA in the USA). What if it is for a pregnant or soon-to-be-pregnant women? Sam’s recommendations could damage the foetus and cause your baby to have genital deformations. What Sam asks to be prescribed has no proper studies to prove that they work. Proscar (not approved by the TGA for hair growth) contains finasteride that is used in another more expensive product (Propecia) that is approved for hair growth, but the other items are not for hair at all! So where are the studies? Where is the proof? Where are the clinical trials? I contacted Pfizer and others, and I will detail that story in another article.

Sorry about this digression. Let us return to the clause that says that you must take the supplementary products. Here is the punch line: if your doctor refuses, you have just done your money. Down the drain. Sam wins. The first Clause says that all this is conditional on obtaining these medications. If the medications are not obtained, then it is the client’s fault and so the money cannot be refunded. Most people sign this contract in good faith and have no idea about these issues down the track. Sam softens this dilemma by saying. ‘If a medical condition precludes you from undertaking treatment, we will transfer you to another non-medical program.’ What the contract does not state is that Sam would then say that the program will take twice as long to work, complicating a 12 month guarantee that now needs 24 months. Tricky and messy. Besides, he says if a medical condition precludes you… but what if the doctor refuses, for no known medical condition of yours, but just on sanity alone. Just on legals alone? There is no provision in the clause for a doctor refusing to be Sam’s illegal puppet.

Anyway, if it is clear that the whole program is not working, you will not receive a refund. Instead, Sam will invoke Clause 4 which says that if the whole thing is ineffective, ‘You must give us the opportunity of reviewing or amending the program. If you do not follow the program recommendations fully and diligently within the stated time period it will not succeed and we will deny any liability for recompense for further treatment.’ This is absurd. It is signing a blank cheque to Sam because the contract states that after the initial batch of products, any new products are to be purchased at the client’s expense. So if nothing is working, Sam could send you to Mars for a head transplant, at your expense, and if you refuse to go, you are violating Clause 4, so it is all your fault whichever way you look at it.

There are many more problems with the contract, but this article should have given you a flavour of the underhanded operation that is the so-called Institute of Hair Regrowth & Beauty.

As with any good magic act, people want an encore. Ok, you’ve twisted my arm. Here’s another. Below we see that the contract says, ‘We Will… Refer you to yours or any other registered medical practitioner to initially examine and confirm your suitability to undertake the treatment program and complete the prescription order for the required pharmaceutical formula preparations. We will then order and supply the formulations prepared for you.’ Does this ring any alarm bells? Yes indeed. I do not think that Sam is authorised to be handling prescriptions. He said to me that I should hand over my prescriptions to him. Whatever for? Do I not know how to go to a local pharmacy and order Proscar and Retin-A and Loniten? Can my pharmacist not compound Minoxidil with Retin-A (which medical professionals have said should not be done in any case)? Sam and IHRB cannot be filling prescriptions. He says that he gives them to his pharmacist. Bad move. There are special rules about the conduct of pharmacists. They have a duty of care, which means that they must interact with the client, speak with the client, and see the client, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Does Sam or IHRB receive a commission from the pharmacists? I wonder what a thorough financial audit would show? He charges exorbitant prices, as documented in another article, yet he is insisting, in this contract, that we will give him the prescriptions. I am still investigating the legality of him acting as an agent in this way. So more about that later.

I guess Sam's magic trick here goes like this: I have special Indian Curries which include special herbs and extracts that I must mix with the Topical Solution, so I am the only one who can supply this innovative Indian rubbish, and I cannot give it to your pharmacy to mix, lest someone steal my magic intellectual property. Hmmm, pick a card.. any card.


One more for the road?

Okay, here is another trick. This one comes from page-two of the contract. It lists the products that I will need. At the last minute, to close the sale, Sam offers more products as a sweetener. Three bottles of Dermaclean (essential to get the gunk off the hair that becomes sticky and yucky) and ten bottles of cheap shampoo (that he claims is T-H-E best in the world) which I will analyse in another article. He notes that I will not need Proscar (which six months later he asks me to request from my doctor).

Where is the magic trick? In the line that says, ‘Prescribed Topical Hair Re-growth Formulae’. I was given twelve bottles of 5% Minoxidil (some with Retin-A) which he says contains his secret Indian Curries/herbs. This Topical Solution is what allegedly makes him better than any other place on the planet (oh did I tell you that he wants to open an office in New York, but he can’t find the right staff…).

We have two issues. The first is that no doctor and no pharmacist would prescribe any medication for a full twelve months, especially for something that is not tested, not proven, mystical, magical, hidden, top secret, unknown, not trialled, unproven, and is sold (if it really exists) by a so-called specialist who has no qualifications… need I go on? To prescribe something sight-unseen for twelve months, is ludicrous. No professional medical practitioner would do it. The second issue is this: he writes the word ‘Prescribed’ to show that he knows the rules and he knows the law. He knows that it must be prescribed. Why else would he write it? But dear reader, when I was in his office, he just gave me all this stuff, illegally, without a prescription! I walked out with it. I had no idea what I was doing. I was naive about all the laws in relation to Scheduled products. But Sam knew, and that is why he wrote it. He put it in writing to suggest and imply that the right thing was done. Tut Tut Tut. This magic trick seems to use a lot of smoke and mirrors. I am exhausted, because I want to tell you more. There’s lots more. Oh well. Another time.

Oh how lovely and how useless and how distracting that he should add the bit about new technology and how it would be our prerogative to purchase it. What's this all about? He wants you to infer that he is technologically advanced, and if there is something new, you will get to hear about it because the Institute is a hive of innovation and research -- not! And the 'prerogative' bit: it just goes to show what a nice guy he is. No hard sell. All very relaxed at IHRB. It is so laid back that he smokes in his office, on the fifth floor of 105 Pitt Street. Do the council and the strata manager and the owner and the fire department and the health department approve of this? His receptionist was pregnant!


Download the contract

If you would like to read the full two-page contract that was given to me, please click here for a PDF file. The signatures have been rubbed out. Nothing else was altered.

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