Saturday, October 08, 2011

A quick buck in a tiny little classified ad

The death of the co-founder chairman and CEO of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs, overshadowed the death of Don Lapre this week. And when we think about Steve Jobs, creative, innovative, bold, classy and intelligent immediately come to mind. Legacy, hard work and generosity are also words that transpired throughout Jobs' Apple Inc. epic business adventure.

And as if it wasn't enough, Lapre's death was overshadowed twice. I just learned, before posting this, that the renegade owner of the Oakland Raiders (NFL - American Football), Al Davis, just died at the age of 82.  "Just win, baby!" as Al would say with a big smirk across his face. He won three Superbowls as an owner. And when we think about Al Davis, besides determination and passion, craziness, lunacy, dementia and stubbornness come to mind.

But when I think about the young man (47 years old) that died during the last week, Don Lapre, only questions pop into my mind.

Remember this guy? (he appears at 0:04)


I remember those ads that were on most TV channels, after dark, during the small hours. There was him, Don Lapre, and Anthony Robbins, astrology and mind-reading ladies, and dating services (making people believe that the woman they were about to call was a young model...hungry for them!).

Don Lapre would stick it right down your throat for an hour or so...Tiny little Classified ads and 900 telephone numbers...How to make [quick] money.

Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy Magazine, since 1953, has tried to teach us what is the Playboy way of life. The women, the toys (boats, cars, etc.), where to hang out (the clubs, the restaurants, etc.) and how to act cool. But the only man in the world that had the time and the money to live the Playboy way of life was probably Hugh Hefner.

Well, you know what? Don Lapre was the only one making money with his method. He knew about a fourth way to make money. And it was the only one that would work, so he wouldn't tell you about it. And what was that miraculous money maker? Simple. Selling How to Make Money packages to people that had no life, stayed up late (I'm guilty of that one) and believed that they would meet a supermodel by calling a dating service (uh!...not guilty of that one though!).

Just imagine the poor guy with no job, no self esteem, no experience in business, placing tiny little ads in newspapers and not making a profit. Worse than that: losing money he doesn't have (because he borrowed it!!). Or, the poor guy signing a contract with a phone company for a 900 telephone number for a service that may or may not work, probably with an overhead that would eat the cash flow of his business in no time.

Don Lapre knew all about that. He had the key which was selling dreams to suckers. That could have been the title of the first part of his biography: Selling dreams to suckers.

But the second part of Don Lapre's biography would have to be different (probably Greed). You see, Don was getting greedy. Like the taste of blood to a rat, Don wanted more and more money. I guess suckers had a limited budget. And he had competition. On top of the other junk sellers on the infomercials, there was Who wants to be a millionaire?, American Idol and all the others TV shows, not only selling the American Dream, but also selling the Instant American Dream.  One day you work at MacDonald's, the next day you are recording artist and singing in front of sold-out venues around the world. From rags to riches, as Tony Bennett would sing.

So Don Lapre tried to penetrate a new lucrative market: vitamins. Nothing but the best for Don. He started to sell "The Greatest Vitamin in the World". Maybe it was. Nevertheless, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration strongly disagreed. There was a lot of investigation going on. To make a long story short, Lapre was accused of screwing roughly more that 200,000 people out of more than $52,000,000 with "The Greatest Vitamin in the World".

All in all, he was facing 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and promotional money laundering related to his e-commerce. He failed to appear in court to face those charges and was arrested on June 24, 2011. Before his arrest, he tried to commit suicide, but failed. However, two days before the beginning of his trial, scheduled to start October 4, 2011, it appears that he finally succeeded in ending his own life.

There is no surprise that the deaths of Steve Jobs and Al Davis completely overshadowed Don Lapre's death. The same thing will happen with their respective legacies.

Nonetheless, Lapre teached us two valuable lessons: There is no such a thing as an easy quick buck and greed is really one of the three Hell's Gates (the other two would be lust and anger). When it sounds too good to be true...it usually is!

And you know what's ironic about it? Don Lapre finished his days on earth in a tiny little ad...in the obituaries.



New Character(s) brought to this Blog: None.
This week’s lucky number: sedem (in Slovak).
Note to self #1: Write on my Facebook page "I am writing on my Facebook page".
Note to self #2: Reply on my Facebook page "I am such a moron for writing on my Facebook page that I am writing on my Facebook page".
Note to self #3: Click on "like" button for both messages.
Quote of the week: "I never apologize. I’m sorry, but it's just the way I am." - Anonymous in denial
Funny sign: Procrastinators will meet tomorrow”
Bad jokes when you are in presence of New York Yankees fans: “What is an ARod cocktail? An overpriced drink that expires before October.”
Bad pick-up line: You must be tired because you’ve been running through my head all night.
Bad name for a Republican rock group: The Non Runnin' Palins

Love letters, comments, opinions and complaints: reflectionsonamoderncircus@gmail.com


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