Debunking Magic Gas Pills
April 26, 2006 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Bio Performance Gas Pill: My parents are being lured into selling/using a gas-saving "gas pill" that is marketed via MLM /Pyramid Scheme tactics. My BS-detector is going off.

I'm wary of the marketing method used for this to begin with, but the product itself just screams "scam".

My parents are well-intentioned, SUV driving middle americans who have fallen for a pyramid scheme in the past.

Some google has led me to a couple of long and messy forum threads on the subject, as well as 2 more easily digested articles on gas-saving scams and MLMs.

Aside from this, could you please provide me with any more info on the topic. I simply can't believe this gas pill is for real, but if it is I'll eat my hat.

I'm currently telling them why I feel this is a scam and how they can really save money on gas. However, I'd like to be able to more consisely discuss it with them without giving in to my natural reaction by saying, "You have got to be fucking kidding me." (Which I haven't done.)

They literally just bought a Suburban because they think this gas pill will save them money. Help.

Thanks in advance!
posted by kumazemi to Travel & Transportation (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why don't they tell you how it works on the website?
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:41 PM on April 26, 2006

"Hey, Mom, Dad? Remember when you were burned by that pyramid scheme last time? Boy, that sure sucked. Remember how bad that was? This is the same thing. I love you, so I'm telling you this now, before it would be mean of me to say it: I told you so."
posted by hades at 3:45 PM on April 26, 2006

The "explanation" is here.
posted by vacapinta at 3:47 PM on April 26, 2006

I used to have a girlfriend who observed that there was no point in suffering silently if everyone around you didn't know you were suffering silently.

I am exerting myself to be very good here.

Yes, this is absolutely a scam. There is no magic pill that will increase the efficiency of an internal combustion engine. Aside from its technical impossibility, if such a thing were possible, why are your parents selling it, rather than, say, GM or Ford or, hell, J.C. Whitney.

As the man said, "If it's such a good deal, why is it being offered to me?"

Your parents have made a serious misjudgement. They should bail right now, as in this evening, and cut their losses.
posted by mojohand at 3:49 PM on April 26, 2006

I clicked on the product link but it led to a page intended for would-be marketers of this product. I'd be quite wary of it just for that reason.

However, a friend of mine often buys stuff through MLMs, and from my observation these products are usually quite expensive.

Sit down with your parents and figure out how much money they currently spend on gas, how much money they'd theoretically save using this pill, and compare it to the cost of the pill itself.
posted by luneray at 3:49 PM on April 26, 2006

Best answer: Point them to this article. To be honest that one by the automotive engineer seems to be the best out there on the web.
posted by onalark at 3:49 PM on April 26, 2006

From the site vacapinta linked to:

The gas pills have the property of modifying the fuel’s molecular structure and liberating the energy contained within.

Heh, sounds like a nuclear reactor available in convenient pill form.
posted by luneray at 3:52 PM on April 26, 2006

Oh, as an aside, unless you can get an Power of Attorney over their finances, I would not include the anticipation of an inheritance from them as part of your financial planning. They're a boiler room's wet dream.
posted by mojohand at 3:53 PM on April 26, 2006

via Consumerist.
posted by apple scruff at 3:57 PM on April 26, 2006

Best answer: And here's probably the best link from that discussion. Good luck.
posted by apple scruff at 3:59 PM on April 26, 2006

Hey, if these gas pills are so great, why doesn't Exxon put them in the gas to start with? Maybe the gasoline you buy is already chock full of magic gas pills, ever thought of that?

If I were you, I would tell your parents "You have got to be fucking kidding me". Sometimes it just has to be said.
posted by jellicle at 4:29 PM on April 26, 2006

They literally just bought a Suburban because they think this gas pill will save them money. Help.

In all honesty, you may as well do nothing. It's harsh to think it of your parents, but some people are so dumb that there is literally no helping them.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:39 PM on April 26, 2006

From a scientific perspective:

Their 'how it works' webpage is pushing a bunch of scientific verbiage that is not only incomprehensible to non-scientists, but is also incomprehensible to this scientist, even though I've got a decent grasp on catalysis, enzymes, Brownian motion, and petrolchemistry.

The main thing to point out to them is that enzymatic catalysts don't work in gasoline (this is why gasoline is toxic to people), and worse, enzymes in your fuel, if they get past your fuel filter, will probably foul up your fuel injectors and leave carbon deposits in your engine.
posted by u2604ab at 5:19 PM on April 26, 2006

Ah, so you finally got signed up here.

Yeah, I understand exactly what that web page is saying in scientific terms -- bullshit. I could explain it all, but I know it wouldn't do any good (or that it would do about as much as arguing about synthetic vs. man-made materials).

ARRG! "Brownian motion" and fuel oxidation catalysis? Adding a solute to increase the volatility of a liquid? "increasing the CALORIFIC POWER" WTF?

I don't know if your parents would put any more stock in any of this coming from me, but tell them that Miles says that it is all a scam anyway.
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 5:43 PM on April 26, 2006

However, I'd like to be able to more consisely discuss it with them without giving in to my natural reaction

Eat the pills in front of them? Seriously, since you're dealing with an operation that treats critical slapdowns as if they prove how They Are Lying To You, you might be best off lying on the floor and waggling your arms and legs, shouting 'you are fucking kidding me!'

Alternatively, borrow their Suburban and take it back to the dealer.
posted by holgate at 5:55 PM on April 26, 2006

Oh, and now that I look at it, that link apple scruff posted is a pretty good explaination of why it is bullshit.
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 6:17 PM on April 26, 2006

Before i read all of the comments I did a google and on one of the sites was this great comment "So what exactly is the chemical composition of this pill? Looks to me like it's made of highly compressed and concentrated bullshite.". Yes it screams scam and it will probably screw up the suburbans's catalytic combustor as a bonus.
$100 bucks a barrel by october, this is one of many many scams we will be seeing soon.
posted by blink_left at 6:53 PM on April 26, 2006

I am terribly sorry, but you have to choose, right now, whether or not you're willing to guard their finances for the rest of their lives.

I am serious. You need to sit down and have a long hard think about this.

Your parents are extremely likely to blow whatever retirement they have on one scam or another. If you intercept this one, there will be another. There may even be more, right now, that you're not aware of.

This doesn't mean they're bad people, but you do have to decide if you want to try to protect them from themselves, because it will only get worse as they get older and become more vulnerable to con artists. There are pros & cons to each side of this decision, but make no mistake: you're going to have to make this decision.
posted by aramaic at 6:59 PM on April 26, 2006

Tell them that you think it's a scam, and that others might think so as well. But that they could show what's what, by keep a fuel mileage log, both with and without the pill.

1,000 or 2,000 miles of their regular driving, each way.

This will help convince skeptical buyers that their gains are real, and not total bullshit.
posted by I Love Tacos at 7:07 PM on April 26, 2006

aramaic: if it was my parents, I'd try my best to guard their finances against total ruin out of pure self-interest.

After all, if Poppa Tacos somehow went broke, I wouldn't leave him in the poor house. I'd just be stuck with a big bill to cover his living expenses, because well...he's my dad.
posted by I Love Tacos at 7:10 PM on April 26, 2006

Best answer: If you google "chris rohrer" scam (i got the name from the main page) you'll see that he is involved in a bunch of other dubious moneymaking schemes:

first one, a betting system:

"Hi my name is Chris Rohrer I am only 21 years old and I make over $1,000 a month using arbitrage trading. Don't trust me cause I am so young? That's ok because I am the one that is making the money and you're the one that isn't." [link, 2nd link]

next: 'e-currency', whatever that is:

"So have you herd [sic!] of the program the whole Internet is talking about? Well if you haven’t herd by now the big news is e-currency exchange. Ok so now you know what the whole net is talking about, but why is there so much talk about e-currency?" [link]

you can be quite sure it's the same person, because he tells people about the gas pill:

"The pay plan BioPerformance created is unlike no other pay plan ever before. You earn $200 for each new person you get to join BioPerformance. Then you get 25% of their income that they make from joining people, plus another 6%." [link]

then there's mazu home business, very mysterious stuff:

"You will need to find a business that helps you every step of the way. The business I choose to help me was Mazu. Mazu helped me make my first extra $1,000 I ever made online working from home. It was quit simple believe it or not. I did what they said, and advertised a little on google, and before I knew it I was making a little money." [link]

etc. etc.
posted by ori at 7:14 PM on April 26, 2006

Sometimes gimmicks like this actually do work. I wouldn't be surprised if they do improve gas mileage, slightly. Maybe not because of the pills but because of a self fulfilling prophecy. They might subconsciously drive more carefully in order to see a favorable change.
posted by lemhuxley at 7:18 PM on April 26, 2006

Best answer: I Love Tacos, you have good intentions but your recomendation has two flaws. Fuel Enconomy is hard to measure reliably because it depends largely on external factors that aren't easily controlled, like air temperature and wind resistance, traffic. Even over 2000 miles of "regular driving", the variations do not even out as much as you would think.
Secondly, you would still end up buying 2000 miles worth of pills from scammers, better just to walk away.
posted by AndrewStephens at 7:33 PM on April 26, 2006

AndrewStephens: I understand there's some risk there, but there's little chance the mileage would vary more than a tiny bit.

The website promises 25% or more. I'm assuming that they won't get close to that, unless one set of miles is city, and the other is pure highway.

As for the pill purchases, I was assuming that his parents already bought in. If this is incorrect, then talking them out of it would be for the best.

I'll give up tacos for the rest of my life if these things save anywhere near the claimed 25+%
posted by I Love Tacos at 7:39 PM on April 26, 2006

I Love Tacos, check out the graph on this page (on the great site - thanks Apple Scruff). For instance, just from eyeballing the graph, between 35000 and 36000 miles the average is a lot lower than the average between 36000 and 37000. The "noise" is almost as much as the effect the pills are supposed to have.
Although your advice is good in a Question Everything! sort of way, average fuel enconomy is almost impossible for a lay person to measure in practice. Thats exactly why these sorts of schemes work so well.
posted by AndrewStephens at 8:26 PM on April 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everybody (and Miles). The article really is one of the best resources for this.

Ori, thanks for digging up all that on Chris Rohrer. He sounds like a perfectly upstanding and honest slimeball to me.

Fortunately this sort of thing doesn't happen often with my parents. I also know when to draw the line and stop worrying/getting frustrated about something they (adults that they are) choose to do.
posted by kumazemi at 8:26 PM on April 26, 2006

I can vary my gas mileage by right around 25% depending how carefully I drive.
posted by oxonium at 8:34 PM on April 26, 2006

The thing that gets people excited about MLM schemes is the promise of vast gains to early adopters. And a lot of older people get to retirement age, thought they'd have more savings stacked up than they actually do, and then, belatedly, start looking for low "investment" ways of getting big returns on "home based businesses" to "catch up." They aren't going to be dissuaded, because they don't think that what they are risking in "investment" is going to make much difference to their current standard of living, and they do think they need a big score, which only MLM downstreams can provide.

The only way you can MLM "proof" such people is to work with them on getting some real planning going, even at a late date, and maybe, getting them involved in something legitimately remunerative, like selling and leading group tours, or doing eBay.
posted by paulsc at 9:42 PM on April 26, 2006

Maybe encourage them not to invest in something they don't 100% understand. They don't understand petrochemistry, so they were having to trust marketers. Who, even if they were honest people, were having to trust other marketers, "scientists", etc.

Any one of these entities could have been misled, had an incomplete understanding, or have been engaged in very wishful thinking. Because, what if it were true? It would be so wonderful! We'd all get so rich, we wouldn't have to worry, and we'd be saving fuel and possibly helping the environment!

The power of this idea is certainly enough to lead any of these people (links in the business chain) to be less than critical - which is why it's so important in this case to be critical, and make sure you really understand all of it before proceeding.

The above argument doesn't assume that anyone's acting dishonestly -- though that is a possibility, pointing it out isn't going to impress your parents, since it implies that you are a better judge of character than they are, and they're not likely to be receptive to that idea.
posted by amtho at 6:48 AM on April 27, 2006

According to our local TV news website, the company is under investigation by the state of Kentucky and by several other states, and faked at least one testimonial. An earlier article said the pills seem to be made of the same stuff as mothballs.

Saw the article just now and remembered this question - don't know if it will help or not.
posted by dilettante at 4:31 PM on April 27, 2006

Yeah, but being under investigation or even going to jail for committing and being convicted of fraud doesn't mean anything to some people that have been swindled -- see Kevin Trudeau. He essentially served time in jail for being a con man and somehow this makes him more trustworthy than someone who hasn't because now he has experienced the end result of greed.

Or, at least that is what my family was tricked into believing and told me. I only hope I was able to convince my grandmother how his science was bunk and that it isn't just that I haven't seen his book around but instead that she threw it away.

Alkaline blood cures cancer, herpes, and diabetes... sweet Delia, what crap.
posted by The Bishop of Turkey at 7:42 PM on April 27, 2006

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