It’s a 3-way tie for the Deplorables Award this year, so I think we’re gonna need a bigger basket.
This race to the bottom was hotly contested this year, as we try to determine who, in the wellness industry’s epidemic of very stable geniuses, is Patient Einstein. These wellness vendors routinely violate rules of grammar, ethics, math and even wellness itself in their attempts to outstupid each other. Yes, I know that word is not in the dictionary but that’s only because Merriam-Webster uses a different wellness vendor.
They also violate the rule that there are two sides to every story. In each case, this is their story, just annotated. In no case are we “challenging the data.” Quite the opposite. There is a saying that: “In wellness, you don’t have to challenge the data to invalidate it. You merely have to read the data. It will invalidate itself.”
It’s a 3-way tie, in that three companies accomplished more in 2021 than most stupid people accomplish in a lifetime. It may seem impolite to call them “stupid,” but the alternative would be that they know their claims are false, so the alternative would be to call them liars.
And sometimes, as in the case of one of our winners, we ourselves would be lying if we didn’t call them stupid. Here is the official catchphrase from the landing page of their website. I would call this collection of wellness industry cliches a word salad, if only all of these were words.
That’s because they’ve achieved the elusive quadruple aim of wellness: reducing employee costs, increasing employee productivity, raising employee engagne-ment, and poking employee cheeks.
Needless to say, Wellsteps is back in the Deplorables Award winner’s circle, for the third time in six tries. I keep trying to retire from the business of exposing fraud in wellness. But just when I thought I was out, Wellsteps pulls me back in.
I’d like to propose that the Justice Department go after them. Not because they are lying, cheating and harming employees. Those are table stakes for wellness vendors profiled in these pages. Rather, they should be investigated by the Antitrust Division for trying to create a monopoly on stupidity.
Yes, it seems like hardly a month goes by without the irresistible force of Wellsteps’ corporate IQ colliding with the immovable object of reality. They lit up the scorecard twice in 2021. First was Wellsteps Accomplished the Impossible: They Got Stupider. The highlight was that they “updated their ROI calculator.” But here are the three asterisks to that statement. Their “ROI Calculator”:
- is not updated.
- doesn’t show an ROI.
- doesn’t calculate.
Not content with a single entry in this year’s contest, they entered a second time, with Dog Bites Man…and Wellsteps Fabricates Its Outcomes Again. At the risk of insulting the 76 million canines in this country, Wellsteps fabricating its outcomes is the “Dog Bites Man” headline of the wellness world. it really shouldn’t make the front page, especially in an industry segment as idiot-intensive as theirs. Yet transparently fabricating outcomes is their signature move, so I do like to make sure they get credit for it.
Wellsteps’ problem is that they aren’t remotely smart enough to lie without being caught. They may or may not be the most dishonest vendor, and they may or may not be the stupidest vendor, but they are certainly the stupidest dishonest vendor.
They would also be a finailist for the Chiquita Award, by the CEO, Steve Aldana claiming that health can be improved with “even one more bite of a banana.”
I’ve always recommended to Mr. Aldana that if he is going to lie so much, he needs to hire a smart person.
Just when I thought wellness vendors couldn’t get any dumber than Wellsteps, I found this one. See Wellsteps: We’re the Stupidest Wellness Vendor. Wellness360: Hold My Beer.
The difference is that Wellness360 is not dishonest. They genuinely believe that we must drink 15 glasses of water a day – they aren’t just saying it to qualify for the pole position in our award competition.
How do I know they genuinely believe we need “hydration wellbeing challenges” to meet this goal, even though the quoted study itself says “the vast majority of healthy people meet their hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide”? They wrote to me to defend their findings, and also cited the massive savings reported in the 2010 Health Affairs article. I pointed out the slight problem that the authors of that study themselves retracted that conclusion when they did their own results, and found the opposite. Wellness360 replied: “Thousand’s [sic] of studies monthly give different results for sure,” which of course clears everything up.
They also posted a recipe for ginger snaps that sounded quite tasty…
…largely because it calls for a cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of molasses. I observed that perhaps it wasn’t exactly on-message for a wellness vendor to be advocating consumption of sugar by the cupful. They posted back that, to offset the sugar, the ginger offers three attributes that I had apparently overlooked. Ginger:
- “Keeps your body warm,”
- “Keeps your health in check,” and
- “Is a diaphoretic.”
It’s not just you. I had no clue what “diaphoretic” meant either. So I looked it up. Diaphoresis is a medical condition characterized by “excessive sweating for no apparent reason.”
The good news is we’ve solved that medical mystery by finding that there is an “apparent reason” – those 15 glasses of water a day have to go somewhere.