“Health” Kwest: Results Not Typical #HealthKwest

By Kourosh Zakeri
DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney, nor am I dispensing legal advice.  The information in this post is based on my understanding of FTC policies.
If you’ve read other posts on this blog, you know the Mongolian stir-fry restaurant chain Genghis Grill ran a contest February through April 2014 that it called “Health Kwest.” Well, it turned out that it wasn’t run, to my knowledge, following proper FTC disclosures (i.e. they had us run a deceptive hype in social media campaign), nor did it promote healthy weight loss. The final winner lost roughly 80 pounds in 60 days and posted on a public blog forum that he did it using unhealthy methods such as stimulants, diuretics, and dehydration. We brought these issues up to corporate, and despite that, he was still lauded as their winner. On top of all this, they just recently sent out an advertisement email about his weight loss and did not include any disclaimer of “results not typical,” or what the typical results can be from following such a diet/health plan — this too is blatantly against FTC policy — and in general poses a threat to public health/opinion about weight loss.
And there are other concerns:
  1. Genghis Grill had us post photos of us eating their food or having their drinks, but did not ask or recommend that we disclose that we were being sponsored by them.
  2. The rules stated that no additional purchases were necessary to increase odds of winning. Despite this, we had tasks that asked that post a photo of us enjoying one of their “Skinny Drinks” or a glass of One Hope Wine — which were not provided. A contestant brought this issue up — and in response she was advised to “stage” the photo.
  3. We asked if we need to disclose, and the contest manager said she would look into it, but never got back to the group as a whole. An email to one contestant, which we are not permitted to share, indicated that using the hashtag #healthkwest would be enough of a disclosure. The FTC differs on this, indicating that #sponsored or #ad, or a specific disclosure statement, are needed.
  4. Genghis Grill asked that we do a YELP review for one of our daily point based tasks — that’s against YELP policy for them to ask, and again we were not told we need to disclose our sponsorship.
  5. Rankings on the Leaderboard kept changing due to errors in reporting or recording of weight loss… we were never informed as to what was actually going on or why the rankings kept changing. Was Genghis Grill inputting weights wrong? Was there some error they were trying to not bring attention to?
  6. Last week, an email was sent out to all contestants to announce who the second place winner was… a couple hours later, they emailed that person and said he or she actually had NOT won second prize afterall. They didn’t inform the rest of the contestants of this — we only know through that person. To this day, they still have never publicly announced that the person they said won 2nd place ended up not winning and not getting the prize – that someone else did.
  7. Several contestants brought to the attention of Genghis Grill corporate management various posts made by the 1st place winner (before final results had come in) that he posted publicly how he will be using unhealthy methods (his own words) such as stimulants/diuretics and dehydration. He even bashed the entire contest principal and members — which is against the contest rules. Yet, Genghis Grill still awarded him 1st place.
  8. We tried contacting Genghis Grill about MANY issues and didn’t receive responses to half the items we would ask/inquire about, leaving contestants to speculate on their own.
  9. Genghis Grill posted the 1st place winner’s weight loss in ads/emails and did not disclose the typical expected weight loss or that his results aren’t typical – which appears to be blatantly against FTC policy.
  10. Genghis Grill is using PR Newswire to promote a press release on the winner. The press release has quotes by the winner saying how he has learned so much about healthy weight loss and such — all which drastically contradict his own blog posts he wrote during the 61 days of the competition. I contacted the editor of the article (Autumn) by phone; she said she would look into my concerns and evidence I gave her of the article misrepresenting the contest,and she has yet to get back to me.

PR Newswire Press Release link http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/genghis-grill-crowns-2014-health-kwest-winner-256158821.html

Below are some links on FTC policy…

Policy regarding disclosing being sponsored if asked to do social media campaigns http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus71-ftcs-revised-endorsement-guideswhat-people-are-asking

Policy regarding disclosing typical/expected results from a product (i.e. in this weight loss by eating GG for 60 days) http://ftc.uslegal.com/endorsements-and-testimonials-in-advertising/

On a more safety/wellness point, Genghis Grill did not set weight loss caps. This in turn promoted some of the contestants to do everything they could to try to win, creating an UNhealthy contest. Many national level weight loss programs (e.g. DietBet.com) set weight loss caps so people don’t resort to cheating or unhealthy methods to lose weight. Even previous contestants from last year’s contest asked Genghis Grill to set weight loss caps to make it more healthy — they didn’t.

So.. this is why I, and many others, are going out of our way to get his out there — that Genghis Grill did not promote healthy weight loss, awarded someone they knew had lost weight using unhealthy methods, and ignored FTC policy on disclosures.

Lastly, I’ve attached here, in his own blog posts, this year’s winner’s blog/forum where he posted about his methods. He deleted it, but many of us kept posts and had sent them to Genghis Grill’s corporate officers

2 thoughts on ““Health” Kwest: Results Not Typical #HealthKwest

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