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Beware the "Get Rich Quick" Promise

AARP's consumer advocate helps a couple get their money back from a business guru.

The Company: Live Out Loud

The Complaint: Success spiel was mostly talk.

Amount recovered:
$15,490

The path to wealth is often elusive. Money guru Loral Langemeier, perhaps best known for her appearances on Dr. Phil, says she can show you the way, for a fee.

Keith and Marie Brown of Oakdale, Calif., believed the old adage that says, “It takes money to make money.”
 
Watching a local TV news report on Langemeier and her company, Live Out Loud, they saw Langemeier go in person to help another California couple start a company. With Keith’s construction business sinking, the Browns felt they, too, could use guidance on getting a new enterprise launched.
 
They called Live Out Loud and, they say, were told they would get one-on-one help from Langemeier. She claims her programs can make you a millionaire in three to five years. The Browns just needed a credit card with at least $15,000 available to cover the cost of the program. They signed up then and there.

Four days later—one day beyond a three-day cancellation window—the Browns learned that what they’d been promised wasn’t what they were going to get. Instead of a personal visit, the Browns were enrolled in a series of “webinars,” group seminars via online videoconference. Disappointed, they asked for their money back and were refused. “Just try the first one,” they were told. They did. “It was beginner stuff,” Marie lamented to me later. “I’m an accountant. I don’t need to pay more than $15,000 for instructions on building a home budget.”

The Browns again asked for a refund and were denied. They protested to their credit card company. Six months later, when the card company sided with Langemeier, the Browns contacted me.

My first thought was, why would anyone sell a million-dollar business plan for $15,000? When I reached Langemeier, she allowed that her sales force may have overpromised, but also contended that the Browns hadn’t given her program a chance. “Wasn’t that their prerogative?” I asked.
 
In the end, she agreed to refund their payment, but admitted no fault in the matter. (So we didn’t change the world, but I consider it a victory any time we get money back for readers.)

What’s the lesson here? Avoid like fuzzy pudding anyone who promises an easy way to Easy Street. It just doesn’t exist. Free or inexpensive mentoring programs do, though, such as the small-business counselors and retired executives at SCORE.
 
Whenever you spend a large sum, make sure what you’re getting is really right for you. Above all, you should always get a written contract and read it carefully to make sure there’s a reasonable refund policy if what you get isn’t what you expected.

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