Q-Ray and the Ancient Chinese Art of Scamming

Q-Ray bracelets make me laugh. Maybe it is the commercial, where, in one version yoga is said to be an “ancient Chinese art”, and a runner attributes her success to the bracelet…and possibly to her new coach. It may be because that the little ice block they use to display the bracelet in the commercial is really a place-card holder turned upside down. Or it could be that it reminds me of the weird Chinese guy and his long-life rings. (Sorry, no link for that one.) Regardless of the unlikeliness of a bracelet being able to mitigate pain, people seem to love them. When I worked at a gift shop, we sold similar looking perfectly normal silver bracelets (known as Taurus bracelets) that people snapped up because they said they worked just the same. Colour me skeptical.

Back in November, Canada’s excellent show Marketplace did an expose on the Q-Ray bracelet, which you can see here: Buying Belief. It is a long video, but well worth watching if you are tempted to buy one of these things. In short, the bracelets aren’t ionized like the commercials claimed, and they don’t do a darn thing. The president of the American branch of the Q-Ray company even admitted in court that he made up the ionization claim. But it is based on traditional Chinese medicine, both he and his son say. (quanta, my darling Chinese husband, believes that is pure bunk too.)

The sad thing is all the people in the Marketplace video who really believe in the powers of the Q-Ray. It is obviously the placebo effect in action. And if that is the case, is it really so bad? Well, I think that selling people false hope at $70-$300 at a time is awful. I’ve lived with years of chronic pain, so I am well aware of how desperately people seek anything that will give them relief. I have learned, though, that it is better to find ways to relieve the pain, such as physiotherapy, then to find ways to cover it up or pretend it doesn’t exist.

In November, the US courts ruled against Q-Ray and its claims of pain relief. This past Monday, the United States Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit upheld the ruling, ordering Q-Ray to return $16M to purchased of their bracelets. If you bought a Q-Ray between January 1, 2000 and June 30, 2003 (when the commercials claimed pain relief), call the FTC Q-Ray Hotline at 202-326-2063 in order to find out how to get a refund.

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