If you thought magnets were just for the refrigerator, Jo Ann Carter has an extensive catalog of products to introduce you to. The promoter of "wellness items", including magnet therapy, weighted shoes, and specially-filtered drinking water, is a new resident setting up shop from her Rimrock home.
"I'm doing this for a living now, I wanted a new lifestyle," she explained. "I was a full-time computer technician in Pasadena." She continued, "I wanted to be my own boss. I was on a mission to find something different. I wanted to work anywhere in the world and help other people doing it."
The company she is affiliated with, Nikken Inc., is careful not to make any direct health claims related to its products. They are not licensed by the United States Federal Drug Administration. In fact, getting anyone to say what the products specifically heal or cure is nearly impossible. The products fall into the "non-medical devices" category, according to the Federal Government.
The purported health benefits of their products also fall into the category of little proof, but a wealth of anecdotal evidence. Nikken has stayed away from touting any specific medical benefits since being warned by the FDA in the early 1990s. Distributors are allowed to make only vague claims about "wellness."
For Carter, the proof is in the pudding; she wears the heavy shoes as part of her daily routine, sleeps on a magnetic bed, and drinks the special water. "I'm raising my granddaughter Louisiana, she's six and a half now," said Carter. I'm happy, she's happy." She claims that Nikken products cured her granddaughter of unspecified respiratory ailments.
Nikken products range from a special water purification system that costs $850 to five-pound pairs of shoes that cost about $200. The water system allegedly purifies tap water by using a variety of filters including magnets, charcoal, coral chips, clay, and ceramic materials. The shoes are supposed to promote better circulation by temporarily weighing down the wearer during moderate exercise.
The Nikken company, headquartered in Irvine, Calif., promotes a "five pillars" theory of personal well being. Maintaining a healthy body, mind, family, society, and finances comprise those pillars. The company promotes a membership plan, which costs $49 a year, and includes a 20 percent discount on all products.
Of course, the science behind the rhetoric is questionable. Even those who believe in the therapeutic benefits are at a loss to explain how or why magnets work to ease pain and illness. And the benefits of a water filtration system that "energizes" water by sending it through a magnetic field are also nebulous, at best.
All that room for doubt, however, does not deter Carter. Her business potential is enticing: sales commissions are said to begin at 25 percent and rise upward as a person gains seniority within the company. The company reports having more than 200,000 independent distributors in North America.
While other "wellness" approaches such as acupuncture and acupressure have gained some visibility in recent years, magnetic therapy is still relatively unheard of in America.
Richard Butler, another wellness consultant with Nikken, who is also a Rimrock resident, brought Carter into the program. "I signed up with him in March," Carter said. She admitted she is a veteran of pyramid-style business ventures: "I wasn't sure whether I'd be able to do it or not. I was already a multi-level marketing junkie. I tried 20 before this. This one has everything."
Like peddling Amway or Tupperware, Carter sees at least one fringe benefit in selling Nikken—she gets to meet her new neighbors through her business. "I've met a lot of neighbors this way," she said. "They're welcome to try the water system for a week, and return it if they don't like it. These are experiential products. You don't get the experience from a catalog."
So if you happen to be in the market for magnetic socks or "infrared" underwear, Carter welcomes inquiries at (928) 592-0547. Or just look for her around town; she'll be the one wearing the big white hi-tops. She claims the clodhoppers increase one's metabolic rate by 25 percent in a two-week period.