In her blog, Becky (formerly employed by Kimkins) has today posted Part 2 of The Perfect Storm.
It's a wonderful, revealing read, especially in view of the fact that Becky was an insider at Kimkins before all hell broke loose.
Here's Part 2 (Part 1 follows Part 2 in her blog, Winning Weight Loss):
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Kimkins: The Perfect Storm, Part 2
What happens when a deceitful, disordered person promotes effective but defective diet plans which then grow into a dynamic but dysfunctional business?
That confluence forms the perfect recipe for disaster.
The person, Kimmer/Heidi Diaz
The professional practices of Kimkins
The plans of Kimkins
The plan behind the plans at Kimkins
The people of Kimkins
Now, a look at the professional practices of Kimkins.
Kimmer first gave out her brand of diet advice (as well as hair care and skin care tips) for years on Low Carb Friends, which garnered both followers and foes. I am not sure when the idea of her own site first began in her mind, whether it was all a carefully-laid plan, or just an opportunity too good to pass up when it arose. Judging from her track record of not sticking very long with any one thing (whether it be school or work or a relationship), I would guess that it was the latter. My conjecture is that she joined the diet site in all sincerity, hoping to lose weight like anyone else. She probably learned some things and had some initial success, but then, being Kimmer, she just couldn't help embellishing things a bit, highlighting her successes and ignoring her failings, amplifying it more and more, becoming more extreme over time, as it began to attract some attention. Gradually, the gap between her words and her actions widened, as she could not follow through with her knowledge and intentions, but could not allow herself to back down and admit it, either. She may have done what many of us have done ---- promised herself to get back on track tomorrow, next week, next month, try to be extra strict to make up for it, only to give in to her old ways again. Her real life wasn't working for her at all --- but online she could be the best possible version of herself, everything she every dreamed of, until perhaps she came to believe it herself. The attention and approbation were too addicting. At some point, it seems, delusion reigned supreme, and there was no backing down. As her claims became more grandiose and her polarizing presence began to dominate and draw heat more and more at the LCF forum, another member, Catherine, approached her with the idea of an ebook and a website to sell it. (Read more here.) I think it was the brass ring, the golden goose, and Kimmer/Heidi grabbed at the opportunity for . Once that thought was there, I do believe Kimmer purposely aggravated her enemies and gathered her fans even more, setting the stage for her big exit. Soon, 'Kimmer' flounced off in a huff, and Kimkins.com was launched as a partnership between Heidi Diaz, supposed diet guru and Catherine McDonald, tech expert.
In the early days of the Kimkins website, Kimmer seemed to have it all --- a successful diet plan, satisfied customers who were easy to please, low overhead, and a competent business partner who made her ideas work. Her departure from LCF calmed down hostilities quite a bit all around, and Kimmer was left to operate her own site in her own little corner of the internet with little interference. If she had made the right moves then, Heidi/Kimmer might possibly have been able to continue on course to a legitimate business success for quite some time to come. However, because Kimmer at her core is a fraud, it was inevitable that any enterprise built on that basis would soon begin to crumble.
Kimmer was not only a fraud in her own personal claims of large, rapid weight loss, but she soon began building the business of Kimkins around fraud at virtually every level --- member service, marketing, and management.
~ Fraudulent Member Service: She lied to her members about the safety and efficacy of her diet plans, leading them to believe her plans were safely based on the recognized plans of doctors such as Dr. Atkins and Dr. Stillman, while continuing to push them ever farther away from the cautions and sensible limits of those plans. She assured members it was safe, because, after all, it had worked so well for her, or so she said. She also began to be less and less available to members, despite her promised member benefit of 'personal coaching'. She ignored or gave inadequate and misleading answers to valid member concerns. This was because she apparently preferred to spend her energies on marketing, to keep new paying customers coming in the front door while leaving the members mostly on their own to look out for one another.
~ Fraudulent Marketing: In her marketing campaign, she lied to prospective members by spamming Craigslist with fake listings to plug Kimkins, by posting phony 'articles' and answers and numerous blogs for Kimkins all over the internet under various names, by promoting Kimkins with false implied celebrity endorsements specifically to target teens, and primarily by posting numerous fraudulent 'success' stories with 'lifted' and photoshopped 'before' and 'after' pictures. She also made numerous claims she had no proof of or right to make, in violation of FTC regulations.
~ Fraudulent Management: Heidi/Kimmer entered into partnership with Catherine originally under false pretenses, and continued to lie to her about many things, including the source of the 'success stories'. It also appears that Heidi skimmed a certain part of the gross proceeds from the partnership before profits were split, by funneling income to supposed affiliate accounts which actually led back to her. It is unclear whether proper legal or tax filings were ever made, though it does not appear they were.
In matters big and small, every bit of the Kimkins enterprise was fraught with deception. It was bound to catch up to her sooner or later.
Before too long, Catherine began to have concerns about Heidi's integrity, and backed out of the partnership. At this point, Kimmer claims to have brought in 4 other partners to finance Catherine's buyout, but this is highly doubtful. For one thing, one of the partners she claims to have brought in at that time is Heidi Diaz, but photographic and written evidence clearly shows that Kimmer herself is Heidi Diaz. (For example, Kimmer has always acknowledged that Catherine was her partner in the beginning, and Catherine signed the original partnership agreement with Heidi Diaz.) Other names mentioned as possible 'partners' include Dennis Sharp (her son), Vanessa Sharp and/or Romero (Vanessa Romero is her niece), Nicki or Nikki Sharp, and Tish Diaz. It is extremely unlikely that these relatives are actually working, decision-making partners as Kimmer leads people to believe. It is possible they put up some money so Heidi could buy out Catherine; it is possible she got money from them under some other pretext; it is very possible they know little or nothing, and she is just using their names to seem like a larger and more legitimate enterprise. Nicki and later Vanessa disappeared from the "Meet Your Team' roster some time ago, so it is possible they were based on actual people who became aware of the use of their identities, and protested it.
I have seen various things supposedly 'written' by some of those names and now Brad Johnson. To me. they all have the same unmistakable writing style, and are all almost surely written by Heidi herself, who freely admits to writing frequently under various male and female names. No one has ever spoken or communicated with any of them, except through Kimmer, and she trotted out the same excuses over and over as to why they were not available. (Usually they were 'called out of town to deal with a sick father'.) Kimmer herself often spoke to me of doing all affiliate payouts and answering affiliate questions, even though she supposedly had an affiliate manager. These 'partners' were probably a construct that Kimmer used to pass blame, as when criticizing someone ('the partners don't think they are getting their money's worth') or floating unpopular ideas ('the partners are pressing to make the fees monthly vs. lifetime membership', which she brought up to me several times), as well as to provide other 'identities' under which to hide income.
In fact, there is no good reason to assume that the entity of Kimkins is anything other than Heidi Diaz sitting at her computer pumping out fraudulent marketing and picking up funds from Paypal and the mailbox, with a tech guy or two working remotely and unaware of the real situation, and paid and unpaid admins and members doing the heavy lifting on the site.
The best of businesses, with a solid business plan and an experienced team of managers would have been hard pressed to absorb the massive explosion of growth that occurred with the Woman's World magazine feature. Kimmer only had forum helpers with very little knowledge of the true nature of the business; after all, she could not afford to bring anyone into her confidence, because she had too many secrets to hide. So, Heidi was suddenly way out of her league. She was gleeful at the funds rolling in, and foolishly thought she could continue to get away with the same type of scamming indefinitely. She was even in contact with Star magazine for another feature. Who knows? Maybe she even thought she could lose the weight, go legit, and make it work. However, her newfound success soon began to cave in on her.Once thousands of new members hit the site and began trying to understand and apply the diet, the pressure was too heavy and all the cracks in the foundation soon began to appear. Without the personal mentoring and reinterpretation of the diets that new members had received before, the flaws and gaps in Heidi's business soon became very evident. Many of those coming in with fresh eyes clearly saw the disparity between what was promised and what was delivered. Many clearly saw the dangers of the diet plans, all of them. Of the 40,000 or more who joined, most never even tried the diet once they actually saw it, and many who did try it did not stick with it long. Meanwhile, all the massive attention the diet was receiving reignited the souldering controversy that she thought she had left behind at LCF. However, Heidi did have two things working in her favor: the misplaced support of people like me who encouraged new members to stick with it, and the absolute sheer desperation of overweight people who had almost given up hope. For my own blindness and supporting role in it, I am sick-to-my-stomach sorry, and beg forgiveness.
At this time, Heidi seemed manic with delight over the income rolling in, and eager to spin off new ventures - more magazine and media features, merchandise, and related enterprises like the nutrition business she offered me. She could hardly be bothered with member support or complaints, and brushed off all concerns as something irrelevant, hardly worthy of her attention, even as worrisome side effects and evidences of her dishonesty mounted. Thus, the round of emails I pressed on her, with the results that we admins began to leave and express our concerns and experiences.
Our exits and warnings further precipitated a rash of blockings and bannings, as other members took up the banner and began speaking out. The business of Kimkins is now woefully in breech of the terms of their agreement with their members, who paid for lifetime membership in a healthy and safe diet followed by a woman who lost 198 lbs in 11 months and maintained it, only to be booted without warning when they complained that the diet was unsafe and the owner's story was a lie. Members have had 'privileges' like private messaging and blog links in their signatures revoked, have been flamed and harangued mercilessly for any hint of breaking ranks,and have been banned without warning, redress, or refund on the vaguest pretext of 'violation of Terms of Service', which, like the diet plans and disclaimers, are an ever-moving target, conveniently changed after the fact.
Kimmer had it all --- a million dollar website, a great staff, great member loyalty, and great future prospects. And due to great greed, arrogance, and dishonesty she threw it away.
Kimmer is now behaving like a rat backed into a corner, biting and snarling, while looking for a way of to escape unscathed. She is starting to meltdown, trying to cover her tracks and salvage what she can, leaving more of the running of things in the hands of unqualified admins. Perhaps she still thinks she can pull it off, or perhaps she is making her exit plans. As she continues to overestimate herself and underestimate her opponents, she will find, once again, that she has made a grave mistake in waiting too long.
Kimmer is a dangerous fraud, and the business of Kimkins is a dangerous fraud.
Both need to be stopped, and the sooner, the better.
Posted by Becky at 2:10 PM
Please visit Becky's blog @ http://winningweight.blogspot.com/ to also read Part 1 of The Perfect Storm.