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I had to spend an entire day at the Seattle-Tacoma airport last week.  Not my choice, really, but we had to fly my daughter’s best friend out there to catch her flight home to Ohio, and were stuck there until our return flight home.

It wasn’t too terrible, though.  Sea-Tac is nice airport: it’s clean and well-appointed, with a ton of cafes and stores.  So after Nick and I got Ashley onto her flight, we went window shopping, rode the trains to the outer terminals and back, and otherwise spent the time chatting.  At one point, we hit Tully’s for a couple of lattes, and sat at the bar against the back of the cafe…it was a good place to put our feet up and do some people watching as we sipped our drinks.

While we sat there, we renewed a previous conversation about genetics, then segued into developmental toxicology.  Just as we stood up to go, however, a heavyset, middle-aged woman who had been sitting a few feet away, rose to intercept us.

“Excuse me,” she said, “but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation…I believe you mentioned ‘cancer’?  Do you know someone with cancer?”

I explained that – no – we were talking strictly about science.  She looked a bit disappointed, but pressed on.  She handed me a business card and a small, plastic sample packet of pills.

“Have you ever heard of Mannatech?”  she asked me. 

I really had to bite my tongue on that one.  “Yes,” I responded, “I’m QUITE FAMILIAR” with Mannatech.”

She obviously didn’t pick up on the hard stress I put on the words “quite familiar.”  She continued with her pitch: about how her sister had cancer, but was taking Mannatech supplements, and “doing very well.”

The implication, of course, was that Mannatech was responsible.  Riiiiiiiigght…

For those of you who aren’t familar with Mannatech, here’s some relatively recent news about the company that’ll tell you all you need to know:

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Texas Attorney General Charges Mannatech With Unlawful, Misleading Sales Practices

Illegal scheme markets supplements as cure for cancer, improved health

DALLAS – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today charged Coppell-based Mannatech, Inc., its owner, Samuel L. Caster, and several related entities with operating an illegal marketing scheme in violation of state law. Today’s enforcement action stems from a large-scale investigation by state authorities, who examined Mannatech’s dubious claims about the health benefits of its products.

Documents filed in Travis County district court reveal Mannatech’s scheme to exploit families, including those challenged by cancer, Down’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis and other serious illnesses. According to investigators, exaggerated claims about the therapeutic benefits of Mannatech’s dietary supplements and nutritional products were unlawfully used to increase sales. The attorney general’s enforcement action asserts that Mannatech’s deceptive practices pose a health risk to seriously-ill consumers who may forgo traditional medical attention because of the company’s false claims.

Her pitch wasn’t quite as bad as the stuff described here, but lord knows – it came right up to the line.  She was utterly oblivious to the legal – and moral - implications of what she was doing…obviously a true believer (people caught up in multi-level marketing rackets often are).

At any rate, the conversation died pretty quickly: I wasn’t interested in a confrontation, but wasn’t particularly agreeable either: my responses were short and blunt: “I have access to all the information I need.”  As she walked away, I had to laugh at Nick – who was gobsmacked by the irony of such a badly out-of-shape woman, approaching ME (of all people!), to hustle a ”miracle” health supplement.

What can I say?  Some people are just clueless.