Get paid to lose weight? Are Weight Loss Grant Program ads too good to be true?
Ross McLaughlin and Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Monday, April 30, 2018 6:00AM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 10, 2018 12:35PM PDT
You may have heard the Weight Loss Grant Program ads on the radio and television. The commercials say if you have more than 20 pounds to lose, you could qualify for a weight loss grant worth up to $2,500.
While it sounds enticing, people have been asking the McLaughlin on Your Side team if there’s a catch, so we looked into it further and found rules and restrictions that may make it difficult to collect.
Ray Brendzy and his wife Christine signed up for the program back in November.
“We said, ‘Well, here’s another motivating factor [to lose weight],’” said Ray.
They decided to use the Ideal Protein diet and Ray says he lost 60 pounds. Christine says she dropped 30 pounds.
“We were happy we lost weight. We were happy with Ideal Protein but we were not happy with the weight loss grant program," said Christine.
“We thought we followed the rules,” added Ray.
The couple weighed in, committed to lose the amount of weight and picked the Ideal Protein diet provided by their local pharmacy. By doing so, they thought they were eligible to get 20 per cent of their money back. They sent their receipts in every week and they were told the receipts were being added to their file.
“I think we’re eligible for about $400 each,” explained Ray.
But when they tried to collect, Ray says they were told they hadn’t followed the rules properly. He says the company behind the grants program said they needed to provide invoices and not receipts.
“The fact that they’re calling them grants is a bit misleading,” said Evan Kelly with the Better Business Bureau, “You’re not getting any money up front to go spend as you see fit.”
The BBB has received three complaints about the company behind the program. It has an ‘F’ rating for failing to respond to two of those complaints.
And when the Brendzys called the company, they had trouble getting answers from the program manager.
“We’ve actually been trying to contact her for over three weeks,” said Christine on the phone speaking with the company.
“There are applicants who have been trying to contact her for about two months,” responded the person on the phone.
But when McLaughlin on Your Side contacted the company, it responded quickly. It told CTV News that invoices with names listing the products and services protect against fraud and if proper documents are filed, the claims are paid within two weeks. There’s no cost to apply.
The Brendzys say they’ve been told they can't weigh out to prove they lost the weight until they provide invoices.
"It's on TV, it's on the radio, it's everywhere, and we just thought that people should know it's not so easy," said Christine.
McLaughlin on Your Side also reached out to Pharmasave, which administered their weight loss program. It offered to help provide more documentation and to turn their receipts into invoices. After several back and forth emails and further documentation the company was satisfied that the Brendzys had indeed completed the program and had provided legitimate receipts for expenses.
More than a month later, the couple received their cheques, totaling around $750 or about 20 per cent of the cost of their weight loss program.
“No one wanted to talk to us until you got involved and when you got involved things started happening,” said Ray, “We lost the weight so this was just the bonus.”
The Weight Loss Grant Program is a for profit company that gets referral fees from accredited providers. If you use one of those providers you can get up to 80 per cent back. But in order to get compensation in any amount from the program you need to agree to write a thank you letter to the company and along with a photo and permission to publish it. The Brendzys agreed to both.
Weight Loss Grant Program says it hands out about $3 million. Because these aren't government grants we have no independent way to verify that.