Today, I’m going to do a quick review of Equinox International (now defunct). Please keep in mind I have never been affiliated with this company.
A Brief History of Equinox International
Equinox International was founded in 1991 by Bill Gouldd. Its headquarters was located in Las Vegas, Nevada. The company took off like a rocket ship, right from the start. In 1996, it was listed on the INC 500 list as the # 1 fastest growing privately held company in the United States. The company specialized in air and water filtration items and also had some other products as well.
On August 3, 1999 a lawsuit claimed that Equinox International:
- Was an illegal pyramid scheme
- Made deceptive earnings claims
- Violated state securities laws
- Violated Deceptive trade practice laws
- Made False advertising laws
- Violated pyramid laws
- Violated licensing requirement laws
Eight states to include Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia, along with the FTC, filed charges against Equinox International.
In 2000, the company was forced to shut down its operations and pay $40 million in restitution to its distributors. The settlement banned Mr. Gouldd from ever participating in network marketing again, for the rest of his life, and it forced the company to dissolve and liquidate its assets. In addition, he also had to dissolve Advanced Marketing Seminars Inc. and BG Management Inc, and some personal assets. The company was officially closed in 2001.
Source: FTC website
Lessons We Can Learn from Equinox International
First off, my heart is with anyone who joined this company and had a bad experience. While some people made enormous gobs of money, other people were intentionally scammed.
Hopefully, people reading this article can learn something from this story. There are three valuable lessons I can share with you that should be of help.
# 1: Companies must police their distributors
Whether we like it or not, companies in our industry are responsible for the actions of their distributors. From what I have read online, lots of high earning Equinox International reps did some shady things, such as encouraging front-loading, making income claims, and advertising the business as a job. If corporate knew about this (I’m not sure if they did), they should have addressed the issues immediately and “policed” their distributors to prevent it from continuing to happen.
Some reps were encouraged to buy four or five of the $1,000 systems in order to rank advance. This is known as front-loading, and it’s never a good business practice.
Other reps were advertising their business opportunity as a JOB. This is one of my hot buttons. MLM is not a job. It’s a business opportunity. It should only be advertised that way. Promoting your business as a job is not only stupid, it is unethical.
Even worse, many reps made income claims and promised fast and easy money. As a result, it was often promoted as a “get rich quick thing” or investment. Furthermore, many reps did not share an average earnings disclosure with their prospects. This led to broken promises and unrealistic expectations.
My takeaway from this is that ALL reps in a company should read the company’s terms and conditions and follow them AND the company should enforce its rules to ALL reps, so things don’t get out of hand.
# 2: Training should be free or low cost
One of the biggest claims against Equinox International was the expensive training. Some people say that Equinox International only existed to sell the expensive training that Mr. Gouldd sold through his other businesses.
I have been told there was some free training available, but most of the training sessions were $300 to $2500 to attend. I cannot validate that, but it comes up over and over again online.
I don’t think charging for company training is unethical in our industry, but I do think it is stupid. I believe all companies in our industry should offer training, but should not profit from it. If they do their training right, it will lead to more product sales, which is a win-win for the company and the reps.
The same thing holds true with distributors. They shouldn’t profit from training their team via courses, tools or admission fees. They should train their team, so their team can go out and make more sales and recruit more reps. If they do have to charge a fee, it should be a small fee to cover the cost of the training and venue, but shouldn’t be a significant income source for the reps.
# 3: Do Your Homework & Trust Your Instincts
The last lesson we can learn from Equinox International is that consumers and business prospects should always do their homework and trust their instincts. Rather than jumping in with both feet because you are excited and pumped up, you need to take your time, do your homework and be informed. Research the company you are considering. Research the owners. Interview a few people. Do your due diligence so you can collect the facts and make an informed decision.
Yes, you could do those things and still get burned or lose money, but the odds of that happening are substantially smaller than if you just jump in without educating yourself first.
In conclusion, this is all I know about Equinox International. I am by no means an expert about the company. If you spent any time in the company, as an employee, customer or rep, I would love to hear your story. I would love if you can answer any of the following things:
- What were your favorite products?
- What type of training seminars did you attend and how much did they cost?
- What was your overall experience like with the company?
Just leave a comment below to share your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you. Have a great day.
20+ Year Network Marketing Professional
Top Earner & Top Recruiter
P.S. Learn how to grow a successful network marketing business. Secret tips, training, and practical ideas. Free training delivered by email.
28 thoughts on “Equinox International: A Complete Review”
You can find this kind of whining from past distributors of any mlm out there that you can name. The network marketing industry has helped many average folks earn an additional stream of income and even changed the lives of those who put the work in. But many people have failed. Because it isn’t job and you have to actively work your business and be trained. Learning a new set of skills takes time and most people won’t commitment the time to learn or they are just unwilling to be taught. Yes, some people get started and have some immediate success but they still have to put the work in. Just because you invest in some product and sit in on a training doesn’t cut it. People have been groomed to get a job and as long as they show up and put in some minimal effort, they receive a weekly check. But guess what? Many people have started a business, may it be a coffee shop, landscape business, restaurant, etc. and it has failed. Those folks took a risk and lost their money. I worked with Equinox for 3 1/2 yrs and LOVED it. Some of the best times! Those trainings people are putting down were packed full of great information that have served me my entire life. Funny, no one bats an eye at dropping $40K for a year of college but will whine about investing in themselves to attend a training. Was Bill Gould perfect…Far from it! Did things happen that shouldn’t have…Absolutely! But you have to give him credit. He brought together a product line that was so far a head of it’s time and an amazing training company. He grew that company in lightening speed and changed mindset of countless folks who went out and became immensely successful because of their experience with the products and trainings. At the end of the day, it’s a professional arena, and people get started as amateur’s, with unrealistic expectations.
Don’t want to rehash my 4 years of full time work trying to make this scam work. I lost everything I worked for in my life.
What I do need help with is if anyone remembers the name of that environmental song that Kenny Loggins sang on the recruiting video that was played in the briefings?? I cannot remember and desperately need to know…any help Is appreciated
I had a great experience with Equinox but I never really bought any inventory to sell. I tried selling it & only a few people loved the products as much as I did. I would still buy products if they were available. The shower filter was the best! My friend’s that were more invested in the company invited me to “the pitch” I didn’t really have a job at the time so I couldn’t buy inventory but I was into filtered water & all natural products so I bought stuff for myself. I went to the big Vegas kick off event but don’t really remember spending too much to attend. Maybe my higher ups paid for me. I had fun, loved the products.
*** Here’s an email I received from one of our readers.****
Thanks for your article
My sister was “inducted” into Equinox and followed them for about a year, losing all her financial assets and estranging her from our family and other means of support.
On my mother’s pleading, I read Stephen Hassan’s “Combating Cult Mind Control” and recognized Bill Gouldd’s practices as the same cult practices of the Moonies, originally developed by the Korean CIA. Implementing the practices I learned reading the book, I was able to “exit council” my sister from “the business” as they called it. Outsiders referred to it as “the cult”.
It’s true that followers dumped their money into weekend meetings all over the world, packed a dozen people into hotel rooms, and paid very high rates for “training” which were actually cleverly crafted indoctrinations convincing people how to block their feelings (of frustration that this might not be working), reject their families (who might try to get them out of this), and lie to people in order to bring them in.
Thanks for your article documenting the rise… and a little of the fall of Equinox and Gouldd. I’m curious what’s ultimately happened to Gouldd… what’s he doing now?
First of all, nobody claimed that a Basic Building Blocks seminar was $2500, it was stated that trainings ranged from $300 – $2500. The BBB trainings were “only” $300, but there was an annual week long training that was touted as the “end-all” of trainings and all the top producers promoted this training and really pushed to get everyone to go…and this training was absolutely $2500. I know because I jumped on that bandwagon too like a sheep being herded, not asking any questions, etc. The funny thing was I really never felt like we were ever really learning anything concrete, it was just a platform for Bill Gouldd to charge money to stand up on a stage and tell everyone stories of how he made his money and got where he is, and if we paid attention and worked really hard, one day we might be fortunate enough to “get where he got.”
Second, yes you were allowed to purchase $5000 worth of product. I did just that thinking that I would be able to get everyone as excited about the products as I was. The one thing I am not is a salesperson. I can tell you how great the products were, and the products were fantastic, from the water and air filters to the herbal supplements as well as the hair and skin products. The one free training that was offered was the Product Seminar where all the manufacturers of all the products came to teach you about each and every product, from how it was made, the materials or the ingredients used, why the products were so good and the proof to back their claims. I loved that seminar because I learned all the facts about all the products I was going to venture out to sell. Unfortunately, I later learned that according to Bill Gouldd, “facts tell, stories sell.”
I didn’t make any money at Equinox International. I was looking for a job fresh out of graduate school and I too answered the ad for a manager position and thought I was going to a job interview. But it really wasn’t all the rah-rah stuff that really got me hooked, it was seeing the tap water turn dark yellow after a couple of drops of OTO (a chemical that tests the level of chlorine in your water) and then seeing the little travel water filter yield almost totally chlorine free tap water when filtered with the travel water filter. I immediately bought a shower filter and to this day it is by far and away the best shower filter I have ever used!! It is a shame that the top producers and Bill Gouldd couldn’t get out of their own way and let these great products continue being sold to the public. These were products truly ahead of their time…
I was about 26. Ex-military. I was a network engineer, and hated it. I was also a fitness enthusiast and I saw opportunity as way to essentiall “start my own health products company.” Boy was I wrong.
But let me start at the beginning.
As I said, I was making very good money as a network engineer. But, I was working ridiculous hours and pretty burnt out. I was looking for a “job” and came came across an ad for a “Manager” position (Yes, they advertised it as a “job.”). I called the number and spoke to a very nice lady who suggested I come “Interview” one evening that week.
I went to the interview, all dressed up. Turn out, it was more of a “meeting” as has been described here. There were a dozen or so “regulars” all hosting “candidates” like myself. It was a semi-professional work environment, with desks all laid out in an open floor plan. As I look back now, I see how “low cost” it all was.
But, I sat through the meeting and met with my host/manager. She vaguely described the company and the products. I was naive and at this point, I still believe this was a legitimate job opportunity. I thought that I’d get “hired” as a manager, and have people working under me. But, of course, as with any company, I needed to buy products to sell.
I went home and sat on the “opportunity” for a couple of weeks.
Here’s what got me: I was scrolling through the TV one evening and I happened to stop on a televangelist for a moment. I grew up in a very religious background and while I wasn’t still much of a practitioner, old habits die hard. Just as I stopped, the preacher said, “I’m sensing someone out there tonight is facing a hard decision that you can’t make up your mind about.” (REAL generic right?) He said, “The Lord wants me to tell you to take that leap of faith. Step out and put your trust in God.”
Two days later, I called my would-be manager and asked what would happen if I “took the job” and bought a bunch of products and decided it wasn’t for me. She said they would buy back the products, no questions asked.
I quit my job and went full in on Equinox. I put $5K on my credit card, “rented” a desk and bought suits because the VP of the office (what a crock!) wanted everyone in a suit and in the office every day. Of course she did. She was making a killing off what we were paying her to “rent” a desk so we could sit there all day and hope someone called our newspaper ad.
A few weeks went by and I’d sold nothing. The Vegas rally came around and my direct manager basically told me I had to go. So, a few of us all carpooled out to Vegas; stayed in a terrible hotel (because we were all broke) and attended the Equinox rah-rah session. It was underwhelming.
A couple of months went by. I’d gotten a couple of people to come to meetings, but apparently they were smarter than me because they stopped returning my calls. My girlfriend at the time (God bless her–she’s my wife now) bought my stuff to keep my morale up.
By this time my personal savings was gone. I’d cashed in what little 401K I had to pay my personal rent and expenses and I was nearly tapped out. My “managers” didn’t care about me anymore. They lived in another State anyway and had stopped coming to visit me and “training” me after Vegas.
I finally wised up and quit Equinox. I called my manager, who tried to talk me out of it. I asked her how to get a refund on my unsold product. She told me I had to talk to my local office VP. I tried calling her, but she wouldn’t answer my calls. I went into the office to clean my locker out and speak with her–she was never there.
I finally decided it wasn’t worth it and walked away. I was luckily able to get a contract job a couple of months later when I was literally on my last thousand dollars for my mortgage.
I was young and stupid, but this company was absolutely the worst-case scenario for MLMs.
Thanks for sharing your story with Equinox International. What a horrible experience. I’m sorry things turned out that way for you.
I’m glad you were able to find a new job as a contractor and get your life back in order, in a relatively short amount of time. Companies like this give our industry a bad name.
I think Equinox provided great personal growth training. Bill Gouldd is a great snake oil salesman, but still I saw people grow and do great things. I think if he wasn’t so crooked he could have really continued to grow people personally and financially, but oh well he is one smooth talking shyster.
Sadly, many CEOs in our industry are out of touch. Most are good, but some do significant damage to our industry, either out of greed or ignorance.
Normally, it’s the CEOs with experience in the field as a distributor that do the best. But, there are exceptions.
Sadly, one bad CEO can ruin it for many, many people in our industry. They say good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster.
I had the unfortunate experience for working for Equinox as an Inventory Control Manager at their Las Vegas Distribution Center in 1998. I knew very little about the company having just moved to Las Vegas from Indiana.
When we set up conveyor lines in the warehouse to literally erase the expiration dates on the bottoms of the bottles the product was packaged in, so later expiration dates could be stamped on them, thus increasing their shelf-life, I knew to run away as fast as I could.
Not to mention that their Equinox branded nutritional bars were being returned from the Boys and Girls clubs of America, because the product had turned green and was truly inedible.
Suffice to say, I had never experienced this level of deception by a public company before, and never have since.
That is one crazy story, Shane. Had I experienced those things, I too, would have left the company to work somewhere else. From all the things I have been told by my website visitors, the company made many poor decisions, which eventually led to it being shut down. Hopefully, other companies and CEOs can learn from this (what not to do).
I was “recruited” as an 20-year-old by these people at my college. I was told to go to a “corporate overview” after which I would be “hired” if found suitable.”
It was a sales pitch meeting. You had to attend these over and over again like it was some sort of religious obligation. I was young enough, dumb enough and gullible enough to get sucked in.
It cost $1,000 bucks to join unless you could buy your way to being a manager at $5000.There were free training sessions every weekend that didn’t amount to a bucket of spit. And, all through these “trainings”, you were sold the $300 paid training and any number of training tapes and videos, which I remember being pretty expensive.
They tried to get me to do all sorts of shady things that involved lying to people I knew in order to finagle them into joining the pyramid. A mentality of unabashed greed was strongly encouraged in these trainings. You were told to shamelessly bad-mouth competitors products including lying about their effectiveness, lying about how much you made to the point of buying expensive-looking attire and trappings to give off the impression of success (“fake it til you make it”) and to use all sorts of underhanded persuasion tactics to get people to join the business.
I didn’t have the stomach for lots of that stuff and so, I didn’t make a cent. I’m OK with that. Some of the products were good like the personal care stuff and the supplements. The prices were a bit on the high side though.
The filtration systems were always breaking down, did not work for long and overpriced to boot. As for did “Mr. Bill Gouldd” know? It would not surprise me at all if he did and encouraged the shadiness. I’m quite certain that if he did know, he would’ve gone to great lengths to protect his plausible deniability. That’s just conjecture on my part though, but it would take a lot to convince me that I wasn’t on to something with my conclusions.
Thanks for the great information to update this post. Sorry to hear about your experience with Equinox International. I’m glad you weren’t with the company long, and were able to move forward with your life.
I joined Equinox in 1991, lied to my grandma and asked for 5k to get started. I paid desk rent for 6 months and paid $300-$1,500 for various training seminars. I met Anthony Robbins and lost all my money and credibility with friends and family.
Great products. Horrible lying cheating upline people. Took years to recover. Wish I knew about lawsuit, I would have joined.
Sorry to hear about your story with Equinox International, Chris! Hopefully, you learned something from the bad experience and eventually bounced back. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment.
I got with the company when it was 5 years old. I worked in a direct line to Mr Gouldd at the time. I don’t think he knew what was going on. None of us did.
Comment that they don’t ask for you to invest 5 grand they did a friend of mine did just that. I invested a grand the difference between me and him was I got five other friends to invest a grand. In turn they got their friend involved. Then I met this one lady on a ad I ran in the paper. She brought her whole in and was a instant ex director making me one just as fast and the money was coming in. Then I got into a argument with one of the head people in the office on how things where ran. He said if I didn’t like how things where ran I could leave. After about 6 months of making good money and bringing people in I walked out the front door and never looked back.
They were robbing people. Making us pay for desk space to run adds in the newspaper. Always spending money on trips for training. I will say me and my team shared room and board. And help whomever didn’t have the funds to get trained. I always said if you don’t get paid I don’t. It was a business to me and if I was eating my team was eating. But to be disrespected in front everyone and to be treated like I wasn’t responsible for the success of that office I was good.
I was young only 22 yrs old at the time.
Thanks for the comment Erick. Sorry to hear about your bad experience with Equinox International. Hopefully, you got something positive out the experience and were able to move forward with your life. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
I was a rep with Equinox in 96 & 97! I sold a little, but mostly bought products for myself. I loved the Equinox products for weight loss! I lost 75lbs! The water filters were pretty amazing too. I wish I knew where to find the weight loss products again! I went to a training in Vegas and it was very informative. I never experienced anything negative.
I was recruited in early 1995 into Equinox International. I was told to buy product to sell when I started that I put on my credit card, $1500.00. I didn’t stay long. I was encouraged to quit my job at a chemical company and do equinox full time. My favorite product was the Herbal Chi elixir and and electrolytes for water. They also had a weight loss pill called fast start. A man named Ron Teagarden was the man that hooked up with Bill Gould to come up with the products. Bill Gould was incredibly greedy and got caught. It was all about Bill and the top executives.
I’m glad your experience with Equinox International was positive, and I’m glad you lost 75 lbs during your time with the company.
What was the training in Las Vegas like? Was it good? Was it real training, or mostly just a bunch of motivational stuff?
I was involved with Equinox in mid 1990’s. I went to one training in Vegas that cost $750, plus travel exenses. Big rah rah session. You felt great, but didn’t learn much.
I also was encouraged to buy in at manager level, which was 5k worth of product. The products were fantastic, but priced quite high. My favorite was a breath spray. But it was 10 bucks each.
I learned an expensive lesson not to get involved in an MLM again at a business level. I am involved in one now, but only so I can buy their products at wholesale.
Sorry to hear about your negative experience, Brenda. I can assure that in today’s world most network marketing companies do not do ANY of these things.
I’m glad you at least came back to the industry as a wholesale customer. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
First, a Basic Building Blocks training was never $2500, not sure where you got that info but for a weekend seminar you could expect to pay $300. Free trainings were always offered in the office every weekend.
Second, you weren’t even allowed to purchase $5,000 worth of product. You were only allowed to purchase $1,000 though there were people who placed five $1000 orders to buy their way to manager instead of selling $5,000 worth of product.
Third, most of the leadership in the company were greedy idiots and pushed people to do all kinds of things that went against Equinox’s policies and procedures. Unfortunately, I don’t think Bill Gouldd was paying much attention and the money was rolling in so he never stepped in. It’s sad because the products were top rate and really helped a lot of people.
Clearly, this was YOUR experience. It wasn’t mine. Everything the poster said, to which you’re responding, was true in my local office (suburb of Atlanta).
There was no “free training.” There was no training at all unless you count, “OK, first you need to run ads in the newspaper. You’re running a business, so your ads should encourage people to respond who are looking to start their own business and earn great money” and “You will have to rent a desk and pay to have a phone line installed.”
THAT was the extent of the training.
Wow, that is terrible! I will never understand how people use deception to market their company. Thank you for sharing this information. I think it’s important to educate people about the difference of a reputable company and what to look for when someone is looking to make a change.
One bad company can ruin it for a lot of people. Not only do that company’s reps get hurt, but they go and talk to everyone they know about it (and rightfully so).
Although most of the companies in our industry do the right thing, shady companies hurt the entire industry.
I agree with your assessment. I sometimes think about the trainings and still get a shot of enthusiasm. I didn’t make a dime but the education was a true life experience.