When I walk into a Weight Watchers meeting, the room is already set up. Chairs line the walls, products sit on the back table waiting for my perusal and/or purchase, and the flip chart of the week’s session awaits the appointed hour. In the back the leader and her assistant are already weighing members in, celebrating with those who lose and commiserating with those who gain. They smile and encourage as they efficiently do their jobs. We all know that they are doing jobs, of course. They are paid, as well they should be, but how fair is their pay? I’ve never heard Baxley’s local leaders complain, but a big outcry is sounding across the country among leaders who complain that they make less than minimum wage.
Not all Weight Watcher employees are complaining. I haven’t heard a whisper of discontent from either Jennifer Hudson or Jessica Simpson. Every time I turn on the television, I see one or another of them and they look happy as can be. David Kirchhoff, the company’s chief executive, seems to be pretty pleased with his salary, too. He made $2 million in 2011. However, the company did have a 15.6 % decline in earnings last year, so he may have fallen on hard times.
Weight Watchers International is one of the biggest names in the weight loss industry, and its local leaders run about 50,000 meetings per week across the United States. Granted, it is not a charity or a non-profit organization graciously helping the general public to lose weight, but big business working to make money. And that’s okay. This is American capitalism, of course, and the very basis of our economic system.
Any member who dreams of losing for free soon loses his dream if he continues to attend meetings and shell out weekly fees. Weight Watchers is not cheap, but it does provide a valuable service that many of us are quite willing to pay for. Why then are leaders so poorly paid when they are the most important link in the organization? They are the ones who’ve been where we members are now. They struggled daily to lose weight, and still do because they have to remain at goal weight to be leaders. Keeping weight off after losing it is as difficult as losing it in the first place.
The television commercials with Hudson and Simpson are based on the “if-I-can-do-it, you-can,-too” philosophy, which is illogical at best. The implication is that we’re all alike. Now, I ask you, what do I have in common with these two ladies? We’re all of the female persuasion and have weight problems. Commonalities stop there. They say the program works for everybody, and it does if the members can manage to work the program. There’s no magic involved. The local leaders provide support and encouragement to real people like me in the real world that I live in. These leaders work in the community at their day jobs beside their members during the week and compare weight loss notes as the week progresses. They are available. They are our friends and neighbors. What do I know or care of the celebrities that the Weight Watcher gurus select to advertise their products? I wish them well, as I do anybody who struggles with a weight problem, but that’s it. These commercials would never entice me to join the program.
One critic pointed out that Weight Watcher leaders are really salesmen who are paid a commission on the products they sell. If they want to make more money, they should push harder to sell the products on the back table. I attend the meetings and pay the fees, but I very rarely buy their pricy products. In my opinion, they are highly overpriced. Occasionally when there’s a real sale, I’ll indulge. Leaders don’t make much commission on me and my tightwad cronies.
Every body knows, Weight Watchers, that you have the money. Yours has been named the best weight loss program in the business, and surely you don’t want to lose your good reputation. Think what that might do to sales. Just cut back on celebrities and pay your leaders a fair salary. The world is watching you.