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What I Learned Working at The Vitamin Shoppe™

Ahh yes, the good old Vitamin Shoppe, a.k.a, GNC’s biggest competitor. Yep, I was one of those schmucks (who just quit today actually) who’s job it was to sell you on ridiculously overpriced supplements; 95% of which were absolute jokes.

GNC

Yeah, I realize that this article isn’t one of my usual science-based reads, per se, BUT, I believe that this article is still very important in giving you the information to decide how to make the right choices when it comes to supplements. Let’s dive in…

They Only Care About the Numbers

Vitamin Shoppe’s mission statement reads:

“At The Vitamin Shoppe, we promote and inspire health and wellness. We will achieve recognized pre-eminence in specialty retailing and earn trust and strong brand loyalty through: Dedicated and knowledgeable associates who are proud of their work.”

Excuse my French, but I call bullshit on this one.

Let’s break this down a bit.

Knowledgeable

This makes me laugh so hard. There is NO FORMAL TRAINING to get hired here. None. Zero. Zilch.

Sure, we technically attend “Vitamin Shoppe University” (VSU) to receive virtual training’s on particular products. But these barely scratch the surface. And plus, they are more for training on selling the product than actually demonstrating how they work.

Dedicated

The only dedication shown here is to make that monthly bonus and get the hell out of the door. In all honesty, retail is a tough business. Working with all sorts of individuals from the public can be quite interesting to put it lightly.

Sure, there are a few outliers who are nice and appreciative of your efforts. However, many will talk on the phone as you process their order with absolutely no eye contact. They’ll be rude to you and call you a dumbass for something that’s the corporations fault, not your own. They’ll get into a screaming match with you just because they didn’t read the fine print underneath that coupon they brought in with them.

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Because of this, sometimes you just want to get the customer out of there. Not saying that you don’t care about the customer or their needs, but the lack of respect in this retail business can sometimes make you lose faith in humanity.

Trust

Alright, last one I promise. How can you TRUST someone who’s JOB is to SELL you supplements so that they can make more money off of you?

Sure, the customer is looking for a pre-workout. But maybe they could also use a BCAA supplement (which you know is one of the most pointless supplements out there if you read my past article BCAA’s: The Biggest Scam in the Supplement Industry

How about creatine? But not just plain, old effective creatine monohydrate. How about something that costs 3x as much for less actual product from a name brand, AND IT’S FLAVORED LIKE GUMMY BEARS!?

This is what they teach you to do. To sell “one more item.” We got asked by our managers if we asked the customer if they were interested in “one more item.” Also, did we offer them auto-delivery (a subscribe-and-save based service)? The company literally shoved this up our asses. Go to any Vitamin Shoppe, and they’ll most likely ask you if you’d be interested in signing up for Auto-Delivery. They want a commitment. Even if it’s for something you don’t need.

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Most of the Supplements are Pointless

More than 90% of the supplements in this store, you don’t need. They usually don’t work or have very minimal effects. Unless you have some glaring deficiencies in particular vitamins or nutrients that need addressing (such as Vitamin D, which is quite common in the U.S), then you don’t need most of it.

For review, here’s a quick list of what CAN benefit most of my readers from a store like this:

  • Protein Powders and Bars
  • Pre-Workout
  • Creatine
  • Citrulline
  • Arginine
  • Caffeine
  • Any vitamins or minerals you believe are deficient in or have been told to take by your doctor

If you think I missed anything, please let me know in the comments!

Forget the test boosters and fat burners. Test boosters have not been proven to work in any significant degree in non hypo-gonadal males (within the normal testosterone range for males). Fat burners are basically glorified caffeine and yohimbine powders and capsules with other random, ineffective ingredients thrown in there to make one impressive label, but one overly-expensive stimulant

There are many more that I could go over, but there are simply too many to count!

Why Stores Like This Are Failing

The online market has taken over, that’s why. Places like Amazon and Bodybuilding.com have changed the game for the health and fitness industry. You can simply go online and do research about the product before buying, without being hassled by some sales guy getting paid to spew bullshit in your face about how a test booster will get you jacked af.

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I get it though. Some people like to actually have a discussion with a person about the choices that they should make. The problem here is that customers often believe the person working behind the counter is an “expert”, when they most certainly aren’t.

Take me for example, I nearly have my Masters Degree in Exercise & Nutrition Science, but to this day still couldn’t tell you the benefits of Vitamin E serum for your skin. You know why? Because I’m not trained in that area. None of us who work there are. But people would look to me for help, and I felt really bad because I simply didn’t know the answer.

This leads to a lot of misinformation. For example, when a customer asked one of my co-workers how CLA burns fat (which has never been proven in humans), he said it accelerates the fat burning process. But HOW? You might ask. Not that the customer needs a super complex physiological answer, but some explanation would work wonders for the customer’s decision making process.

 

Bottom Line

Let’s face it. The Vitamin Shoppe is a company. And it needs to make money. I understand. This goes for all companies in this sector too. Not just Vitamin Shoppe.

However, a line needs to be drawn. In order for this to happen, I think you should stick to online ordering. Or, if you’re really dead-set on going into a store to buy your supplements. Please, RESEARCH BEFORE YOU BUY. Thanks to the age in which we live, you have millions of different resources to access information on any given topic. Plus, you could always just ask me 😉

Working here has taught me a lot. I never want to work in a place like that ever again. At times, I felt quite dishonest when talking to customers, even though I tried my best to steer them in the right direction. Many times, I told people flat-out NOT to buy something, because I knew it simply would be a waste of money and an addition of frustration for them, even if it meant me not gaining as much money at the end of the month. My goal in all of this is to educate you all to make the best decisions possible for your goals, and I stick by that promise.

If you have any thoughts, comments, or questions, please don’t hesitate to run them by me in the comments section below! Thanks!

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zachmacdonald

Boston-born bodybuilder currently residing in the beautiful city of Tampa, Florida in pursuit of a Master's Degree in Exercise & Nutrition Science. Competitive NPC Classic Physique athlete with a passion for strength training, health, well-being, and the science that makes it all possible. I want to sift through all of the B.S that's out there to provide you with the best information possible for you to achieve YOUR goals, whatever they may be. Human physiology is an amazing thing, let's find out what the human body is capable of!

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