Before starting this investigation, I was told that in order for counselors to meet their sales goals and cash-in on commissions, I would be given the hard sell. I expected to be emotionally manipulated, and was warned that anything I told my weight loss "partners" would be used to get me to buy into their products.
Most of their clients -- who do not have the same information that I had prior to signing up -- do not expect that manipulation. In fact, what hundreds of other clients say they didn't know before starting the diet is precisely what Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna found in two separate investigations.
In his state, McKenna said that LA Weight Loss Centers "were engaged in a classic bait and switch scam," and that they deceptively advertised a low-priced diet only to pad the price by selling clients hundreds, even thousands of dollars in bars, supplements and shakes.
Furthermore, he says counselors in Washington State made phony claims to push their products, going as far as to say that "it was like liposuction in a bottle." LA Weight Loss Centers admitted no wrong-doing, but agreed to pay a settlement close to one million dollars.
"20/20" interviewed close to 20 former employees of the company, who say they are not surprised. In fact, some say this is normal practice.
In order to meet sales goals and sell more products, the former counselors say they were trained to prey on the emotions of clients. These counselors, many from different centers, say that the mantra that was instilled in them during training sessions was "If they cry, they will buy."
In a statement issued to "20/20," LA Weight Loss Centers claim that the phrase "'If they cry, they will buy,' is disgusting and offensive" and that to their knowledge, "it has never been used at any time in any training or training manual," but ex-employees insist that the company's statement is simply untrue. Ex-employees say that they were trained to use personal issues revealed during "counseling" to help sell exclusive products.
LA Weight Loss claims that professional counselors who provide knowledge and guidance are the most important part of its program, but none of the five counselors "20/20" brought to New York for an interview were dieticians or nutritionists.
Of the eight counselors I met and questioned, only one implied a medical background -- and she was still in school, training to become a registered nurse.
In a letter written in response to inquiries by ABC News, LA Weight Loss Centers say many of its counselors have "college backgrounds" but also acknowledge that some have not even completed high school. In essence, other than the company's limited training program, there is no educational requirement for counselors.
L.A. Weight Loss Centers told us that they are honest and fair and that they have hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers. But my experience was enough for me. I didn't follow the diet, and I dumped the program before trying to lose a pound.