Pearl Party Pooper

I’ll admit it, I am a pearl party pooper. Pearl parties are the latest craze to hit Facebook and I can’t stand them! Fake is written all over these videos and I’m here to tell you how to protect your wallets and avoid disappointment. Now if you’re still a little confused, check out the video below:

NO LONGER LIVE PEARL PARTY!! Oysters $10Pendants $15 +Games $10+Grab bags $20, $45 and $65FAST shipping!FREE fun!!

Posted by Stacia Lyn on Monday, 19 February 2018

The latest money making scheme has arrived and is swarming Facebook feeds. Hours of live stream videos are posted daily displaying women popping open oysters to find a pearly surprise inside.  The party host and viewers ‘oohhh’ and ‘ahhh’ over the colour, size and shape of the pearl.

Likes, shares and comments flood these videos as they catch the attention of thousands of curious visitors and buyers.  This scheme has taken full advantage of Facebook live and has transformed them into a booming new niche of online commerce. These pearl parties follow a basic formula:

  1.    The party host begins a live video waiting for people to purchase an oyster.
  2.    Viewers are encouraged to make a purchase of an oyster and jewellery for the pearl to be set in.
  3.    Orders come through and customers get to watch their oyster being opened live, revealing the pearls that they will receive.
  4.    The pearls are then shipped to the customers in the jewellery of their choice.

Sounds fun, right? Traditionally, pearls have always been extremely expensive and precious. They are naturally occurring in the ocean, found in less than one in every 10 000 wild oysters, and take years to form. After watching these live videos, pearls had suddenly lost their shimmering iridescence, lustre and value in my eyes.  How are these pearl parties getting them in such unusual colours, cheap prices, and large quantities? Something about these videos yells SCAM! The further I explored into the background of these mysterious parties, I discovered that they were nothing but a con, deceiving thousands of viewers.  

The oysters are about the only genuine part of these videos; fake remarks, fake smiles, and fake valuations all round. The oysters are purchased at wholesale prices and are recycled from pearl cultivators in China. The pearls are commercially harvested freshwater pearls lacking in value and are shoved inside an Akoya pearl oyster.

The pearls formed in these kinds of oysters can be extremely expensive and are a type of saltwater cultured pearl. The freshwater pearl after being shoved in a saltwater pearl mollusc is then submerged in a chemical brine, vacuum sealed and shipped, ready to rip off thousands of vulnerable consumers. What is most unethical about this business is the party host’s delusional valuation of the pearls worth. Charts are used to explain the pearl’s price suggesting that there is a standard way to value the product based on size and colour.

Did I mention that this method is based on data compiled by the National Pearl Association? Seems legit, right? Guess what…… this organisation is completely made up and does not even exist!  Jeremy Shepherd, the marketing director of the Cultured Pearl Association, has been working in the pearl industry for over 20 years. He believes that anyone can give value to a pearl because there are no set values.

“With gold, for example, we know how much down to a penny what it’s worth. With pearls there are no standards. It’s worth only what someone will pay for it.” 

To Jeremy Shepherd, pearl parties are harmless fun, but he does feel the misrepresentation of the pearl’s value is immoral.

“It’s when you say you got a $100 pearl when in reality it’s a cheaper pearl — that’s when you get in that area that is a bit on the unethical side.”

Pearl parties charge anywhere from $20-$80 per oyster. With such a high cost, you would assume you would be receiving a quality product… nope….. certainly not! It didn’t take me long to find a supplier of these deceitful treasure troves. These oysters with large pearls inside sell for as little as $0.99 on eBay from wholesalers in China. 

The pearls are artificially dyed and are worth less than a dollar, with many not even having value at all!

So why are people falling for this ongoing swindle?

The live pearl parties draw viewers in using a carnival sideshow effect with the allure of winning a huge prize. Every purchase is a gamble as viewers patiently wait to see what pearl pops out from their mollusc. It seems that a recurring theme is for the host to squeal with excitement EVERYTIME after opening an oyster proclaiming that the recipient has cracked open a rare pearl.

These parties also incorporate games , where viewers pay a set fee to roll a die, spin a wheel or open a lucky dip draw determining how many oysters they are entitled to open. Besides breaking gaming licensing laws in multiple countries, these games are part of the scam disguising the fact customers are paying in excess for worthless pearls.

Under the Interactive Gambling Act of Australia offences include:

  • Providing an interactive gambling service to the customer throughout the country.
  • Providing unlicensed regulated interactive gambling service to customers.
  • Providing an Australian-based interactive gambling service to the customer in designated countries.

These offences are applicable to all interactive gambling providers, based or owned in Australia and offshore. Attempts to address risks associated with online gambling have faced multiple challenges over the recent years, involving policy and legislative power. Pearl parties using gambling techniques are constantly breaking the law and are overlooked due to the ambiguous nature of the business.

A recent study conducted on gambling motivations has concluded that consumers are driven by the social aspect, excitement, challenge and reward. Despite the fact pearl parties are an online based business, comments constantly inundate these videos while users interact with each other from the comfort of their own home.

Excitement and challenge tempt viewers as they aim for a rare pearl.

Pearl party visitors are similarly addicted to the suspense, adrenalin and anticipation of seeing what pearl they’re going to get. When purchasing earrings, two pearls obviously need to be a match, encouraging the customer to spend more. It has been compared to playing a slot machine…. playing until the perfect combination and colours appear.  

According to Psychologists addiction hijacks the brain by exerting a controlling power over the individual in three key ways. These include continuing involvement with the practice despite being aware of the consequences, a lack of self-control and a craving to participate in the act. The brain craves the pleasure that comes from the reward by releasing dopamine (the stuff that makes you feel good).

Every single day consumers make certain choices in the pursuit of pleasure – to feel good because feeling good is also rewarding. When this happens a range of chemical messengers are released in many parts of the brain including dopamine. Dopamine release sends messages to the brain of when something rewarding will be achieved, distinguishes how rewarding it will be and encourages us to seek more rewarding things. It’s an ongoing cycle which keeps individuals drawn in and constantly wanting more.

In this case, consumers thrive from the opening of the oyster and seeing what reward is inside. Is it a rare one? Is it high in value?  Is it what I wanted? So many question flood the brain causing a rush of adrenaline as their worthless pearl pops out of the mollusc.

Medical consultant from Florida, Dede Siebenaler found herself addicted to the parties buying more than $4000 worth of jewellery in just a few weeks.

Describing it ‘like a drug,’ Siebenaler explained that,

“It just draws you in. You just have to do it. Once you’re drawn in and you start opening oysters, you’re sucked right into it … I wanted to see what colour pearl was going to be next.”

According to research, drug users often turn to elicit substances to relax, have fun, socialise cope with problems, escape life or dull emotional and physical pain.  There is a strong link between impulsivity and dopamine where increased impulsivity leads to a surge in dopamine concentrations. This is concerningly similar to the recount of many party attendees including Siebenaler and why they find joy in the activity.

Lies, deceit and trickery are certainly the themes of this new wave of pearl party gaming.  Why participate, when you are guaranteed that there will be no winners other than the company?

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