Water bottle photo courtesy of iStockphoto/somchaij
How much are you willing to pay for 33 ounces of bottled water? Your answer probably ranges from “About a buck” to “Nothing, asshole, water should be free.” But if you are a true believer in the benefits of Grander Revitalized Water, you’ll be happy to fork over 12.10 euros (about $16) for the privilege of drinking something that literally falls from the sky.
If you buy into the Grander method, the company’s product isn’t just ordinary H20 from Tyrol, Austria, but a cure-all for everything from blisters to gastric disorders to cancer. The pseudoscientific enterprise was started in the 70s by Johann Grander, a gas-station worker who claimed to have invented a process that filters all the bad stuff out of water, leaving only the presumably disease-curing bits. So many people believed in his method that he was able to quit his job and become a full-time new-agey entrepreneur.
Alas, there is no there there—Grander’s miraculous claims have been repeatedly disproven, and in 2005 a new company got hit with a $50,000 “quackery” fine for misleading people about the benefits of Grander Living Water Units, a phony filtration system that the business was peddling for $1,200 to $10,000 apiece.
All that didn’t keep the international retail chain Spar from adding Grander bottles to its shelves in Austria in early October, which has been frustrating for people like Erich Eder, a professor of biology at the University of Vienna. According to Professor Eder, people are willing to pay such a high price for this water because of “misinformation and myths. If something helps you beat cancer, it’s going to cost you. Unfortunately, Grander Revitalized Water doesn’t do any such thing. It’s a complete waste of money.” Eder has been calling bullshit on Grander since 1999, when he wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper labeling the whole Grander concept “esoteric humbug.” Five years later the company (unsuccessfully) sued him for making an inaccurate statement. Even today he’s dealing with legal actions from the litigious water merchants.
“There’s still a pending lawsuit against me from Grander’s then-PR agency, Energetic PR Inc.,” Professor Eder said. “I’ve already won two similar lawsuits… And yet the court battle continues. Obviously, they try to muzzle me by all means.” Despite the professor’s efforts, it seems that there are enough believers to keep Grander in business for a long time, a fact that Eder seems mostly resigned to. “It’s just bottled tap water, and that’s exactly what it should be worth,” he said. “But then again, the most effective placebos are those with the highest price tag.”