Thursday, 12 November 2009

life skills for sale

i'm a reasonably religious person, and as i've mentioned here before, my religion is an important source of strength and guidance for me. i know this is true for many people, who belong to any number of faiths or belief systems. when times are particularly difficult, people tend to turn to prayer and spiritual guidance as a source of support. it's at these times that they are most vulnerable.

and there are plenty of people out there willing to exploit that state of mind. organisations like this though, seem a little sinister to me. i really don't know anything much about this particular organisation that i stumbled across recently, and i'm sure there are plenty others like it. they may actually provide much-needed support to some people. but my goodness, this one is expensive. very expensive, and it's money that may be coming from people who really can't afford it.

i came across this testimonial, which is admittedly only one person's experience, but it doesn't sound nice:

The first 'Induction' session took place on the Friday night. Here we were asked to sign a 'discipline' sheet. This requested a commitment on what drink and food we consumed during the course, the taking of unprescribed medicines was not allowed and certain behaviours and speech during the training was requested. When questioned about the relevance of these requests the course leaders asked those opposed to stand with a microphone to verbalise their concerns. If they were unable to 'persuade' the individual to sign they stated that they would have to leave the training without refund (as a refund was only available after attending the full programme). So the choice was taken away from people and if there were to be a chance of requesting a refund they HAD to sign the disciplines.

an interesting question for me, is what should you do when you come across a person who has been drawn into something like this? of course i accept that people are responsible for their own actions, and should be free to spend their own money in any way they wish. on the other hand, i don't think it's right that any organisation should be exploiting people who may be particularly vulnerable and in need of support.

i'm not sure what regulations we have around organisations like this. do they have to abide by any "truth-in-advertising" type requirements? which body would you complain to if you felt that you weren't getting your money's worth? or if you felt that someone you knew was being exploited? an organisation claiming to sell you life skills, well how would you measure the success of that?

it seems to me that there is a gap here. after all, most people who sell goods and services have to abide by fair trading laws like the sale of goods act, or are regulated by professional bodies like the medical council. this organisation is also selling a service, and it's consumers should be protected just like all other consumers are.

1 comment:

Trouble said...

Where do you draw the line, with respect to religion, though? Applying a rational test to the promises of faith quickly leads to absurdity - do you get your money back if you don't get resurrected or reborn after death, to take it to its most ridiculous extent? Money back guarantees on prayers? Faith is faith because it isn't subject to hard proof.

I'm not sure it's easy to define a bright line between exploiting and comforting people in hard times, and I wouldn't want the job of trying to do so. Other than telling people if it quacks like a duck (ie, asks for lots of money) it probably is a duck/scam, I don't think there's an answer.