A Cautionary Tale:

Well, naturally I decided to purchase the ad...

The next day my wife, Carol, asked me a couple of questions that, because I had trusted the sales person and let my guard down, I neglected to consider, “Did you check with the country clubs to see if they actually distribute this magazine, and did you check the reputation of the company selling the ads?” - - - Oops – Carol had exposed a serious lapse in critical thinking!

Carol and I spent the next few hours doing research that obviously should have been completed before sending my credit card number to the magazine publisher.  Carol called each of the country clubs and discovered that none of the four had any copies of the magazine available and had not even heard of the specific magazine in which I had signed up to place my ad. 

One country club representative specifically stated that they would never agree to distribute what amounted to unapproved advertising publications, and she was disturbed that the publishing company had used their name without consent in their promotional materials.  My online research on the magazine publishing company discovered a C- rating with the Better Business Bureau and numerous complaints but nothing to indicate the company was actually maliciously fraudulent.

The results of our research convinced me that I had made a poor decision, and although my ad would probably be created and appear in the magazine as promised, it would unlikely ever reach any of the target audience that was described – one country club representative told us that any unsolicited magazines that were delivered were discarded. 

I sent a notice to the publishing company requesting an immediate refund unless they could provide me with names of contacts they had worked with at each of the Denver country clubs and copies of documents that confirmed each country club had agreed to distribute the magazines to their members as described by the sales person.  I received a refund.

Lessons learned –

  • I was fortunate.  Apart from using misleading sales tactics and questionable practices, the company was decent enough to issue a prompt refund.  I easily could have lost several hundred dollars.

  • Never let your guard down.  Always Think Critically.  In this case I just accepted the authority of the sales person because it seemed on the surface like a low cost, low risk, high benefit marketing strategy – and I was lazy;  I just wanted the marketing to happen;  I did not choose to question or dig more deeply into the information that was provided.

  • Those who promote the ideas, products and services that are least beneficial and perhaps the most harmful may be the ones who are most skilled at deception and in their ability to generate trust in their ideas, products or services.  They are also skilled at deflecting critical thinking.

    There were several warning signs I overlooked that should have caused me to seriously investigate the offer before accepting it:

    • The company contacted me - I did not initiate this marketing opportunity.

    • It seemed too good to be true.  There was always a niggling thought as I was talking with the sales person that this opportunity was just a bit to easy and cheap to provide a real benefit - but I was successful in shutting down this thought.

    • The sales person indicated they were anxious to publish and I had a limited window of opportunity before they offered the water filter space to another company.

    • There was no real evidence presented that the magazines were actually enthusiastically distributed by the country clubs as claimed.  No contact information at the Country Clubs was offered

  • When presented with ANY ‘opportunity’ where you are asked to make a decision about an idea, product or service that will influence how you act or believe, ALWAYS:
    • Question the motives of those making the request.

      • It is a given that anyone trying to sell you on an idea, product or service has their own goals and motives.

      • If the individual (or organization they represent) is transparent and reputable, their goals and motives should align with yours, and both parties will benefit if you decide to accept the ideas, products or services offered.

      • If the individual (or organization they represent) is not completely transparent or reputable, only one party will benefit if you decide to accept the ideas, products or services offered – and it will not be you.

    • Research thoroughly the individual (or organization they represent) to ensure they are transparent and reputable.
    • Research thoroughly the ideas, products or services that are promoted.  Ensure that there is sufficient high-quality evidence to support all specific claims made are accurate.  Some individuals may sincerely believe in the ideas, products or services they are trying to promote even though there is no reliable evidence of a real benefit – this is often the result of someone believing the personal experiences (uncontrolled testimonials) of others without going through their own process of critical thinking.

  • Even after a poor decision has been made, if you are fortunate, there may be an opportunity to reconsider and change the decision and outcome – so, always continue to Think Critically.