How A Church Aimed To Sell Itself
Evening Argus (Brighton), Wednesday 30 March 1994, pages 4-5
In the third part of his special investigation into the Church of Scientology, chief reporter PAUL BRACCHI reveals the true cost of one man's involvement with the cult. [A small picture of Mr. Bracci is shown, as on previous days.]
HARD SELL... two words synonymous with door-to-door salesman, second hand car dealers, and estate agents.
Two words you would definitely not expect to find in the vocabulary of any religion.
But this is not any religion. It is Scientology.
Today, we expose the hard sell tactics which have helped turn the organisation into a thriving business - and resulted in one impressionable young man handing over 22,000 in ONE MONTH.
Science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard was once quoted as saying in the Forties: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous.
"The best way to make a million would be to start a religion."
Scientology, which has its UK headquarters in East Grinstead, has claimed a membership of more than 300,000 in Britain.
In Sussex, there are Dianetics centres - the first step on the path to Scientology - in London Road, Brighton, and in Station Approach, Chichester.
They sell books and offer a range of "life-improvement" courses.
The aim: to get the public inside.
Staff with clipboards target people in the street with a "Be-Do-Have" survey.
The questions are always the same:
- "If you could be anything what would you most like to be?"
- "If you could change or improve anything about yourself what would you most like to change or improve?"
- "If you could have anything what would you most like to have?"
Then you will be invited to "come this way." Most people say no. But some say yes.
Documents obtained by the Evening Argus show just why the people asking the questions should not be underestimated.
They reveal how staff have been:
EXTENSIVELY drilled in high pressure sales techniques.
GIVEN cash bonuses to sell more.
SENT a reference pack called The Hard Sell.
Peter Mansell, director of public affairs at Saint Hill, said: "Let's just assume, hypothetically, that Scientology is not a bad thing. Let's say it's quite a useful subject.
"Let's say in a world where people don't understand themselves, don't understand spirituality. In a world like that, if you have something that offers a way out, wouldn't you want to tell people?
"And if it's not the best thin in the world, all you have to do is -- don't do it."
Perhpas Mr Mansell should read one of his own sales manual.
One of the things which has been drummed into sales staff is: "You should never ask the public individual to decide.
"YOU DECIDE FOR HIM."
Jon (not his real name) knows only too well what that means today.
But he didn't two years ago.
The date was January 28, 1992, the day he "decided to visit the Dianetics centre in Poole, Dorset."
Jon, then 24, had already read one of Hubbard's books and now he wanted to find out more.
The smiling faces inside were only too happy to oblige.
He was given a chair to fill in the cult's standard 200-question personality test.
Jon, who had just split up with his girlfriend, did badly. He needed help. He needed Dianetics counselling. And he also needed something else -- his wallet. The young farmer's son promptly paid 196 in cash for a 12-hour programme which began immediately.
That was just the beginning.
Over the next 36 days his building society account was drained to pay for more courses. He even handed over his passbook and gave permission for a member of staff at the centre to draw cheques on his behalf.
Jon said: "It is hard to believe now that I did this. But at the time I would have done anything she asked."
These are the gaping holes which appeared in his building society book:
Jan 30 -- £2,139.
Feb 10 -- £5,365.
Feb 20 -- £8,000.
Feb 26 -- £2,820.
The final payment of £2,600 was made on March 5, just 36 days after he had set foot inside the Dianetics centre.
The grand total: £21,120.
The bulk of that money was a family inheritance, which Jon had set aside for the deposit on a house purchase.
The last three withdrawals, totalling £13,240, were made by one of the women who worked in the cult office.
---------------------------------------------------------------------- Withdrawals from Jon's building society account book date cashier office details withdrawals receipts balance BROUGHT FORWARD 1 10FEB92 JS 242/D2 22073.63 2 10FEB92 JS 242/D2 REPAID 5365.50 16708.13 3 20FEB92 DH 242/D2 REPAID 8000.00 8708.13 4 26FEB92 AMB 609/F3 REPAID 2820.00 5888.13 5 3MAR92 242 BANK CREDIT 500.00 6388.13 6 5MAR92 SO 623/G3 NET INT 40.76 40.76 6388.13 7 5MAR92 SO 623/G3 REPAID 2600.00 3788.13 ----------------------------------------------------------------------
Jon said: "I was becoming totally dependent on the centre. I felt I could trust nobody outside, even my family. Every time I saw something at the centre I did not like, I just ignored it. I would not question it."
[Three pictures are shown. The first is a building of about five stories, captioned: " The Dianetics Centre in London Road, Brighton." In a second picture one man is showing the other out at the end of a fence in front of a building, titled: "DURING our investigation into Scientology a number of its representatitves called at our head office yesterday demanding to meet the editor for a second time that day. When he refused, one man, pictured below, had to be escorted from our premises." A third picture shows a woman with whitish hair: "Sheila Chaleff, the organisation's public affairs director, picture above, left a note for the editor saying: 'I must say I was surprised to find three security guards posted to keep me out of your building as I felt that by the tenor of your conversation earlier that you were interested in giving public a chance to have input into a story and also right of reply.'"]
In 1984, High Court judge Mr Justice Latey had this to say:
"Scientology . . . is dangerous because it is out to capture people, especially children and impressionable young people, and indoctrinate and brainwash them so that they become the unquestioning captives and tools of the cult withdrawn from ordinary thought, living, and relationships with others."
Finally, with the love and support of his family, Jon did leave.
Then he took legal action to try to recover his money.
In a letter to the cult's solicitors, his barrister wrote: "By parting with his money, he lost the opportunity to buy a property. By succumbing to the teaching of Scientology he almost lost his mind."
The cult offered to pay up in monthly installments. Jon was not satisfied. He finally received a cheque for nearly the full amount in an out-of-court settlement eight months later.
Mr Mansell admitted: "I don't really know the full details but to be honest I think it sounds like somebody didn't exactly deal with him the way they should have or something like that."
But he added: "I've talked to people who have been in Scientology for ten years who have spent X number of thousands of dollars or pounds and they say 'If you were to say to me I can have it all back right now in gold bullion and I have to revert to how I was when I started in Scientology, there is no way the money even compares with the value of what they have received."
The Hard Sell:
The centre in Poole, which accepted Jon's money, was singled out for praise in the cult, the Evening Argus has learned.
It was a "supreme" example of how to get "floods of new people into your mission".
The office also covers the Chichester area.
An internal report, dated April 1 1993, tells how each week the sales team:
Sells between 200 and 300 Hubbard books.
Starts 40 to 50 new people on courses.
Distributes 200,000 "pieces of promo" in the area.
And any member of staff who sold 15 books one day got a "large cash bonus".
The sales team was thoroughly drilled on ways of getting the public to part with its money.
Example: Staff were told: "One thing that works is to have the person read the information given on the back cover of the Dianetics book ... the person is then gotten to purchase the book on the spot, paying either by cash or credit card."
The customer's name, address, and telephone number were taken and a date fixed for another appointment.
One of the main recommendations in the 12-page report is strai&ht from the mouth of L. Ron Hubbard himself: "Make sure that lots of bodies move through the shop, no matter whether they're spending or not.
"Just work all the time to move lots of bodies through the place."
Other training drills were listed in a document from the Hubbard Communications Office at Saint Hill in the Eighties.
Drill: "To train the student to get the prospect (public) in a receptive, positive frame of mind so he will further agree with what he is told."
Drill: "To train the student to handle sales resistance in the home with more than one person present."
Drill: "To Train a registrar (sales staff) to completely handle the prospect (public) so he will pay for a service now."
Drill: "To train the student, after having stripped the prospect (public) of initial sales resistance, to put the prospect (public) in a position of deciding to buy."
Practical exercises to help staff achieve, all these aims are detailed in the report.
This is what Jon was not told when he stepped through the door of the Dianetics centre.
Nor was he told about the final drill on the last page of the guide.
Here the student is taught to set up a microphone or another 'bugging' device secretly to record sales interviews.
Tapes are then played to the "supervisor" who decides whether his "pupil" needs further training.
It is a technique used widely in marketing and selling.
But there is one difference.
Scientologists are not selling adverts or double glazing.
Mr Mansell said: "I've seen people literally have their lives completely and totally dragged Out of the depths of degradation by Scientology."
Jon was not one of them.
Now happily married, he said: "I went from being a reasonably happy, open sort of person to an almost suicide case, Mentally and emotionally, I was a complete wreck after it."
He had just one message: "Don't get involved. Don't even talk to them. Learn by mistakes."
[Picture of Hubbard behind a desk]
Top: Ron Hubbard, pictured by the Evening Argus at East Grinstead in December, 1959
[Reproduction of image from The Scientology Handbook, illustrating a Scientology technique.] [Front cover of The Scientology Handbook]
Left: A demonstration of the cult's healing technique, as. It appears in the handbook, above