Cynical Sales in Scientology

Source: Jyllands-Posten
Date: April 3, 2000

by Pierre Collignon

Professional Danish sales representatives strongly distance themselves from the methods employed by Scientology in selling their message. - It's a cynical, brutal and hard sales method.

They use a technique for asking questions, that is supposed to steer the customer into a position where he cannot say no.

People are pushed into a corner, and their only way of getting out is to say "yes, please", says Dennis Rasmussen, advisor in "Danske Saelgere" - the organization of professional sales people.

Jyllands-Posten has gotten hold of the course materials used by Scientology for training its adherents in recruiting new members, and get them to buy the services of the movement, in the form of books, courses and so-called spiritual counselling.

After reviewing the materials, Dennis Rasmussen concludes that the methods are dishonest and manipulative. - In professional sales work, one should play with open cards and be loyal to the customer. In Scientology, all consideration is put aside in order to sell. They don't care whether or not the customer at all has the need to buy, not even whether or not he can afford it. It's just a matter of getting sales, regardless of if the customer is a drug addict or unemployed. It's very distasteful, says Dennis Rasmussen.

The controversial course materials is the so-called "Hard Sell Pack", which is used for sales training in all parts of the many-branched organization of Scientology. A former sales manager in Scientology tells, that he went through these exercises during weekend courses at the Danish Church of Scientology at Gl. Kongevej in Copenhagen in 1996. At that time, he was the manager of Scientology's division 6, which recruits new people and ensures that they get involved in the course activity.

- In normal sales work, the customer has the possibility to say no, but here he doesn't. You keep going and going, until he gives up. You put the pressure on people, just like in a pyramid scheme, says the former Scientologist, who wishes to remain anonymous.

Hard Sell is a concept developed by the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, who taught that the message of the movement should be spread through any means, since the actual salvation of the world is at stake. Scientology offers a so-called "Bridge to Total Freedom", a long and expensive series of courses, that is said to lead to higher spiritual levels. The sales staff are motivated with a 10 percent commission of the income created when they bring new people into the organization, but Hard Sell is also carried by idealism.

"It's not just about making money. It's a question of getting the public in communication and up the Bridge. Getting people up the Bridge makes the whole difference for the future of this planet, either Total Freedom or a continuing downward spiral, that only leads to eternal suffering and death," says the introduction chapter of the Hard Sell pack.

Here sales managers are instructed on how to use the course materials, and to put pressure on anyone who can't sell, because they are too soft, or refrain from using the assigned methods.

Scientology has applied to become a recognized religious community in Denmark, and an answer is expected within a few weeks from the advisory committee under the Ecclesiastical Ministry. The former sales manager says, however, that the movement has nothing to do with religion. - I thought so at the time, but today I can see that it's nothing but "cool business". For example, if I spoke with a disabled lady, I'd tell her that her condition probably was caused by something bad that she had done in a past life. And then I offered her to buy auditing, where she could clean the bad things out and get better. It's wrong to put pressure on people who are in a position of weakness, says the defected scientologist.

He mentions other typical victims of Scientology's sales attempts: Drug addicts were given the impression, that they would become free from drugs. Second generation immigrants were enticed by the idea of gaining acceptance.

- People with low self esteem were the easiest ones, but it was also possible to get hold of intelligent and self-confident persons. We would ask them if they would like to help others, and tell them that the philosophy of Scientology demanded extensive studies. Thus their taste for learning was sparked, says the former Scientology sales manager.

The movement's PR representative in Denmark, Anette Refstrup, defends the methods.

- It's a major decision for people to take our courses, and do something about their life, and so there is a need to motivate.

I'm happy myself, that there were those who took care of me and got me moving. It's not cars that we're selling. We're offering something that can change people's lives, and lead to a better world, says Anette Refstrup.

She emphasizes that Scientology is to 100 percent financed by 'voluntary' donations.

- In the State Church [Lutheran State Church of Denmark], the billions come rolling in by themselves. We have to fight to survive.

Becuase of this, the aggressive sales methods are a "small but necessary" part of the total activities of Scientology, the PR representative explains.

- We have to make people come in for a course, in order to make them understand Scientology. If we don't make them try it, they will never find out what it is. So we have to train people in how to present things, says Anette Refstrup.

She denies that the methods are manipulative.

- People are only willing to buy our courses because they get something out of them. They are not pressed into buying something that they don't want, says Anette Refstrup.

- It may be that Scientology wants to save the world, but there is no human consideration in the way their message is sold.

It's grotesque, says Dennis Rasmussen.

(Note: According to Catarina Pamnell: since this article was published, the CoS has asked for their application for religious status to be postponed, in order for them to have time "to refute the recent media attacks". The advisory committee has said they will instead deal with other applications, and Scientology's application is now "at the bottom of the drawer".]