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Old 6th April 2006, 03:19 PM   #1
chillzero
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London Posters - Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

Hi,
I recently mentioned on another thread that Selfridges on Oxford Street in London have employed two 'psychic sisters'. Some of us from the UK sceptics forum have emailed the company about this and received the same form letter back. Which is disappointing.

I have posted my correspondence so far below, but the guy who replied to me is claiming that the in store information is clear on the sisters being there merely for entertainment, and not to advise. Can anyone near London take time to drop into the store and pick up their leaflets, and let us know what they do actually claim?

My first email:
To connect@selfridges.co.uk
06/04/2006 13:50 cc

Subject
Checking the truth of an article

Hi,
Please can you connect me to someone who can respond about an article in
retail week about your London store:
http://www.retail-week.com/nav?page=...source=4622497

The article claims that Selfridges have employed two ‘psychic sisters’ to
work in the Oxford Street branch. Is this true?
If it is true, I wonder if you could enlighten me as to the qualifications
of the chosen employees, and how the qualifications address the issue
raised by Selfridges head of home Dawn Rose, who said: “The arrival of the
Psychic Sisters in Selfridges will be especially welcome by people who have
always wanted to try psychic services but were bewildered by the choice
available and unsure of the quality on offer.” How is this quality
guaranteed?

I also wonder how this action has been gauged legally against the 1951
Fraudulent Mediums Act, which states:
“(2) A person shall not be convicted of an offence under the foregoing
subsection unless it is proved that he acted for reward; and for the
purposes of this section a person shall be deemed to act for reward if any
money is paid, or other valuable thing given, in respect of what he does,
whether to him or to any other person.”
Now the article details that people coming to the store will be charged £40
per session, and I am certain that these two women are being paid a wage,
therefore they are undertaking this job – for reward.

I have many questions and concerns, but if you could put me in touch with
someone appropriate I could raise them appropriately rather than have this
email run too long. An example of my concerns are: how do you define
accuracy? Is there a money back guarantee on failed predictions? How do you
justify using employees of a retail outlet unqualified (it seems – I may be
wrong) in psychology or counseling to address personal issues with people
such as retail therapy (from the article again: “A session with the
psychics will cost £40 and last 40 minutes and can include tarot and
crystal ball readings and help with any issues you may have, including
shopping addiction”)?

I look forward to discussing this with the relevant person, or finding out
that the article is in fact incorrect.
Regards,
**

the reply that we all got

----- Original Message -----
From: **@selfridges.co.uk
To: **
Subject: Fw: Checking the truth of an article
Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2006 16:06:17 +0100

Dear **

Thank you for your email about the Psychic Sisters.

We are confident that this service, which is an entertainment, complies
with all UK legislation. The Psychic Sisters do not offer a counselling
service and they do not advertise themselves as a counselling service. None
of the Psychic Sister's literature available in our store claims to be
assisting individuals who exhibit symptoms of shopping addiction.

I hope this is helpful.

Regards
**
Selfridges Connect

my response to that email

Mr **,

Thank you for responding to my email. However, I don't feel that my questions have been answered.

How is the quality of this service guaranteed? How do you define accuracy? Is there a money back guarantee on failed predictions? How have the sisters been tested to determine their quality or accuracy over that of any other self professed psychics?

You tell me that this is purely for entertainment, however the article I quoted states “A session with the psychics will cost £40 and last 40 minutes and can include tarot and crystal ball readings and help with any issues you may have, including shopping addiction” Is this statement in the article incorrect?

Also, Selfridges head of home Dawn Rose, said: “The arrival of the Psychic Sisters in Selfridges will be especially welcome by people who have always wanted to try psychic services but were bewildered by the choice available and unsure of the quality on offer.” People tend not to seek out psychics for entertainment, but rather for answers to their problems or about their loved ones. This is why I am concerned to get some additional information, because psychics often deal with people at their most vulnerable.

I am still unclear as to why the law would not apply here - your employees claim to be psychic, and give readings for a reward. Perhaps you could forward to me the wording of your publicity for this, as I have been unable to find any information other than this retail magazine which definitely gives the impression that the sisters are in place to offer psychic readings, and to be on hand to assist with people's problems - such as, ironically, shopping addiction.

I look forward to your response,
**
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Old 6th April 2006, 03:26 PM   #2
tkingdoll
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Nice one chillzero, keep chipping away.

I will also write to them, can you just confirm that the legal bit you quoted is saying that it's illegal to accept money for psychic services? I'm a bit confused because I didn't know that was the case.
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Old 6th April 2006, 03:38 PM   #3
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Take a look at the Fraudulent Mediums Act

What do you mean "you've already seen Sylvia's show"?
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Old 6th April 2006, 04:15 PM   #4
tkingdoll
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I'm confused. How can psychics and mediums charge then?

For example, Stephen Holbrook charges £10 a ticket for his show.

There's a quote at the foot on that link that says "For those mediums who care about this Act I believe that the scam to avoid prosection is to charge for the hire of your room but give the sitting for free."

But that doesn't seem to be widely practiced.
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Old 6th April 2006, 04:29 PM   #5
Jon.
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
I'm confused. How can psychics and mediums charge then?

For example, Stephen Holbrook charges £10 a ticket for his show.

There's a quote at the foot on that link that says "For those mediums who care about this Act I believe that the scam to avoid prosection is to charge for the hire of your room but give the sitting for free."

But that doesn't seem to be widely practiced.
The out is in subsection (5):

Quote:
(5) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall apply to anything done solely for the purpose of entertainment
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Old 6th April 2006, 04:34 PM   #6
tkingdoll
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Originally Posted by Jon. View Post
The out is in subsection (5):
So do they need to have disclaimers on their ads and stuff?
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Old 6th April 2006, 04:44 PM   #7
tkingdoll
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OK, here's my email to them. You may not like my use of religion as ammunition, but I say nothing that isn't factual, and if the objective is for them to cease offering this service then they've got to see an economic reason for doing so. Sometimes you gotta fight woo with woo, sadly.

I deliberatly avoided using the same tone, arguments (largely) or terminology from your email, chillzero, as I don't want them to discover our emails are related at this stage. I was going for 'pompous middle-aged indignant wealthy customer', I hope that comes across. I am, of course, not wealthy

Dear Selfridges Management,

I was recently alarmed to read an article in Retail Week that states you will be offering the services of psychics in your Oxford Street store. I am a regular customer in that store, and as such would like to bring to your attention several points of interest in the hope that you will reconsider your decision.

Firstly, you should be aware that there is precisely zero evidence that such a thing as psychic powers exist. However, the not-so-mystical skill of cold-reading is well documented and the effects can be reproduced by almost anyone with good observation skills. Magicians like Derren Brown demonstrate this to good effect, and far from claiming paranormal abilities, go to great lengths to ensure the public are not mislead into believing the 'reading' is anything but a parlour trick. As it is nothing but a parlour trick, I'm sure you will agree that it is unethical to offer this service under the guise of genuine paranormal ability.

Secondly, by offering such a service, you are (perhaps unwittingly) sending a message to your customers that you support fraudulent and potentially emotionally damaging activity - people are drawn to mediums and psychics because they are emotionally vulnerable and, in a nutshell, will always hear what they are looking for (anything with a price tag of £40 is bound to be comforting, even if it's mere lip service). You do your customers a disservice by taking their money for this activity, because you cannot prove or even vaguely guarantee the accuracy or truth of the readings, and most certainly cannot offer proof that the psychics you employ have any supernatural or paranormal abilities whatsoever.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly for yourselves from an economic point of view, you may be aware that most religions, and certainly all of the major ones, consider mediums and psychics to be genuine, but blasphemous - "tools of the devil", so to speak. Whilst I myself am not religious, I am concerned that a major retail outlet would wish to potentially offend millions of people who find "speaking to the dead", tarot readings, and fortune-telling to be an insult to their beliefs.

I sincerely hope you will reconsider your position on this, as I would like my confidence in your usually excellent taste re-established.

Yours sincerely,

etc

Last edited by tkingdoll; 6th April 2006 at 04:49 PM.
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Old 7th April 2006, 06:40 AM   #8
phaedra
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I've been doing my bit too. Not happy with the standard evasive response I tackled them again on all the areas they had omitted to address. Here's the reply,

Dear *******

I am sorry, Selfridges has made its stance clear on this matter and does
not wish to be drawn into further correspondence. Your comments have been
noted and will be included in our monthly reporting to the business.

Thank you for taking the time to correspond.

Regards

*****
Selfridges Connect


A pretty standard shut up. Needless to say I'm now requesting an update of the outcome of the monthly report.

Anyone have a copy of the Psychic Sisters literature that the spokesman referred to in the first response?
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Old 7th April 2006, 08:47 AM   #9
tkingdoll
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At least you got a reply. I haven't heard a peep from them today, how rude.

Still, they must be a little concerned as they've had at least 3 complaints already. And there will be more coming, oh yes there will.

Personally I think the blasphemy angle will scare 'em the most. That's certainly the angle I'm going to use when I go to the press with this.
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Old 7th April 2006, 09:02 AM   #10
John Jackson
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I've sent them an email asking them what they think this is doing for their corporate image.

They're an upmarket company that's now dabbling in sleaze.

Just thought I'd try another angle as everyone else has covered the issue regarding the psychics so well.
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Old 7th April 2006, 09:08 AM   #11
tkingdoll
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Originally Posted by John Jackson View Post
I've sent them an email asking them what they think this is doing for their corporate image.

They're an upmarket company that's now dabbling in sleaze.

Just thought I'd try another angle as everyone else has covered the issue regarding the psychics so well.
Yeah! This is great stuff, and that is an excellent point. I hope they are listening, although, as I said in the other thread, I suspect that someone at the top is a bigtime woo and kickstarted this whole thing because of his/her (a quid says it's 'her') own use of mediums.

I was thinking about this whole thing today, and although I would prefer that the world was woo-free, I don't think I'd have such an issue with this if they weren't charging. I'd certainly be more willing to let it go.
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Old 7th April 2006, 09:15 AM   #12
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While you're all emailing and sending letters and stuff could you also ask them if they sell fridges?

B'dum tssshhhhh....
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Old 7th April 2006, 09:21 AM   #13
brodski
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
So do they need to have disclaimers on their ads and stuff?
Possibly, but I think the most pertinent section is s.4
"(4) No proceedings for an offence under this section shall be, brought in England or Wales except by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions." It's just not going to happen.
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Old 7th April 2006, 10:25 AM   #14
chillzero
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Originally Posted by phaedra View Post
I've been doing my bit too. Not happy with the standard evasive response I tackled them again on all the areas they had omitted to address. Here's the reply,

Dear *******

I am sorry, Selfridges has made its stance clear on this matter and does
not wish to be drawn into further correspondence. Your comments have been
noted and will be included in our monthly reporting to the business.

Thank you for taking the time to correspond.

Regards

*****
Selfridges Connect


A pretty standard shut up. Needless to say I'm now requesting an update of the outcome of the monthly report.

Anyone have a copy of the Psychic Sisters literature that the spokesman referred to in the first response?
I got the exact same response, and so did at least one other poster from the uk forum. This really infuriates me. I never thought about requesting the monthly report - I will maybe do that too.

Teek- thanks for changing the wording slightly - I was a bit down to realise that I had highlighted the same information in mye email as another poster and worried that this would allow them to shrug it all off as a small group - or individual person - trying to just yank their chain. Same goes to John.

I would still like to know what the in store literature says, so hopefully someone here will be in London over the weekend, and can get back to us on that.
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Old 7th April 2006, 10:38 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by chillzero View Post
I would still like to know what the in store literature says, so hopefully someone here will be in London over the weekend, and can get back to us on that.
Dam it!! I was in Oxord Street today.
I will go in tomorrow morning to check this out for you. Is there any details on the web site about times and location within the store, Selfridges is a big place, and my credability (what little remains) refuses to allow me to ask a stranger for "the way to the 'psychic sisters' "

Last edited by Zendal Darkman; 7th April 2006 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 7th April 2006, 03:04 PM   #16
chillzero
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Originally Posted by ,but does it work? View Post
Dam it!! I was in Oxord Street today.
I will go in tomorrow morning to check this out for you. Is there any details on the web site about times and location within the store, Selfridges is a big place, and my credability (what little remains) refuses to allow me to ask a stranger for "the way to the 'psychic sisters' "
All I know is that it's the Oxford Street branch. Sorry.

And thanks for looking into it.
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Old 7th April 2006, 06:40 PM   #17
Kelly
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Good work on this Chillzero, all.

Chipping away at the bull, one step at a time.......
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Old 8th April 2006, 03:59 AM   #18
Zendal Darkman
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Originally Posted by chillzero View Post
All I know is that it's the Oxford Street branch. Sorry.

And thanks for looking into it.
Got the leaflets and a few photos (although the camera failed and by the time I fixed it, the staff were already calling security!, so the photos may be blurry).

the photos were of crystals and stuff, and not of anyone (some people behind the counter were Selfridges staff and it may have worried them that some stranger was taking their photo)

There were lots of disapproving tuts from the queue as the staff were continually telling me “not to take photos, sir" (and ringing security) and I was doing my best to stop them coming over.

Would like to say I was thrown out (because it sounds good), but I made a quick exist before security arrived.

There were four "leaflets" and guess what? Not one mentions entertainment.

Initially I listened to some speal from the psychics (or their representatives) and it was the usual junk about energy from crystals (.....crystals they just happened to be selling, see the photos).

By the way the sisters are not very well advertised, had to pretend to be as woo like as I could and ask at the information desk. It may be worth noting the woman did raise an "eye brow" when I asked where the “psychics sisters" were, I suspect I (we) may not be the only one who has raised objections about them.

Forgive the spelling, on the bus and have a small screen and even smaller keyboard

Will post the pictures and scanned leaflets as soon as I get home

The 50p crystals were selling for around £40, what a con! You can get them for £25 at Brighton

Last edited by Zendal Darkman; 8th April 2006 at 04:59 AM.
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Old 8th April 2006, 04:54 AM   #19
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leaflet about the psychics (not just the sisters)
page1
page2

Lindy (a psychic sister)
page1
page2

Jayne (a psychic sister)
page1
page2

handout for the "psychic sisters"
mentions Selfridges but no mention of entertainment
(I picked this leaflet up from the counter, I was not given it)

there was also a "postcard" which supposedly you send to a friend or put on a notice board. It advertised the "psychic sisters" for the following:-
"Girls night in"
"hen nights"
"themed psyhcic events"
"raising the dead" (okay, I made this one up)

photos to come
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Old 8th April 2006, 06:16 AM   #20
tkingdoll
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Excellent work, ,But does it work?. (man, your name is hard to get into a sentence without changing the meaning. How do you capitalise a comma??

So far I have received precisely zero response to my email, I can feel a follow-up call coming along.
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Old 8th April 2006, 06:45 AM   #21
John Jackson
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Thanks very much , but does it work.

It looks as if Selfridges' claim that this is all "for entertainment purposes" doesn't quite ring true.

I've had no reply from them either.
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Old 8th April 2006, 06:50 AM   #22
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Brilliant, thank you so much.

Ok, armed with all that I feel an actual, physical, written-on-paper complaint coming up, unless I can find a better email address to use that won't put me back to the unhelpful and stroppy guy we all got so far (not likely - they seem to prefer for people to phone them).

It is quite clear that these are not intended as entertainment pieces, and that they intend to advise people on life and issues. That's disgraceful.
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Old 8th April 2006, 07:14 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
(man, your name is hard to get into a sentence without changing the meaning. How do you capitalise a comma??
..yeah, I realise that now. I feel a new username maybe needed
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Old 8th April 2006, 07:18 AM   #24
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Great work!

Is it possible to make the images larger? I wanted to glance at their brochure, but the print was too small. Thanks.

(not that important in the scheme of things as its merely a curiousity on my part)
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Old 8th April 2006, 07:26 AM   #25
Zendal Darkman
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Originally Posted by KellyJ View Post
Great work!

Is it possible to make the images larger? I wanted to glance at their brochure, but the print was too small. Thanks.

(not that important in the scheme of things as its merely a curiousity on my part)
Hmmm. they are massive on my browser!

For IE users
move the "mouse arrow " AWAY from the image.
wait two seconds

move the "mouse arrow" over the image and wait to see if an icon appears in the lower right. (may take a couple of seconds)

If it does, click on it.
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Old 8th April 2006, 07:32 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by John Jackson View Post
Thanks very much , but does it work.

It looks as if Selfridges' claim that this is all "for entertainment purposes" doesn't quite ring true.

I've had no reply from them either.

It most certainly doesn't John. I recently found another version of reported events which makes even clearer the link between customer shopping choices and psychic services which Selfridges were so keen to deny.

Quote:
Psychic shopping at Selfridges

Department store Selfridges has announced a novel approach to help its customers decide which purchases to plump for - psychic readings.

The Oxford Street branch of the exclusive boutique now includes two resident psychics in its workforce, who shoppers can consult for buying advice........

"Psychics have a valid role in bridging the gap between hunches and religious beliefs," he said.

"Customers looking for an excuse to buy that expensive little black dress can now blame a dear departed relative."
This was from news at viewlondon - sorry I'm not allowed to post urls yet

Am I alone in finding it quite extraordinary that journalists from both Viewlondon and Retail Weekly could have got it so badly wrong or could it be a case or Selfridges running for cover...?

Great work on the leaflets ,but does it work!!
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Old 8th April 2006, 07:34 AM   #27
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Thanks! I forgot about the orange button.
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Old 8th April 2006, 07:45 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by phaedra View Post

This was from news at viewlondon - sorry I'm not allowed to post urls yet
Thanks
Here is the url
http://news.viewlondon.co.uk/Psychic..._17085688.html

the text is very worrying. If this is a first, we had better make sure its the last as well. It may be better going down the Fraudulent Mediums act (as well as writing to Selfridges).

Any contacts or advice we could make use of ?

Last edited by Zendal Darkman; 8th April 2006 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 8th April 2006, 10:08 AM   #29
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Check out the Psychic Sisters web site too (sorry no url from me again. Maybe I should run around gratuitously posting until I'm past the obligatory 15!)

They advertise their Selfridges service here too - still no sign of any 'entertainment' disclaimer there either.
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Old 8th April 2006, 10:59 AM   #30
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Could this be a job for the ASA?

Is there a claim? Is it false? If so the A-team could be to the rescue!

Ahem!

Just remembered that Trading Standards can have a go too!
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Old 8th April 2006, 11:38 AM   #31
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The only person who can prosecute against the fraudulent mediums act is the Director for Public Prosecutions. Perhaps we can bring this to his attention. I shall try and find contact info.

I also think the trade descriptions / fair trade people might be interested.
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Old 8th April 2006, 11:48 AM   #32
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I've sent the ASA a complaint via the website. I think they will have to change their leaflet to add a disclaimer.

If Trading Standards get involved, they may have means of prosecution.

I've also gone to the Rip-Off Tip-off site and dobbed them in there too.
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Old 8th April 2006, 11:56 AM   #33
Zendal Darkman
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I think the ASA would only get involved if the leaflets were actually being handed out or being delivered. Having them on the counter will probably not come under their remit. Of course the leaflets may have been handed out in the street (in the store?????), we just don't know.

Trading standards might be a better bet. The problem is they are slow to look and slow to act. In this case I expect they would be slower still, while they work out if its in their remit to look at it.
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Old 8th April 2006, 12:13 PM   #34
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I sent an email to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), where the office is for the DPP, asking how I should proceed on this matter, so fingers crossed for a decent response. I am also trying to think of the best newspapers to ask to do an article about this, but don't want that backfiring and just providing more custom for them.

Anybody know who the best skeptical journalists are?
(Apart from our own Tony Youens and John Jackson - I want journalists in the mainstream media; even better if they are tabloid writers but that's a really long shot )
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Old 8th April 2006, 12:22 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by chillzero View Post
I sent an email to the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), where the office is for the DPP, asking how I should proceed on this matter, so fingers crossed for a decent response. I am also trying to think of the best newspapers to ask to do an article about this, but don't want that backfiring and just providing more custom for them.
That's the trouble, local newspapers are always on the side of woo, and I'm sure the London Evening Standard wouldn't bother with this. However, I can help you with a press release if you like, I'm in that line of work. They might run a PR if it's already written for them, the least amount of work they have to do, the better.
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Old 8th April 2006, 12:25 PM   #36
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Ben Goldacre may be interested although the issue may be slightly outside his normal area of interest.
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Old 8th April 2006, 12:29 PM   #37
chillzero
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
That's the trouble, local newspapers are always on the side of woo, and I'm sure the London Evening Standard wouldn't bother with this. However, I can help you with a press release if you like, I'm in that line of work. They might run a PR if it's already written for them, the least amount of work they have to do, the better.
Teek, I'll accept any help anyone wants to give.


If you want to write something up, I'll look into the best people to send it to. We can always hope. John - I'll put that name on the list - thanks.
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Old 8th April 2006, 12:36 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by chillzero View Post
Teek, I'll accept any help anyone wants to give.


If you want to write something up, I'll look into the best people to send it to. We can always hope. John - I'll put that name on the list - thanks.
No worries, I'm happy to draft something in the morning if you can wait that long. I have some contacts in the national press from my days at Trinity Mirror, and I've exchanged a few emails with Ben Goldacre on various topics, so that might be an 'in' (or an 'out', depending on how much he liked the skepchick calendar...). He writes for the Guardian, they're probably our best bet anyway - the tabloids will just go the other way.

It's worth doing this before the ASA or Trading Standards have responded, as the angle can be that complaints have been made to those bodies. They will certainly hurry up if they get journalists calling them for comments.
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Old 8th April 2006, 12:50 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by tkingdoll View Post
No worries, I'm happy to draft something in the morning if you can wait that long. I have some contacts in the national press from my days at Trinity Mirror, and I've exchanged a few emails with Ben Goldacre on various topics, so that might be an 'in' (or an 'out', depending on how much he liked the skepchick calendar...). He writes for the Guardian, they're probably our best bet anyway - the tabloids will just go the other way.

It's worth doing this before the ASA or Trading Standards have responded, as the angle can be that complaints have been made to those bodies. They will certainly hurry up if they get journalists calling them for comments.
Perfect,thanks - maybe I should step back as you seem to understand this all better than I do. Whenever you have time for this is fine - I won't be leaning on anyone.

I put in an online complaint to consumer rights - linked to trading standards, and i've run out of ideas for a bit.
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Old 8th April 2006, 01:02 PM   #40
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I can't see a newspaper running a critical item on this, as things stand there is more chance they will write it up as a quirky news item, with interviews from the psychics and Selfridge's, the skeptical view would be no more than a footnote.

Even if it were critical, I would imagine that the next day the letters page will be full of letters from the woos with their personal testimony.

I really don't think newspapers are the way to go, but then again, what do I know.

I will contact trading standards by phone on Monday.
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