Thursday, February 14, 2013

Still the Center of popular discontent.

Faithful readers will know that the Midwest Center has been the focus of two previous posts (see here and here) along with a backlash from its defenders that struck me as suspiciously well organized. I decided it's time for an update because the Center continues its inglorious tradition of generating complaints about unauthorized charges to consumers' credit cards, refunds that are all but impossible to obtain, and so forth. I've included a few representative links below. Notice that in most cases these are relatively new complaints. I mention that because last time around, the Center claimed to have cleaned up its act after the "unintentional" "administrative snafus" that prompted the initial spate of protests.

Ripoff Report.
Several complaints filed under Scambook.
There's also this from (Starting to sense a trend here?)
A particularly pungent putdown from 2009.
And a blog with a delicious title.

It's fair to assume some overlap among the foregoing grievances, inasmuch as angry people—especially angry anxious people—will take the blunderbuss approach to airing their outrage. Still, the common thread connecting the complaints is hard to miss. One has to wonder how many other people suffered similar treatment and just didn't bother to document their experiences online. Maybe in addition to being depressed and/or anxious, they now felt stupid besides.

In any case, seldom will you see a more patent statement of the practice that represents my core complaint against modern self-help: its tendency to build a business model out of taking advantage of people in distress. (The lords of this wing of SHAMland remind me of the conscienceless gougers who double gas prices in the wake of some natural disaster.) And in most cases these self-styled gurus are selling armchair nostrums that have never been formally validated in the first place.

Following is the text of two emails I received last month. The author included her name and phone number, but I am protecting her identity. For the most part, the only edits are where I translated from text-speak (e.g. "u r") and cleaned up obvious typos.

First, on January 1 (Happy New Year), she wrote:

I read your blog about this thing, can't call it a person... Lucinda on Shamblog. I ordered her program which was a huge mistake and didn't get everything and I tried cancelling 3 times and they say no we're giving you an extension. I transcribed every call from the first. I finally cancelled successfully today. They were so nice when I ordered and psychos when I canceled today stating that I will never recover from my PTSD. [ED. NOTE: And she may not soon recover from her interactions with the Center, either.] They also charged my debit card without permission. Two days after I ordered and gave them permission to take $14.95 off my card I called to check my balance and there was an outstanding charge that I never authorized for a lot more than $14.95. When I called and said I was going to report this they said oh it was an accident, the lady who took your order must have misunderstood. They tried even charging me for supplements I said I didn't want.... She needs to be stopped. 
On January 25 the adventure continued:
I had 29 missed calls today, 11 yesterday. And 9 the day before that. I called them and said why are you calling me. The guy said "We are trying to reach you about charges to your card being declined." I said "I owe you people nothing." I sent it back with a confirmation and I still have the confirmation and I am charging the company for harassment and calling the BBB. I'm not the one to screw with... I know the attorney general and I am calling first thing Monday.... I have logged word for word, dates, times and names, every time I talked to those freaks. Then they try calling me 29 times in a less than 3 hour time period today. Shit. They are ridiculous!!
Meanwhile, Center founder Lucinda Bassett—far from being "stopped" (or even chastened)—has figured out how to capitalize on her professionally inconvenient family tragedy, husband David's suicide.* She has parlayed it into a brand-building/franchise-extending book titled Truth Be Told: a Memoir of Success, Suicide, and Survival, due out March 5. We wonder, will she (a) once again rewrite history, or will she (b) hew somewhat closer to the story of the real Cindy Redick. That is, the Cindy Redick who was born in February 1956 to Roy and Kay Redick of Central Ave in Findlay, Ohio, and who, we're told, grew up longing to be one of the Solid Gold Dancers (see vid above)...the Cindy Redick who did not strike those closest to her as especially deprived or depressed even though she never thought she was quite pretty enough (and therefore got that first nose job while still in high school)...the Cindy who cavorted and caroused with friends Sally, Elaine, Beverly and then DJ...the Cindy who experienced a starter marriage (which she seems to have forgotten) to a handsome dude who resembled Barry Gibb...the Cindy who went to modeling school and bought a Porsche (around the same time she obtained a student loan)...the Cindy who later hooked up with grocery scion David Bassett in some bar in Toledo (his big nose kinda bugged her, but his big wallet evidently didn't)...and who married Bassett and moved to Malibu, where she covered the walls of their ritzy home with glamor shots of herself...

This time around, will we hear more from Cindy about the loving, fun-loving father that others remember (i.e., the one who went out of his way to help strangers, and who put on impromptu little vaudeville shows that had people in stitches), or will Cindy cling to the sad caricature she sketched in earlier remembrances? Will we hear more about Cindy's own, not just the familiar depression and anxiety, but the ones that made her treat others so shabbily?

And those are just the more superficial facts. There will be more to come, in due course.

* There have been a number of serious family tragedies, including at least one other suicide/suspicious death, making me wonder if there's indeed some chronic dysfunction at the core in the families Bassett/Redick. Odd choices to be teaching mental health to the rest of us, perhaps?


Jenny said...

It's good to see this, Steve, and I wonder why people have not commented on it. The topic of suicide is, of course, a delicate one. We had a death in the family last week (my mother's 94-year-old husband, after a long illness and an injury) and a situation came up that has caused me to wonder about what is really behind people's motivations when it comes to talking about the suicide of a family member. I learned that another family member was offended by a newspaper publisher's query into a suicide victim in my mother's husband's family. The publisher had known and respected my mother's husband for many years. Why does he want to know about the suicide, this family member asked. What is he going to do with the details of it? She didn't want to talk to him about it without knowing his intent.

On a related note, I attended an interesting symposium recently on "erasing the stigma" of mental illness. It was initiated by the city mayor and supported by the main newspaper and PBS station.

Anonymous said...

Steve, what's the point of your obsession with Lucinda. Are you a bitter "ex"? I don't consider her story to be a "sham," you may believe so, but I don't. Nor do I believe that she is cashing in on her husband's death by writing this book. Have you even read her memoir, yet?

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, I'm not sure that one person's account of her life story carries anywhere near as much weight as the criticisms of that person by others who know her reasonably well. (If you were writing YOUR autobiography, wouldn't you spin your life in a way that leaves the reader on your side?) Also, I wouldn't care about Cindy at all as a person if her major life's work, the Center, hadn't long ago drifted into the category of "where there's smoke there's fire." You're telling me that all these people who voice similar complaints (about impossible return policies, unauthorized credit card charges, warmed-over material, etc.) are making it up? Cindy strikes me as a shining example of a phenomenon that is all too common in modern self-help, and very much a proper topic for this blog: someone who enriches herself at the expense of vulnerable people.