This is a nasty scheme making the rounds of the hypnotism community.
It goes like this. Let’s call the company working the con “Beastcorp.”
Beastcorp approaches hypnotists and pitches itself as a service organization. “You just do the hypnotism you trained to do and are good at” they say. “We’ll do all your marketing and advertising. We’ll book the clients, handle the insurance or credit card charges and send the client to you after depositing your fee in your business account by electronic wire transfer.”
Isn’t this a great deal? As a practitioner you never have to do another workshop or public talk. You never had to deal with an insurance company or a credit card merchant. You just show up at your office to do the work you love and you find your appointment book filled and you bank account flush.
Now, as you weren’t born yesterday you ask a few questions. You ask if all of this checks out legally. The reply is reassuring. “Don’t worry,” they say. “We never sanction illegal activity and all our ads are legal.” Cool. It’s almost too good to be true.
Unfortunately, it is too good to be true. At first it seems to work. The clients materialize and the cash shows up in the bank account. Then you actually begin to see the clients.
Hold the phone! These clients are expecting you to do forms of hypnotism that violate the medical or psychological laws where you practice. They expect you to treat drug addictions without a referral. They ask you to “cure” medical problems without a sign-off by their physician. You practice in a state where hypnotism is regulated and you can’t do this without landing in a pot of hot water. So you decline and offer the client his or her money back. The client replies, “I paid a lot more than that!”
That’s when you figure out what’s going on. You see, Beastcorp has been advertising all sorts of services that are illegal for you to do in your home state, but are legal in the Cayman Islands where Beastcorp is incorporated. The people who called in response to the ads were calling a Call Center owned and operated by Beastcorp. They paid with a credit card before they got your name, and they paid a lot. You got only a small percentage of what Beastcorp collected.
So now what do you do? You can obey the law and refuse the client, but the client is going to want a refund and you can’t afford to give them everything they paid out to Beastcorp. For its part Beastcorp refuses to refund the money it collected, because after all, the services advertised are perfectly legal in the Cayman Islands. In fact, a lawyer representing Beastcorp calls to tell you in no uncertain terms that you have a contract with Beastcorp to hypnotize the people Beastcorp sends and that if you refuse Beastcorp can take you to court.
At this point, if you’re smart, you call your lawyer who will tell you that you are legally required to obey the law in your state regardless of what Beastcorp has promised, and that no judge is going to find you at fault for obeying the law. However, Beastcorp is hoping you don’t do that. They figure that you will be intimidated and will do the hypnotism. If you do, they send you a lot more clients on the same basis while they rake in the cash.
Eventually, someone reports you. You show up for work and find a Sheriff there with a Cease and Desist Order. You call Beastcorp and they tell you they never authorized you to break the law. They just were holding you to a contact that is legal in the nation where Beastcorp is incorporated. Then, because Beastcorp “never sanctions illegal activity” and an officer of the law has stated a belief that you have broken the law, they promptly fire you and walk away. You stand there holding the bag. They sign up another sucker.
Now, this isn’t to say that every marketing company or service organization is like Beastcorp, in fact most are not. Some provide good and useful services and are a good option for hypnotists who do not enjoy the challenges and rewards of running a fully independent practice.
However, you need to be careful. My advice to hypnotists who are considering a business relationship like this is to reference widely and deeply to find out what your colleagues think about the company or organization. Call the National Guild of Hypnotists and see if they know anything. Read the fine print in any affiliation agreement and have your lawyer read it too. Always remember that if the deal seems too good to be true it probably is.
In his famous poem “Desiderata,” Max Ehrmann wrote these words, “Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is.” I think that’s really fine advice.