Sole Trader Therapists Beware…

Be very careful what you say “maybe” to as it could be considered to be a contract!

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by a small local newspaper to do an advert. In amongst everything else going on, it wasn’t something that was on my radar and yet I didn’t want to completely dismiss it as in a few weeks time, I would have my therapy room up and running again and it might be useful.  I hadn’t been reading my emails properly for some time and my inbox was full of unanswered, unread mail that I just didn’t have time to get to!

I did a half hearted response, to get rid of them more than anything else and asked them when it was needed by but made it clear that I was too busy to do anything immediately.  Now as somebody who often calls people to find out if they’d like to buy something, if I had a response like this and was then subsequently told that they were unwell with a serious illness like pneumonia, I would say never mind, hope you get better soon and I’ll be in touch again in the future.  I would most definitely not keep phoning them and hassling to see if I could help them make up their mind.  That is what I call being a pushy salesperson.

Well they were persistent and it would appear that my hesitant interest was taken to be a definite yes! So not really being aware of the wheels that were turning in the background, I get a call on Monday while I was still feeling decidedly unwell to ask if I was ready for the photographer to turn up to take a photo?  I was struggling to get out of bed for the toilet, so my head wasn’t functioning well enough to know that what I should have said the previous week is an emphatic “NO” I’m not interested right now..  I agreed that it would be ok for them to go to my website and use the photograph of me there, together with some of the copy from my website which they could use to make a 1/4 page editorial.  In my confused and slightly naive state, I hadn’t registered that what they were doing wasn’t something that was genuinely helping me – it was driven by a desire to fill their paper with an advert and make some money!

Yesterday I received the shoddiest piece of editorial turn up in my inbox with information that had been lifted from my website (which I am wanting to do some serious reworking on) full of mixed tenses and a confusion of 1st/3rd pronouns. At this point I am beginning to feel a bit more lucid and realised that I really didn’t want this printed in a free newspaper that I myself rarely read, because it’s full of really uninteresting copy and gets shoved through my door on a weekly basis for free and usually ends up in the recycling as it isn’t even any use for lighting the fire!
I therefore wrote an email this time making it very clear that I wouldn’t be going ahead with the advert and received a response which implied that it was now too late and I would have to go ahead with it as it had already gone through and if I wanted to edit anything, I needed to do so immediately and to provide my credit card details for the payment of £99!  Well having been duped by some rather immoral behaviour by a much larger national newspaper in the past with syndication of a publication into another, I felt almost sick with indignity!  How could they possibly get away with this – it felt very threatening.  Up until this point I had not parted with money nor been asked to pay for this “service” that had already been provided.
I then went onto the internet to find the relevant organisation to ask if they could help me to proceed.  I called the Independent Press Standards Association – no we can’t help you, try the Advertising Standards Authority – no not us either as we don’t cover this kind of thing.  Try the Citizens Advice Bureau.  Right!  They gave me a wording to use to respond giving a clear instruction that I did not want this to be published and that if they are under the impression that I have a contract with them, it was their responsibility to produce that evidence.  In the end I didn’t send the email but picked up the phone and called instead.  The person who had been calling me said I’d need to speak to her boss and when I explained that I felt like I’d been pressured, it was me who was made to feel unreasonable, as to cancel now was like one of my clients cancelling an appointment with me a few hours before they were due to attend.  As far as they were concerned everything that I had said was an affirmation to going ahead and I was being unreasonable in expecting them to find somebody else at such short notice!  Excuse me…. did I not say that I couldn’t do anything immediately?
After some discussion he agreed to remove it from print, wished me well and said to contact them when I’m ready to place an ad!! Pah – really?!  I think I had a lucky escape and won’t get caught like that again.  An unsolicited email into my inbox will not be treated to anything other than “delete” in the future and I’ll stick to Facebook adverts and Google Business which seems to work very well for me thank you!

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