raising ethical objections about a client, my boss wants to recruit my classmates for jobs, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Raising ethical objections about a potential client

I work in advertising. Our boss, who procures clients, will be pitching our services to a “wellness center” that offers coffee enemas and other forms of quackery alongside *maybe* one or two other therapies that seem to check out medically. He’s actually gone for a health evaluation with them and is super convinced of their value.

I am the most senior of his existing staff (seven years), but am not part of management. I appear to be the only one not enthusiastic about this client, but have kept my reservations to myself so far. Do you have any advice on how I can tell my boss “I would prefer we not get involved in drumming up leads for harmful pseudomedicine”? Should I even bother? Is this something I’ll just have to grit my teeth and go through with, then offset on a personal level with some heavy volunteering? (I work outside North America, if this makes any difference.)

To some extent, this is part of the deal with many jobs that provide services to clients; you may not always like the work of the clients you’re working with.

But you could certainly try telling your boss that you can’t ethically work on an account that’s promoting therapies that most of the medical community says are quackery. The fact that your boss is apparent a fan of said practices may complicate this, but if there’s a practical way for your company to take on the work and leave you out of it, a decent boss would at least try to make that happen. (There might not be a practical way to do that though, depending on your role.)

Read an update to this letter here

2. My boss wants to call my old classmates to recruit them for jobs

I’m not sure if it matters, but to give some background I work in a healthcare setting. It appears that my workplace is currently facing a lack of employees. My boss essentially walked up to me and started a conversation about where I got my education, where are my old classmates, and if she can have the numbers of the few people I had on my phone or otherwise to contact them about being interested in a job.

Putting it simply, I found this incredibly irregular and uncomfortable. I didn’t really want to give out any contact info and thankfully I forgot to bring my cellphone that day.

Is this sort of thing is “to be expected” and if I do decide to reach out to my contacts, should I be asking for compensation from my boss? It kind of feels like recruitment and I don’t believe that we have a recruitment bonus going on at my work.

Recruitment does end up being parts of lots of people’s jobs; it’s not just the province of managers or a recruiting team.

That said, you certainly aren’t obligated to turn over your contacts if you don’t want to! And really, even if you did want to reach out to these people and thought they might be interested, it’s going to be a lot more effective for them to hear from you than to get a random cold call from your boss.

I’d say this to your boss: “I’ve heard too many of my contacts complain about being contacted by people they don’t know, but I’d be glad to reach out myself to the ones who I think might be the right match. I think they’d be more receptive to that.” You could also add, “Can you tell me more about what you’re looking for so I can think about who the best people to contact might be?”

You can then later report that you did contact the people you thought might be well-matched. You don’t need to mention if that number was zero (although really, the better move would be to just say, “I gave it some thought and none of the people I know are in the market or quite right”).

But no, it’s not something you should ask for compensation for. You could certainly suggest that your organization consider a bonus program for successful referrals, but it’s not something you’d ask to be paid for otherwise. Informal “who in your network would be good for this job?” is just a normal thing in many organizations.

3. Employer that rejected me is asking for feedback about their hiring process

I have the opposite of the usual interview follow-up question. I had a request from HR at a company I interviewed with for feedback on their hiring process. Honestly, it was pretty bad. HR seemed relatively okay, but the hiring manager made dismissive and disparaging remarks (about me, her own senior colleagues, and a mutual industry contact) in the first round interview, which I actually passed. Then the company kept coming up with new tasks like preparing for and passing a test and spending a half day on a work plan to simulate being hired into the role. After that, the hiring manager indicated that I’d hear from her “next week” on next steps but didn’t follow up for 2.5 months until letting me know they’d hired someone and did I have questions (in the meantime, HR had said things were ongoing and the hiring manager would be in touch).

I strongly suspected it wouldn’t be a good match and I’m actually sure they’ve done me a favor, but I’d also hesitate to apply to them again or recommend them to clients based on the first conversation and the overall process. What can I tell them?

If you’re sure that you won’t want to apply for positions there in the future, I think you can be pretty candid about the process itself, but I probably wouldn’t get into the hiring manager’s disparaging remarks about people. There are too many different ways that could be interpreted or even explained away, and getting into personal criticism just takes you into a sticky area that you don’t have enough incentive to delve into.

Ultimately, of course, you’re not obligated to say anything if you’d rather not deal with it. You don’t have to be their focus group if it feels like more hassle than you want to take on.

4. Can I take some of my desk items with me when I leave?

I will be leaving my company (voluntarily) this week. Is it appropriate to take items from my desk that the company had bought for me with my tastes in mind, such as a wireless mouse, a keyboard wrist rest, calculator, and pen? Would taking these personal work bought items be considered thievery? I work in a cubical and the next person to take my position will have the same opportunity to purchase items to his/or her own liking.

No one is going to notice or care about the pen, so have at it with that. For the other stuff, though, I wouldn’t assume it’s okay to take, even if you know the other person will be offered the chance to order her own.

If you really want them, check with your manager. Say something like, “I know these were ordered at my request, and the new person will order her own. Is it okay for me to take them with me, or should I leave them?”

5. Paying to subscribe to job listings

To search for employment I’ve been using a few of the very well-known free job sites. Recently, a friend suggested that I check out an additional board. This one, I discovered, while allowing me to view the job, requires the user to subscribe to their service for a fee in order to apply. Is there a real difference in the quality of job opportunities between the free and pay sites?

Not in my experience, no. I suppose it’s possible that there’s some magical service out that that’s truly offering exclusive listings not available elsewhere, but every model I’ve seen for this runs listings that you’ll find in other mainstream sources for free. The only exception to this that I know of are the job postings that you can access if you join a trade group or other professional association (where you then get access to their job board along with all their other services). But stuff like the Ladders? No.

As a general rule, services that charge job seekers rather than charging employers are sketchy.

{ 428 comments… read them below }

  1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    #1 I kind of think advertising can be one of the exceptions to the point about service industries as you are associated with your clients in a way that some services aren’t. A shop may be more associated with what it sells, but an ad agency may become the agency that did x campaign.

    I had no idea coffee enemas existed anywhere other than in the TV comedy Green Wing.

    #4 I’m not sure I understand how a mouse or wrist rest can be to your tastes? Are they different colours?

    I think the mouse is probably the exception and is kind of an odd thing to take as your next job will probably provide one.

    #5 Is it possible your friend is doing some kind of MLM thing? If you’re really curious you could ask them to show you but don’t waste precious money. I’m willing to bet it just pulls ads from other sites. And I’ve never heard of anyone paying to view job ads.

    1. katamia*

      If OP has carpal tunnel or something, the wrist rest, at least, might have been ordered special by the company to deal with her health issue. I don’t know about the mouse.

      Also, yay Green Wing!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        My company provided me with a trackball mouse because of ergonomic issues, but it belonged to them, not me. I would err on the side of asking or assuming that anything computer-related or general office supplies stays behind.

        For example, it was fine to take the coffee mug with a company logo they gave me, but not the stapler. I left the coffee mug, however, since I was being walked out. And I didn’t want it. It was holding pens, anyway–I just made sure I got all my personal stuff.

    2. Alter_ego*

      I paid for mine myself, so that I could take it with me when I left, but I have a very specific mouse that sits my hand better and has a bunch of extra functions that can help me be more efficient. Almost every person I work with has a mouse that they picked out to meet their needs, rather than the standard mouse that came with the computer.

    3. DuckDuckMøøse*

      I think the wrist rest would also be appropriate to take. Given the amount of body contact those get, it may not be able to be cleaned (enough) to be used by someone else – it depends on what it is made of, and how much the next person freaks out at the thought of “This has OP#4 cooties all over it!!” I have multiple keyboard and mouse wrist rests, and most of them I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy ;)

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          EW. I’m using an ancient wrist rest that was here when I started. It is cloth and beanbag essentially. I’m so grossed out now. But, I’ve had it 8 years now so most of the germs are probably mine.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Not to be argumentative, but I would never have thought twice about reusing a wrist rest, and if you work for a company where getting them to pay for anything is like squeezing blood from a stone, those kind of small comforts definitely get passed along when someone leaves.

        I’m grateful not to be in that situation now, but I have been in the past, to the point where even pens were scavenged from departed employees’ desks. Even then, while I fought tooth and nail to not pay for office supplies out of my own pocket, I wouldn’t take home a pen, because I am too stubborn and proud to not buy my own pens. Sure, companies usually won’t care, or not enough to pursue it, if you take home *a* pen, but too often that becomes a pen a month/week, then a box of pens. And if those are wrong, then why is one pen OK?

        I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty, I wouldn’t look down on a coworker who took home a pen once in a while, I’m just putting forth my thoughts on the subject.

        1. Garrett*

          I think this is a case of know your company. At my company, new employees are directed to the Office Max website and told to get what they need (within reason). We keep basic supplies on hand, so most people grab those, but for some things, they are welcome to order what they want, even if the previous employee left things. But, I see for a small company or non-profit, that’s not an option.

        2. LBK*

          Yeah, I’m fairly certain I’m using a used wrist rest and mousepad right now and I’ve never thought twice about it…doesn’t seem any less sanitary than a used chair.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            Same. I work in a computer center with a lot of turnover and while occasionally a wrist rest gets worn enough to throw out, they certainly get used by multiple people all the time. Considering that we generally don’t sweat much or touch things from our wrists, I haven’t thought twice about using a pre-used wrist rest.

        3. Onymouse*

          For me it’s never “oh I need a pen at home so I’ll take one home”, it’s “oh, I need to run to X meeting and need a pad and a pen”, and end up sticking those things in my bag. I don’t see anything wrong with having work supplies where I might do work at times, even if that’s in my bag or at home.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Same here. And I routinely end up using my own pens at work because they were in my coat pocket or whatever, so I figure it probably evens out in the end. It probably helps that I work in a public servicepoint and so a good fraction of the work pens are random pens that students left lying around and forgot about anyway. And the 500 pens for a different university’s student center we accidentally were delivered due to some bizarre office supply mixup.

    4. LBK*

      #1 Is that really true? Maybe within the industry, but I honestly can’t think of the name of a single ad agency, never mind one associated with a famous/infamous campaign.

        1. LBK*

          The way Lord of the Ringbinders phrased it made it sounds like it was to the general public, not just within your industry. And I’d think that even within the industry, working for a company that did a notorious ad campaign wouldn’t necessarily reflect badly on you as an individual unless you were the head of the company or something. Surely there’s an understanding that sometimes you get stuck on a project you don’t like and that part of the job is just doing it anyway.

      1. Emmie*

        The US has laws around advertising medical services, and making health claims. Does OP’s country have laws like that? If so, I recommend locating those rules because there could be some liability to the marketing company or advertising agency. I would approach the boss with that information, express my concerns about liability and complying with those rules, and ask whether the “medical-services / health” company is complying with those laws. If the company is not, the ad agency must make a determination about whether it would like to accept this client. This doesn’t address OP’s concerns if they ultimately take on the client; however, her refusal could also be centered around liability too and it may soften the refusal blow.

      2. Manders*

        I think it’s more of a thing within the industry. I’ve seen agencies put their clients’ logos on their sites and use them as examples in presentations, and some marketers will even talk about their favorite clients on their personal social media.

        I’ve heard that some agencies have a procedure for backing out of a campaign on ethical grounds (usually used for things like tobacco companies, political campaigns, etc) but I’ve only worked in house or freelance so I don’t know exactly how that works.

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      I had no idea there was anything wrong with coffee enemas. I’ve never done it, but I know people who have. I’ve done a high colonic though and those are great.

      1. Manders*

        I think the usual issue with them is that some scammers will present them as a treatment that can be used in place of “western” medicine for potentially fatal but treatable conditions like cancer. They can also be dangerous if they’re administered the wrong way, and there’s no medically proven best practices for how to do them safely.

        Just the other day, I helped my friend who works at an acupuncture clinic with marketing, so my woo tolerance is fairly high. But even I have lines I won’t cross; I’ll only work with low-cost clinics that supplement medically proven treatments and offer symptom relief rather than miracle cures. Coffee enemas might be over my personal ethical threshold, depending on what they’re claiming to treat, how they talk to patients about peer-reviewed medicine, and how much they’re charging.

    6. many bells down*

      I am one of the minority of people who prefer to use a mouse left-handed (even many lefties prefer right-handed mousing). It’s pretty difficult to find an ergonomic mouse that I can use, especially if I want it to be wireless. I’ve got one at home right now that’s “ambidextrous” but there’s buttons you can only really use if you’re using it right-handed. So if my work sprang for one that was really good, I’d definitely want to ask if I could take it home, especially since the next person would more than likely not want to use it.

      1. TK*

        My right-handed boss uses a mouse left-handed. I think she feels like her right hand isn’t free to jot something down as quickly if the mouse is there. Or something like that- it seems weird to me, but preferences are preferences.

      2. Jean*

        My doctor has told me to try using my mouse left-handed but it’s so danged awkward. Plus all my work is on my left! My work did order a more ergonomic mouse, however.

      3. GH in SOCal*

        I had an ergonomic consultant in when I was having severe neck and arm pain. She had me switch to my left hand briefly for relief, then set me up with the amazing Evoluent upright mouse. They come in leftie and rightie. The $100 price was initially shocking but they’re worth every penny. I paid for it myself and take it with me job to job.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, this may sound harsh, but please don’t raid your office’s supplies as you leave. A couple pens, a single stack of post-its—that’s fine (conversely, taking a lot of those things is not fine). But keyboards and mice? No. Those are things the company bought for you to be able to do your work effectively while you were there. But they weren’t planning to set you up at your next job, too. And just because a new employee can order additional stuff, that doesn’t really make it less “thieving” to take what you ordered using their money.

    1. New Bee*

      I could see taking them if they were personalized with theme, like a Mickey Mouse mousepad or something like that, but I agree with Alison that asking makes the most sense.

      1. Solidus Pilcrow*

        I’m leaning towards this. It’s fine to ask if the keyboard/mouse/rests were customized for one person (I’m thinking more in the ergonomic sense rather than “Disney Princess themed”). If it was a standard split keyboard anyone can get at Office Max, I probably wouldn’t bother even asking to keep it, just leave it for the company to re-assign to someone else or dispose of.

      2. Karen D*

        OP also needs to be careful who s/he asks. At my company, most people would probably ask their immediate supervisor – and that would be the wrong person to ask; our purchasing department actually maintains a list of company property assigned to each employee and has to go down a checklist to make sure everything is returned and what condition it’s in when an employee separates. Depending on the nature of the property, the inventory side of our IT department might be involved as well.

        Obviously they don’t track post-its and pens, but they do track mice and other peripherals.

        1. Kikishua*

          I never heard the term “when an employee separates” before, but now I plan to use it all the time ;)

    2. Marcela*

      Not really. In my company each of us order what we need, so there are no equal computer equipments. When people left, they returned everything, but only the laptops and screens get to be reused. Mouses and keyboards get disgusting, and since they were specifically ordered by somebody, they are not entirely reusable: I could not use a wireless mouse, for example, and my coworkers surely don’t want to use my mechanical keyboard. Even when my boss insisted the leaving coworkers to take them, most of the small stuff ended in a box, from where I took them to the recicle center last week. That is incredibly wasteful.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Yep. My husband’s company is the same. Every new hire is given some “sample” items to use immediately, but otherwise everything from their keyboard to their mouse rest to the laptop bag, they order through the company website specifically for their desires/needs (they also send in the ergonomics person to measure you for a chair!) They don’t even reuse the laptops, if you’ve been there long enough. None of the custom ordered stuff is every reused.

        Alison is right, the only way to know is to ask the Manager, but it’s not crazy for the OP to think it’s possible.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        P.S. I would take your mechanical keyboard! My current is a hybrid. The mechanicals are the only ones I don’t destroy! ;)

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Marcela, even if it’s true for your company, that doesn’t mean it’s the standard practice across all employers… which is why it makes sense for OP to ask, not to assume it’s ok to take hardware. (I’d also note that for certain categories of employers, like governments and small- to mid-sized nonprofits, taking supplies like this could get you blacklisted.)

        Even if it were standard practice for employers not to reuse hardware, there are a good number of employers who will recycle or trade-in old hardware for a discount on newer hardware.

      4. Elizabeth H.*

        Huh, interesting. My workplace is very understanding about a lot of things (personal use of email, printing out the occasional thing at work, taking home leftovers from events) but I would never dream of taking home a mouse and mouse rest! That’s work equipment. A couple pens or something yes, some post it notes yes, scissors no, scotch tape no, calculator no. I would only take it home if we were doing a purge of extraneous office items and had decided to throw it out. (Although I do have a bunch of stuff that I acquired this way where it was really, definitely going to be thrown out otherwise, but it’s stuff like a toaster, an old school clock radio, a “DRAFT” stamp, and . . . best of all . . . two FILE CABINETS. I am a direct beneficiary of the world’s progression into electronic record keeping.) It does seem like theft and kind of petty to take anything significant.
        I think the psychological difference for me is whether you could plausibly use it up in a month or two. This is true of pens and post-it notes, but not true of calculators, scissors, staplers, mice or keyboards.

      5. Sas*

        ++ In some companies, when applying and filling out those hour long questionaires, taking a pen or paper is ““thieving”, so that is known. One time a manager asked a group of us if anyone had ever taken a pen from someplace they worked. It is a BIG company that probably everyone knows of. Context.

      6. Elizabeth West*

        OldExjob recycled everything endlessly. When I took on the office supply ordering, the closet (yes, it was part of a closet where the files also were) was a mess. I dug in and cleaned it up and found a ton of old rolodex carousels and all kinds of weird ’80s stuff in there. And we used it!

    3. Anon13*

      Yep. And, who knows, the next person might enjoying having these little extras. At my previous employer, my predecessor had a really nice letter opener and a good stapler that she gave me when she left. It was nice to have them passed down to me, particularly since it was sometimes difficult to track down basic supplies in our office. (And they had switched to kind of crappy staplers. I definitely felt like Milton with my good Swingline.)

      Oddly, when I left that job, I took a few things that I had bought myself, but that I kept on my desk (various desk organizational supplies, like a letter tray, a pencil cup, etc.). Someone at the company didn’t realize that I had purchased them myself and tried to contact me to get them back. They apologized and realized the mistake was theirs, but it made me realize it’s best to minimize personal purchasing of work supplies when possible.

  3. caledonia*

    4 – your company still paid for them so I would leave the mouse etc alone. Your next job will probably order these items if you require them.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, asking for contacts from your phone was kind of weird. Not red flag weird, but certainly a yellow-orange weird. Recruitment is a pretty common responsibility for most jobs (and many don’t pay a bonus for it), but what that usually means is forwarding information about open positions or bringing up the openings to a friend you already know who would be well-suited or recommending people to your employer.

    The part that’s really throwing me off, though, is that I’m not sure why your boss wants to conduct outreach to your network when it seems like she’d have more success if you were reaching out to your friends, not her. Was this her just thinking it was more efficient, or perhaps not really thinking it through, or was she being weirdly controlling?

    1. CBH*

      +1 on everything you said Princess

      The thing that came to me immediately was it seemed like the boss was trying to short cut something in the hiring process. In other words the boss would only have a limited amount of time and research into the candidates in that OP would have already “done the screening”; it would save costs with advertising or placement agency fees. I am also willing to say that asking directly for phone numbers seems so far out of norm, that the boss might have come to OP in a moment of panic not thinking things through.

      As you said Princess, I do think it’s appropriate for a boss to ask if you know anyone, but everything else in this scenario is a yellow-orange level of weirdness/ red flag.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Hahaha, it’s ok! I answer to most variations (it’s a pretty long handle).

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m getting the feeling she’s either a control freak or wants to reach out herself to sell them on the idea of working there.

    1. Willis*

      Agreed. Doesn’t seem like it’s worth it to get these couple items in exchange for possibly being remembered as having walked away with the office supplies. Those could all be used by someone else at the firm. If you definitely want to take them, ask first, but I’d just let it go.

      1. Grits McGee*

        No one ever forgets the office supplies thief. A woman I used to work with took supplies off a coworker’s desk on her first day, and that’s still seen as her defining personality trait.

        1. justcourt*

          Did she take a couple paper clips or something? Or did she take someone else’s stapler instead of going to the supply closet?

        2. Temperance*

          Off someone’s desk?! That’s straight up rude. We have a convention in my office where we wait until a person is gone the appropriate amount of time and then we loot their office/desk for supplies. Never from a person who is still employed.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah, very much agreed. One can of course ask, but you can’t just expropriate things from someone’s desk!

          2. Elizabeth West*

            It happens a lot to receptionists. I had to put labels on all my stuff at OldExjob because people would help themselves instead of walking across the damn room to the supply closet. I even bought a pinkish Xacto stapler and put a big sticker with a picture of Milton on it that said, “MINE!” People gave me flak but I didn’t care, and they stopped walking off with my stapler.

            1. Rachael*

              Yeah. I used to sit in a corner desk and was the first desk you would pass after copying something. I once had to grab my stapler away from someone who was walking back to their desk WITH MY STAPLER. I ended up having to keep all my supplies in my drawer. It was crazy.

        3. EmKay*

          You’re dang right they don’t. At Old Job I had a red Swingline stapler. One day while I was absent, a coworker borrowed it and “forgot” to return it. The first thing I did the next morning was track that stapler down.

          I am Milton Waddams, apparently.

          1. Brogrammer*

            But you didn’t address the most important question! When you tracked it down, did you tell the coworker, “I believe you have my stapler”?

    2. Elise*

      Yeah, I have to agree here. Certainly, the next person may select something different, but they’ll need something in the meantime. This is one of those things that may depend on your specific company, but it would definitely flag you as odd in my workplace. I am a municipal employee though so we’re always expected to be a bit more “by the book” than the private sector. If asking to take a keyboard and mouse, you’d be told no I’m quite sure. I honestly wouldn’t even take office supplies like pens/paper on purpose. Of course they end up in my personal bag from going to meetings, etc but in general, I leave my employer’s property there when I leave. I’m not sure it’s worth the possible reputation hit if your manager thinks it’s odd that you ask…

  5. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: My mum is a copy writer at a pr/advertising agency focused on tourism.

    Lots of hotels have wellness areas that sell all kind of woo treatments.

    Often the client is a true believer in the stuff and wants statements like ‘treatment X cures condition Y’ in the promo texts.

    This is illegal in the all the countries the copy my mum writes is published.

    So, if you end up having to represent this client, make sure everyone working on this is aware of any applicable legislation.

    1. Gadfly*

      I worked for the joint advertising arm of a couple of newspapers and I know we refused ads or forced edits on a LOT of ads for things like that. Chiropractors also love it–whenever they move past the generic goldenrod flier.

  6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    #5: looking at it from the potential employer’s point of view, they have very little to no incentive to post job ads exclusively with a service that charges applicants. Why would a company want to limit the number of possible qualified people that apply? Especially since the more qualified they are, the less likely they are to shell out for the site.

    1. katamia*

      The site is probably just going through company websites and more obscure job boards and reposting them. The people who pay for the service probably don’t know the specific company names to look them up on their own. I’ve seen this happen with WFH jobs (which I looked into a lot during and just after the recession because I was hit hard by it, although I never paid for any job boards), where it can be difficult to figure out who’s hiring without help.

      1. katamia*

        (It also probably doesn’t help that a lot of the people who are looking for WFH jobs don’t have a lot of job searching experience, or at least don’t have a lot of healthy/nontoxic job searching experience, IME.)

      2. Perpetua*

        Yes, this.

        After some deliberation, I actually paid for one of these sites in January. I’ve seen some good reviews for it, the fee wasn’t that much and they offer a money back guarantee so I figured I’d give it a shot.

        This particular site is focused on flexible and remote jobs (I’m interested in the latter, I live in Europe), and the reason they charge job seekers is that they basically provide the services of vetting the jobs, making sure that they’re not scams.

        As for the actual content of this site, I found it a bit limited as I was looking at only the 100% internationally remote jobs, but it did bring to my attention 1-2 companies I probably wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

        They ARE just an agregate and all the listings link to the original job postings (so no exclusivity there), but as katamia, you can’t search for what you don’t know, so it helps to have more options in one place. I agree with Alison that most of these are sketchy, but depending on your specific needs there might be some value to be found in services like this one.

        1. Gadfly*

          I think I have used that one too–I then decided to focus on finishing my degree faster and so never used it, but it looked like there were MUCH better options than the free sites…

        2. Jenbug*

          That sounds like one of the sites I used during my job search. The fees weren’t outrageous and I was willing to pay a little to try and find something working from home.

        3. Anon13*

          I’m currently using what I believe is the same site and I agree that this is an exception to the general rule. All of the jobs they post are available elsewhere, but I view the fee as worth it since being able to use that site saves me time. Since I’m currently extremely busy, the small fee is worth it for the time saved, to me.

        4. GS*

          My partner also signed up for what I believe is the same site. Having flexible and remote jobs aggregated in one place was worth the pretty reasonable fee to at least try it out. I would definitely not pay to view job listings unless it was something specialized and hard to search for like this.

    2. Lionheart26*

      In my field they are used a LOT. The boards vet dodgy companies and applicants without the requisite qualifications, years of experience, and references. So you have a smaller pool, but it’s a smaller pool of GOOD people and companies.
      Many of the companies registered don’t bother posting the positions publicly – why bother when the best applicants are registered on the boards, so you don’t need to sift through hundreds of applications from people who aren’t even certified?
      It’s a pain to have to pay for the service, but (in my experience) worth every penny.

      1. WriterLady*

        What field are you in, if you don’t mind my asking? I’m curious about signing up for one myself.

        1. blackcat*

          Private high schools use recruiting firms that work somewhat like this. At least one of them works sort of like a dating website: both schools and teachers can browse, but the firm also suggests matches to the schools.

          There’s a small fee for teachers to sign up for these. The schools pay a lot. The firm vets both the schools and candidates, so it’s a quick way for both sides to weed out people/jobs they wouldn’t consider.

          1. College Career Counselor*

            It’s been my experience that almost all of the private/independent school teaching sites put the cost on the school, not so much the aspiring/current teacher. The one exception I can think of at the moment was for an international school recruiter that used to charge ~$100 for a three year period (just looked them up–it’s now $225 for 3 years). That didn’t seem unreasonable to us in the career center, and they did provide value in vetting opportunities for job-seekers.

            The 3-4 major domestic 3rd party independent school placement agencies that I’m aware of do NOT charge candidates, however.

            1. blackcat*

              I remember at least one big one having a $25 refundable application fee about 6 or 7 years ago. People only paid if they were accepted. It was waived for high needs areas (mostly STEM) and current students (so if you’re working with current college students, it would be free to them).

            2. SophieChotek*

              And at one time I believe Carney Sandoe was not a bad place to sign up for for private high schools/private schools. As I recall, free to applicants – cost probably passed on to the employer. (Hmm I should resurrect that application file.)

        2. Lionheart26*

          I’m an international school teacher. There are a LOT of dodgy schools in developing countries, so it’s really useful for vetting.

        1. SophieChotek*

          From my limited experience only, being to some academic societies where we have job board, it’s included with the hefty yearly society fees. Sometimes you’ll get a heads-up (via email or RSS feed) about a job posting that is soon-to-be-posted publicly. And every once in a while if someone is really looking to just do a short-term job or something maybe an email will go around — but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a job posted on the board that hasn’t also been posted to like, Higheredjobs too…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yay! They can be a lot of work (they’re the only post I usually wait to write until the day before, and sometimes it’s a crunch to get them done), so that is very nice to hear! I like them too — they let me answer a ton more questions than I could if all the posts were stand-alone Q&As.

      1. MommyMD*

        I love your insight. It’s helped me though I am not a manager but staff answer to me and I delegate tasks. Thanks!!!

      2. RT*

        I like them a lot too – but is there any way to start tagging the topics covered in them? I think if I went to say the tag about interviews I would miss a lot of good info from the 5 questions.

      3. Marimba Ani*

        I wish they showed up on my RSS feed like your other posts. It’s a hassle to click back to read them. (I always come to the site to read because I love the comments.)

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I don’t use a feed because it’s part of my daily routine to come in here. Though I don’t know how I’m going to do that when I get a job where they probably won’t let me do anything. :(

      4. Church Lady*

        I look forward to your Five Answers in my email account. It’ s my guilty pleasure to read during lunch at the small nonprofit (5 employees) where I’m the admin. I’m not a manager but I consider your blog essential to my adjustment period as a recent reentry into the workforce after many years as a SAHM. And I can vouch for your take on the inherent dysfunctions in small offices, particularly boundary issues.

  7. MommyMD*

    I work in healthcare and have recruited a few good employers for my very large employer. I think it’s a fair question as physician and nurses are in high demand. However I made first contact and would not just handed over info to be cold-called. Wanting to be paid for this is weird.

      1. Chaordic One*

        OP #2 I don’t think this is irregular, although the way your boss asked you was a bit weird. She would not have asked you if she did not value your judgement. It is kind of a compliment. It probably would be better for your to make the contact, instead of your boss, though. It certainly would be nice if your employer offered referral bonuses, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

        If it is a decent place to work and you know people who are qualified for the openings and who might be interested, then certainly let them know that there are openings. OTOH, if it is not a good place to work, you would not want to give yourself a bad reputation by referring people there. The phrasing Allison has suggested sounds right.

    1. Garrett*

      A lot of companies offer referral bonuses though, so I don’t think it’s weird to think payment is an option. Now, if it wasn’t already in place, I wouldn’t ask for it, but maybe a general recommendation for this type of program is something the OP could do. I think it depends on the industry and the company.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Yes, my crappy bank callcentre job, over 12 years ago (aaargh) gave bonuses to people who recommended friends who were subsequently recruited. It was something like £150-200, even then (my friend who recommended me gave me half, I can’t remember how much, but it was enough to pick up some cheap work clothes in the sales)

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        Definitely industry-dependent. My partner gets $1000 for successful referrals (they must stay at least 90 days). He works in sales.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          $2500 here, and same, after 90 days. BUT oddly I’ve recommended four people two of whom should have been no brainers, and they didn’t get hired. So I’m beginning to think they don’t really want to pay it.

    2. Bwmn*

      In the physician/nursing/licensed healthcare professional field – this does seem less odd to me than in other professions.

      That being said, as a non-healthcare professional – in the past I have been in a very tight field where the recruiting approaches can be a bit more aggressive. I’ve never had someone just say “give me your classmates contact information” – but I have had the “have you asked them/are they interested/when can we be in touch” rushed conversation a few hours after initially reaching out to someone and asking if they’re interested.

    3. Emmie*

      What’s interesting to me is that these potential job leads haven’t opt’ed-in to receiving these kinds of calls. There may be US TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) implications for the business when the manager calls people who did not consent. I am certainly no expert on its applicability of TCPA in this situation; however, it’s probably a best practice to have OP (not the employer) reach out to these people and tell them about the job if she is so inclined. But I would not turn over my contacts to my employer. And it’s strange that the company has no referral bonus – especially in a high turnover role.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m pretty sure that isn’t how the TCPA works (but the last time I dealt with a TCPA case was 2.5 years ago, so my memory may be fuzzy).

        The TCPA is principally concerned with robocalls, artificial voice recordings, and unsolicited faxes that try to “encourag[e] the purchase or rental of, or investment in, property, goods, or services” or to send “material advertising the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services.” It also doesn’t apply to certain non-profits, which could apply if OP#2 is working at a charitable or public hospital/health provider. A human person calling someone without prior permission for job recruitment purposes doesn’t fall into the TCPA’s definitions of marketing or solicitation.

        1. Emmie*

          Insight appreciated, Princess. It may also depend upon the type of business one is in (i.e. a provider of contract nurses may be treated differently from a hospital.) Our TCPA experiences vary, and my understanding is a bit older than yours (appx. 3.5 yrs when the rules were updated a bit for my fmr. industry.)

  8. Jules the First*

    In terms of ethical objections to work, my experience was unexpectedly good. I spent many years working for architects, including a number of years working for a Jewish one. I also happen to support the Palestinian side, which means that working on commissions in Israel makes me erhically uncomfortable. However, I was the only person in the office who did my job. Awkward.

    One day, after working there about five years, an Israeli project landed on my desk. I waffled and panicked and basically freaked out all weekend, and by Monday I’d worked up the courage to go to my boss and tell him I was ethically uncomfortable with this project and was there any way we could reassign it? He looked a bit startled, but to my surprise, he reassigned the project immediately, and actually discussed my concerns with the board the following week. They ended up submitting something so as to not offend the person who’d recommended them, but at a fee that would guarantee the client wouldn’t call us back.

    1. Myrin*

      Seriously, thanks, TCA, that was indeed my intention and I am quite surprised that it was apparently possible to read my comment and interpret it in the complete opposite direction.

      I wanted to comment that while I think that this is indeed a good example of being in some kind of ethics dilemma, it would probably be better to be more vague – like saying “political opponents” or something to that degree, not naming the actual conflict – lest we get into a huge debate on this highly sensitive topic that is only derailing, bound to make people angry at each other, have aggressive wording, and probably not all that helpful to the OP, seeing how her situation seems much less dire.

      This was meant to pre-empt this very discussion from unfolding and I didn’t do it because Alison might think it’s overstepping on part of a commenter, not because I believe everyone on here is a huge fan of the US military.

    2. LBK*

      Maybe it’s just me but the comments have felt more argumentative for a while now. Seems like there’s more one-off commenters (or at least ones I don’t recognize) coming in and sparking debates that aren’t in the spirit of the site that I’ve been accustomed to as a regular reader.

      Although as fposte noted, there definitely is an annual period of winter grouchies that hits the site around this time of year. Hopefully the weather and people’s attitudes will start to warm up soon. I also wonder how much of this is the result of the political climate in the US; discourse in general feels a little more tense these days.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I deleted a thread of 70 off-topic comments and highly political comments that were left in response to this comment. When I do that, I have to go through and delete one by one. It takes a lot of time.

      I’m pretty frustrated — the rules of the site are clear, and I cannot understand why regular commenters would intentionally violate them, knowing that I’ve asked repeatedly for people to follow them. If it happens again, I’m going to start putting the repeat offenders in moderation probation. Please stop.

      1. Anon13*

        Thanks for all of your work in moderating the site/making it an effective place for work-related discussions, Alison!

      2. Busytrap*

        Thank you for doing it! This is one of my favorite blogs to read for that very reason – I know I can come here to get practical advice, without a serving of politics. :)

      3. Sarianna*

        Thank you, Alison. Your work in both writing excellent responses and handling comment moderation is very much appreciated. I hope your afternoon is better–and that all of us bear the rules in mind when posting comments.

      4. Jules the First*

        Gosh sorry – I had no idea I’d open up such a huge can of worms. Sorry you had to moderate responses to my comment!

      5. Emi.*

        I never realized you had to delete them individually–I just assumed if you deleted one comment, everything threaded under it would disappear with it. Would you rather we not post all the “don’t post these political comments!” comments, to minimize your cleanup hassle?

        Also, thank you!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m torn on that. On one hand, I appreciate people reinforcing the rules of the site and think there can be value in that kind of group norming. On the other hand, it does add to the derail. Ideally I’d like to see it called out once and not repeatedly, but in a thread like today’s that got so out of control, a single comment would have been buried. So I’m not sure!

          1. FD*

            Maybe if we agreed that if it’s been called out as a rules violation more than 3 times, no more responses? That way it still enforces the group norm, but it doesn’t let the responses get out of hand?

            And sorry if my response added to your work load today!

            1. Emily.*

              And I’ll try to be more constructive about it–I just said “CAN WE NOT,” which doesn’t do much to elevate discourse. :-/

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I’m so sorry, Alison—I had no idea you had to delete each post individually. I appreciate you doing it.

            Hopefully as regulars we can maybe do 1-2 requests to remove, then stop commenting? Poor Myrin tried, but it seemed like folks just blew past.

      6. EmmaLou*

        Echoing others, I greatly appreciate your attention to and zapping of the comments. Thank you so much.

  9. Gwan*

    #2 I disagree with saying you contacted the people you thought would be a good match if that number is zero. Maybe it’s technically not a lie, but it looks a lot like one. And can really only lead to follow up questions as to whether you’ve heard back and what people said. I would go with the other suggested language.

    1. Zombii*

      I agree. If you can’t tell your manager the truth in the first place, just say you didn’t keep in contact with many people from school and/or none of your contacts are looking for a job. Easy, and it would be a weird lie to call out.

  10. WriterLady*

    Re: number 5, I was actually thinking about the same thing. I’m in Australia and a number of the jobs in the publishing industry (where I’d love to work) seem to be advertised in one major publication, which requires an approx. $200 fee to subscribe. I’ve been umming and ahhing over it, because (a) $200 is a LOT as far as I’m concerned, and (b) is it worth it if the jobs could theoretically be posted elsewhere? Consulting publishing sites, they’re all like “we publish our job listings at x publication, please consult this if you are looking for a position” but I have seen the odd few pop up on generic sites, like Seek. Anyone want to weigh in?

    1. Fiorinda*

      Ther are some jobs that are only advertised in that publication, yes – they used to include stubs in their email newsletter (which is free) and they didn’t always match what was listed on Seek, indeed etc. From what I can make out, it’s worth a subscription because a lot of industry news is published there too, but like you I find the cost of even just an online subscription way beyond my budget right now.

      1. WriterLady*

        I may well fork out for it, then. I’m currently working with books, so it’ll be a good investment anyway.

        In saying that, how I miss my good ol’ 30 day trial period.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          Is it an “individual members only” kind of thing? If not, you might be able to find it at a library that has gets that publication, or otherwise has an institutional membership.

          1. WriterLady*

            It seems to be – you can buy a year long print subscription, a year long digital only subscription, or a year long subscription of both. But that’s a great point – even my uni library might offer the print subscription. It’d be handy to get the emails, though.

            Fiorinda, when you were looking at the jobs in the emails, were they still relatively easy to find if you went onto the publisher’s site?

            1. Fiorinda*

              Yes, they have a clearly-marked jobs listing page, or they did the last time I looked at the site – it’s behind the paywall, but easy to find.

              I know my uni library has a subscription, but because I’m a remote student I can’t access it easily. Hope you have better luck!

  11. International Teacher*

    #5: I want to add that in my particular field, getting a paid subscription to a recruiting website is one of the most common ways to get a job. As far as I can tell your options are either that or know someone.

    To be fair, though, I’m a teacher at an English-speaking international school. (I don’t teach English to adults; I’m a certified US school teacher). I suspect that this particular boundary is intentional: all of the job postings are for positions that would require the applicants to move internationally. For this particular field, I’m pretty sure that they want to make sure potential applicants have put some serious thought into the idea of to move abroad before wasting everyone’s time.

  12. Springtime in Paris*

    On the ethical concerns Q, I work in strategic comms/government relations in Europe for a US company. We have an ethics board for the really difficult cases but we’re also allowed to abstain on a personal level from working on a given project if we really have key concerns. Obviously you can’t be uncomfortable with every second project and I do make it very clear when hiring that we have all sorts of clients coming through the door, also some working on issues or in sectors you might be less supportive of, and in general it is of course part of the job to service them all well (unless they’re on the wrong side of the law, as someone also mentioned earlier).

  13. RobM*

    #4 – I work as an IT manager for a large organisation, and while its not that important in the great scheme of things we would indeed regard taking a keyboard and/or mouse as wrong; in our place it simply wouldn’t be yours to take and unless you worked in IT, it wouldn’t even be in your manager’s purview to allow you to do so as their purchase didn’t come out of their budget.

    Pens and more personal stuff like that which were already issued to you and were too personal and trivial to bother with, have at it, I’d say.

    #2 – You certainly shouldn’t feel hassled by your boss over recruitment, so your boss has gone around things the wrong way, but I agree with Alison; its perfectly normal for employers to ask employees to work their network for good hiring prospects. Would you consider it weird to ask a friend if they knew of any good jobs going where they worked? This is just the other side of that coin.

    1. PK*

      This. I work in IT as well and supplies like that are purchased by us and do not come out of their budgets.

  14. Gadfly*

    Advertising–I was low enough ranking that it was never my call and I rarely was given reasons, but I know there are times my former employer (advertising arm for the two local major papers of my home area) stopped ads from similar businesses or refused them from the get go for fear of legal repercussions. If nothing else with stuff like this you might want to make sure the contract is enough to protect you if the quackery goes bad.

  15. A. Schuyler*

    #1 – While I understand Alison’s point that a client is a client, I’d like to offer a counterexample. I work in banking and recently attended an industry talk on ethical investment and lending. There’s a real movement in finance to consider the environmental, social welfare and reputational risks associated with the clients we pursue. This might be something worth bringing up if your boss is generally reasonable (although in your case, he doesn’t sound reasonable).

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Agreed. My company’s making a push on that end, and there are a fair number of areas we just won’t touch because of the ethical/social/environmental concerns (aside from the ones we don’t deal with because of basic risk management).

  16. Marcy Marketer*

    #1: I hear that you have a preference against coffee enemas, but is the company promising medical cures with their homeopathic stuff? I’m not anti medicine by any stretch, but I sometimes enjoy a natural treatment now and then, especially for beauty purposes. Juice cleanses (and enemas), coffee scrubs, oatmeal masks, hot stone massages, etc. They’re relaxing and luxuries and not anything anyone would expect to be miracle cures or anything. And anyway, enemas, like certain foods, do have some health benefits.

    But yeah I guess what I’m saying is, is this company promising to cure real medical issues for people who are perhaps desperate and seeking any kind of last resort treatments possible, or are they offering luxury services for the wealthy? I can see why you’d have an ethical preference against the first, but not the second.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Enemas, when not applied by a medical professional, are a pretty risky procedure.

      And outside some very specific medical conditions (e.g. particularly stubborn c-diff infections) they are rarely used in science based medicine these days.

      If the clinic is a spa type thing for the wealthy I’d say hold your nose and make sure you don’t run afoul of any legislation regarding medical claims.

      If the clinic is the type to fleece the desperate I’d ask to be reassigned to a different project.

      1. Marcy Marketer*

        So many poop jokes! and yeah I hear you about enemas, but who needs science when we have The Goop and Gwyneth Paltrow? I’m joking, but also serious because she loves juice cleanses and enemas, and you apparently can’t do the first right without the second.

      2. Tuckerman*

        I wonder if approaching it as a reputation issue could be helpful. If the company is making claims that their non-evidence based practices improve one’s health, it could reflect poorly on the advertising company that takes the project.
        Really, most of these clinics are making some kind of claim about the benefits of their services (even as vague as “promotes wellness.”) They might add an FDA required disclaimer, but nobody gets a coffee enema just for fun.

    2. Old Admin*

      I have worked in the medical field .
      Enemas alway have the effect the the effective ingredient enters the system/bloodstream *quickly* and at an *unaccustomed high concentration*!
      That’s because the colon is the final part of the digestive system that extracts most of the water from the feces before it leaves the body. Thus, the absorption rate of the colon is phenomal.
      Early (medieval/Arabic) doctors gave honey/water enemas as an emergency measure to patients with low sugar/hypoglycemia, as the symptoms were already well known: shakes, disorientation, fainting.

      Put coffee in an enema – and the caffeine will go *zoom* *BANG* in body and mind, drive up blood pressure, cause hands to tremble and person to feel wired, even give a headache to the sensitive or cause a heart peoblem
      I’m not surprised a high strung manager might like the feeling.

      Unsafe.Not. Recommended. Quackery.

      (BTW, wine/alcohol enemes – surprisingly common – has caused alcohol related deaths. Just saying.)

      1. Grits McGee*

        Please, let’s use the respectful, proper scientific terminology for alcoholic beverage enemas- butt chugging.

        1. Emi.*

          What’s the scientific terminology for taking Everclear by tampon? (Besides “alcohol poisoning,” I mean.)

          1. paul*

            I don’t have a vagina, so maybe I’m misunderstanding, but wouldn’t that hurt like hell? I mean, high proof liquor on exposed flesh is PAINFUL. That I *do* know.

            1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              There was a recent article about YOUNG PEOPLE doing it to get drunk without booze breath. I was actually asked, as the first ‘young person’ to walk into my boss’s office after she’d read that article, if I’d ever done it.

              (I hasten to add that this was actually a work related topic as we work in SRH. STILL.)

              (My answer was “…no, and that sounds painful.”)

              1. Marillenbaum*

                I kind of love panicky articles about the newest thing YOUNG PEOPLE are doing to get high. They are so ridiculous.

                1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

                  Boss had been asked to comment on it to the press. Her brain was not helping her.

                  (I think that we and our sister-org went for WTF NO.)

            2. fposte*

              Somebody tried for a blog and said yes, it is indeed painful.

              Also you apparently don’t get enough vodka in a tampon to get drunk off of anyway.

              1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

                And, as one friend of mine mused, the tampon is then, you know…full, and presumably harder to insert.

                1. Temperance*

                  I thought that you sort of had to throw vodka at it while trying to insert, just for that reason?

                2. Pebbles*

                  Wouldn’t using a syringe be easier than a tampon? And now I have officially thought way too much about this.

                3. Elizabeth H.*

                  This never occurred to me before. Interesting!! I also thought it was very dangerous, surprised to hear that you can’t get enough absorbed to become drunk.

                  I wonder if you can taste it, like garlic.

                1. TL -*

                  Oh, no, I heard this straight from the horse’s mouth – not the alcohol poisoning (didn’t happen) but her particular choice of recreational activities. And it was verified by my brother (I can usually tell when he’s lying.) Though I adopted of policy of “LALALA CAN’T HEAR YOU” response to any further attempts to elaborate. :)

                2. Anna*

                  TL, it’s probably a horse before the cart thing. She tried it because she heard about it as the THING YOUNG PEOPLE ARE DOING! I have serious doubts anyone independently came up with it as a thing to try and then it went viral.

          2. Emilia Bedelia*

            My understanding, from the last Snopes article I read on the topic, is that that doesn’t actually work in the same way that it does with the rectum, because the vagina doesn’t absorb nutrients. It’d be like taping a alcohol soaked cotton ball to your arm.

            I’m not going to double check whether this is true or not though because I like my job.

            1. Emi.*

              The vagina does absorb some things, though, because you can take progesterone as a vaginal suppository. I don’t know how progesterone differs from alcohol, though, except that they can both be tested for in blood.

              1. Emi.*

                I mean, obviously I know that you don’t put progesterone in drinks to feel silly, and alcohol doesn’t prevent miscarriage. I just don’t know what the differences are in how they’re metabolized.

                1. fposte*

                  You can also absorb progesterone through your arm, though. Nothing special about the vagina there–it’s about the substance.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Also, just in general, most doctors do not recommend putting strange substances in your vagina. See, e.g., Gwyneth Paltrow’s bizarre jade egg advertisement.

                  I cannot believe I just typed that.

        2. EmKay*

          I am SO happy that I’m reading this at home and not the office. I’ve been laugh-crying-snorting for a solid 5 minutes and my cheeks hurt. Thanks for that.

    3. blackcat*

      I think it might be different of #1 didn’t work in advertising. There are (rightfully!) many laws that limit how one can advertise alternative medicine stuff. I don’t see someone really having the same objection to, say, providing outsourced IT services to the company. But in advertising, #1 could be forced to try to encourage people to do unsafe stuff. The company could want the OP to write advertisements that claim things like, “Feel renewed and refreshed after [dangerous, unproven procedure].” Stuff like enemas, cryotherapy, and some other stuff can be really quite dangerous, and I completely understand the OP not wanting to encourage someone to do those things. It would be different if it was more standard spa type things–masks, massages, etc are pretty safe. Even if they are useless, they are unlikely to be harmful.

      1. Emi.*

        Juice cleanses are supposed to make your skin brighter, I believe. (They may in fact have that effect by getting you to stop eating greasy food for a couple days.) Idk about that other thing and I don’t want to.

      2. Marcy Marketer*

        Okay so I’ve never had an enema, but I did try (and fail) at a juice cleanse once. Apparently, it’s supposed to rid your body of toxins since you are only ingesting organic juice. However, it’s “impossible” to remove all your toxins without an enema, because your body stores toxins in there somewhere and they never come out without an enema(?). Harcore juicers use enemas before going on their juice cleanse to fully detoxify. I’m just summing up my Google research of the one time I thought about doing it two years ago.

        That being said, while I love juice (specifically beet and carrot juice. or lemon and cayenne pepper), it’s really unclear whether or not juice is bad or good for you. My husband is very against juice because he says blending all the veggies takes out the good fiber and so you’re basically ingesting pure sugar. Other people swear by them and say they help them lose weight, shrink their bellies, and detoxify.

        I used to live in a large metro area where those types of things were really big– and not just natural beauty remedies. My dermatologist’s other clients were [famous-brand] models. My roommate worked for him, and she would tell me crazy stories about the chemical treatments they tried to keep skin tight, etc. He put me on Accutane without a second thought, despite a lot of doctors being very careful with that medicine. It’s just a different mindset there; super rich, beautiful people– especially those whose careers rely on their beauty– will pretty much try anything that has a whiff of working, and they’re kind of okay with potential consequences.

        1. TL -*

          Juice cleanses don’t do any of that, though. If your body is harboring toxins, either your liver or your kidneys are failing and you have problems juice can’t cure. If your body isn’t, a juice cleanse is only going to make you hungry and grumpy.

          If it feels like it allows you to reset your diet or take a break from food or whatever, that’s all fine but the physical health benefits of a juice cleanse are non existent.

          1. TL -*

            (I mean, if you normally eat a lot of junk and don’t on a cleanse, that could be a health benefit, but that would come from any version of picking a healthier diet.)

            1. Emi.*

              This may be what underlies the anecdotal benefits of cutting gluten when you don’t have celiac or an allergy—at least when it was a new thing, there weren’t a lot of gluten-free packaged foods, so “I’m g-free now” was a proxy for “I cook thoughtfully from scratch now,” and you got the health benefits of *that*.

              1. Mike C.*

                I remember one researcher commenting that pretty much every diet out there has short term benefits because the person is going from eating whatever to actually keeping track of what they eat.

                1. fposte*

                  There’s some evidence, too, that the benefits from Atkins were from people eating less processed foods, and now that the manufacturers cater to it the benefits are diminishing.

                2. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  Huh, this is a very good point that I hadn’t put together before, even though I have heard that tracking calories is one of the very few habits consistently correlated with reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                In addition to Mike’s note, which has been backed up by small but legit empirical studies, I’ve found a lot of folks who go g-free to lose weight also consume a lot of processed sugar/carbs. So part of the pay-off seems to be the cooking-from-scratch benefit, and the other part seems to be a cutting sugar benefit.

              3. Doe-eyed*

                Additionally, a lot of foods that have gluten are also high FODMAP foods, so people with mild IBS or generally sensitive stomachs would have benefitted.

                1. fposte*

                  Right–if you’re cutting out wheat because you’re afraid of gluten, even if your problem is inulin you’re still getting the benefit.

                  Where you end up screwed, though, is that there are gluten-free foods that do have inulin, and sometimes quite a lot.

            2. Marcy Marketer*

              Yes, from my understanding people lose weight and flatten their bellies because they are eating nothing but juice for 3-9 days and also having terrible diarrhea! But, just because they could do another diet and get the same/similar results doesn’t mean this particular diet isn’t working for them. I hear you on the toxins though, that clearly doesn’t mean anything. Maybe processed foods, but that’s a reach.

              I personally only lasted exactly one and a half days into my juice diet, and I can certainly attest to being very hungry and grumpy.

            1. Mike C.*

              How sweet is the lemonade when you do this? Like the really sweet American kind or closer to the more sour British kind?

                1. Zombii*

                  @Lynxa | Master Cleanse Lemonade Recipe for Detox:
                  2 T organic lemon or lime juice.
                  2 T organic Maple Valley Syrup.
                  1/10 t cayenne pepper.
                  10 oz spring or purified water.

              1. Marcy Marketer*

                I used to use just one whole lemon, juiced, with water and cayenne pepper. That’s it. Some people add agave or other sweeteners. I drank too much one time and now I don’t really like it anymore.

              2. Natalie*

                I’m not familiar with British style lemonade so I don’t really have a frame of reference for that, but I would say less sweet than “standard” American fountain drink lemonade.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Totally with TL, et al., on this. I find folks who do juice cleanses to “remove toxins” also try to avoid things “with chemicals,” which is also insane. Side rant: The entire world is made of chemicals—chemicals are not inherently bad. If you want to minimize the risk of ingesting pesticides or minimize exposure to carcinogens, then say that! /end rant.

            I think the lack of precise language, combined by the idea that we are body bags full of disgusting toxic waste, tries to encourage folks to “get clean” by pursuing quack ideas.

            P.S. In most cases, juice is the worst.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              Oh god, the chemicals thing. I really try not to get into this kind of thing with people, but one of my coworkers was trying to convince me to swap out my sweet-n-low for stevia “because chemicals” and I couldn’t resist giving her a hard time about it. Of all the things I could change about my diet, my 1-2 packets of artificial sweetener a day are so far behind “cutting down on red meat” and “drinking less alcohol” as to not even be on the list.

            2. Allison*

              But but don’t you know that blahblahmycin which is found in Scary Bad Thing and therefore definitely poison, is ALSO in that “delicious” packaged food you like?? It’s the one thing doctors won’t tell you! Vaccines contain mercury! CHEMTRAILS! It’s a conspiracy! The government is poisoning our wa- wait . . . that one’s sorta true . . . crap . . .

            3. Mike C.*

              One of Nature Chemistry’s blogs had a great paper showing a comprehensive list of chemical-free consumer products. Link in the response.

          3. Anna*

            Oh my gosh, thank you for mentioning the liver. Do you listen to Sawbones? That’s Sydnee McElroy’s mantra for “getting rid of toxins.”

          4. Perse's Mom*

            +a billion
            Add in the placebo affect that can accompany doing *anything* you think might be helpful, and you magically feel better, therefore it works!

        2. Mike C.*

          Ugh, “toxins” (and note, they never ever specify which ones!) are removed by kidneys. I hate this sort of advertising.

          1. hermit crab*

            Also the liver, and even the lungs! Human organ systems are amazing all on their own, no juices needed.

            1. Zombii*

              Friend (sees me drinking juice): Are you doing a cleanse?
              Me: Yes. My body is constantly doing a cleanse. It even gets alcohol out, isn’t that cool?

          2. blackcat*

            And the body does a reasonably good job of removing toxic levels of stuff while allowing a healthy level to stay. There’s plenty of stuff that is toxic in high quantities, but actually very important in low levels (take cobalt for example. You need a tiny bit. But it’s SUPER toxic in high quantities!).

            Our bodies are complex machines. I can see ANYONE wanting to stay away from helping companies offer dubious heath information to the public.

          3. MegaMoose, Esq*

            My sister is big on cleanses, and while I know better than to argue with her about it, in my head I’m going, “well of course you’re losing weight – you’re eating fewer calories and have the runs. AND THAT’S NOT HOW TOXINS WORK!” Ugh.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            I do too, and it would turn me off to any company that used it. I don’t know how I’d feel about the advertising company–if I were seeking to hire one, I’d probably steer clear to avoid any whiff of ethical problems. Like if I were going to hire an ad agency but their client list included Hydroxycut–nope.

        3. paul*

          Your liver and kidneys remove toxins. That is what they are for. The cleanse stuff is psuedo science.

        4. Allison*

          Well it depends. Real cranberry juice is fine, but cranberry juice cocktail is practically all sugar, and that’s not good.

        5. Elizabeth H.*

          Warning that this gets kind of into “not everyone can eat sandwiches” territory, but one argument for juice having some value is that a) juice can be a great source of micronutrients that are more bioavailable than in a vitamin pill, because they are in an actual natural food b) you can get a very concentrated amount of these nutrients (counterargument – that large doses are not process-able by the body) c) if you already get enough fiber or have a hard time digesting a lot of fiber it can be appealing. I think the argument for nutrients of juice is that it’s very easy to digest so your body has to do less “work” to get this big dose of nutrients.
          Finally, if you for real do a juice cleanse it’s possible to lose weight quickly, I know this is not a typical opinion but I think it can be a legitimate morale boost or clean slate effect, so I don’t think the juice cleanse is 100% without merit. (Link to Gretchen Rubin article on this: http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2013/09/do-you-prefer-to-aim-big-or-aim-small/ http://gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2014/04/has-a-clean-slate-ever-led-to-a-major-habit-change-for-you/ – neither of these gets at 100% of what I’m trying to say but is the general idea)

          1. fposte*

            I think she’s saying something different than you, though; you’re arguing for actual health benefits of a juice-based diet, which there isn’t much evidence for, while she’s arguing for the value of things that reset your habits. That’s nothing specific about juice–and there’s also the homeostasis problem of people eating worse if they think they’re doing something healthy to offset it.

            (And generally if you’re debilitated enough that your body can’t process nutrients the way it’s designed to, juice is going to be a problem.)

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              Oh yeah, this isn’t my actual argument for the value of juice, just that it is the explanation offered for what the potential health benefit of juice *could* be if there is one. And it’s true that there is nothing specific about juice, it could be a cleanse where you only eat oatmeal (my kind of cleanse!!) for a week, or the Master Cleanse, but it is my honest opinion that these pursuits can have a legitimate psychological benefit.

              1. fposte*

                I can see that that might be proven, but I also think it’s just as likely they lead to the offsetting situation, so I think absence evidence about what they *do* actually result in I’m not seeing this as something we can claim as a behavioral gain any more than a behavioral negative.

        6. The Anonymous One*

          “super rich, beautiful people– especially those whose careers rely on their beauty– will pretty much try anything that has a whiff of working, and they’re kind of okay with potential consequences.”

          But even the super rich and beautiful have the right to know whether or not a product is proven to work.

          1. fposte*

            This relates a little bit to the epic norovirus post, I think, in that I think our knowledge of how much has to be proven to be claimed and how much sellers can bs is pretty weak. I’m sure we’ve all had people state benefits merely claimed in an ad for something as if they were objectively proven truths.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      There’s a really important difference between “unproven but not particularly unsafe” and “unproven and also insanely dangerous.” Whether the literature the OP is being asked to put together is actually promising medical cures (which they shouldn’t be anyway) is not the only concern — it’s also if they’re promoting coffee or alcohol enemas, ear candling, or unregulated herbal supplements with an ingredients list of “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” which all put people at the risk of actual harm.

      1. Mike C.*

        It’s also important to note that even if the particular “treatment” isn’t directly harmful, people have limited resources (time and money). Going with the fake treatment can hinder the ability or effectiveness of a real treatment later on.

    5. TL -*

      Tons of people do think this stuff will be a miracle cure, though, and there’s a portion of homeopathic providers who deliberately advertise at the desperately ill and/or terminal – cancer patients, for instance, or worse, pediatric cancer patients. The results can be fatal.

    6. Allison*

      I hear you on the natural stuff. I use tea tree oil for my acne, I take ginger tablets for mild stomach aches, I think massages do have health benefits, as do juices. But I have my limits. There are concerns that things like enemas, juice cleanses, and megadoses of vitamins can be risky if they’re not done properly, so I could see wanting no part in endorsing them.

      I also don’t like when people who practice alternative medicine target desperate people with chronic conditions, or people who can’t afford medical treatment, promising to do what medicine can’t when in reality their treatments aren’t nearly as effective as medicine, and these people end up wasting a lot of money on these practitioners, or worse, end up with averse reactions from the treatments.

  17. Fresh Faced*

    #2 Asking employees to recommend people they know for a job is common but your employer went about it in a really weird way. I’ve had friends recommend me for jobs they think I’d be interested in/suited for, but I’ve never been cold called by their boss. (I’d find a call like the sketchy tbh.) Generally conversation like that would start from a “We have X position coming up, do you know anyone who would fit that role? ” As opposed to being asked for contact information without context as to what the jobs would be.

    1. Jenny*

      Yes, I agree.

      I would even say that if there is a specific position he’s trying to fill, have him post it online and then you can easily share the link on your LinkedIn or even your Facebook page. The economy is better but it’s still not great so it might be a really helpful share for someone who is looking for a new job. But it helps if there’s an actual job posting that you can share.

  18. Marketing Lady PA*

    The coffee enema thing reminds me of that popular blogger a few years ago who had cancer and a started seeing some doctor who convinced her he could cure her cancer holistically, primarily through coffee enemas. The woman was doing coffee enemas several times a day and claimed for years that her cancer was cured because of it. Her mother also got cancer and started the same treatment.

    Her mother died not too long after being “cured” and the blogger passed away not too long after.

    Ever since then, when I hear of the coffee enemas I think of her story. It was so sad.

    1. Mike C.*

      I got to watch my late grandfather succumb to cancer because he chose acupuncture, mushroom tea and “chinese herbs” over actual medicine.

      OP, please stand your ground. You have every right to put your foot down and point out the harm these shams do.

      1. Purest Green*

        I’m sorry you had to deal with that, Mike C. Things like this make me so angry and sad at the same time.

      2. Aurion*

        One of my mother’s close friends did the same. Not only did she succumb to the cancer anyway, but the ineffective alternate medicine probably ended up costing more than allopathic medical treatment.

      3. GS*

        A similar thing happened with my dad. He tried radiation, which was not successful, and then chose traditional Chinese medicine instead of chemo as the next step.

        Purveyors of pseudoscience that take time and resources away from desperate people, and who distract people from getting evidence-based treatments make me so, so angry.

      4. Lison*

        I once worked with a woman who told me that her father in law had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma and was going to get treatment from a quack (her word) who did something involving buckets of energised water and electricity, charged a ridiculous amount gor this treatment and advised it would not work if he had any conventional treatment (including surgery). I felt morally I had to tell her I very much advised against this course of action, why I did and asked her to please speak up against it (we worked in the pharmaceutical industry and both had science degrees). We shared an office, she never spoke to me again in the 6 months we worked together after that. I regret nothing other than not getting the details of the “quack” first so I could have reported him to the relevant authorities. I’ll never know what happened to that poor gullible man.

        1. Lison*

          Oh just remembered the quack also said it would be very painful and that was a sign it was working. My heart breaks.

    2. Temperance*

      While I find that doctor’s behavior reprehensible, I also think that the ultimate responsibility lies with the person making the choice to forgo regular medical care and choose alternative medicine. So I don’t see the big deal with LW1 working on marketing for a place that gives coffee enemas, presuming that she’s not required to make illegal and false claims in her advertising.

      1. TL -*

        Because it is ethically reprehensible to allow someone to prey on the weak and desperate. Cancer treatment is harsh and someone promising you a cure with the chemo and radiation and surgery is very seductive. The case referred to, the woman needed an arm amputated and refused it because of promised that were built around the statistical likely outcome of her cancer – remission for a few years, then a return and death. The remission was “proof” the enemas worked, even if they weren’t advertised as cancer cures.

        Cancer treatment can be almost as bad as the disease. People get desperate. It’s not okay to blame someone for buying into a miracle cure when the treatment they’re undergoing is putting them through hell.

        1. Temperance*

          I do have tremendous empathy for anyone suffering through cancer, to be clear, and I think it’s criminal to mislead people like that doctor did. I just strongly believe in personal responsibility and research, and I don’t feel that coffee enemas are really comparable into tricking someone into forgoing regular medical treatment, in most cases.

          1. TL -*

            One should not be required to have an advanced degree in the sciences in order to know if the benefits being promised are real or not. I have no problem with spa services but that’s almost never what’s marketed.

            1. Temperance*

              I don’t have an advanced degree in the sciences, and I can quite easily tell a doctor from a homeopath, reiki practitioner, or acupuncturist. Then again, I have friends who are otherwise very intelligent and follow weird diets from their homeopath because they have “sensitivities” to things that were discovered while holding a bucket with that substance inside. Silly, but harmless.

              I’ve only seen these marketed as wellness/spa services, which is probably what is coloring my opinion. We’ve all heard of the cases where someone chooses to do alternative medicine instead of cancer treatment, but they seem very rare to me.

              1. TL -*

                On the other hand, you’re arguing (with no expertise or research) a point on which people with expertise and research are taking the exact opposite stance: this is likely to be harmful.

                Everyone has their blind spots. That’s why we need truth in advertising.

              2. Marcela*

                However, Temperance, the “you should be responsible and do your research” is something that only the educated people do. My family is not educated, therefore they have done this “since you get sick with chemo and radio, let’s use herbal ‘things’ – I refuse to call them remedies or medicines, as my phone helpfully suggested- to cure cancer”, and several of them have died because of that. Normal people is not well prepared to evaluate medicine and compare it with quackery, even less in this current climate of ignorant quimiofobia where everybody seem to have forgotten about the _chemical_ elements that make everything. So while I do believe in personal responsibility, conditions are _not_ there yet to allow the same publicity to medicine and malevolence (for I’ve come to think people who sell this are absolutely evil. I had a friend who told me she wanted to work doing ‘alternative medicine ‘ and I lost it. Lost my friend too, but I can’t be friend of somebody like that).

                1. TL -*

                  A lot of educated people believe in this stuff too. It’s complicated, but I think that some of it is due to “I’m really smart and educated –> I should be able to understand stuff. I don’t really understand Medical Treatment but I do understand Simple Alternative Treatment. I’m smart, and I understand it, so it must be right.”

                2. Elizabeth H.*

                  TL, just to share my perspective: I’m an educated person and 100% PRO SCIENCE but I believe in acupuncture, for one. My opinions on other types of alternative health treatments are more mixed, and there are some I’d confidently say I “don’t believe in,” but I think many are not without merit. Regardless of their mechanism of action, many people feel they derive benefit from them and I won’t argue with that.

                  At least for me, it’s not the “easier to understand” issue, I research everything, I know how regular treatments work and I know how acupuncture is explained to work. I think this same attitude is shared by the other educated people I know who subscribe to the value of acupuncture etc.

                  I would never in a million years or beyond recommend that someone pursue these treatments instead of conventional medicine for an illness that has an actual proven medical treatment, like cancer or diabetes. Never, ever, ever, ever, I find that totally reprehensible. But I would and DO recommend acupuncture and maybe one or two other things for things like headaches, pelvic floor muscle spasm, insomnia, IBS, etc. that are more disparate in terms of what their recommended treatments are. The difference is these are all things that have a huge mind-body connection element as well as an exclusively physical element. I think “alternative” treatments can be really helpful for this category of disorder.

                3. TL -*

                  I have a problem with them being billed as treatments, though. They’re not.
                  That being said, if acupuncture does for you what hiking does for me and massage does for my best friend, it’s a good thing to have in your life – namely, relaxation and peace and quiet and a decrease in stress with an increase in feeling good. But the results aren’t from acupuncture specifically.

              3. a different Vicki*

                The problem (or part of the problem) is that some of the people advertising/promoting the quackery are doctors: they have medical degrees, went through residency, and are licensed to practice medicine. It’s easy to, say, let your health insurance company assign you a primary care physician based on geography, or trust that the doctor who did a good job treating a broken arm knows what she’s talking about when she recommends something a little odd.

                Also, a lot of reasonably educated people think “homeopathic” is another word for “herbal” rather than meaning “diluted until it has no real ingredients.”

              4. GS*

                Giant industries that exploit people with impunity are a systemic issue. Systemic issues require systemic solutions, and will never be fixed by individuals making individual choices. Nor should individuals be wholly responsible for avoiding exploitation by a system. Even individuals who are highly educated and have very high capacity for understanding and evaluating claims don’t make choices that are fully informed – as humans we simply don’t have the capacity to find, review and understand all the information that could influence the decisions they make. Many, many people have much lower capacity, and deserve to be protected from exploitation.

      2. Mike C.*

        I have a difficult time with this – your point is a fair one, but at the same time I cannot expect everyone out there to be trained to be a scientist or a doctor. That goes for all sorts of situations – taxes, engineering (buildings, cars, etc) all sorts of specialized fields and it feels like a recipe for disaster.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I cannot expect everyone out there to be trained to be a scientist or a doctor.

          Yeah, this is the big thing for me. I’m a huge proponent of bodily autonomy and letting people make their own healthcare choices, but in terms of the information being put out there (which OP, doing advertising, is dealing with), it’s absolutely vital to remember that no one can be an expert in everything and shouldn’t be expected to be in order to make decent choices.

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, and I think that this is happening a little in medicine now, that the move away from doctor as patriarchal authority makes informed consent and patient decision out to be key concepts–but how many of us as patients really have the information needed to make a decision? If you look at stuff like the Choosing Wisely initiative, it’s clear that even doctor recommendations aren’t always good information.

          I really don’t want informed consent and driver decision to be civil engineering’s way of pushing responsibility for bridge viability onto me.

        3. Is It Performance Art*

          Not to mention a lot of really successful quacks are really good at talking about quackery using sciencey talk that can lead non scientists to think it is a real science thing. Naturopaths who claim to treat genetic conditions or allergies tend to be particularly good at this. It really makes me angry

          1. Mike C.*

            Oh man, or they start digging around Google Scholar or NCBI like they understand how to properly interpret and evaluate a scientific paper. It’s like a lay person reading the Federal Law and presuming they can interpret it like a lawyer can.

            And then they pick out one paper from a crazy journal as if it overturns mountains of evidence from legitimate sources. “Just keep an open mind!” UGH

      3. Allison*

        Nope. If someone has cancer and is desperate to get rid of it and survive, they can’t be expected to make the “right choice” if they’re not properly informed. It’s the doctor’s job to guide someone through their treatment options, but holistic practitioners mislead patients with false claims. They make it seem like their treatment will cure them, or at least offer the same result as medicine without all those nasty side effects. You can’t expect sick, desperate people basically in survival mode to know this is a lie. You can tell them it’s a lie, but if they’re sold, they’re sold, and it’s the practitioner’s fault for trying to sell them on magic potions in the first place.

        1. Anna*

          Exactly. What these hucksters do is prey on fear and desperation and offer the thing sick people are looking for, hope. The people who fall prey to these criminals are victims and blaming them is gross.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        Technically that’s true, but if I wanted to advertise, I’d probably pick someone else. My thought process would be “Hey this agency is just interested in making a buck and doesn’t care if anyone gets hurt/sick in the meantime.” Plus, I’m a science maven and I hate this kind of stuff. So they would need to tread carefully to avoid alienating potential clients. Or they might end up getting a flood of this kind of thing and then be known as the agency for shady supplement companies.

        I don’t know anything about advertising or marketing, so YMMV, but that’s just my perception.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That’s not to say I wouldn’t try a spa treatment just for fun (aromatherapy is nice, and I find reiki relaxing because it triggers my ASMR), but I would be leery of being told either by staff or advertisement that it was a health thing.

      5. Feo Takahari*

        If people keep dying because they’re falling off a cliff, it’s heartless to point to the signpost saying “DON’T FALL OFF THE CLIFF. YOU WILL DIE.” For whatever reason, the sign isn’t doing its job, and that means someone needs to fence off the cliff.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          There is actually a sign like that (or was) near the lighthouse in Santa Cruz, but they lost somebody every year anyway. One person climbed OVER the fence onto the crumbly cliff edge and fell. At least you can’t say they didn’t try. Some people simply will not listen. :(

  19. Colette*

    #5 in Ottawa and Toronto, there is a subscription service that sends an email a day with all the new job postings they’ve found. You absolutley could find the postings otherwise, but it might involve looking at hundreds of websites a day. IME, it’s well worth the price (which is around $45/year). You apply directly with the company,

    I wouldn’t trust a service that claimed to have exclusive jobs, and I’d be skeptical about one that had its own application process.

  20. NYC Weez*

    #1: IME, people are highly invested in these types of “treatments” to the point that I’ve seen people get angry when told that it’s little more than modern snake oil. In a perfect world, you could certainly take an ethical stand and refuse to work on this client, but if you can’t afford to quit, my recommendation is to quietly direct the advertising towards an ethical direction as was suggested earlier (“Legally we can’t say X, but we can say Y”). I’d also gently try to shift my boss away from the treatments, without openly condemning them at first. (“Oh yeah, you get a real zip from all that caffeine entering your system, but I’ve heard that long-term they aren’t healthy to keep doing…”). From a professional standpoint, most marketers I know understand that employees can’t always pick and choose their clients.

    1. Zip Silver*

      “#1: IME, people are highly invested in these types of “treatments” to the point that I’ve seen people get angry when told that it’s little more than modern snake oil. ”

      Like gluten free when you don’t have Celiac’s

    2. Mike C.*

      On the other hand, you can also show them the complete lack of evidence that these treatments work and the harm and wasted money involved in using them.

      If these treatments worked, they would have evidence supporting them.

        1. Mike C.*

          There are plenty of folks who don’t understand what good evidence looks like or how to find it. Other times it’s a useful exercise to others to ask them to explain why they still support something that cannot pass a double-blind study and isn’t supported by major medical/scientific research organizations.

          1. fposte*

            I guess I’m skeptical about skepticism. I like the notion I’ve heard advanced that you’re trying to change people’s minds long-term, not necessarily at the exact moment; I think there might be a better chance there, because I haven’t had much luck otherwise. Have you had much success?

            1. Mike C.*

              I’ve seen a few effects.

              1. If the person is genuinely confused, explaining tends to work well. Answering questions, that sort of thing. It’s important that they don’t feel dumb because they aren’t.

              2. If you’re talking about true believers, then I’ve had others come to me afterwards thanking me for the information. It also inspires others to comment similarly, so you crowd out the false message as well.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        As my sister likes to say, you know what they call alternative medicine that stands up to stringent testing?


    3. Temperance*

      I probably wouldn’t even recommend that LW try and shift her boss away from getting treatments at the wellness center or lecturing her on the efficacy or potential danger of the treatments. Her boss is an adult.

      I wouldn’t tell another adult what to eat, what medicines to take, how often to sleep, to wear sunscreen … so I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell an adult, who presumably has access to studies showing that these treatments are just quackery, how to live their life.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, agreed. It’s one thing if the OP doesn’t want to get personally involved in serving that client, but it isn’t their business what the boss does on their own time and dime.

      2. Mike C.*

        There’s a huge difference between telling someone to do (or not do) something and telling them that what they are doing isn’t useful or potentially dangerous.

        1. Temperance*

          Not really – both are busy-bodyish in nature, unless there is some relationship that leads you to have a specific concern. I would probably advise my husband not to go to a wellness center for these treatments, but if my boss mentioned it, I would strictly consider it not my business.

          1. Mike C.*

            I find it completely irresponsible to say nothing. If you were a lawyer (in general) and I told you I was planning on perjuring myself in court, wouldn’t you say something? How about if I were planning on driving drunk?

            The promotion of quack medical procedures is harmful as well.

            1. Temperance*

              I’ll be honest, I am a lawyer, and I see these as very different things. If you were my friend and you told me that you were planning on perjuring yourself, I would advise against it. If you were my client and did so, I would advise against it AND let you know that I have an ethical obligation to report said perjury. If you were just some rando, I would find it weird but probably do nothing unless I had a reason to need to report your actions.

              If you were drunk and about to drive, I’d call the cops. If you told me you were going to drive drunk, and put other people in danger, I would ream you out, because that’s not about you at that point.

              If you told me that you were getting reiki healing or a coffee enema, I would probably say nothing, because those things don’t harm the judicial system or put other people’s lives in danger. That’s a huge difference to me.

              1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                I agree. We have different ethical obligations to speak up depending on the potential consequences of the action. Potentially committing a crime, undermining our professional obligations as attorneys, or creating a danger to others all create a much stronger ethical obligation to speak up than someone planning to do something that is only potentially harmful to themselves.

              2. Kyrielle*

                Yep. If a close friend of mine or a family member were going to get a coffee enema, I’d speak up. A distant acquaintance? Maybe. A stranger? Maybe. The latter two would depend solely on how ready I felt for the probable blow-back.

                Reiki? I wouldn’t even comment, *unless* they were getting it *in place of* conventional treatment (in which case, I might encourage them to also get the conventional treatment more than worry about steering them away from reiki). As far as I know, it’s not going to do any harm, whether or not it helps. (And, honestly, like a massage it may help by making the patient feel better / more relaxed / like they’ve been helped! The placebo effect isn’t a terrible thing.)

                1. Anna*

                  Two of my favorite podcasts that deal with skepticism and medicine (Sawbones and Oh No! Ross and Carrie) discuss that the psychological benefit of a “treatment” can be good, as long as it doesn’t supersede actual scientifically tested treatments. Alternative medicines should be used in conjunction with, not instead of.

              3. Lissa*

                I agree — when we start telling people not to get reiki or whatever, sure we know we’re right, but the people who tell me not to eat that cheeseburger also “know” they are right and we all agree that’s rude as hell. I wouldn’t appreciate somebody going into the reasons why my diet/lifestyle was bad no matter what it was – even if the reasons were backed up by science and studies!

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think the difficulty, Mike, is that we have a fundamentally different relationship to our clients than medicine. At the end of the day, we work at the direction of the client. We can offer counsel/advice, and we can decline to do things that are illegal, but we can’t make a client conform to our advice. And because we have a duty of loyalty in addition to our duty of confidentiality, absent a separate legal obligation to disclose information (e.g., like a law), we can’t report the misconduct of our clients.

              All we can do is explain if something is inadvisable and notify the client that confidentiality might not apply if what they’re planning to do has to be disclosed.

    4. Emilia Bedelia*

      As someone whose actual job involves evaluating medical product marketing claims- this is not something that you want to casually mess around with. I think this is probably the best way to get the company out of this project- tell the boss about the risks of making unsubstantiated claims. Look up some FDA guidance documents and show them how careful they will need to be about ensuring that any marketing claims are backed up, and your boss may just decide that it’s not worth the trouble.
      This is also a good way to make an excuse to the client- “We just don’t have the expertise in medical marketing to ensure that you will be in compliance with regulations on this kind of treatment”

      1. Mike C.*

        Oh, that’s a really good point. Would the FDA ever go after the advertising agency or publisher for false claims or just the manufacturer of the fraudulent product?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          They can (and do) go after the advertiser, as does the FCC. For example, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities were promoting pseudo-medical products/treatments on their social media feeds, and the FCC sent compliance letters threatening action if they didn’t comply.

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          My knowledge of this in particular is not super strong, but I don’t think the agency that produced the ad campaign or whatever would be responsible- I think the liability would be on the manufacturer. In general, if your name is on the product, it’s your problem to fix- and if your supplier/contractor/whatever messed up, that’s a problem with your procedures.
          It’s still a good “better safe than sorry”/CYA move for the marketing agency to say that they’re not comfortable with medical claims.

    5. Anon Just in Case*

      My mom and brother subscribe to all manner of pseudo-science (and told my father when he had cancer that he should get a charcoal cleanse instead of chemo … I’ve never punched anyone in my life, but man, I came close that day). They cannot be persuaded. They will not listen to evidence, and if you try to show them scientific studies (my sister supervises clinical trials for Pete’s sake — she has access to them and can actually interpret them!), they’ll dismiss you as an idiot who is being brainwashed by Big Pharma and Big Medicine. My sister and brother haven’t spoken for months because she made a joke (!) about stealing our nephew and taking him to get vaccinated because “she made a joke about giving his son autism.”

      So. Since this is your boss, I have to agree with NYC WEEZ and say that if you can’t quit your job, trying to persuade your boss that this is pseudo-science may not go well, so focusing on false advertising claims and FTC requirements to try to make yourself feel a little less dirty might be your best bet. I’m so sorry, OP1 — I know this has got to be frustrating.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I like this suggestion. It may not be feasible to refuse the contract outright, so at least OP can help the company (and the client!) execute it in a responsible way.

  21. OlympiasEpiriot*

    About #5, except for the specialist boards which seem to be more like headhunters with a database website, I can see how many people would think they need to pay to find a job. Our culture is very much “you get what you pay for” and based around transactions with money.

  22. Covert Operation*

    #4 – Does the advice change if you purchased an item that helps you do your job but isn’t standard, and then later the company reimbursed you for the item? I bought an item, was reimbursed, and took it with me when I was laid off. No one else in my department used that item, so it wasn’t like I was taking it from anyone who might replace me.

    1. Someone*

      I use an split keyboard and ergonomic mouse and I absolutely left them behind when I left my last job. Someone else may be having problems and want to try them out — in fact, at my last job, there was a different ergonomic keyboard that I would have used, except it turned out to be broken. As it is, people freak out when they are at my computer and have to type something or use the mouse (weird shapes! not familiar!), but they were expensive and belong to my company (and took many months to get replaced, including an ergonomic eval, etc. etc.) Yes, let someone else who needs them have them.

      1. Covert Operation*

        But no one used this item. It wasn’t an ergonomic thing, it was an add-on piece of technology that I’d learn to use and specifically asked to be able to use at a different company where they weren’t standard. No one knew what the hell it was.

        If I hire someone to paint my portrait and it turns out they’d be able to do it better with a fancy sort of brush, I’d reimburse them for the brush but I wouldn’t then expect them to turn it over to me. I would have zero use for it. It was just a tool that let that artist do a better job.

        1. Lucy in Lace*

          Doesn’t matter. It doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to the company who paid for it. Why didn’t you just ask if you could keep it? If there was no reason for the company to want to keep it, surely they’d have agreed.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Exactly. In everyday life most people don’t care enough to press the issue, but in the abstract, just because someone else does not need something of theirs does not make it OK to take it without permission. The company purchased something and paid you to use their property to be more productive. It doesn’t matter if they need it or can use it or not, or that you were the exclusive user of it, it’s still theirs, and I consider it more respectful and ethical to ask. If it’s true that they really don’t need it and would throw it away anyway, they will very likely be very happy to give it to you, it would actually save them some trouble and possibly expense if they pay for waste disposal by weight. But that’s still the owner’s decision to make.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      No, it doesn’t change it at all. Once the company pays for it, it’s their property. It doesn’t matter whether they’re going to reuse it or not—it’s their decision how to dispose of it.

  23. Loose Seal*

    #2 — Does the department at your alma mater have a job board or Facebook page? If so, that may be the best way to get your boss off your back. You could offer to submit postings to it. It would be a better way to advertise these jobs, I would think, than calling those former classmates you’ve kept up with.

    1. Judy*

      Or are you on LinkedIn? When we’re hiring, I am certainly willing to put a link to the job ad on my LinkedIn feed.

  24. hiptobesquare*

    #4 – Yeah, don’t take the stuff. I work in IT and would be livid if I went to clean up a desk and the keyboard/mouse was gone.

    Yes, I order things for people all the time, but I also move things around as needed. Everything is owned by the company, it’s not actually yours.

  25. Trout 'Waver*

    In response to #3, there is no incentive for you to respond to them. People are way more likely to shoot the messenger than accept critical feedback from strangers. And even if they’re terrible at hiring, they might still be well connected in the field. And giving honest feedback could come back to bite you if they feel offended.

    If you were feeling particularly nice, you might respond and decline to give feedback but redirect them to an HR consultant. That would send a pretty direct message without you being on the hook for it.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Plus, I think there is some benefit for future candidates to see how poorly thought out their hiring process is, as it could possibly signal organization-wide issues (and certainly some issues with that particular hiring manager). I would be inclined to leave a review on Glassdoor, however.

    2. NonProfit Nancy*

      I think this is a dream scenario! You don’t want the job with them and and you feel that their process was crappy. I would jump at the chance to give this feedback haha (but i’m process-oriented and consider it a boost to my karma to improve crappy processes; OP you probably have more important things to do with your time and don’t feel like providing free labor to someone who rejected you; that is also completely understandable!).

    3. NoMoreMrFixit*

      There is nothing to gain by doing this. They already showed they don’t respect you given the games they’ve played so it’s unlikely they are going to give any credence to your feedback. In that situation I’d politely decline to participate.

    4. Kimberlee, Esq*

      I completely disagree. They are asking for feedback, so the odds that OP will manage to say something so terrible that it impacts OP’s possible future at the company is really small. I’d say it’s especially good to respond because the request came from HR and not the hiring manager; if OP mentions (politely and focusing on “I found this to be very offputting from the hiring manager” rather than “your hiring manager sucks”) the issues with the HM then HR can actually do something about it. I’ve been on the receiving end of this sort of thing from HR; when they get strong feedback from a candidate, they make sure the hiring manager knows about it, which is the only way anything changes. Plus, OP can *probably* ensure that HR doesn’t forward their name to the hiring manager, giving an additional layer of security for any future applications.

        1. OP #3*

          #3 OP here. Given the hiring manager’s interview comments (I’m still amazed she felt free to say what she did and she clearly didn’t think very highly of senior managers’ knowledge) and feedback from an industry contact who met her (similar impression to me), I think she’s very likely to dismiss feedback especially from an unsuccessful candidate. Although I was interviewed after being recommended by my mentor and a couple of senior company directors that I met previously (seemed professional), I still think the way the role as it evolved wasn’t right for me and definitely the hiring manager wasn’t. But I know this company is looking to do things differently and make some changes. It’s hard to tell how real that is and if the feedback to HR (said it would be confidential) would be taken onboard or seen as sour grapes. It would be good for them to know the impression they’re making in the industry but this may not be the right medium to put that forward.

          1. Anna*

            I get the hesitancy, but I think it’s hard to attribute to sour grapes feedback that’s professional and neutral. You don’t have to say it’s making a bad impression in the industry, but you can say “when I’ve interviewed for a similar role with another company, this is what they did.” But you can also mention the HM felt a little brusque, but it was difficult to tell if that was their personality or they were having a bad day. It’s possible they’ve been hearing things and want to know if it’s just one or two people who are being critical because they didn’t get the job, or if they are trying to suss out the source of an issue. Maybe they check Glassdoor and haven’t like the reviews they’ve got.

  26. Bad Candidate*

    #3 I would love the opportunity to give feedback on a hiring process. Usually the only companies that ask are the ones that are doing a good job. Maybe that’s just me.

    1. Katherine*

      I once had a company ask me for feedback on their interview process *during* the interview! That’s really not the way to get useful honest feedback from people.

  27. Zip Silver*

    A coffee enema sounds interesting. A sniff of my morning espresso gets the system moving, and by the time I finish drinking it, I’m ready to go. I can’t imagine what sort of terror would come out after a coffee enema.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think Anna’s commenting on whether she fully understands the tone of your comment (e.g., are you joking? is it serious?), not your intentions in posting it. :)

  28. Mazzy*

    I love #5, that it came up, and I would say no. It reminds me very much of the 90s when I was apartment hunting and I’d buy lists of roommates or apartments from various realtors or office. Some looked legit, some looked like holes in the wall. Most of the apartments that seemed to cheap never call you back, so I’m guessing those listings were fake. So I’m guessing the listings you’ll buy might have a few fake ads with nice salaries to make the service seem more legit.

  29. Recruit-o-Rama*

    I would never use a service that required candidates to pay to see the listing because it’s sort of the opposite of what advertisement is supposed to do; increase exposure.

    Although in reading the comments this morning, I can see it’s standard is SOME industries but I would think if you work in one of those industries, you would know it.

  30. Antie*

    #4 I agree with Alison that it’s OK to ask. A keyboard wrist rest is very personal and likely to be thrown away when you leave. And if the mouse is unusual in any way or well-worn, it might be too.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I’d also agree that it’s fine to ask. I’m a little surprised that I haven’t seen more comments on that point. I can’t see that it would reflect poorly on you to ask about taking something that was custom purchased for you and might be thrown out after you leave.

    2. Chairrrrr*

      At my last job, they bought me a fancy ergonomic chair (that looks weird but solved my major shoulder problems.) When it came time to leave, I really wanted to keep it, so I figured out the devaluation of the chair and offered to buy it from the company at that price. Ultimately, they let me just take it without paying – so it proves there’s really no harm in asking!

  31. Temperance*

    LW1: sometimes you will have to do things at work that you find hinky or weird or maybe even unethical. It’s on you to draw the line, but I think providing services to a wacky “wellness center” is probably not the hill to die on.

    At my last job, I ended up formatting/editing a Catholic book that had themes that strongly go against all of my personal beliefs. I held my nose and did the best job I could, while mentally eyerolling about the book’s contents. You can provide marketing or IT or what have you to a “wellness center” without supporting what they do. Anyone who supports such an org already has their belief system, and you not providing services won’t change it.

    1. TL -*

      Just because someone is going to harm somebody anyways doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to be an active participant in it.
      OP, this is the hill I would die on, but that’s me. At the very least, I would do some serious digging into the place: if they only treat the healthy and wealthy, that’s one thing, but if they have even a wiff of looking at more serious diseases, I’d talk to my boss and refuse.

      1. Temperance*

        I don’t see it as actively participating in harm, though, at least no more than me working on that book, which had some pretty strong anti-woman and anti-choice themes.

        FWIW, I live in an area with a lot of these centers, and they largely cater to bored, well-off women, which I’m fine with. If they were tricking cancer patients, it would be very well known out here.

        1. TL -*

          I’ve lived in those areas too, and no, it may not be well known that they’re tricking cancer patients.
          Also, bored wealthy women get cancer too. If it’s sold as spa services, no problem. If it’s sold as health services, that’s an issue.

          1. Temperance*

            We don’t *know* that she’s being asked to promote fraud, though. This could be something wacky but largely harmless. TL made a good distinction between marketing as spa services and marketing as a cure for serious illness.

  32. Fabulous*

    #5 – I’d suggest keeping the bookmark, but google the job title or job ID to find it on the company’s website or listed elsewhere on a free site. That’s how I would get around having to pay anything to apply.

    1. Zip Silver*

      That’s what I do when I’m booking flights and hotels. Look it up on Expedia and then book direct with the company.

  33. Rose*

    Wow, all the problems in the world and a wellness center offering coffee enemas is an ethical dilemma. LOL.

    I’m currently at one of those wellness centers in Thailand, right now, and yes I put coffee up my butt, and no I didn’t die. People really like to feel smug and call something quackery. Yes, it is all pretty hippie and woo woo and a lot of people take it to a ridiculous degree, but the fasting and clean food and yoga work really well for me and help me reset my body and mind. Yes, if anyone is claiming their treatment cures XYZ without published scientific research, especially preying on cancer patients and severely ill people, that’s disgusting and unethical. But yeah, the huge level of judgement here is….intense.

    1. Zip Silver*

      Speaking of intense, I’m legitimately curious about what effect coffee enemas have on your bowel movements. Were they really extreme afterwards?

      1. fposte*

        It basically irritates the bowel into hypermotility. Sometimes to the point of giving you the beginnings of colitis, so that’s nice. (There was one study that looked at it as possible ingredient in colonoscopy prep, in fact.) What’s interesting is that the small benefits you get from drinking caffeine don’t seem to obtain nearly as well in an enema anyway.

        Rose, I think when you’re talking areas where facts have actually been determined by people qualified to judge, judgment is not a bad thing.

        1. Sympathy*

          This! This isn’t like communication with aliens from the planet Blequk. This is a field with actual evidence. And in terms of being “judged”, I’ve done things that probably weren’t the best idea and I appreciate that people judged me for it so I could do better.

          1. Rose*

            Nah….that can really lock you into dogmatic and rigid thinking. In fact, there isn’t a ton of research on the effects of colonics and enemas. For one thing, you’d need to 2 sets of subjects with a specific quantifiable data point, like chronic IBS or some other condition. Two, have all the studies been verified and replicated. Remember, anti-vaxxers were using “actual evidence” to support their views until the experiments were debunked.

            I think you have things that are pretty indisputable like vaccines, praying away diseases is silly, antibiotics for infections. Then you can take things one by one and read the research, like I recently had a debate with a friend that blood type diets are total BS, from what I’ve read. And then there’s tons and tons of stuff that is probably bunk that may work for you for some reason like you personally have an intolerance to a certain food or tricks your brain. I was rolling my eyes when my yoga teacher told me to picture “blue light” in my hamstring, but then it totally worked and weirded me out, haha. Finally, sometimes you’ll be surprised like studies have shown that acupuncture IS effective for people with migraines, so it is hardly written in stone or definitive.

            As someone with a master’s in research, this is something I struggle with a lot. I’ve just found my doctors really lacking good answers for me (I have chronic migraines) and I’ve had doctors tell me to take Tylenol (!?!?!?), “cut out the coffee”, “get more sleep”, but it isn’t really guidance on fitness, nutrition, and other treatments beyond taking a ton of medication. For me, fasting and yoga are way more preferable than a doctor who tried to put me on anti-seizure medication with serious side effects.

            So yeah, tl;dr don’t wholly dismiss everything, or at least don’t judge those who don’t (unless its guys who only wear sarongs and have a bunch of tribal tattoos, feel free to judge the hell out of them :p)

            1. Anon for this*

              Thank you for this, Rose. Many of the commenters here have been talking about cancer, and I get that cancer is awful and can kill you and I get that we know that standard hospital treatments have a much better chance of working than rice bran oil or electrocuting your toenails. But that’s not the target of all alternative clinics: Many, many people (way more than you’d think if you’ve never been there) have big-time chronic pains and functional irregularities–migraines, IBS, back pain, extreme insomnia, vulvodynia, multi-system dysfunction–that PCPs and specialist MDs haven’t been able to cure or even alleviate. What those patients often receive is obvious first-line attempts (“drink more water”) that they’ve already tried or only slight relief via expensive drugs or surgeries that have major side effects, and that’s if doctors don’t outright dismiss their complaints.

              In my chronic illness community, I know a lot of people who’ve tried all sorts of stuff that I consider nonsense (including coffee enemas), and I’ve tried things that I know others consider nonsense. I try to go into it with eyes open, picking what makes the most sense to me and accepting that anything could be hooey. Plenty of it was ineffective, but not all of it–and to that point, people who’ve never been this kind of sick and have never gone looking may not know how many just-outside-the-system practitioners (both MDs and NDs) keep in their toolkits supplements, diet, *and* pharmaceuticals. Not a lot of coffee enemas in those doctors’ offices, but for the kinds of chronic illness for which standard treatments aren’t sufficient, they have had to think outside the box.

              Finally, at least some people may be using procedures like enemas for symptom relief. When you’re really down in the dumps (uh, so to speak), anything that perks you up can be a welcome change of state while you keep looking for a cure.

              I’m not defending coffee enemas per se or anything else that I see as bullshit, especially harmful bullshit, and I’m also not at all implying that the OP is obligated to take on this company as a client. But there’s definitely a level to which much of the commentariat here doesn’t seem to understand what’s out there for a large segment of patients, both the mysterious and controversial conditions and the vast array of approaches to them. From lots of personal experience, I know well that the good people who’ve attended excellent and fact-filled medical schools are nevertheless only partially prepared to counter the innumerable ways that the human body can go wrong.

      2. Rose*

        It didn’t do anything for me, I was still dying for my morning coffee. I liked apple cider vinegar the best :p

    2. Temperance*

      I’ll be honest, I’m not into woo-woo, touchy-feely type of stuff, but I really don’t get the POV that it’s somehow kosher to judge people who do. I went to a conference with an optional “mindfulness” session, and just opted out. Easy.

      Then again, I hold personally unpopular opinions as an atheist. To me, going to mass is just as strange as getting a coffee enema (for example). I think it’s fine for other people to do things that I would personally find strange.

      1. fposte*

        I think there are levels, though. I don’t usually actively intervene when adults do stuff that’s harmful only to them, but I don’t want to be part of an effort devoted to telling people smoking is good for them after all, or telling them that they totally can afford a $500k house on a $40k annual salary, or bilking them of money for foot pads that supposedly draw out mysteriously unnamed “toxins.”

        1. Temperance*

          I agree with your point, but I see the foot pads as silly and largely harmless as compared to the other examples, and would have no problem (personally) selling them or working at a company that made them.

          1. Mike C.*

            They’re harmful in the sense that all fraud is harmful and can stop people from seeking real medical treatment for their medical issues.

            1. Temperance*

              In the case of these footpads, they’re just marketed as drawing out toxins through your feet. Wacky, definitely not science-based, but also not touted as an alternative to traditional medicine.

              1. fposte*

                I think this is just an individual call, same as the OP’s. To me these are all straight up conning people, and I’d have to be pretty hungry before I’d be willing to do that. But I can also see letting the legalities define your ethical stand.

      2. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I’m with you that I generally don’t find it worth getting into arguments with people over this kind of thing. I get that some folks are very passionately against any kind of non-science based treatments – my spouse and I mostly avoid the subject because of bad experiences his father had that have led to him being so vehement on the matter that he gets *angry* that I don’t get as angry as him, which isn’t doing anyone any good.

        I guess I’m all for picking my battles. I can draw a line between my cousin who thinks acupuncture helps her allergies (the placebo effect is real, so knock yourself out) and the parents whose kid almost died because they took him to a chiropractor instead of a pediatrician.

      3. Anonimouse*

        You really have told everyone you find Christianity silly many, many times on this site on a diverse range of posts. It’s a talent.
        Its like the old joke, how do you know someone’s an atheist/crossfitter/etc?

        1. Temperance*

          Okay I have to admit that I’m guilty as charged for being very open about it, but I feel like I only bring it up to offer the perspective when it’s relevant, like when a commenter has views that are outside the mainstream and those are getting attacked. ;)

    3. dr_silverware*

      That’s great! Treating it like a spa is one thing. The problem comes when wellness centers and the like promise that these treatments will work for real illness, in lieu of evidence-based medicine. I think that the commenters have been pretty reasonable about making that distinction.

      1. Temperance*

        I honestly think that most people have made the leap to the “alternative cancer treatment” take on these.

        1. TL -*

          I work in the cancer field, I work in science outreach, and I very much follow these issues in the news/blogosphere. The connection being drawn is quite reasonable.

          1. Mike C.*

            Yeah, I have a background in the sciences and follow this stuff as well. The connection is very, very direct.

          2. Temperance*

            I respect your take on this. To me, they seem like two wildly different issues, but as this is your field and not mine, I’ll defer to you on this.

    4. Purest Green*

      I admit I’m judgmental about alternative medicines, but I’m judgmental about their efficacy, not the people who participate in them. I can’t turn off the part of my brain that cares when people die or hurt themselves doing things like this, so I truly hope you’ve discussed these coffee enemas with a medical professional.

    5. Anon for this*

      Coffee enemas, specifically, have a long history of being promoted by those taking advantage of cancer patients.


      I generally think a little woo is harmless, and if it’s not keeping you from more effective treatment of a medical condition, knock yourself out. I like clean eating, yoga, meditation, etc. myself. But coffee enemas have a pretty bad track record.

    6. TL -*

      And as long as it’s marketed as a spa/reset experience and not a medical treatment (or medicinally beneficial) there’s nothing wrong with that. People gotta relax.

    7. Mike C.*

      It’s not about being smug, it’s about understanding the idea of hypothesis testing and being willing to drop an idea that doesn’t survive rigorous experimentation. That’s not arrogance, that’s observation.

      1. Sas*

        The idea of hypothesis testing in America has come to include shitting, throwing it out there to see where it lands and what that means, though. This “pseudoscience ” is how things like can a homeless person figure it out without a lot of resources, law enforcement practices, for-profit schools. If Op decides to not be a part of this project, good for them? Otherwise, what ever


    8. Kelly L.*

      “All the problems in the world”…and pseudoscience is one of them.

      We can disagree with it without forgetting there are other issues that exist.

    9. Anna*

      Nobody here is disputing that eating better and getting some good stretching in will make you feel better, but that’s what makes you feel better. You’re basically getting spa treatments and that’s all they are.

  34. OP1*

    Hi all. Thanks to Alison for taking the time to answer this question, as well as the folks in marketing/ads (and their relatives!) who have stopped by to give insights. I appreciate it!

    It turns out I am not the only skeptic – thank goodness! Our new writer has done his research and is equally horrified. Unfortunately, the pitch process is moving quite fast at this point and boss meets the clients once more tomorrow. I am angling for a meeting with him to discuss the final scope of the project and whether we have to lie through our…keyboards…while doing the work, or if anything can change about the client vetting process moving forward.

    I will return with updates, though only time will tell if they’ll be positive.

    1. Zip Silver*

      At the very least, tell your boss to be careful about the medical claims the center wants to make. Those are related by the feds.

      1. Emilia Bedelia*

        Yes! Bad things happen to people who make medical claims without evidence.

        The FDA released a guidance document last year on “general wellness” products that specified some of the considerations that need to be made when making claims about their effects which may be helpful for your research. Make sure you are on the right side of the regulations when it comes to claims.

    2. Lora*

      I would be very concerned about the disclaimers and whatnot that are legally required for any treatments claiming treatment of a disease/condition/etc. They have to be worded and presented very just-so, and if those are not exactly correct and perfect per the regulations, would the liability be limited to your client?

      I would include the cost of consulting with a regulatory specialist (~ $250-300/hour: I would have them in once for initial guidance and then again when you’ve got a draft of the work for them to review) in your proposal. Just to make sure the language and disclaimer placement/font size/whatever are fully in compliance. You may not need to consult with a lawyer familiar with FDA/EMA regulations to ensure your company’s liability in taking on this client, but it wouldn’t hurt.

      You have my sympathies – this is not a barrel of laughs, for sure.

    3. Poor Man's Don Draper*

      Agreeing with the others who mentioned regulatory concerns. I also work in ads/marketing and have had clients in heavily regulated industries (medical supplies, conception services, food, etc etc). Especially if you’re going to be the one (you, as in, your company) managing the ad buys and you’re not just consulting the client on what they should do, I would not feel safe trusting the client on legal issues. Even if they have their own regulatory team reviewing the work, you want to have someone you trust looking out for the legality of any claims your creative will be making.

  35. Delta Delta*

    #2 – It seems like the boss was a little tone-deaf in the way she asked for the information. I think it seems pretty common for an employer in a profession to say to an employee, “hey, looks like we’ve got openings – think anyone you know in the field/who graduated with you might be interested?” Maybe the balance is to respond by saying you know people x, y, and z, and you’d be glad to put out feelers. This all seems like miscommunication.

    #4 – I’d ask about taking the you-specific items or asking to buy them from the company. They’d probably be just fine with giving you the wrist rests and maybe even the mouse, depending on how specific to you it is.

  36. Employment Lawyer*

    1. Raising ethical objections about a potential client
    Welcome to capitalism: The fact that YOU AND I think this is valueless doesn’t mean that OTHER people find it valueless. And while a coffee enema obviously isn’t the cure-all it’s advertised to be, it is unlikely to be harmful and may have a placebo effect.

    So this isn’t an “ethics” issue like representing the Austrian Free Party; it’s just a personal preference. And a silly one. You work in advertising: Are you saying that you personally vet all of your client’s “we’re great at what we do” claims? If you want to substitute your judgment for the judgment of your boss and the folks who run businesses that you work for, you should start your own company.

    1. Beezus*

      I think someone who works in advertising and cares about their reputation is right to see participating in false advertising as a serious ethical concern. When something “obviously isn’t the cure-all it’s advertised to be”, that’s what we call it – false advertising.

    2. Mike C.*

      Uh, wrong. Fraud is not something that should be accepted under capitalism.

      The promotion of fake medical treatments prevents patients from receiving the best medical advice possible and unnecessarily drains their resources. Even the administration of placebos is unethical as they rely on your doctor lying to you.

      This sort of thing is simply unacceptable in a modern society.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      1. ” it is unlikely to be harmful” You are a lawyer, not a doctor, so you should probably avoid making claims about the medical safety of this.

      2. “Ethics” in quotes is rude. It can be an ethics issue, a real one minus air quotes, if the person involved believes that the procedure here is harmful and that the provider is making false claims.

      3. Her personal preference, if you refuse to call it an ethical issue, is not “a silly one.” See number 2. I worked in marketing before becoming a lawyer, and was very used to the marketing fluff, and it never bothered me to hype up one company or another as being the best most awesome thing in the world. But if I thought a company’s product was actually *harmful* and that the company preyed on people then that is a far cry from your weak analogy.

      4. People are in fact allowed to disagree with their bosses at healthy companies. My boss and I do not always agree on the legal issues we are facing, and it is not a problem to discuss those disagreements.

      1. TL -*

        4. Yup. I work in research. Some people refuse to work on any research involving animals for ethical reasons. It’s fine; they take other projects.

        1. Employment Lawyer*

          [shrug] Sure; I never liked doing dog studies and greatly preferred working in rodent labs. But that wa merely personal preference; there’s a difference between “I don’t like working with large mammals” and “I think it is unethical to do a study involving large mammals.”

          If you feel dog studies are unethical, then you shouldn’t be working at a company which tests on dogs. And if you feel it’s unethical to advertise coffee enemas, you shouldn’t be working at a company which advertises them.

          Asserting unethical behavior while continuing to profit from it by doing alternate work at the same company is an odd ethical choice.

          1. Pebbles*

            It is unlikely however that an individual’s personal ethics will match up completely with their employer’s and it isn’t really helpful to say to someone that their only choices are to either violate their personal ethics or quit their job, nor is it helpful to imply that it is unethical for them to try to make a living by finding an alternate solution.

            1. Employment Lawyer*

              “it isn’t really helpful to say to someone that their only choices are to either violate their personal ethics or quit their job”

              You’re leaving out the third and probably best choice, which is to “constantly reassess and adjust your personal ethics to have more consistency and to match your decisions.”

              Say you are ethically prevented from advertising Doritos due to their addictive and fattening qualities. no problem. But if you ALSO think that it’s perfectly A-OK for your co-workers to advertise Doritos, that conflict should lead to some thought. Maybe you’ll think about it and stick to your initial belief that Doritos are evil–in which case you need to own up to the reality of working for a company who does evil things, so long as you personally benefit. Or, maybe, that dissonance will cause you to agree that Doritos aren’t that bad.

              But the least defensible ethical position is to simultaneously (a) believe Doritos are evil; (b) keep working there; and (c) refuse to consider the ethical aspects of that decision.

              1. Pebbles*

                I didn’t leave it out. It’s in “try(ing) to make a living by finding an alternate solution”. If someone else at the advertising company does not consider Doritos to be an evil product and the OP’s manager can shift the Doritos work away from the OP to that person, then that’s a valid alternate solution. And I don’t see that option to mean the person who is ethically opposed to Doritos being inconsistent unless all the company does is advertise Doritos (similar to the example of a vegetarian working for a BBQ restaurant).

                Most things are not so black and white as what I think you are portraying. The OP here is asking how she can push back on taking on this particular client and how to raise her objection with her boss. She’s concerned about needing to offset the damage taking on this client would do (wants to volunteer on outside projects). That says to me that she is being consistent in her personal ethics. Now, is this the hill she wants to die on? Maybe, maybe not. Can she financially afford to die on this hill? Or is she stuck at this place because of [reasons]. Is this a one-off situation where outside of this one client, her job is just great? We don’t have all of this information, but she’s got your (a) and (b) going on right now and she’s not refusing to do her assessment from the sound of it.

                1. Employment Lawyer*

                  Fair enough.

                  I’m a bit less sympathetic to it in this particular instance, largely because marketing… well, most marketing, like a lot of sales, involves a lot of low-level lying. That’s largely the job you sign up for. And as marketing goes, alt medicine woo is pretty far down the risk chain of social harm, especially a type that is self-limited to folks who want to drink coffee from the wrong end. So this comes across as someone who just doesn’t feel like working on a project, and is trying to claim ethics as an excuse. Perhaps I’m wrong.

      2. Employment Lawyer*

        ” it is unlikely to be harmful” You are a lawyer, not a doctor, so you should probably avoid making claims about the medical safety of this. Well, I did do drug research and work in hard sciences for a decade, and attend graduate school in the sciences, before becoming a lawyer. And I’m still tied into it and am pretty up on these things, so I am fairly confident that “unlikely” is an accurate adjective here. Personally I think this stuff is utter bullshit, but we’re better off with some woo than with a super-restrictive situation. (If you want to pull the “unqualified” attack, you should make sure it’s accurate.)

        Her personal preference, if you refuse to call it an ethical issue, is not “a silly one.” See number 2. I worked in marketing before becoming a lawyer, and was very used to the marketing fluff, and it never bothered me to hype up one company or another as being the best most awesome thing in the world.
        Really? That is a odd ethical combination.

        First of all, everything has an opportunity cost and those costs can be extraordinary, even if they are hidden. Fashion advertising and food advertising have a higher overall negative effect on humans than advertising coffee enemas.

        But second, your decision to brush certain falsities as “fluff” is merely a polite term for the fact that you didn’t see a problem willfully lying about it. I don’t see a problem with “fluff” either, and I wouldn’t judge you for saying This Product Is The Best Thing Ever… but then again I don’t get on my ethical high horse just because I happen to dislike coffee enemas.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          You seem oddly hostile, so I am not sure what horse you have in this race, but you do seem invested.

          I suppose this ties in to the comment thread above about the comment sections being off lately – I’ve been reading AAM for a while and only recently have I seen this kind of hostility towards other commenters.

        2. Employment Lawyer*

          I don’t know you at all; I feel no hostility; and I’ve been commenting here for ages. You just happen to have made some bad assertions, and you’re reading “direct and open disagreement” as “hostility.” That isn’t my fault.

          For example, if you think it’s hostile to point out that your initial assumption about my knowledge was dead wrong… Well, you know what they say about assumptions; you should have stuck to facts you knew.

          And with respect to your past work: this is a sub-thread where people are specifically discussing the ethics of what some people are referring to as fraud, fake, etc. You dove in head-first and made a blase statement that your actions were merely “fluff,” and therefore not worthy of condemnation. If you’re a lawyer, you should know better. An ethics conversation, of all places, is a bad location to try and use special pleading to exempt your own actions from reality.

          You can puff and you can use white lies; almost everyone does. I certainly don’t care and I don’t generally discuss it outside, well, ethics conversations. But the fact that we ignore it, or even do it ourselves, doesn’t make puffery into truth.

          1. Natalie*

            For whatever it’s worth, you can still be hostile even if you’ve been commenting here for ages and don’t think you are feeling any hostility. I also find your comments unnecessarily rude and personal. There’s a saying that might be relevant here: “If you keep smelling poop all day, check your shoe.”

  37. JB*

    #4. Oh my gosh, do not take that stuff! It is so clearly company property that, as an office manager, it would give me serious doubts about your judgement and common sense if you were to ask me if you could keep it. Now, I work in the nonprofit sphere, so maybe my perspective is a little bit biased towards scarcity, but still, you cannot take stuff like that. It will clearly get re-purposed by the organization when you leave.

    1. Lia*

      This. If you bring it in (your own coffee mug, pictures, etc), it is of course yours. If they bought it for you, they bought it for you to *use at work*, not for you to keep.

      I bring in my own mugs, reference books, pencil/pen holder, and personal supplies like tissues or hand lotion, and that’s all I take with me when I leave.

    2. Salyan*

      Also nonprofit here – same answer. As the office admin/IT coordinator, I play musical chairs with computer equipment/wrist rests/random desk organizer stuff ALL THE TIME. If someone left with these items. it would be considered theft. I can’t imagine how high my eyebrows would go if someone asked to take them!

  38. Intrepid*

    The only exception to #5 I can think of is Brad Traverse, which, while not a professional association per se, is pretty much THE place to look if you want to work for Congress (as staff), and a few other places around DC. So it’s pretty niche.

    That said, Brad Traverse logins are more widely shared than HBO Go passwords. So if that’s the one you’re thinking of, I’d ask around and see if one of your friends would share their login for long enough for you to try it out.

    1. DCer*

      I would like to echo this – Brad Traverse is an exception to this rule and if you’re looking for political jobs, you should cough up the $5 a month and get a subscription. I’m not even job hunting and I keep up my subscription to know who has openings and what offices are making changes.

      The reason for the cost – I suspect – is that members of Congress and lobby shops don’t want their job postings to have a lot of public exposure, i.e. that their political opponents could use against them. So this board serves as a way that the cost of entry ensures it’s just political people looking.

      1. Intrepid*

        That, and I’ve had people who work on the Hill tell me directly (and probably unfairly) that they use Brad Traverse both to limit the number of applicants they get, and to screen for a certain level of savvy.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq*

      For a similar reason, I came here to say that Tom Manatos Jobs is the exception. There are definitely jobs that are posted there that are posted no where else, and there are tons of Hill jobs, nonprofit jobs, and jobs at companies that just don’t advertise that widely. It’s like $3/month if you buy a full year, and it is absolutely worth it; I stay subscribed even when I’m not actively looking.

    3. lawyerkate*

      I’m so glad someone brought up Brad Traverse already. It’s an excellent resource in the DC area for political/public affairs/advocacy work.

      The reason for the cost is most likely (and I’m dating myself here) that Brad used to send the listings batched in emails – but the time and expense of doing that led him to transition it into a standalone jobs site with its own revenue stream. He also used to email a social calendar with event listings, I think weekly.

  39. Kinsley M.*

    My biggest issue with the ethical concerns question is that someone, somewhere is always going to have ethical concerns about everything. I work in a barbecue restaurant. Theoretically, a vegan could have real ethical concerns about serving meat or touching meat or something similar where there is absolutely zero way to shield that person from that aspect of the business.

    You were hired to do a job. Unless in the course of doing that job, you are doing/promoting something illegal or likely to get someone killed, I really just don’t understand saying no.

    1. TL -*

      The likely to get someone killed is, indeed, the worst case scenario.

      Also, most vegans would refuse a job at a BBQ place for that reason. It would be an acceptable reason.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, and there’s a difference between “I don’t want to work on this particular project” and “I can’t do anything for this company at all.” The OP isn’t saying she doesn’t want to do anything for her company but wants to keep working there. She just doesn’t want to touch this particular project.

    2. Mike C.*

      By this reasoning, no ethical concerns would ever be up for discussion. I get that it’s difficult to define a hard line between what is and is not up for debate, but you don’t have to follow that standard – all you need to do is determine if something is over the line at all.

      1. Emi.*

        [A]ll you need to do is determine if something is over the line at all.
        Yes! Just because there are some hard-to-classify cases doesn’t mean there’s not distinction to begin with.

    3. Pebbles*

      There was a question here on AAM about a vegetarian who worked at a restaurant and they started having lobster on their menu. She was concerned she’d have to kill the lobsters and was ethically against it. I think knowing what the job entails when you accept the job is on the prospective employee (such as a vegetarian applying at a BBQ restaurant), but if the job duties change while you’re employed, it is at least partially on the employer to work with the employee on ethical objections if at all possible.
      Link: https://www.askamanager.org/2016/11/refusing-a-job-duty-on-ethical-grounds-company-wants-me-to-show-them-another-employers-offer-letter-and-more.html (#2)

      1. fposte*

        I don’t know if I agree that it’s on the employer to work with the employee; that sounds like an obligation that I don’t think exists. I think it’s good if they can, but it’s also reasonable to say “This is the job we need to have done now, and we need the person in your position to do it. We understand if that means you can’t stay here.”

        1. Pebbles*

          I’m not sure I expressed that well. I agree that it is still reasonable for the employer to say what you suggested, but I do think the employer has some obligation to at least review the job duties of the person who is ethically against [whatever] and see if it is at all possible for the employee to stay in their current job without having to do [whatever]. If it isn’t possible, then it’s not, but why lose a presumably good employee if you don’t have to?

          1. fposte*

            I think we’re in the very narrow grey area between “reasonable/wise” and “obligation.” I’d say it’s the first but not the second–however, absent any recourse dependent on the notion of obligation, it probably doesn’t matter.

            1. Pebbles*

              I would agree with that. I did not mean to imply there should be monetary/legal penalties if the employer did not review the job duties. Just that it might be in the company’s best interest to do so, so yeah, “reasonable/wise” is probably better suited here.

  40. Beancounter Eric*

    #4 – perhaps ask your boss if you could BUY the rodent, calculator, etc.

    They may say “absolutely not”, “sure, name a price”, or “take ’em, enjoy!!”

    1. Mela*

      Yes, this has worked out well in the past for my husband. He offered to pay for the equipment, and had discussed in person and boss was meant to come up with a number. After a couple check-in emails and 6 months later, it was his for free.

  41. nnn*

    If OP #1 can’t get out of advertising for this place, maybe they could take a harm reduction approach by making sure the advertising doesn’t make any false claims (e.g. “Come here for all your coffee enema needs!” rather than “Our coffee enemas will cure brain cancer!”) Another option would be to make a perfectly serviceable but utterly forgettable ad that just doesn’t do much to attract new customers because it’s so bland.

    For OP#2, I’m surprised that the boss wanted to cold-call people, rather than having OP send them an email or linkedin message saying “My employer is hiring for these positions. Here’s the link to apply.” Maybe it’s normal in other industries, but if I got a call from someone I’ve never heard of about a job I didn’t apply to, I’d feel like it’s a scam.

  42. ilikeaskamanager*

    #1 I think the person can ask to be moved off hte account if they want to, but I do not think the organization has any obligation to honor this type of request. This is the business they have decided to go after. Presumably they have vetted it through their legal team, etc etc. Letting people decide what accounts they will or will not work on based on their own personal opinions or ethics about the product creates a nightmare when it comes to getting work done. My one caveat is if the organization asks the employee to produce material that is clearly false or illegal in which case the legal department should be asked to weigh in. I think any employee should be able to get clarification from the legal department in those situations.

    I totally get the OP’s position, but a lot of us wind up having to do things for work that we would not necessarily want to participate in on a voluntary basis. However, we aren’t being asked to volunteer, we are getting paid. We always have the option to leave a job that is inconsistent with our values.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Agree that a business doesn’t have to – and may not even be able to – accommodate someone who has an ethical issue with a given project, but I do think there is a way to bring up concerns responsibly. Being respectful of the business’s right to do the business it wants to do and understanding that reassignment may not be possible are key – but if the workplace has a healthy dynamic, I think the concern can be raised. And if it turns out that, in the big picture of things, the values of the business owner’s and the values of a worker do not align in a way the worker can live with, the worker can resign – but they won’t know that unless they do have some of these discussions, I think.

      (FWIW, I think “presumably they have vetted it through their legal team, etc” is overly optimistic, unfortunately! I’m a lawyer, and generally, even though my job is specifically about compliance issues, companies still tend to implement something/decide something and *then* come see me to see if it is legally sound! That backwards method of going about business is not uncommon.)

  43. HR Girl*

    #3 – My impression is that maybe the company has some concerns about the manager who interviewed you, or how managers are handling the hiring process. Maybe they are asking for “feedback” as a way to investigate – perhaps another candidate already told HR that this manager made disparaging remarks, and they are seeking feedback to verify that candidates statements. I would be honest about what you experienced. Plus, you already know you don’t want to work for this particular manager in the future. If you are truthful and tactful in your response, I don’t think this would hurt your chances with this company and they might appreciate your help.

  44. Former Computer Professional*

    #5 was a big scam in the 1980s, when job postings went in newspapers. Shady companies would post really tempting-sounding jobs (“Entry level Teapot-makers! Will train you on the job!”) but if you tried to apply they’d demand a $35 fee.

    In the 1980s, when the economy was crap and unemployment rates absurdly high, $35 was a lot of money for someone not working.

    (Another common employment scam at the time was double-dipping headhunter firms. There existed a short-term (3 months per year, max) welfare program, designed for people who had seasonal layoffs. For those looking for a new job, the program would pay special headhunting firms to find you a job — $1000! Then the same firm would get the employers to pay for finding employees.)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I almost got caught in one of these things. I’ve posted about this before but once when I was in music school, I went to an “employment agency” that promised in an ad to find jobs for you. I filled out a form and when I gave it to the woman, she told me thank you; now fork over a $1000 fee. I demanded she give me back my form (it had my personal info on it!). She refused and I told her I wasn’t leaving until she gave it to me. I must have looked pretty pissed off, as she did. I tore it up right in front of her and left with the pieces.

  45. ;*

    #1 – When you’re working in sales/marketing for businesses, you always have to be prepared for the case where you’re asked to assist with a product/service/business you dislike. In this case, new age health nonsense that promotes the sort of stuff you’d see on Quackwatch is particularly reprehensible but I don’t think anyone would fault you for working on this and keeping your bills paid.

    If your company is enthusiastic about this client, I think unfortunately the best you can request is that your name not be referred to by the client or attached officially to the project so you can give yourself a degree of plausible deniability. It’ll make you feel a bit icky, but it’ll keep a roof over your head.

    Another option is of course the nuclear one and to absolutely refuse to work on it, but this is only something you’d pick if you feel strongly enough about it and you are prepared to resign or be fired as a result.

  46. Piper*

    #5: I work in DC where it is common to find political job posting sites that cost about $5 a month. They aren’t a scam and actually have useful leads generally. I wouldn’t pay much more than that, but I have used these sites and know others who have gotten jobs from them.

  47. Anonforthis*

    #1 I remember when I was working at an ad agency one of our big “clients” was the religious organization that makes the “God” billboards — the ones that are black with the white text that say stuff like “You think the heatwave here is bad? Don’t go to Hell. -God” (seriously – that was one of them). We were supposed to actually write the copy that was supposed to go on these billboards and advertise for the company, and I would have been involved in the copywriting and pitching. I had to tell my boss in no uncertain terms that as a religious person, I was not comfortable literally putting words in God’s mouth up on a giant billboard (and in my head thinking ESPECIALLY things that I do not believe represent God accurately AT ALL). She was surprised but respected my decision not to represent the account. I remember feeling so nauseous the night before the conversation because I was sure I was going to get fired. But I think it’s important to stand up for your ethics.

  48. Candi*


    I’ve seen commentators defending homeopathic, New Age, hippie, etc., type treatments as “harmless”, nothing to worry about, the province of the rich and those who want to be pampered. Insisted upon, in words and phrasing that comes across as strident and aggressive, as nothing to worry about.

    They are absolutely something to worry about for many in our world’s population.

    I love reading about crime and history. Love it, devour it. I especially concentrate on cons and scams.

    Every single one of these alternative treatments have been and are used by scammers targeting those seeking help and hope.

    The milder ones are a form of boundary testing, seeing how far someone can be pushed, how much they will accept, how long they will put up with the light at the end of the tunnel being constantly out of reach. (Never realizing it is a candle at the bottom of a deep pit.)

    As the victim of the scammer is sucked in, drawn deeper and deeper, more money, and often more effort, is demanded by the scammer. In return, the sufferer gets potions that are at best worthless, magic treatments that do nothing, and possibly a few magic tricks to make it look like tumors have been removed (slight of hand and chicken guts) or that the toxins are leaving their body (dyes and specific chemicals in the diet or testing materials).

    Some are able to keep it at the level of spa treatments and relaxation techniques. There are businesses that realize that providing such services and products are money makers in their own right, or the customers aren’t good victims for various reasons.

    Some honestly believe these are good methods, with all the fervency one gives to a genuinely held belief, secular or religious. They honestly don’t connect potential harm and the methods.

    But for too many, accounts are drained and death comes, and the scammers and con artists don’t care about anything but the money in their bank accounts.

    There is too much pain, too much risk, to allow those at walking so close to the edge to continue without holdig out a hand -and definitely to not interfere with someone working to push them.

  49. OP#5*

    Alison – Thanks for taking the time to answer my question, and to those who contributed their comments. I really appreciate it.

  50. Science!*

    Poster #1 – I am in your EXACT situation. I’ve been asked to research and write materials for an unproven natural remedy which goes against my staunch belief in evidence-based medicine. Thankfully my agency is very good about not asking people to work on things they object to, but this one blindsided me – a lot of this client’s herbal remedies have phase 3 trials proving their safety and efficacy, but I only found out how ineffective the product was in the course of my research. I’ve asked to be taken off the project, but because I’m the only one with capacity I’m unfortunately obliged to persevere with the construction of half-truths. I’ve decided this is just something I have to suck up and learn from this time, and try to see the positives – I’m handling this maturely and putting in effort which is a tick for personal development, I’ve had a productive conversation with my manager about my involvement with this sort of thing in the future, I’m improving my creative (as opposed to medical) copyrighting and the treatment isn’t dangerous or likely to take people away from more effective conventional treatments (in fact, the conventional treatments can be addictive and dangerous). It’s also helped me a lot to remember that the placebo effect is real and that some people are legitimately going to feel improved wellbeing from taking this crappy, ineffective treatment! I feel for you. My advice is to just have a calm conversation with your boss about your objections, Maybe framing it to say you that you will struggle to do your best work on a job of that nature. It went very well for me, but I should acknowledge that I’m lucky enough to have exceptional management. Who knows, if enough of you say something it might affect the sort of work your company pitches for in future.

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