Wednesday, August 31, 2005

CHARGING DOES NOT MAKE ONE UNETHICAL or UNPROFFESIONAL

CHARGING DOES NOT MAKE ONE UNETHICAL or UNPROFFESIONAL, in fact, the exact opposite is usually true.

There is much debate in the paranormal world lately about charging for services or training. Many are upset with groups like TAPS for doing TV shows and like to point fingers at any groups who charge for goods or services or ask for donations. It seems that many feel that if anyone charges or gets paid for anything, then they are not reputable and are out to scam everyone.

"The real ghost hunters work for FREE!" they say. BUT.....

It takes money to run a quality website. It takes money to run quality investigations (now it can take a week’s wages just to pay for the gas to drive to that haunted house!). It takes money to put together quality training materials. It takes money to run a ghost hunters organization. It takes money to buy sensitive scientific equipment and high tech electronics. It takes money so that people even have time to do this.

It takes money to do just about anything. So why would anyone expect you to do ghost hunting totally for free? What, because you can’t guarantee your work or prove you are absolutely right about anything?

We don't think like this with other professions. Lawyers, Doctors and even Plumbers and Car Mechanics charge a lot for their services. They too can't guarantee the outcome of a procedure or even prove their views are correct or will not be proven wrong next week. Yet we are happy to pay what they ask for their valuable services, all while knowing they profess to only be "practicing" their professions and nothing they say is set in stone.

Keeping you free, healthy, clean and moving seems to demand a high price, one many Americans and most of the rest of the world can't even afford. Yet we don't call these people "unethical" or "unprofessional" because they charge us, we actually expect them to charge us a lot!

The excuses I hear people use to defend this sad reality usually fall along these lines: They worked hard to get their education, things like good equipment, well trained staff and insurance cost lot's of money and besides, do we expect these valuable people to just work for free?

How would they feed their families or give their children a quality education and a nice place to live? What kind of quality legal representation, health services or repairs can one really expect for free anyway? Why would anyone spend all their time doing these jobs if they didn't pay well?

And there is truth there. People do deserve to be compensated for the time it took to learn their trades or to teach what they know to others. People do deserve to be able to afford a decent life and to provide for their families. People should expect to get the best quality they can afford for their hard earned money.

We all know "The more they charge, the better they must be." "You get what you pay for" and "free usually equals CRAP" is how we look at things as a society in general. Besides, it's usually true.

So why is the world of the paranormal so different? Why is it that if someone in the paranormal asks for even the smallest donation to buy a new camera or cleverly uses the media's pocketbook to get themselves some decent equipment, sweet cars or to be able to afford more research, then they instantly become "unethical" or "unprofessional" and others will put them down for it?

Why is it that if someone asks for $5 for a CD of white noise that most people wouldn't have a clue how to make on their own, then they must be scamming you or "out to get rich"?

So many in the ghost hunting community seem to be saying "Look at me! I'm doing it for free so I'm better than everyone else!" and Mr. Snider of the Crawford County Ghost Hunters, seems to go even further by attacking the Haunted Voices staff and Mr. Todd Bates directly for charging $5 for a CD of white noise, which he personally doesn't feel is the best background for EVP recording.

I’ll say this about his opinion: I don't think it's fair. I don't think it's right. And I definitely don't think this general "you can't charge" attitude everyone seems to have is the way to get any kind of real "scientific study" done to further our knowledge and understanding of EVP or to give serious paranormal researchers any respect in the eyes of the general public.

I don't think it's fair:

I was at the meeting where it was decided to charge for some of the services on HV. I was one who was encouraging it since I know how much money it can cost to run a website such as this and how much time it takes to make it run smoothly.

HV offers many valuable products and services that people are more than willing to pay for. I don't see a problem with charging users a reasonable fee for things like advanced training and hard copy materials so the all volunteer staff can afford to make it even better than it already is.

Folks, the land of Free is unfortunately a dream. I wish it were not so, but bandwidth costs money and audio files take up a lot of it; hosting space costs money and again, large audio files and huge forum databases take up a lot of it; cool templates and custom programming costs money and time; chat rooms cost money and time, developing DVD's or CD's and their printed training materials costs a lot of money and time, and how willing would each of you be to use your home telephone or personal cell phone to provide three hours of training in your specialty to other people almost every night while footing the bill yourself? These things cost money. It’s a simple reality.

If HV keeps growing at this rate, it will go broke. That's a fact of life when running community websites and the crumbled ruins of millions of other sites who also thought they could provide advanced features to thousands of users for free litter the information superhighway. If HV is not destined to join them on the roadside, it needs a modest income to support its self as it grows. Technology costs money, and the funny thing is, it’s really not that much at all.

But it's not fair to ask Todd and his family or the families of the staff to go without things while we all enjoy the fruits of his and everyone else's labor for free. We pay handsomely for our entertainment, social events, and continuing education in the real world and while we usually wish it were cheaper, we don't expect those people to give us these things for free.

I believe it's unfair to expect anyone to give up their valuable time and energy teaching you or entertaining you or making you nice things without giving them something of value in return, especially when they are asking a tenth of what a giant corporation would while providing a better product.

We've all got bills to pay and families to feed. We don’t work for free at our jobs and it’s unfair to ask other people to work for free too.

It is not right:

Todd was totally against charging for anything except the few bucks for CD's because that’s exactly how much they cost him to make. He was willing to provide the three hours of FREE telephone training to anyone who might ask and even three or four more for advanced training without charge. He was willing to manage an ever growing community of affiliate groups by himself and provide them all with constant technical advice and support.

He was willing to give up hundreds and even thousands of hours of his time and talents so that people could have a nice place to learn more and share their knowledge about EVP.

He is definitely a man on a mission to share EVP with the world, but reality has come to roost and he is quickly going broke trying to save the world by himself. It just goes against his nature to charge for this stuff even if every single penny does go right back into the site along with many more that come straight from his family’s pocket. He was obviously angry that we even had to discuss it and I’m sure it was physically painful for him to finally make the hard decision to charge for anything.

After all Todd and the Haunted Voices staff have done, even if you don't agree with their methods or theories, it is just plain rude to exclaim they are in this for money. No body gets rich off EVP, and to even argue such a point is just plain silly. If anyone is planning on using EVP to get rich, take this ghostly advice from a pretty famous EVP recording and: "GET OUT, GET OUT NOW!"

The VOLUNTEER staff worked hard for hours to figure out ways to charge the least amount of money possible and still pay the bills. That sure doesn’t sound like greedy folks to me.

Free can't mean good science and besides, the public doesn’t respect free.

Every group says they are out to conduct "scientific" study, yet they try and do it for free and with the gear and training they can afford on such a budget. Does this really sound like the way to conduct "science" or to have your research taken seriously by anyone? I mean no offense to any group when I say “No, it’s not”.

After 60+ years of study, the world has still proven ZIP about the true nature of the Electronic Voice Phenomenon. One reason I got so interested in EVP in the first place, is that I thought this would seem to be the simplest way to prove, once and for all, something in the paranormal realm.

What more convincing evidence can one get then a disembodied voice answering specific questions on tape? How hard would it really be to prove it's not radio waves or our imaginations messing with us?

But I want to see some real science. I want structured experiments. I want to see environmental readings other then from a cheap thermometer or a radio shack EMF meter designed to find electrical wires in a wall. I want to see hypotheses written down and methodical research done to prove them. I want to see serious researchers trading data and working together to find the methods that work best while avoiding unnecessary duplication of things that have failed.

I say enough of the free host websites featuring "trust me! My $20 memo recorder and I really were in the empty cemetery with no one else around. Doesn't it sound like someone says 'get out', and isn't that really scary?" It's not convincing to the general public and I feel just fuels the scorn paranormal researchers must endure. That kind of thing might be fun and indeed pretty scary for people to listen to, but it's not science and it proves nothing.

I want to see video of the microphone and the surrounding area to prove it's not someone faking it. I want multiple recording devices going to make sure it's not some ambient noise or to try and locate the source by triangulation or spatial computer modeling. I want to see more creative engineering and experimentation in the devices used to capture EVP and more people seeking grants to fund such in depth research.

I want to see different types of recording equipment used to try and figure out exactly how it's being done and who might be doing it. I want to see long term coordinated study of the same locations by different groups to see if you consistently get the same voice and I want to see some attempts to initiate conversations with whoever is responsible for the mysterious voices you do record.

Enough of the scary ghost stories and “reality” TV shows where computer generated skulls come out of the windows of expensive New Orleans restaurants looking for free publicity. I want to see proof! I want to see science. And I don't think you can get either without some money, perhaps serious money.

If the string of paranormal TV shows has taught us anything, it should be that money can’t buy you love, but it sure does buy some cool electronics and comfortable cars while also opening the doors to places you never even knew existed!

I can’t understand how any ghost hunter can conduct serious research or expect to be taken seriously by the general public when they so proudly hail “We don’t charge anything and never paid a dime for any of our training or equipment! Those who do are frauds!”

That just seems unnatural and somewhat paranormal to me. Imagine what you would say to the scientist who told you the same thing! However, my views on this particular topic are often criticized by ghost hunters the world over.

As a matter of fact, when Todd and I first met, we had a rather heated discussion about using multiple recording devices and being more "scientific" when recording for EVP. I had criticized in my blog some things he had posted about the methods he uses when conducting investigations. He advised his students to stick to recording and not burden themselves with all sorts of techno gadgets which is exactly what I wanted to see more of!

He felt very strongly that the use of cameras, thermal imaging and multiple audio or other recording devices would make it harder for EVP to be generated by the “spirits” and all that technology would simply distract the researcher from the recording process.

I felt very strongly that all that equipment was needed to conduct serious scientific research to capture some real hard evidence so the study of EVP might finally get some serious funding or at least not be completely blown off by the general public.

Over the last few months we have learned from each other and come to respect one another’s opinions. Heck, look at me now I even joined his staff to try and do what I can to help out!

The simple fact is that no one knows what EVP really is or how best to study it. But I don't think anyone ever will with a budget of zero!

Work for free if you must, but if others wish to donate to the cause or if ghost hunters choose to charge for some hard copy materials or advanced training, don't point your finger at them and say they are unprofessional. I think the exact opposite might just be true.

6 comments:

Kira said...

I'm sorry not to see more comments on this one.

I totally agree with you. You can't get anywhere near proof without the proper tools. The scientific community already harbors disdain for what we do; why stay below standard when it's reasonable to expect that proper proof will require proper tools.

Free is great, if you can afford it. The serious paranormal community can't anymore.

Michael said...

Never have I read such a perfect "nail hit on the head Reg!" After all, I think that there is a huge difference between charging for product versus charging for investigations themselves. A really great example of this all stems from the history of spirit photography of the mid-to late 1800s. Yes Mary Lincoln was duped, LOL. But here's a particular punch I'd like to offer to the high and mighty of the we do it for free ethic. I notice that a lot of these groups that hit the groups who charge are "Not For Profit Organizations" That means that all the money that they make goes back into the organization. They like to come off as charitable, but I think that is deceptive. THEY are their own charity. I mean I have yet to see EVP Researchers for Muscular Distrophy yet. So who are they fooling? All the money they make goes for costs equipment and salaries just like all of the groups, but some of them come off as if they were somehow better because they deem themselves as "Not For Profit". So, I'd just like to simply ask some of these groups: "What is your charity?" I'd like to think that we all got into this for the same reason: We want to be scientists in the final frontier of human life. What better cause is that? We all need to work together and stop trying to play the politics of "I'm better than you because...." Thank you Reg for such an eloquent blog on such a timely topic!

RegManabq said...

Thanks Michael, I'm glad you liked it.

while I disagree somewhat on what you said about the non profit folks, I do think it's silly to point fingers over charging for products or services you might provide.

I do agree, however, that simply becoming a non for profit entity in the eyes of the US government, doesn't really mean that you have honorable intentions or are better than anyone else.

It's all about your actions. You can tell who is out to scam who from the ways you see them acting. Money is a complicated thing and it does change how people react to you and each other, but any organization that wishes to be successfull needs money to make that happen.

So, while we might not see the "EVP kids memorial day telethon" it is simply unfair to call any organization 'disreputable' simply because they might charge for something.

Anonymous said...

Charging for services rendered is one thing. Charging for something,inherently,free is quite another. Let me explain...

Charging five bucks for a disk (which,in my opinon,is a little high considering what a blank cd goes for these days) I wouldn't consider unethical. This guy put together something to make another person's life a little easier. We are surronded by things that make our life easier and they all cost money.

The problem is the few paranormal groups/investigators that charge for content (i.e. EVPs...orb photos)on their websites. To me, it's like whoring out the dead. These people are the scum of the earth. Charging a fee to view/listen to something they've obtained for free is a crock. It would be like the government charging you a dollar an hour to breathe.

As far as the cost of running a group/website, keep in mind that all of this is a hobby. Like all the other hobbies out there, it is going to cost you money. If this is truly what you love doing,then money should have very little to do with it. If you can't afford to run a group/website, then maybe you've chosen the wrong hobby. Notice I said "hobby" and not "profession". Even TAPS (since you mentioned them)has a "day job". That "day job" helps to pay for most of their "hobby". Donations (which, I'm sure, are given to them freely. They don't charge for investigations/web content)and merchandise probably help offset the rest of their operation. Merchandising, if done tastefully, is a good revenue generator. IMHO, selling a t-shirt or magazine is not unethical. Selling an item and claiming it is "haunted" is.

I run my own paranormal group and I'm a member of another. I pay for everything out of my pocket. I buy equipment when I can afford it. I don't expect others to hand it to me or support me with money. As I've said before, it's a hobby, not a profession.

Most commercial websites use advertising to help absorb their operating costs. There used to be an online paranormal magazine (not sure if it's still in operation) that would get advertisements for EMF meters and other paranormal related items/equipment to pay a fee to be displayed on their website. I wouldn't consider this unethical. The magazine was free (You had to create a free account) and the authors of the various articles volunteered their time/talents. A guy, like Dave Oester, that takes stuff that is submitted to him for free and then charges for it, is scum. He also has the audacity to charge for Ghost Researcher Certifications.Do you truly think he's has any more of a clue about the paranormal than anybody else? If you look up the word unethical in the dictionary, you should see a picture of his face there.

So, in my opinion, if you are charging to do investigations then you are, without a doubt,unethical.If you can't come up with the necessary funding to support your hobby, you may need to re-think your hobby.

Debra said...

Wow, All I can say is that the thought process of your anonymous poster is utterly illogical. And, he knows he is so wrong. That's why he posted anonymously.

Let's see, do taro card readers get their information for free? Do psychics get their information for free? Do psychologists take what they have learned in books and make suggestions to others on how to live their lives and make decisions for themselves? That means they take the information from someone else's books and then basically resell it under the disguise of being a Doctor? Hmmm... unethical according to anonymous. Selling something that wasn’t yours to begin with (in fact it might be a book written by a guy who is dead now – that means we are “whoring out the dead” aren’t we?)

I just don't understand what is wrong with charging for a CD that contains video, EVP or photos that I took. If I recorded, collected, processed, analyzed and generated a professional CD, why is it unethical for me to charge for the work and compilation that I have worked hard to create. If I know there are individuals out there who are interested or can learn from the content I can provide, then I am providing a service, and have every right to charge for that service!

This yeah-hoo (and that is as nice as I can be) claims to be an investigator who pays for everything himself. He claims that investigating is a hobby. That is all fine well and good and distinctly eliminates him from being a professional investigator with scientific goals and theories which take years of study and dedication. It is amateurs like this, and their glorified attitudes, that taint the connotation of paranormal research. They stunt the continued study, growth in the field and the ability to move further in our research.

Reg's article was addressing the fact that with all you little people playing investigator and running around screaming "I'll investigate your house for free" you miss the big picture and create a misguided sense that hobbyists’ know what they are doing. You people are the ones that are truly scamming clients into believing the crap you tell them. You have no verifiable facts or data to back up you claims or statements any further than stating, “yes, you seem to have some sort of paranormal presence in your home ma’am”

The fact is that investigators who think they can go into a location for a few hours and make a full assessment for a client are enormously misguided! It takes years of studying one location to learn from it and know it well enough to make a confident assessment of what is taking place.

Case in point, one man is continuously attacked by an unseen force for several years, which is deemed by many to be a demonic force and ultimately a demonic location. It is later realized that this man had emerging abilities that were ultimately responsible for the scratches and that his energy was seen as a beacon by entities on the other side. For years there had been much EVP gathered from the residual and interactive entities at this site. Having personalities of their own, some of the entities wish to play games and taunt investigators, while others ask for help or share information. Having a rapport with these entities and having studied it for so long has afforded the investigative group an incite that many never get the chance to experience or understand. This is what the study of the Paranormal is all about – furthering our knowledge and understanding.

It takes further study of that same location by other groups to correlate and compare data amongst different groups. There is so much in the way of theory to test and evaluate and a good scientific look at any haunting will run a given set of parameters several times before evaluating the findings. Then run the again to be sure. When you deal with the many varied parameters(like ambient noise, emotional baggage from any one team member, the will of the ghostly entity to be seen or heard and any given time or location, etc....) of an investigation, the smallest change of any element will ultimately compound the testing and experiments that need to be run. Scientifically speaking of course.

As a hobbyist, there is no need to prove anything or look for answers. You are only in it for the thrill. There is no professionalism required and no knowledge needed. I mean really, who has ever ran across a scientists who claims his interest as only a hobby. Scientists are out to study and learn from their environment.

There have been so many wannabe investigators and hobbyists out there, that they have clouded the work and progress of professional investigators. Anonymous, you should be ashamed of yourself! How can someone so close-minded claim to be an investigator of the paranormal field and open to its possibilities? Oh, that’s right, it is only a hobby to you.

Reggie, your article was awesome!

smash said...

I think you all make a very compelling arguement for charging money to fund your research. I would like to say however that I believe a distinction should be made. Charging for content to customers who are looking to learn from your work is different than charging clients to impart your wisdom while collecting more content. Also if charging is implemented, then along the same lines, shouldn't we in-turn be charged to collect our data from cemetaries, home owners, ect.?