Saturday, December 7, 2019

The ABC of UC-B

UC Berkeley ‘very concerned’ about its own dubious marketing scheme

David Lazarus, LA Times, 12-6-19

Bernard Schweitzer recently received a package of four health-related books from “University of California Berkeley White Papers,” along with a bill for $99.60. There were just a few things wrong. Schweitzer, 86, a West Los Angeles resident, says he never intentionally ordered any such materials. He has no ties to UC Berkeley. Schweitzer went to Caltech and received a PhD in engineering from UCLA.

The return address for the white papers wasn’t UC Berkeley but a post-office box in Palm Coast, Fla. And the fine print of the invoice said that by making a payment, Schweitzer would be automatically signed up to receive more such books at an additional cost. “It seems like someone is trying to make a lot of money here,” he told me.

I did some digging. While the books are indeed from UC Berkeley, the campus’ School of Public Health hired a New York marketing company to gin up new business. That company, Remedy Health Media, in turn hired a Florida company, Palm Coast Data, to handle order processing and fulfillment. Remedy also launched a direct-mail campaign employing what can only be seen as dubious sales tactics. Even UC Berkeley is displeased. “This has not turned out to be a particularly good marketing program,” acknowledged Dale Anne Ogar, publications coordinator for the School of Public Health’s wellness products. "We are very concerned about this marketing package,” she told me. “It is being reformulated.” 

If there’s a takeaway to all this, it’s that direct marketers frequently employ questionable tactics to get people to cough up some money. These tactics often involve focusing on seniors, who may not recall if they actually ordered something or may feel obligated to pay any legitimate-looking bill that arrives in the mail...

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