WHAT PRICE HAPPINESS?
The idea of Churches charging money for the services they provide has always been contentious. Paying for special masses in the Catholic Church or paying tithes to the Church of England have both been sources of great controversy in the past.
The Church of Scientology has always had the reputation of being financially motivated. The fact that a Church should have to charge anything for its services seems dubious. Even if one is prepared to contribute to the repair of the Church roof or the maintenance of the Vicar's family, the idea of paying when you need pastoral guidance or counselling seems inappropriate to us.
Thus the level of payment for services of the Church of Scientology is secondary to the issue of whether one should pay anything at all for religious guidance or support.
This attitude is probably reinforced in Britain by our method of paying for Health Care. We pay for the services of the National Health Service mostly through taxation and find ourselves resenting even the subsidised charges we have to pay at the dentist or for a prescription.
In the United States the individual usually pays directly for health care, even if they then claim the costs back on health insurance. The closest anology to Dianetics and Scientology counselling for many would be 'going to an analyst'. This is a practice we are led to believe is common in the United States. Such one-to-one attention by the hour is unlikely to be cheap, even by American standards. There have however been many and vociferous complaints in the United States over the years about the level of charges made by the Church for its services.
Whatever the Church charged, it is probable that there would always be some complaint. We would do well to remember Oscar Wilde's definition of a cynic as a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. If we extend this beyond cynics, then we can see that a person without some personal experience of what is on offer is not in a position to make a meaningful judgement as to its value in money terms.
One can imagine that a susceptible person could be swept away by enthusiasm to spend large sums of money on things that others consider
56 THE SAD TALE OF SCIENTOLOGY
strange. However, there is no basic difference between this applied to Scientology and the willingness of some people to spend large amounts holiday cruises, private education or large thirsty motor cars.
The fundamental issue is what you consider is of value to you. Significant members of intelligent and well-educated people have spent hefty sums of money on services from the Church of Scientology, and consider it very well spent. These include hard-headed business people, teachers and doctors, by no means all of them in the first flush of youth. Their willingness to spend these amounts of money in this area is unlikely to be the result of wild impetuosity. On the other hand there are people who have spent large sums with the Church and have been disappointed in what they got for their money.
The level of pricing has always been a controversial subject within the Church too. What should you charge for something which many consider priceless?
The usual mechanism of the market place came into play almost as soon as the movement got going. Churches in different areas charged different amounts and discounted heavily to keep their traffic flow even. Pricing was chaotic and controversial even in those early days. There is an interesting series of administrative bulletins which show the difficulty Ron Hubbard had in getting a rational pricing formula accepted by Church executives in the mid 60's.
In 1964 there was pricing chaos and loud complaint about differing prices between the different Churches. On investigation Ron Hubbard found widespread discounting and wheeler-dealing. People buying services could shop around and haggle but some Churches were complaining they could not make ends meet.
Ron got all the senior executives to agree to a formula whereby a 25 hour block of auditing would be charged at the equivalent of three months earnings of the average middle level working person of that country. All prices for auditing on this basis would be net and there would be no further discounting. All parties agreed to this and it was introduced in 1965. The price to be charged in the UK for 25 hours auditing was L134, the equivalent of L5.40 per hour.
In the first two months of 1965 the volume of auditing hours slumped. The blame was put on the new system and no discounting. In March 1965 Ron gave in and sent out a bulletin cancelling the new scheme and virtually giving back freedom to local Churches to charge what they thought fit. In most cases this was probably less than the three months wages equivalent.
Today that mid-sixties pricing formula looks very attractive if we
CHAPTER TWELVE 57
compare it to the Church's current level of charges. Probably through the rest of the sixties, and most of the seventies, the prices would seem fair and reasonable to us now. The reason why the Churches did not have queues of people wanting auditing probably had little to do with pricing levels. It was much more likely to do with the Church's failure to make understood what it was offering to a significant number of new people.
At all events the Church obviously costs money to run. Although staff salaries have never been high, there are a lot of them to pay. Fixed costs of buildings and grounds have to be paid. Expenditure on telephone and postage is heavy and they also spend a huge amount of money on printed material to be given away.
The costs of the legal activities of the Church and the large numbers of support staff must have had its effect. The increasing costs of running the Church had already started to be felt in 1975 76. A bulletin appeared in Hubbard's name called the 'Solution to Inflation' in October 1976. This stated that the Church had not taken account of ravaging inflation and its prices had fallen behind. It stated that from November 1976 prices of all Church services would go up by 5% at the end of each month. In the UK however prices would go up by 10% at the end of each month.
Initially this probably had quite a good effect on revenue as Church staff pulled through orders for auditing, training and books before the prices had risen too much. However, the compound interest formula indicates that 5% per month over a year is 80% and 10% over a year is an increase of 185%. Before long the flow of people buying services and books had slowed down and prices were stabilised again after about a year.
Although this exercise would have given a healthy boost to Church revenue, it would appear that it was not enough to keep pace with rising costs. A repeat operation was mounted starting in late 1978 which ran again for about a year.
Both these price raising operations put a lot of pressure on Mission Holders and Field Auditors, who were obliged to keep in line with Org prices. It led to them introducing disguised price reductions, barter (accepting goods instead of money) and extended credit arrangements.
It is probable that the second price raising operation was not as productive as the first. Stopping the increase did not produce a major change for the better either. There would be quite a time gap before people adjusted to the new stable prices and volume sales started to recover. Pricing and financial management does not therefore seem to have been very effective during the late seventies. By the beginning of the eighties the Church seemed to have got itself into a severe financial mess.
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