Mar 27, 2003

Ethical Practices and the Media


I think it was surprising for me to turn the television on
and see not only the water industry as a whole being "slaughtered"
but brand names such as Kinetico and Rainsoft taking the brunt of the beating.
In late February, Dateline NBC aired a segment on the water treatment industry
stating that salespeople in this industry use unethical sales practices by
using "scare tactics" such as reverse osmosis units being able to
eliminate anthrax.

I believe I can speak for many of us when I say that such
practices as the ones that were shown in the footage are appalling. The focus
was mainly on the ex-Kinetico dealer, Crystal Clear Water in West Virginia
owned by Ed and Kimberly Wise. Dateline had interviewed some of the
Wise's customers that had filed complaints. However, what the program
failed to mention is what had happened behind the scenes. Kinetico released a
statement to its dealers that makes it clear: "At the time of the hidden
camera videotaping, Ed Wise was not authorized to sell Kinetico equipment."
In fact, Keith Tompkins, president of Kinetico, reported that Kinetico was
granted a judgement in October 2002 for breach of contract, misrepresentation
and damage to its reputation. The program failed to mention that the problem
already had reached a resolution. (Search the news archive on for "Dateline" to get the full story.)

Why do I mention all of this? I want to point it out to
owners so they can make sure they constantly are reviewing what their
salespeople are doing. Make sure you are "in the loop" on how sales
are conducted and also make sure that your employees are trained to practice
high ethical standards beginning on their hiring date. The Water Quality
Association's Code of Ethics is considered the industry's ethical
standards, but good business practices that may be found on many
business/management websites also can be adhered to. I want to point this out
to salespeople so they understand that scare tactics and "white
lies" are not acceptable or tolerated by the water treatment community.
If you have any concerns or questions, you should be able to ask your boss or
turn to one of the industry's organizations for answers. I also want to
point out this incident to the industry as a whole so that we can see why it is
so important to educate the public, government agencies and, most of all, the
consumer media. We need to let them know that we are accessible to them as
experts for comment in order for them to present fair and accurate stories.

As a member of the media, I find it amusing that in so many
of the "reports" on television, our organization's such as
WQA, IBWA, NSF International and even the EPA are never contacted to clarify
any confusion.

Since this magazine's inception, it has educated its
readers on sales and ethics. These industry business standards should not be
viewed as "guidelines" but rather as rules to live by.

Best wishes to each of you,

Wendi Hope King

[email protected]

About the author

Wendi Hope King is editor of WQP.