People make outlandish promises about Feng Shui that are just part of their marketing campaign. As Mark Johnson says, even the most credible practitioners will “go down the tubes” with the quacks if they fail to exert appreciable lasting effects on people’s lives. Certainly a thorough analysis of McFengshui shows the practitioners cannot live up to their exaggerated advertising, but this is the “Feng Shui” that everyone thinks is authentic.

Remember that con artists often think that they have a special power most people do not have.

The United States Federal Trade Commission issued guidelines for the use of environmental marketing claims. According to the FTC — on which much of ISO 14020-14025 was based — environmental advertising must be true, not misleading, and substantiated. Unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce are against the law. The FTC code of regulations (Section 260, Subsection E) states as follows:

[A]ny party making an express or implied claim that represents an objective assertion about the environmental attribute of a product or package must, at the time the claim is made, possess and rely upon a reasonable basis substantiating the claim. A reasonable basis consists of competent and reliable evidence. In the context of environmental marketing claims, such substantiation will often require such competent and reliable scientific evidence.

The risk of making an improper environmental claim means the practitioner risks violating federal advertising regulations.

What does this mean to you?

Someone who makes a claim about their Feng Shui abilities without having an independent, third-party certification, by law must do the following:

  • Specify the environmental improvement or attribute of the product or service.
  • Never directly or by implication suggest an environmental improvement that does not exist.
  • Never exaggerate the environmental benefit of an attribute or of a product or service to which a claim refers.
  • Ensure the information is accurate.
  • Ensure the information is not deceptive.
  • Verify they can substantiate it (that is, prove that their claims are authentic).
  • Use the claim in an appropriate context or setting.
  • State specifically and clearly as to what particular environmental attribute the claim relates to.
  • Ensure the claim is unlikely to result in misinterpretation.
  • Make it meaningful in relation to the overall environmental impact of the product or service.
  • Present the claim in a manner that clearly indicates the environmental claim and explanatory statement are read together.
  • Never state the claim is endorsed or certified by an independent third-party organization when it has not been.

Low cost, but with a caveat

You might consider letting students work on whatever you’re wanting to have analyzed. This should not cost anything, because you are using students. This helps you to understand the process of analysis, and the students get to practice.

Remember that because they are students, an instructor must check their work! Students can make serious mistakes. This means the students submit a written analysis to you and to the instructor. It doesn’t mean someone who claims to be a “feng shui teacher” comes out to see whether you removed clutter from your Money Corner.

Review the analyses carefully. I wouldn’t take the advice of one student; I would make sure that the instructor agreed with their conclusions. If several students reach a consensus and the instructor agrees, their advice would definitely be worth implementing.

Best of all, if the analysis was incorrect or incomplete, you can talk to the school. You influence how the school trains students. The students learn valuable lessons. The instructors fulfill their obligations.