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Anatomy of a “Best Doctors and Dentists Award” [Marketing] Scam

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What is the value of an honor if it costs $6,000?

By D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

I apologize for misleading those I recklessly told that my name will appear in the December edition of TIME magazine as one of the winners of the Texas Best Doctors and Dentists Award. It’s been an embarrassing learning experience, and my pride is a little wounded from not recognizing signs that an ambitious salesperson in California was lying to me. But I’ll get over it, and will be wiser for the experience.

Wishful Thinking

Looking back on my wishful thinking, I should have known the honor of appearing in TIME magazine simply sounded too good to be true. On the bright side, in preparation for photos that weren’t taken, I did get my hair cut and vacuumed my office for this morning’s interview-turned-sales pitch.

About a month ago, a Texas Best Doctors and Dentists representative calling from a few feet south of the San Francisco Ethics Commission made it past my office manager and got me on the phone. Anthony, whose last name is unintelligible in the recording of our conversation, told me that I had been chosen by the Tarrant County Community to receive the 2012 Award, and would be featured along with other winners in TIME.

“Alright, how much does this cost?”

“There’s no cost to receive the award Doctor, or to appear in TIME magazine. You’ve been chosen based on your reputation in the Tarrant County community.

“OK, what are you selling?”

“We’re not selling anything, Doctor. You know this is the first time TIME magazine is featuring this award and what they are trying to do is they are trying to conduct their readers to the best doctors and dentists from local communities in America.”

Surveys Determine Award Winners?

When I asked him how I was chosen, he explained that the Texas Best Doctors and Dentists Awards firm was hired by TIME to conduct surveys of local specialists and research the popular dentist ratings websites to determine the award winners. Up until he said, “You may be familiar with droogle … “ in two syllables instead of four (DR.Oogle – doctoroogle.com), his pitch was credible. Even though I recognized the faux pas instantly, rather than probing a little deeper and asking him just one more common sense question – perhaps about how the “advertorial” insert in the Texas edition of TIME will be paid for – I apologized to Anthony for rudely assuming he was trying to sell me something. It was then that he knew I wanted to believe him more than experience. That’s the anatomy of a scam, even though no money was exchanged in the lesson.

A Legitimate [Free] Award

The award is indeed legitimate. I won it because of the kindness of my wonderful staff, patients and local colleagues. But I’m by far not the only dentist interviewed in Tarrant County like Anthony said. That was just one more lie targeting my pride – enticing me to consent to today’s interview. Only hours ago, I learned that 100 dentists in the state won the award, so there are probably a couple of dozen award winning dentists like me in Tarrant County.

Declining the Paid Upgrade

Even though I declined to purchase advertisement from Texas Best Doctors and Dentist today, my name will still be listed on the Texas Best Doctors and Dentists Website free of charge, and I’ll also receive a “nice plaque” in the mail in a week or so that will have the TIME magazine logo on it. All I had to do was listen to a 30 minute sales pitch for upgrading my free, ordinary listing on Texas Best Doctors and Dentists Website to something that might attract patients.

Who Needs It?

As far as my name appearing in the advertorial insert in the December edition of TIME magazine, statewide recognition of dentists’ efforts to please patients naturally can’t be given away. Oh hell no. In spite of what Anthony said, a write-up in TIME costs award winners $6,000. I’m certain those who say nice things about my staff and me don’t want us to raise fees to cover the expense of statewide advertising. Who needs it?


I don’t think I have room on my wall for a Texas Best Doctors and Dentists Award plaque with a TIME magazine logo. I’m trying to find a place to hang my 1972, B – Team high school basketball plaque I came across while cleaning my office for a surprise sales pitch with no photos.


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