This Isn’t Really A Column

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

(This week we return to the Curt Comments Archive for a previously published column.)

Three different times this past week I received some mail that wasn’t what it appeared.

What looked like an invoice wasn’t and unfortunately what appeared to be a couple of checks weren’t either.

So much for what they weren’t.

What they were were bogus, albeit creative, come-ons from companies wanting some of my money.

On Tuesday came what appeared to be an invoice from Yellow Pages, Inc. for the newspaper listing I had “ordered”. It had an account number and my phone number and they wanted to verify the order. In reality, the little box I was to check was not only a verification but an agreement to purchase their phone book listing for $179.

I should be very clear, this is a company calling itself Yellow Pages, Inc. and is not associated with the directories we received from phone companies who, non-coincidentally, put their business listings on yellow colored paper.

I should also be very clear that only a minute minority of the phone calls we get at the newspaper come because of a listing in the yellow pages. And a good number of those are from professional solicitors with a good cause wanting the newspaper’s charitable contribution department.

But I drift afield and must get back to this pseudo phone billing.

Up at the top of the form, in plain English was “This Is Not A Bill. This is a Solicitation“.

But it sure looked like a bill. Which got me thinking why a company would use deceptive packaging to make a sale. And I answered my own question: because it wanted to make a sale.

Over the next two days I received even more lucrative looking inducements.

In a manila windowed #10 envelope that said “Buy And Hold U.S. Savings Bonds” and looking very governmental and very official, there was from First Federal Bankcorp (sounds pretty official) a check made out to me for $42,800.

“Holy Moley, they finally pulled my name as a winner from the Publisher’s Clearinghouse list,” I thought.

Nope.

In lighter gray printing I am told “This is not a check” and “Non-Negotiable Coupon”.

It seems that they were offering me a home equity loan in that amount. And they said that this “program is offered to a very select group of individuals in your community of Crothersville on a limited basis.”

Methinks mass solicitations mailed at a discounted bulk mailing rate does not qualify for the “very select group of individuals” category.

Then the next day, from Direct Funding I received another very official looking envelope and another non-negotiable check-looking coupon for another $42,800.

According to Mr. Bard’s high school math, that’s $85,600 I could have coming my way, if I wasn’t paying attention and signed the check-appearing loan applications.

But all of this got me to thinking. Since these companies were inducing me by attempting to dupe me into thinking they mailed me a check that was not a check, I returned volley in like kind and spirit. I sent them an official looking loan application writing on it “This is not a Loan Application”.

I’ll let you know if they “Show me the money”.