Monday, July 11, 2005

Milking the Sheep

I usually make a deliberate effort to keep my blog rather apolitical, mainly because I want people to leave comments without getting into arguments. I have been working on a political blog to go side-by-side with this one, but I haven't published it yet. Maybe someday when I'm feeling particularly ornery, when you least expect it, BAM!—it will pop into existence Emeril-style.

Most people who know me, though, are well aware (too aware, sometimes) that I'm a rather liberal Democrat. As such, I have engaged in various Democratic pursuits in support of the party and the candidates. And, as I expected, this seems to have had the rather unfortunate side effect of getting me on mailing and calling lists that I really would rather not be on.

This morning, bright and early, I got a call from a fellow who said he was with the "Friends of John Kerry." Wow, a Friend of John Kerry was taking time out his busy day to call little ol' me! What could have I done that was so special to rate a personal call from a genuine Friend of John Kerry?

He explained that he was trying to get support for a bill in Congress to provide free medical insurance to every child in America. He said that they have a list of names of supporters of the bill with over half a million people on it, but they are trying to get over a million names before taking it to Congress. He wanted to know if he could put my name on the list of supporters. Sure, I said, I think that every child should have health insurance, and those who are not able to because of their parents' financial situations should have it provided.

Of course, I was just humoring the guy. I mean, I didn't lie, because that's how I really feel. But he wasn't fooling me and I sure as heck wasn't fooling myself; I knew what was inevitably going to come next. Sure enough, he didn't let me down.

He then explained that in order to reach as many people as possible, they needed funding to continue the campaign to get names on the list, and asked if I could make a donation to their cause. Of course, they could accept credit cards for my convenience. Yep, there it was.

I wasn't really rude, but I probably wasn't especially tactful, either. I said, "I'm not going to give you money, I don't even know you!"

His response genuinely amused me. He said, and these are his exact words, "I told you, I'm with the Friends of John Kerry. You know John Kerry, don't you?"

I almost literally laughed. Was he kidding? "Well, of COURSE I know John Kerry, but I don't know YOU. All I know is that you're an unsolicited caller trying to get money from me. I don't have any particularly good reason to believe you." At that point, I decided to try a slightly different tack. "Say, if I were to give you money, exactly what would it be used for, anyway?"

He said that it would be used to cover administrative costs of the campaign to get names on the list of people who support that bill, because we have to show Congress that all these people are concerned about that issue. He then proceded to explain that when people give money to anyone, like say, the Red Cross, a certain amount of it goes to pay administrative costs because they're so expensive.

I said, "Well, that's one of my issues with what you're telling me. It sounds like ALL of this money is going to administrative costs. Is any money going to actually do something productive? Like say, helping to pay for insurance or medical costs of children?"

No, he said, and at least they're up front about that. The money would be used solely to get the word out and get names for the list.

I told him that I'm sorry, but I think my money could be much better spent—and much more effective—in places other than paying for telemarketers. At that point, he could plainly see that he was not going to get any of my money, so he said thanks for the support and hung up.

You know, I have friends who are staunch Republicans, the kind who are involved in various endeavors and who provide financial support to the bast— er, people who run that party, and I know that the kind of calls like I got this morning are not a uniquely Democratic thing. I have little doubt what kind of organization this guy is involved in. They call and ask people for money, and when they get lucky enough to get some, they keep it for themselves. I don't know whether or not they'll actually turn the list of names over to John Kerry as a list of supporters for some sort of bill to provide health insurance to children, but I'm guessing probably not. One thing's for sure, though, they will definitely sell that list to anyone else who will give them a few bucks for it. It's downright seedy, and it really hurts me to know that there are people out there—good, honest people who want to help out and make the world a better place—who will fall for this kind of crap.

I can think of about a hundred things that could be done to end these kinds of shenanigans, but the sad truth is that as long as a political party can make a few more bucks by selling the names, addresses, and phone numbers of its supporters, it will continue. And what's even more true than that is that as long as scummy scammers can milk people's goodwill for a few bucks, they will always be eager to try. (sigh.)

I hope I'm not sounding preachy, but if you give to a political party—or any other organization or charity, for that matter—please be aware that there are bad people out there who want to use your goodwill and take a few of your bucks. No matter how much you support a charity or cause that someone calls you about, remember that these people are still telemarketers and their goal is to get you to give up your hard-earned cash. Never ever EVER give out any personal information to a stranger who calls you, no matter WHO they say they're with or how much they seem to already know about you! If you want to donate to a charity or a cause, make sure that it is with someone you already know and have heard about, and especially, make sure that YOU are the one initiating the transaction and that the money is going to who you think it is going to.

Be kind. Be giving. Be involved. But more than anything else, be smart. Because to scammers, you're nothing more than just another sheep to be milked, and I'm sure that giving money to pay scammers is a cause that we can all agree is most definitely NOT worthwhile.


At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one of your conservo-libertarian friends, I certainly agree that phone solicitations for money, no matter how "worthy" the cause, are a HUGE waste of money. You'd have better luck opening your front door, and throwing a wad of bills in the air (not to mention a few new friends). Plus, as a miserly person, I generally don't donate money to anything. It's not that I don't care (well...), it's that I'm a miserable prick (with an extremely small disposable income). Oh, and stay away from my sheep!



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