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Money can't buy love - maybe just a card? - Clay Wilson

Another area newspaper recently ran a column on how telemarketers aren't evil.

The writer (I think she was a former telemarketer herself) said that many people take these jobs out of desperation. She said they don't necessarily like disturbing the unsuspecting public at dinner any more than the unsuspecting public likes being disturbed.

I can accept this argument. I'll admit that I sometimes get annoyed at telemarketers, who seem to call me just as I'm dressing in the morning rather than at dinnertime.

But in my old apartment, when I had first moved down here and hadn't made any friends, for a while I actually appreciated the telemarketers' calls.

I would come home from a long, hard day at the office to find two or three messages on my answering machine. One would be from Chad, offering me satellite hookups on two televisions for the price of one if I would call now.

Another would be from Jim, who would remind me that these incredibly low mortgage rates can't last long and implore me to call him today to refinance my house. I couldn't fault Jim for not realizing that I lived in an apartment n after all, even though he had my phone number, we hadn't even met.

So I can agree with the columnist: Chad and Jim weren't evil; they were probably just fellow lonely apartment-dwellers hoping that I would call them for a spirited discussion of satellite TV or mortgages.

Alvie, on the other hand, if not evil, is certainly devious.

Alvie didn't contact me. That honor fell to my parents. One day last week they got what appeared to be a card from Alvie J. Mitchell Jr. in Dallas.

My father's name and address appeared to be hand-printed on the greeting-card-sized envelope. It had a regular-sized postage stamp. It even had one of those nice return address labels that said, "support freedom."

Inside the envelope was a beautiful card. On the front it had a picture of a sunrise or sunset. It said, "Thinking of You ?."

Whichever of my parents opened this mail probably thought: "I don't think we know Alvie J. Mitchell Jr., but it certainly is nice of him to send a card letting me know he's thinking about us."

But the ugly reality hit when they opened the card. On the inside flap it said, "Come back to (insert name of long distance company here)."

It was a solicitation to resume using one of those "10-10" numbers that let one dial anywhere in the known universe for only three cents a minute plus a $150 connection charge.

The card was even "signed" by Alvie n in what, upon closer inspection, was clearly a printer font.

I believe this is about the lowest marketing gimmick I've ever seen. Calling somebody during dinner is one thing, but pretending to send them a greeting card to get them to use a long distance service is just low.

What if that card had gone to a lonely senior citizen? He might have opened it with anxious, trembling hands and a beaming smile, wondering who was thinking of him.

Imagine the poor man's surprise when he discovered the "card" was just a marketing ploy.

I realize that businesses have to make money. And I realize that in today's society, selling one's product depends on getting the word out.

That's fine. Try to sell me your product. Call me, send me fliers, interrupt my favorite TV show once every two minutes with commercials.

But don't masquerade as a faraway friend or loved one who just wanted to send a note of encouragement. And don't pretend to care about me just to get access to my wallet.

Chad and Jim might catch me at inconvenient times, but they wouldn't do that.

Clay Wilson is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or by e-mail at cwilson@henryherald.com.