I don’t want to brag, but I’ve been specially chosen for a unique opportunity. I have been told that I deserve to rule among the elite. I have been invited to hob-nob with the rich, the famous, and the world-shakers of the … well, world.
What proof do I have that I am oh-so fancy? That I deserve the top hat, cane, and spats treatment?
I got a letter.
Not just any letter! It was thirteen pages! And, to quote said document,
“This is a personal letter just to you. Notice: this is not a mass mailing; this letter came to you by first-class mail, not by third-class bulk mail. This is not a solicitation for money.”
What could possibly be more legitimate than that? I mean, only the finest documents in modern society ask for you to mail or fax(???) your reply. No e-mail address, no last names, no phone numbers; why in the world would I take that to be suspicious? Obviously, this rambling letter is everything that it purports to be. I should really seize the opportunity. Nothing bad could possibly occur. Ahem.
There is only one problem in all this. It is best summed up on the top of page 11.
“I’m betting that you’re not going to pass up this opportunity. You’ve probably been in a life that’s not up to your standards. Here’s your chance to move up high and enjoy the life you truly were meant to enjoy.”
My life is fine. At the moment, I’m using a laptop, wrapped in a blanket, with a cat on my knee. The roof doesn’t leak, there is half a pizza in the fridge, and my bookshelves are full. What sort of life could improve on that? My standards are simple. Bad call, letter-dude.
But hey, they went to all the work to craft this letter. The least I can do is make the effort to rip them a new one.
What was I promised? I won’t replicate all twelve of the “samples of power” that were listed in bold. A sample of the perks: Money. Power. Control/Seduce anyone. Lose weight and fight off any addiction. Heightened intelligence and better luck.
Okay, money. The easy one. The thing that causes the most fights and the most struggles in life. Could I use more money? We all could. Could I buy a house tomorrow? No. Can I pay rent in two weeks? Yep. And still have enough leftover to pre-order three books at two different independent bookstores. I see the appeal, but I’m not broke.
Power? Eh. You know what they never discuss in those comics about villains that want to rule the world? Ruling the world is a gigantic pain. Once you obtain the seat of power, then you have to work every second of every day to keep that seat. There’s always going to be an underling waiting to murder you and take the throne. Because that’s exactly what you would do. And now, you’re so busy assigning work to all your lieutenants/ senators/ archdukes/ keeper of your journals, that you don’t have the time you once did as an independent contractor. You get the power. Then everyone expects things of you and won’t leave you alone. You used to work to overthrow all the bureaucracy; now it’s all you can do to keep up. Bleh. I can’t imagine the number of accountants, lawyers, and business managers you’d have to deal with. Pass.
Control/Seduce anyone. Dear word, no. I’m not 100% introverted, but it is my preference. Walking into a room and having everyone there love me and clamor to cling to me? That’s like asking to dump a vat of mayonnaise on me and then elbowing my stomach every three seconds. It wouldn’t technically kill me, but I’d pray for a merciful end. Give me a small group of people.
Kermit the Frog put it best. “Maybe you don’t need the whole world to love you. Maybe you just need one.” You can try to control others. Or you can embrace those that love you for who you are.
Lose weight? My metabolism and jogging have me covered. Next. Beat addiction? I’m not addicted to anything. What else you got? Heightened intelligence? I do a crossword and jumble once a day. And Wordle has yet to defeat me. Luck? I don’t believe in luck. I believe in skill and providence. Luck? Nope.
Great. Now that most of the appeal has been stripped from the offer, we can make fun of the letter itself.
Thirteen pages?!? Really? You claim to have heightened intelligence and it takes you thirteen pages to say, “Ask for our book?” C’mon. Here’s a three-syllable word for your “heightened intelligence.” Brevity. Look it up.
I’d suggest that there is a key trait in any letter asking for money. At seemingly random times, they will put their text in bold. I am sure they have their reasons why they do it, but they can’t help themselves. And if they’re really trying to sell the point, they will underline their bold sentences. For effect. I have seen letters from cancer foundations, homeless shelters, and world relief organizations. They all do it. And this letter? Yep. Bolds and underlines. A lot.
**They also bullets, but not too much.
**When they have something special to say.
**When they have something that might be special.
**Or, darn it, when they want to say the same thing that they said the last three times, but using different words.
What really tipped me off? What insulted me? They never once dipped into personal details. All-encompassing phrases and generalizations, that was their bread and butter. Whenever the letter tried to touch on the, “why me?” aspect, they never answered it.
Flattery 101: Be specific. “Hey, you’re hot.” “Oh, thanks.” “No, I mean, you’re like, really hot.” “So you said. Hi, I’m Janet.” “Duke. And you’re hot.” “Did you want to maybe get a drink or something?” “With you? Yeah. ‘cause—” “I’m hot. Yeah. Got that.” “You are.” “Uh huh. Anything you like about me in particular?” “…Just your hotness.”
It doesn’t really work, does it? It’s almost like a blanket statement made to cover any and all individuals so that they don’t have to come out and admit that they have no idea who they are talking to.
Why did I keep this letter from last fall? The intrigue. I admit it. I wanted to take a look and find out that question that every detective novel should pose: “Who benefits?”
To their credit, it took some internet searching. You can imagine that, “The Society” brought up quite a few inquiry results. And the name of the book that would explain all the secrets to me was just vague enough to not help. However, with help from scambusters.org, I found the answer.
Supposedly, mailing in the letter will lead to a full-on brochure. (Because what I really want in my life is another stack of papers talking around the topic without actually saying anything.) That brochure would lead to a book. The book, normally priced at a listed $250, would be offered at a steep discount of $140. Generalities would be repurposed. TED Talks would be bastardized; you get the idea.
Wait! There’s more! No, seriously. Buy more. That was just the first book in the series. Buy more books. Then you’ll learn the whole system. Keep buying those books. And these ones! Ooh, those too.
That’s why I have no problem putting their letterhead on here without credit. Normally I’m all for copyrights. But this? The logo designed by John Q. Template the IV? No deal. And even if they had drawn upon their dubious artistic skills to craft this thing? Running a scam through the mail is fraud. I’ll ease off on copyright infringement if you knock it off with the fraud. Deal?
More than anything, that was what disappointed me. A book-club for the gullible? That’s it? I was hoping there was some foreign country that was using this low-tech scheme to supplement their underground money laundering sector. Why couldn’t the mob be running a shell operation to act as a respectable cover? Maybe the local rotary club was hard-up for funds and was having to resort to skeevy tactics to keep their slumlord at bay for one more lease-cycle?
Nope. Books. Boring books. Books about rich people, greed, and being famous. Again I say, bleh.
One final judgment. When the police come to arrest you, they don’t call and ask you to stop by when you’re free. When lawyers serve papers, they have someone come to where you are. Be like Ed McMahon, darn it. If you claim you have a life-changing plan for me, tell me in person. You swore an oath to pass on this secret and you do so… by a letter with no last name? C’mon now, “Tom.” Try a little harder. Don’t you have a driver or a private jet to usher you around? I’m offended, you cad.
If I am right, then the letter is really an invitation to join a select group. The, We Got Played and We Got Books to Prove It Club. And as previously stated, my bookshelves are all full, thanks.
If the letter is right, then I was invited to join a group of people that stand around in a room talking about money, how to bend people to your will, and how best to manage your millions of dollars. Which sounds even worse than being scammed. I don’t really want to be in a room full of famous people just to say I was in a room with famous people. Sounds shallow. I’d rather you pass the cat and gimme some potato chips.
Credit where credit is due, the letter did get one thing right. Let’s go back to page 11 and look at the paragraph right below the other one.
“…You have free will. You can decline our amazing offer.”
They were one hundred percent right. I do. And I do.