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STOP THE HARASSMENT!

by Rose Madeline Mula

Is there a lawyer in the house? I need some advice on how to evict all the beggars who have confiscated my mailbox. Every day two or three new outstretched hands appear, pleading for money for the sick, the homeless, the hungry, the infirm… Very worthy causes, but I can’t support them all. In fact, I’m beginning to regret that I ever started trying to help any of them. Because once you make even a small contribution to any charity, you earn a permanent place on their soft-touch list. Every time the mailman comes to call, you’ll be bombarded with additional pleas. First they will write to thank you for your generosity — and to ask if you could please send another contribution. What kind of a thank-you note is that? It’s like the new bride and groom writing to express gratitude for the lovely Waterford crystal wine glasses you gave them and adding a P.S. asking if you can also spring for a place setting or two of Lenox china because their old dinnerware looks tacky next to the Waterford. I mean, really!

And enough with the address labels already! Please don’t send me any more. I could paper my entire house with the stash already stuffed in my desk drawer and still have enough left over to supply my postal needs for the rest of my life.

I’m thinking the multi-colored flowers for the living room walls, the whimsical birds feeding on worms for the dining room, the hearts and roses for one bedroom, and the dazzling butterflies with glittery wings for another. As for all those sailboats and lighthouses — why they’re perfect for the bathrooms, of course. And what about the myriad flags and starred and striped banners? Maybe the den. But then where do I put all the smiley faces and the Norman Rockwell images? In the shredder, that’s where, along with your heartrending solicitation letter.

Whoever thinks more labels can guilt me into contributing to their organization, is wrong. In fact, I might consider sending a check if they promise never to send me more mailing labels — or plastic rosaries, book marks, recipe cards, ball point pens, assortments of greeting cards, personalized note pads, refrigerator magnets… I don’t need them; I don’t want them; and no matter how gut-wrenching the plea that accompanies them, it’s not going to induce me to open my checkbook.

That goes for “gifts” of cash, too. Do they think that gluing a penny, a nickel, or even a dime to their request will make me feel obligated to return it along with a generous contribution? They should think again.

And pictures of starving children don’t work either. Of course I feel desperately sorry for them, but I can’t help them all. I already contribute regularly to the few worthy causes I have chosen to support to the extent my income allows. There’s no wriggle room for any more.

The charity solicitations are bad enough, but even worse are the relentless sales pitches for everything from gym memberships (how dare they insinuate that I’m out of shape?) to restaurants, to gourmet foods, to jewelry, to clothing, to book clubs, to magazines targeted to every conceivable interest group. And the ploys they use are shameless.

One clothing catalog company from whom I’ve ordered in the past recently sent me a check for $8.25, which I almost cashed thinking it must have been a refund for something I returned. However, just before slipping it into a deposit envelope I noticed a blurry line under the dollar amount. I dug out my magnifying glass and examined it more closely. The blur became a fine line of print which said that by depositing or cashing the check, I was purchasing a membership in an identity protection plan. I Googled the plan and learned it charges your credit card a monthly fee which is almost impossible to cancel. Sneaky! I shredded the check and made a mental note never to order from that catalog company again.

I also was “lucky” enough to receive an invitation to join a Cooking Club congratulating me on my nomination and assuring me that my friends would be green with envy at my membership. Their letter said the club is not for beginners, but for serious cooks only, and I’m exactly the kind of person they are always looking for since “It’s no secret among your friends and family that you are an outstanding cook.” I immediately called said friends and family and read them the letter. They all laughed hysterically — a few loud enough to trigger noise complaints from neighbors, and one so convulsively she cracked a rib.

And my mailbox isn’t the only victim of these extortionists. They have also hijacked my telephone. Even though I enrolled in a “Do Not Call” registry, I get weekly telemarketing offers for no-obligation goodies — hundred dollar gift certificates, free vacations, complimentary magazine subscriptions… All I have to do is answer a few simple questions to help in their market research. One of these callers recently caught me at a weak moment, and I agreed to go along with the charade until I could learn what the catch was. His first two questions were innocuous — What’s my favorite color? Do I prefer winter or summer? Then he asked my age. I said I wouldn’t answer any personal questions. He wheedled, cajoled, pleaded. He then threatened. “You won’t receive the gifts!” “Good!” I said. “I’d only get tangled up in all the strings I’m sure are attached.” I slammed down the phone. But it wasn’t that easy. He kept calling back — several times a day, for over a week. The calls stopped only when I finally threatened a harassment suit.

And with the advent of e-mail, a whole new world of scams was born. Every week I receive notifications that I’ve amazingly won contests I never entered. To date prizes I have never claimed include the Irish Sweepstakes, the London Lottery, a home in the Cayman Islands, and countless laptop computers. In addition, I hear daily from foreign dignitaries from Australia to Zimbabwe who are seeking my help in finding a safe haven in America for vast fortunes their governments, evil agents, or unworthy family members are trying to seize. My reward? Half of the riches I help them shelter simply by providing my bank account information or sending them a mere few hundred dollars to set the wheels in motion.

I used to get maybe one or two of these offers a month, but my luck has changed. I now get at least three a week. Just this morning, for example, I opened my email to find that I have won 750,000,000 British pounds (that’s a gazillion in America dollars, even at the current lousy exchange rate), plus a new BMW. Unfortunately, I just bought a new car last week and don’t have enough parking space for a second automobile, so I’ll have to turn it down. Instead, I’ll consider accepting the mere one million pounds that I was notified I won in a PayPal raffle. But first I have to decide what to do about the email whose subject declares, “Beautiful Russian Girls Want to Meet You!” Why? Unless they’re gay with a penchant for older women — or maybe they think I have an eligible grandson.

It’s all enough to make me toss my computer out the window, disconnect my telephone and rip out my mailbox — and then, for good measure, to get involved in a nefarious undertaking so I’ll be eligible to join a witness protection program and move to an undisclosed location.

But then what would I do for aggravation?

©2010 Rose Mula for Seniorwomen.com

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.

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