Something for nothing


Probably not going to show up at your door at bargain rates. (Photo credit: Divine Harvester)

In other parts of the world, people have to deal with floods, forest fires, and earthquakes. In the US state of Iowa, residents have had to deal with a plague of …fraudulent door-to-door meat salesmen.

I kid you not. Apparently scam artists have taken to offering homeowners cut rate shipments of meat, claiming that a restaurant had ordered it but couldn’t take the whole load or that the next door neighbour for whom the shipment was intended wasn’t home. Amazingly, the meat turns out to be very expensive and poor quality, and that little sheet of paper you signed is a binding contract.

Now, call me a sceptic, but if someone knocked on my door in the middle of the afternoon and offered me meat, I’d have the following questions:

1. Er, what sort of meat exactly? We talkin’ grade A beef here, or an escaped alpaca that had an unfortunate rendezvous with the front of your van?
2. Won’t my neighbour be slightly upset if I take delivery of his food? I mean, only last week I tried to accept that brand new home theatre system he’d ordered and he was a bit touchy about that.
3. What is it, exactly, about my front door that leads you to believe I’d be tempted to buy a crate full of bargain mystery meat from a complete stranger who showed up out of the blue? Really, I’d like to know, so I can make the appropriate adjustments to my front door.

I can’t blame the scam artists. After all, they’re just trying to take advantage of that most fundamental human trait: the capacity for wishful thinking. It’s that weird desire to believe that just this once, the gods (in this case, the God of Cheap Hamburger Patties) have smiled upon you.

This quality is responsible for a variety of problems. For instance, most people who have an email address have received junk mail or spam. Experts believe that the way to stop spam is to create sophisticated junk filters, or press criminal charges against ‘spammers.’

I say, no, the only way to fix the spam problem is to hunt down and injure anyone who has ever purchased something from a junk email. I would suggest stoning them with packages of “Available at Awesome Discounts!” Viagra or whacking them printouts of “Best Rate Mortgages!” amortization schedules. If we keep that up, eventually the market for these products will dry up and spam will go away.

A related problem is computer viruses. Most people get computer viruses because they can’t resist clicking on files that sound interesting. If I were to meet someone who had opened a strange, unexpected email attachment, I would ask them:

1. Didn’t it surprise you that, um, your mother had supposedly emailed you a photo of a naked Jessica Simpson?
2. Can you explain why you went ahead and opened a file that was supposedly a photo of a naked Jessica Simpson that had been sent, er, by your mother?
3. Come to think of it, why did your mother open the photo of a naked Jessica Simpson?
4. Have you and your mother discussed this with a counsellor?

Okay, I suppose I shouldn’t be too hard on our tendency to hope for something better. After all, some of our greatest inventions, like the airplane, came about because someone said something like, “I wish we could fly.”

I just wish they hadn’t also dreamed up airline food.

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