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Magazine scam coming to a front door near you

May 10, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

I don't mind being scammed, generally. Happens all the time. But there's something about getting scammed by a 20-year-old girl that sticks in the gizzard.

To be right up front about it, I can't guarantee it was a scam. Could have been all on the level. So I'll just lay our the facts as they happened, and you can be the judge. But if, like me, you have a keen, Columbo-like mind, I have a hunch you will understand my suspicion.

It's about 5:45 on a weekday, and I'm expecting company for dinner, so I bound to the door and yank it open - only to be surprised by a long-haired, blue-eyed babe who announced, in no particular order, that she was in high school, going on to college and she was working on an assignment for some class or another.

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She said she'd moved here from the Seattle area a couple of months back. I asked her what high school she went to and she named one in Tacoma. Seemed odd she couldn't seem to name any local high school.

She said her assignment was to help her master public speaking - eye contact, upbeat demeanor - stuff she didn't seem to need any help with. She was big on high-fives. No one was going to out-Borat her.

She'd been standing at the door a while, so I invited her in to let her work on this public speaking thing.

She happily accepted, after asking, "You're not a kidnapper, right?"

I said no, I was more into shooting barely-legal porn spots for an underground Web site.

It probably should have dawned on me that talking to one person in a living room was an odd way to practice public speaking, but it didn't, until later. I told her I was horrible at public speaking, but that the solution was medication.

She asked me what I did, and I explained, best I could.

"Wow, that's really cool. I've met so many nice people - I met a hairdresser, a dishwasher; but you're the first person I've met with a ... a ..."

"A career?"

"Yes."

At some point, I can't say where, the situation morphed into a different direction. Instead of public speaking, she was now working to win points toward a trip to Europe.

She asked for a glass of cold water, like she was Cindy Loo Who or something, and asked if I had a desk so she could fill out some paperwork to turn in to her instructor.

I showed her into my office, now starting to get a bit uneasy that my expected guest might arrive and I might have some 'splainin' to do regarding the fact that a nubile young tart was hanging around the pad.

No problem, I thought. I'll just tell the truth, that the girl is practicing her public speaking so she could earn points for a trip to Europe. It was at that point I began to realize the story made no sense whatsoever.

She mentioned in passing that she was 20 years old, which I judged as a bit long in the tooth for a high school student, but before I had a chance to cross-examine, she had pulled out a chart of magazines that - bet you didn't see this coming - she was selling.

"Most people get three or four," she said brightly, adding that she was competing with a number of other kids canvassing the neighborhood, so if they came calling I was not to let them in.

I did not need any magazines. I did not want any magazines. But seeking an expeditious termination to the interview I started to think of a purchase as a means to an end. Besides, she encouraged, the subscriptions were for two full years.

I picked two of the least offensive periodicals I could find and she set about drawing up the contract. She also wanted my phone number so her instructor could call and allow me to rate her performance. I complied. And I asked her if she took a check. She said she "got more points" if I paid cash.

Then she presented the bill for the two magazines: $142.50.

It was at this point I sheared. I told her I was not a man to permit contempt of court on the part of a juvenile huckster, and that as far as public speaking went, I didn't care if she were Oscar Freaking Wilde, I did not have a Benjamin point five to lay out on magatrash.

She went into full pout. "But they come for three years."

Two, three, 10, for life, whatever. I didn't care. I gave her $20, ostensibly for the cause, but basically just to leave.

"Well," she said reluctantly. I do get two points for every dollar."

Right. And from now on I get two points for every time I refuse to answer the doorbell.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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