Stop! You’re Driving Me Crazy!

Stop! You’re Driving Me Crazy!

By Patrick F. Cannon

I belong to several organizations and subscribe to a couple of magazines. What all of them have in common is the annoying practice of trying to encourage you to renew your membership or subscription long before they’re due to expire. You may think they do this because they’re unorganized or scatterbrained. No, they do it hoping you’ll forget when the actual renewal is due, and mindlessly send the money along early. I believe the idea is to keep doing this until you’ve paid enough for a lifetime subscription or membership. Perhaps if you die before they expire, the  remaining time can be added to your estate?

It’s also getting hard to be charitable about charities. Once you donate, the deluge begins. You can expect new solicitations to come at least monthly. Mostly, I just consign them to the recycle pile unopened. After the paper is recycled, no doubt it comes back eventually in a new plea for funds. By the way, I don’t feel the least guilty about using the stuff (nickels, dimes, quarters, note pads, pens, greeting cards, etc.) that they send to encourage donations. In recent months, I’ve even gotten socks and garden gloves. Garden gloves? What genius thought that one up? Eventually, after 10 or 20 years, they give up (unless you weaken and donate again).

 What would the Postal Service do without them, or the catalogs that fill our mailboxes? Aside from the occasional greeting card and bill, what else is there? I live in a condo building which has recycling bins in the garage, so when I pick up my mail, I often go directly there to unload the unwanted catalogs and other solicitations. Saves me a trip. As it happens, if you never order from the catalogs, eventually they get the message and drop you from the list. They cost a lot more to print and mail than a letter, even one with unwanted greeting cards.

 By the way, you probably know that most organizations are only too  happy to  sell their mailing (and email) lists. Many years ago, I did some very modest direct mail campaigns. I got friendly with a rep of a direct-mail specialist company. Although all this would now be available digitally, in those days you referred to a catalog of available lists. It was as big as the Chicago phone book (you do remember phone books, don’t you?). Most organizations sold their lists, and still do. You can’t escape! Give to the VFW, and don’t be surprised if you get a solicitation from the Bereft Veterans of the Grenada Rescue Operation.

 Perhaps most annoying of all are the phone calls. Does any day go by without you getting at least two or three annoying calls for products or services you don’t want (and may be phony anyway). How often can one be told that one’s car warranty is expiring (for the record, my car is 11 years old). I notice that many of these calls come from local area codes, and even have my local exchange number.

To make sure you don’t miss real calls, you almost have to memorize the phone numbers of friends and relatives. By the way, I regularly register with the National Do Not Call Registry of the Federal Trade Commission, which I suspect is yet another of the government agencies whose employees spend their days not answering the phone.

While I’m in a complaining mood, let me also once again berate the Chicago network affiliates of ABC, CBS and NBC (which are owned by those networks) for using their news programs to promote parent company entertainment programs and films. During a 30 minute local news program, only about 22 minutes of the 30  don’t have commercials. Weather forecasts – why are there more than one? – consume another four or five minutes, leaving maybe 16 for actual news. Let me use WLS-TV, the ABC station, as an example,  while pointing out that the other Chicago stations do much the same.

As it happens, ABC is part of the Disney entertainment colossus. Disney operates the famous theme parks; has a regular and streaming channel; and also owns Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, 20th Century and Searchlight Pictures. And it’s also a major producer of Broadway musicals. Obviously, it could afford to pay for commercials, but instead insists that its ABC local stations treat the opening of a new movie (for example) as news, thus reducing the time available for real news even further.  

I wonder if journalism schools now teach a mandatory course called “How to read non-news with a smile on your face.” If not, maybe Disney can fund a chair in Entertainment News. As it happens, most of the folks at WLS-TV are graduates of either the University of Illinois or the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. I’m sure either would happily take the dough.

Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon

4 thoughts on “Stop! You’re Driving Me Crazy!

  1. Local TV news “shows” (ours originate in Indy) have gone the route of local newspapers. The Internet carries the news. By the time it gets to the TV newsrooms it’s “olds.” The only current reporting they can do is the weather, in some cases three times within a half hour. They jump for joy if there is a tornado. Out comes the fancy Doppler radar. Otherwise, it’s the same dreary reports of drive-by shootings and murders sprinkled with the occasional missing person alert. And the new readers seem to be getting fatter, uglier and more poorly dressed. Like the news itself.

    I remember once getting a pickle in the mail, sealed in plastic, I think as some type of promotion. Charities could save themselves a ton of dough if they cut back on their mailings. St. Jude Hospital won’t leave us alone. They send at least 2-3 mailings a week, even after we asked them to stop. Marlo Thomas seems to think she’s my pen pal.

    The phone solicitations are easy to handle with Caller ID. People and organizations we know are identified. The others go to voice mail. Some of the messages are in Chinese. Local numbers and exchanges mean nothing. There’s a way to use such numbers even if you are located in Outer Mongolia.

    Liked by 1 person

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