More Scams and Ripoffs

This one is kind of tricky in that this scam really seems like it’s okay.

Back in college I worked for for a “non-profit” organization called NJPIRG.  There’s a so-called PIRG in almost every state, and some are part of a national organization, and some are only state wide.  They bill themselves as “public interest research groups,” and claim to be grassroots organizations to be a public watchdog for the best interests of the common citizens.

And, in fact, they have a pretty good PR face, and manage to make it into the news pretty often.  Most times, they manage to find a product that’s dangerous, or a stream that’s polluted, or a business that rips customers off.  When they actually do find a golden egg, they don’t hesitate to contact the local media ready to claim that they are the heroes of the innocent public, ever defending the regular good-guy, and helping to destroy the evil corporations, polluters, and exploiters.

That’s very cute and all, but let me school you.  I truly am sorry if you’ve supported these groups in the past.  I don’t mean to demean your good intentions, or make you the fool.  In the end, these organization do indeed accomplish a marginal amount of good, but they are not the all-benevolent organizations they make themselves out to be.  While occasionally they actually do accomplish something that is indeed good for the public, most of the time, these are PR stunts to legitimize their full time bullshit ring.

So, this is how this one works.  Pick a hot topic.  Let’s say, global warming.  That sounds good.  People are a little sensitive to that subject right now, right?  Okay, in a PIRGs eyes, that’s opportunity.  People want to do good, and if we can convince them that they are helping the environment by giving us a few bucks in the name of progress instead of actually helping the environment, then we’re in business.

This is where door-to-door canvassing comes in.  Canvassing is the bullshitter’s name for door-to-door harassment in the form of first, begging, then arguing, then guilting, then demanding money from you.  The skill of canvassing is like the 101 class for Con Men.  Unfortunately for me, my ongoing degree in Philosophy at the time (read: the art or argument) made me all too apt at this lowly act.

So, to make it short and sweet, this is how this works.  PIRGs print up some facts about actual global warning.  They hire college kids, or hippies, or some combination of the two, and give them said flyers.  They then grab quick, legal permits to canvass in a certain town under the guise of public awareness.  A couple of idealistic kids knock on the doors of unsuspecting housewives who are told about the problems of global warming.  But, the problem can be helped, if only enough people know how to fight it by buying the correct light bulbs, installing programmable thermostats, and carpooling, to start.

Now, if enough people in the state are “properly informed” by having college kids give them fliers, then all humanity may just be saved in the nick of time.  But who will pay for all the fliers, the gas, and the time of the “informers?”  You guessed it:  the unsuspecting housewife.  But, the scam is this.  The more money canvassers collect, the more money they personally earn, and the bigger bonuses their bosses earn (the ones that actually graduated to printing the fliers instead of begging for money).

Now, do a lot of people actually get fliers telling them about global warming?  Yes.  But if anyone actually cared about global warming, they are already well aware of how to help the cause.  And everyone else is just being hassled.  Hassled to the point that most of the time it’s easier to give some college kid 10 bucks than to argue with some idealistic asshole with a stack of fliers.

The money that is donated pays people to go to another neighborhood, another day, and harass those people.  That money doesn’t clean up waterways, or install solar panels on the roof of the local library, or find corrupt politicians, or test toys for lead content.  It pays hard-up college kids to learn how to annoy homeowners to the point of giving up their money.

Like I said, once in a while, they actually do stumble upon something that actually does help the “public interest,” but I assure you, that is not their goal.  Fliers don’t clean up the environment or clean up waterways!  In fact, driving all over the state to distribute what will essentially be trash in a landfill, with toxic ink to boot, is quite the opposite of helping the cause of greening our planet.

As I said in my last post, for the most part, with very few exception, donating money is a scam.  Most organizations become so full of bureaucracy that they cannot possibly fulfill the goals that they once hoped to fulfill.  Donating clothes to Goodwill is direct.  Giving a sandwich to a homeless person on your way home from work one day is direct.  Spilling a pint of blood for a kid with leukemia is direct.  Volunteering for a local soup kitchen is direct.  Our friend Danielle even suggested helping out no-kill animal shelters for the Holidays (I suggest calling them and asking what they need most).  Dropping a check in the mail just because some crap organization says that 100% of donations go to a good cause IS NOT DIRECT.

There’s a lot of email chains that go around this time of year.  They ask that you send a gift to an orphan, or send a card to a serviceman, or forward an email to every0ne you know for a free donations to some fly-by-night organization.  These emails are fairly obviously scams.  I just wanted to point out that they’re not always so easily spotted.  Some of these organizations have been around a long time, and their occasional good deeds gives them some staying power.

In the end, time, more than money, is what people in need really, really can use.  Time to give blood, or serve soup, or clean out your closet.  Time to visit the sick in hospitals, or give some stray, unwanted dogs some exercise, or time to spread the sentiment that I’m trying to convey rather that hitting the forward button on some bullshit email.  I’ve done most of these things, at one time or another, and I assure you, the former is far more rewarding than the latter.

PS, I’m not saying we do more than everyone else, because that is FAR from the truth, but what I’m saying is that, if we all do just a little, then that will make a big difference.


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