Jim King 2017

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It’s easy to conclude that we live in suspicious times when even the most legitimate businesses act in ways that raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Item first: A friend of ours dropped by with a letter he received from an outfit called Flying Pig Real Estate in Fairfield, Mont., population 708 and somewhere just over 2,000 miles away.

The letter was an unsolicited offer to buy his acre (that contains the house he lives in) for $4,873.68. And Flying Pig will pay the closing costs.

The mailing included a handy purchase agreement for my friend to sign and mail or email back.

As far as I can tell, Flying Pig is a real business with a website and a Facebook page. I didn’t find any complaints about the business lurking about in the obscure reaches of the web.

Their self-promotion says they specialize in purchasing unwanted properties. That’s all well and good, but trust me, my friend wants his house.

And if he does sell, he’ll want more than $4,873.68 for it.

* * *

Item second is another of Potomac Edison’s scaremongering “reminders” about how parts of the electrical connection outside the house aren’t actually covered by the utility.

The solution, of course, is an “Exterior Electrical Line Protection Plan” that will only cost $2.99 a month added onto my monthly electric bill.

The mailing includes little diagrams showing where problems could go wrong and how someone without the plan would pay $266 or $405, but with the plan it’s NO CHARGE.

Except, of course, the plan isn’t really from Potomac Edison. They’re just the middlemen for a company called HomeServe. In fact, when I first reported on these scare tactics a few years ago, Potomac Edison’s spokesman was quick to point out that it’s not their product.

Except, of course, the offer came in an envelope that appeared to be from Potomac Edison and the fee would go on your Potomac Edison bill. But, no, they’re not involved in trying to scare money out of you on the slim, slim, slim chance that something will go wrong with your “weatherhead, riser, insulator, meter base (or) service entrance conductor.”

* * *

Item third: Saturday’s mail at home included an envelope that had a return address of St. Louis with no corporate name attached.

Handling the envelope, I could tell that some sort of credit or debit card was inside.

Sure enough, when we opened it, rubber-cemented to the heavy stock was our new “Shop Your Way” Mastercard.

I didn’t know if it was a replacement card from one of the financial institutions we deal with. Nothing on the front of the letter said who. The back was filled with fine print that didn’t indicate the issuer either.

Then I looked back at one of the come-ons: Turn the Shop Your Way points you earn into value! Then, in much smaller type it explained that the points could be redeemed at any Sears or Kmart.

* * *

Why did Sears feel it needed to try to slip one past me? Why couldn’t the retailer just say prominently that our new Sears card was attached?

Why does Potomac Edison keep shilling for a 3rd-party home services company that tries to lure homeowners and car owners into buying generally unnecessary coverage?

Why would a legitimate real estate company send an unsolicited – and insulting – purchase offer without some sort of explanation to create a sense of legitimacy?

Is all of corporate America obsessed with the hard sell these days? Saying anything to make a buck off you and me? Believing that we’re all so desperate to make (or save) a buck that we don’t really care about the details?

Once upon a time, a compliment in America was that something was “as solid as Sears.” Those days of investors and common folk alike believing in the strength and reliability of Sears are long past, but the company lends itself no help with mailings like the one I got Saturday.

The lesson of these 3 stories is bigger than the individual annoyances they presented. Sadly, Americans in 2019 are more suspicious than I ever remember and it’s because it feels like everyone around us is playing an angle.

Companies like Sears, Potomac Edison and Flying Pig Real Estate aren’t doing anything to allay our fears.

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