How NOT to Get Suckered In the Information Age

Susan Scharfman

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Like showman P. T. Barnum, my grandpa used to say, “a sucker is born every minute. ” Today, as we grope our way through cyberspace, there’s one born every second. And the hucksters are so brilliant at what they do.

Subtlety went out the window with Windows. Even with your trusty iPod earplugs in place, you can’t read a magazine, go on line, pick up a telephone, walk down a street, ride a public conveyance without being accosted, shouted at; invaded by screaming aliens from the planet Madison Avenue. Like a bombardment of artillery rockets coming at you from every direction, so are the flashing signs, blinking neon, talking heads, blabbering blogs, news releases that aren’t news, how-to ads that serve the server when you buy the book.

Every earthling has something to say about everything, and everything to say about nothing. Experts appear from nowhere with scholarly judgments on how you should live your life. Remember actor Peter Finch’s character Howard Beale in the movie, “Network?" How many times have you told yourself, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore?” Well, I'll tell you how NOT to be a victim. Log on to my website and BUY MY BOOK.

I trust you’ve noticed the distinction between a how-to, and a how-not-to pitch? Right. There isn’t any difference.

We’ve all been snookered at one time or another. I was standing on a Ft. Lauderdale Beach corner with a friend, when a young woman approached us with an offer for a free lunch and a boat ride if we would meet her at a hotel. All we had to do was give her ten dollars each and she would meet us in an hour with our tickets. Believe it or not, these “sophisticated” city folk fell for it. When we met the woman at the appointed time and place, we were herded into the hotel and seated in a room with dozens of other innocents. The lunch and boat tickets were withheld until we sat through six hours of unmitigated hard sell hell on the virtues of buying into the hotel’s time-share in beautiful Ft. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. The “free lunch, ” for which we’d already paid $10 on the street corner, was lousy. By the time we left, the pitchmen almost had us convinced. Don’t laugh. My smart, savvy lawyer cousin fell for the same come-on with a smart con just as savvy.

Like my wise old grandpa used to say, “Whether or not you have your druthers, there ain’t no free lunch sisters and brothers. ”


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