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Dean Minnich: Cheats, thieves, predators abound | COMMENTARY

Now that I have the time to enjoy the fruits of my labors and the freedoms of the land in which I was born (and served in uniform to support), I feel under siege by bandits, cheats, and predators of all kinds: political, social, economic.

You don’t even have to leave your home to get mugged.

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An undisturbed afternoon nap should not be so hard to come by in a land founded on the ideals of justice and the right to be left alone if that is your choosing. The injury piled on the insult of the interruptions is that the callers often are trying to get into your wallet.

If you are even contemplating a nap, morning or afternoon, be advised that you will have to disconnect all contacts with the outside world. Just because it is nearly impossible to find a human being at the other end of any call you make, people are lined up in stalls among other legions of hucksters in headsets from here across the seas and far deserts to interrupt you with offers you can refuse and refuse again. And again. Every day, virtually every hour.

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This harassment, protected as freedom of speech, described generously as marketing, is the curse of American prosperity. The only ethic at play is that money is to be made however it can be plied away from you. Answer a few questions, and a product will be delivered to your door, with an extra bonus prize if you act now with your credit card and ID. You may not have realized that you approved the order.

Small wonder Americans have reached a point where they don’t believe anything they see or hear. Every time you answer the phone you can bet the number on the caller ID number is fake and the caller is lying.

It isn’t just the phone that’s breaking into your home; so is direct mail. Between the phone calls from 1,001 purveyors of new Medicare plan offers and the “official documents” arriving in the mailbox warning you not to destroy the contents under penalty of federal law and/or loss of a body part, you can be entertained by some of the most creative writing you can find this side of a two-for-the-price-of-one offer on the purchase of a funeral plot. Take it for a test drive.

Salesmanship was not a dirty word in my parents’ house. My folks were store clerks, and Dad taught me that you earned your pay with customer service. It wasn’t just taking the money and stuffing it into your pocket; it was making the customer know that you appreciated his business and met a need.

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Strong-arm, pressure salespeople have been around ever since the first apple was offered to the lady shopper, but there were rules, and consequences for breaking them. The original evil huckster was sent to Hell, where he apparently set up a consulting business and runs tutorials in modern marketing tactics.

We all have a story about a run-in with salespeople. Most of my life has been spent hovering over a keyboard or traveling to the next assignment, but I have also worked in sales – retail store, real estate, car – even door-to-door knocking to begin a new route for an out-of-town dry cleaning company when I was 13 years old.

I might write another book, this one about my adventures on both sides of sales transactions, especially selling cars.

Dad’s ethics followed a few simple rules: Never lie or mislead anyone. Always do what you say you are going to do. Be respectful, and you earn the right to be treated with respect in return.

And don’t get greedy.

Sales and marketing are honorable work until it becomes predatory or so aggressive as to be an inconvenience to the general public.

We are there. And I am here, still going up against the predators and cheats and thieves whether they be selling politics, phony insurance plans, condos or cars.

Dean Minnich is the author of three novels and published three books based on his columns and newspaper features. He writes from Westminster.

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