One of the truly delirious joys I get out of this job is receiving mail from readers - especially the ones who send me those succinct, six-page, single-spaced letters griping about a business or the ones who just tell me I'm bananas.
I read or listen to them all. Why? Because I love that people are reading, even if we don't agree.
I also try to respond to as many readers as I can, but it can be a Sisyphean task. Between the PR pitches, reader mail, voice mail and spam that come across my desk, I'm often inundated. Most people share a bad business encounter with me. Others tell me about a useful consumer tip. Some thank me for warning them.
But my favorites?
Oh, my absolutely favorite letters come from total strangers and, sometimes, very high-ranking officials. They offer me help, free money and loans for purely altruistic reasons. So I thought today I would devote my column to responding to these munificent souls.
Joan Marshal from Tanzania, who addressed me in her missive as "Beloved One," offered me a small fortune of $33.5 million that she and her poor husband saved before he died in a plane crash.
"Due to my bareness, I don't have a child and am of age, I am 68 years now and my doctor told me that based on my kidney and liver failure disease," Marshal said. "I can not stay to live up three months ahead... Therefore I need a God fearing person who will assure me that he/she will use this fund to help the Motherless baby homes, Orphanage and Charity organization, less privileged Propagating the word of God."
My Dearest Joan,
You are a saint. Here I am, despondent over a leaky right eye made wonky by my fall allergies, and there you are, about to perish any minute. And yet you still have time to think of others, namely me. How did you know that I've been worried sick about the state of newspapers in America and contemplating a job change that would still allow me to help others? I will pray to Buddha for your health. (I hope you, with your Christian upbringing, won't hold that against me.) But in the meantime, please send me the money posthaste by certified check. Even half will do. There's lots to do here in Baltimore.
Your eternal spirit in love, D
First Capital Business Solutions' B2B Team sent me an urgent e-mail just this past week.
"Get $200,000.00 within 40 days with no out of pocket money!!!!!!!! Through a combination of 'aged corporations' and enhanced corporate credit we are able get you up to $200k in unsecured lines of credit."
Thank you for your invitation. As much as I firmly believe that I deserve and can afford a $200,000 loan on my middling reporting salary, I must confess I am a wee bit concerned, what with all this talk of the financial crisis and government bailout.
I hate to get all school marm-y here, but isn't easy credit and lax lending practices what got us into this mess in the first place? Maybe I'm wrong. In any case, please send me the appropriate paperwork to fill out. I've been yearning against all odds to buy a house to quickly renovate and flip. This loan will really come in handy.
Yours in earnest, D
David Morgan, "director of Tax Refunds" at the Internal Revenue Service, and John Stewart, the IRS' "director of Exempt Organization," were both nice enough to inform me that I am owed a tax refund.
"We are pleased to inform you that upon review of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $949.30 under section 501?(3) of the Internal Revenue Code," Morgan wrote. "Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 3-6 days in order to process it."
Stewart said I'm owed $189.60, according to his records, and "If u don't receive your refund within 9 business days from the original IRS mailing date shown, you can start a refund trace online."
Dear Messrs. Morgan and Stewart,
Oh, lucky day. After many sleepless nights worrying about my diminishing retirement fund, it's nice to know I have some money coming to me. I must say, however, that I am a bit perplexed by the difference in refund amounts. Is this sorta like Deal or No Deal, where I get to choose which amount I want to keep? If so, the $949.30 sounds about right. I'm old-school, so I don't trust all that e-banking malarkey. Please priority mail my check as soon as possible. I am trying to make it to a sale at C-Mart.
Most Sincerely, D
P.S.: Might I suggest as a taxpayer that your roles are redundant? Perhaps you should eliminate a position, especially since one of you can't spell or even get your numbers straight.
Reverend Daniel issued dire words of caution:
"This is not an advertisement, and I'm not asking you for money," the good reverend said. "Listen. I'm writing this because I believe the Lord is warning the people of days to come."
Dear Rev. Daniel,
Aren't we the Gloomy Gus, Mr. Glass-Half-Empty? I half-kid you. I know things seem bleak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average just sank 678.91 points as I am writing to you. But please, let's not be alarmist. Now is not the time to panic. Now is the time to take stock of our good health and realize that we are strong enough to work well into our 100s. Phooey on retiring by 67. Retirement is for slackers.
Forever upbeat, just call me Glass-Half-Full D
Another Reverend Daniel wrote me about a London woman who is "dumb and crippled due to illness." She wants to give me 100 million euros. Her husband is dead, and she's got an 11-year-old child who needs care.
"SHE WANTS HER CHILD'S FUTURE SECURED," Reverend Daniel wrote. "IF YOU CAN HANDLE IT, OR WHEN YOU GET SOMEONE WHO CAN ASSIST.BUT THEY HAVE TO BE VERY RICH.NOT JUST ANYBODY, BUT ONE WITH CAPACITY.YOU CAN CONFIRM THIS MONEY BEFORE TAKEN ANY STEPS... I KNOW THAT A LOT OF SCAM IS GOING ON IN THE WORLD TODAY.THIS CASE IS DIFFERENT YOU WILL SOON FIND OUT THE TRUTH AND BE CONVINCED.PLEASE MY DEAR, THIS IS NOT A SCAM."
Dear Reverend Daniel,
Whew. I'm always so paranoid. Thank you ever so much for assuring me that this is not a scam.
Your compassion overwhelms me. I feel like you've embraced my psyche with warm butterfly hugs. I regret to say that I am unavailable to take on your most noble task. I am expecting to begin overseeing another large sum of money any day now for a delightful woman from Tanzania.
Might I suggest that you contact another person who could use the money right now? He has the financial wherewithal and knowledge to manage this money, and I believe he has access to an agency that can find a home for this child in need. Please send the certified check to Henry Paulson, c/o the U.S Treasury Department.
Respectfully yours in trust, D
P.S.: Are you the same doom-and-gloom guy who wrote earlier? What a refreshing change of attitude.
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