Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Cardboard Sign on a Telephone Pole

There is something creepy and appealing about signs on telephone poles.

Stephen King is very good at finding the creepiness in everyday life.   He creates great horror fiction not by relying on the usual assortment of monsters and ghosts, but by finding the demonic in everyday objects.

For example, in the novel and movie Christine, King brings out the creepy factor in old cars - particularly older cars from the 1950's with their baroque juke-box styling.   Let's face it, there is something very, very creepy about the 1958 Plymouth Fury - made even creepier by a few dents and rust.   King can see this and bring it out.  You can smell that old car smell, just from reading the book.

In another book (and movie) Hearts in Atlantis, he find creepiness in "Lost Pet" notices tacked to telephone poles (note: my friends who work for the power company remind me that they are utility poles - the telcos merely piggy-back off them).  Tattered abandoned signs tacked to a pole become the object of horror.  That is the genius of King.   We all knew in retrospect these things were creepy, but it took King to bring it to the forefront.

In one of my earliest postings, I mentioned offhand how I was amused by a cardboard sign tacked to a pole by the side of the road:
While driving home the other day, I saw a sign on a lamp post that read, "Make executive salary from home! $10,000 per month! Call XXX-XXXX. Don't call if you don't believe!"

I almost laughed out loud at the last line, as it illustrated how these con artists work - they prey upon the BELIEF of the victim. As we know from religion, belief is something that is based on faith, and you can't argue faith logically. Thus, if you can get someone to BELIEVE something, there is no way of talking them out of it.

Here is a list of 50-some-odd things that, in my opinion, are scams....

1. ANYTHING ADVERTISED ON A LAMP POST: And this goes for road sign posts and utility poles as well. They can be neatly printed signs or pieces of cardboard scrawled on with crayon. It makes no difference. A sign taped-up to a utility pole that says "Lose weight now! Call XXX-XXXX" is a scam, as are any job offers, work from home scams or anything else. Other than garage sales and lost dog notices, anything advertised on a sign taped to a lamp post is a scam, PERIOD.

It seems pretty obvious, but then again, I still see these weird signs all over the place.  Mr. King was on to something.  There must be a cult or group of aliens or something that is putting them up - right?

What sort of signs am I talking about?  Well, not "lost pet" or "garage sale" signs - those are usually legit (except in Mr. King's novels!).  These signs seem to fall into one of three categories:
1.  Weight Loss

2.   Make Money At Home!

3.   House for Sale - Investment!
The first two are pretty self-explanatory and I have touched on them before.   The Weight Loss ones are likely a pitch for an MLM scheme - to buy "supplements" to lose weight and of course, become a "distributor" of your own and con other people into buying into the scheme.  MLM (Multi-Level-Marketing) schemes are all just plain rip-offs, period, paragraph, end-of-story.  If you can't figure this out on your own, I can't help you.

The Make Money At Home people are the same way - selling you something, particularly the something-for-nothing mentality.  The sort of folks who fall for this nonsense don't bother to think about why, if something really was an opportunity, why is it being advertised on a piece of cardboard tacked to a stick on the side of the road?    They likely are not reading this blog, either.

The last is a new trend, and like in a King novel, kind of creepy.  I've seen these signs mostly in Florida, but they appear here in Georgia and in other parts of the country as well.   The sign is a broken piece of brown cardboard nailed to a stick or a utility pole and in Sharpie(tm) writing says, "3BR 2BA House - Great Investment! Call XXX-XXX-XXXX!!"

Really?  Selling Real Estate using cardboard signs?  Sometimes a ridiculously low price ($30,000) is mentioned on the sign.  I think the gag is that the person seeing the sign might think the seller is unsophisticated and thus is giving away their house for less than market value.   But of course, the seller - if he is indeed even a seller - is far more astute than you think.  Odds are, one of two things is happening here:
1.  The seller does not own the house - but is merely renting or just standing in front of a random house on the street.   He offers a house (maybe already rented) for an obscenely low price, but only if you act now and provide "good faith" money in advance.  Of course, he takes off with your money and you never see it again, as he did not own the house in the first place.
2.  The seller does not own any house, but wants you to sign up for a "buy ugly homes" gig which you have likely seen advertised.   You sign up and pay for training materials on how to buy and flip houses (everyone is making money doing this, right?   After all, you've seen it on television!) and of course, end up with nothing.  But you can make money if you put up your own cardboard sign and sign up more suckers like yourself.
Both are scams, of course.  There is no "money system" or "kit" you can buy to learn how to make money from Real Estate.  The thousands you spend on seminars or kits could be better spent actually buying such houses.   But if you don't have the cash and credit rating to get loans, it ain't gonna happen, so forget dreams of avarice and just put the dough in your 401(k) as boring as that seems - or pay down your damn debts!

But again, this is something that people should be able to figure out just by the context of it.   There are no opportunities to be had by responding to cardboard signs.  No one is giving away houses for nothing - at best you can hope to find something for slightly less than market value.  Why is this?  Well, there are plenty of people out there who will bid against you if someone is selling a house for an alarmingly low price.  This in turn tends to bid the price up to near market value, adjusted for any defects in the property, of course.

Since the great fool shortage of 2008, we've run short of chumps and idiots.  And usually people astute enough to own a home are astute enough not to merely give it away or to advertise using a cardboard sign.

But with the election of Donald Trump, it finally appears the fool drought is letting up.   A whole new generation of suckers and chumps is on the scene, completely ignorant about the real estate meltdowns of 1989 and 2009, timeshare seminars, MLM schemes, Nigerian Scammers, car leases, payday loans and a whole host of shitty deals.

It seems that the economy will turn around, balanced on the back of a new generation of fools!