Distrusted by state troopers

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Feb. 3, 2005

Dear Pat,

It was a Sunday afternoon. "How are you, sir?" the phone caller asked.

"That depends," I said. Only two kinds of callers begin phone conversations with that question, and neither is interested in your well-being.

He laughed as if anticipating my response.

He was calling on behalf of the Missouri State Troopers Association and selling tickets to a Mark Chesnutt concert in Poplar Bluff.

I don't know any Mark Chesnutt songs, Poplar Bluff is more than 80 miles from Cape Girardeau, and the concert is on a Tuesday night.

"I'll take two," I said.

If you send the tickets back with your check, the troopers will distribute them to children who might not otherwise be able to go to a concert. That's the carrot that makes people buy tickets to concerts they won't attend.

That was the easy part. Then the caller said he was going to tape record me agreeing to buy the tickets. It seems not everyone who gets tickets in the mail from the state troopers understands they have to be paid for.

Dumbly, I agreed to be taped.

"Do you agree to buy two tickets?" he asked.

"I do," I said.

In some states we might be married.

Then he wanted me to provide assurances that the check for the tickets would be mailed out the day after they arrived.

I told him that might not happen so quickly. DC and I like to let our mail breathe a little after opening it, like a good wine.

He asked if I needed two days instead of one. That sounds better, I said even more dumbly. He said he was writing down that the check would be sent two days after the tickets were received. The state troopers don't trust me.

At that point, I just wanted off the phone before getting angry with the troopers for hiring someone so pushy to solicit money for them. He was trying to collect a bill two seconds after it became one.

Tsunami relief must really have made it tough to raise money right now.

The temptation is to follow some people into the future where your only phone is a cell phone. Telemarketers are prohibited from using automated dialers for cell phone numbers, and so far cell phone numbers haven't been published. When it comes to tricky phone solicitors, like Greta Garbo I want to be left alone.

Yesterday I called the troopers association with some questions. Ken Sears, the executive director, said the association does not do business this way. He asked for my home phone number and the date of the call and said the fund-raising contractor would be contacted and that the aggressive solicitor would be dealt with.

The troopers association will get about 25 percent of the proceeds from the concert. The money will help pay for death benefits, scholarships, emergency relief, lobbying, and drug and alcohol prevention programs. It is a good cause. It needs to police its fund-raisers better.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is managing editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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