A couple weeks ago, a kid knocked on my door, trying to sell me a subscription – a six-month subscription – to the Saint Paul Pioneer Press newspaper, whose continued existance is less than certain. It doesn’t really matter; I don’t want the paper. The kid was nice, very polite and pleasant, made a good sales pitch and everything, but I still said no.
Would I, the kid wanted to know, at least sign a note saying he’d been polite and professional, so his boss would have proof he was doing his job? It seemed suspicious to me; in the newspaper business, nobody cares if you’re polite; your job is to sell papers, and that’s the only performance metric of importance. But what the hell, I figured. I said yes, and he handed me a blank form. “Just print your name and sign at the bottom,” he said, helpfully.
What he didn’t offer was that I was signing a blank subscription order form, and he presumably thought I was too stupid to notice. I wasn’t, though; I put down a fake name, and scrawled an illegible signiature. That was it, no address, no phone number, no nothing. He smiled and thanked me, and that was that.
Until a few days later, when there was a paper laying on the doorstep. And the next day, and the day after that. I knew exactly what had happened, but I played dumb and called the paper, explaining that they’d started delivering to me, and I didn’t know why. Okay, they said, they’d make sure it didn’t happen again.
And it didn’t… until Sunday, when the big bloated Sunday paper showed up on my doorstep, en route to the recycling bin.
That Tuesday I got a call from the paper, asking for the fake name I’d put down. “There’s nobody here by that name,” I told them. Oh, they said, is this 1200 Slugsite Way? Yes, I said. Was I sure there wasn’t anyone here by that name?
No, I insisted, there was nobody here by that name, but it did sound suspiciously close to the fake name I’d used when one of their salespeople had wanted me to sign a blank subscription form as proof he’d made a professional sales presentation…
Net result, I’m no longer receiving the newspaper, I don’t – obviously – have to pay for the copies that were delivered, and the jobless number in the city just rose by one.