Editorial: Suckers List

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Two weeks ago, I asked when the media will give DMers a fair shake. American List Counsel's Donn Rappaport offered an answer: "Probably never" (see Letters, at right). "Rather than wonder when the media will see the light, I think we've got to do a better job of shedding some light. How about if we were to use the media to tell the stories we want out there? Like ... how our industry doesn't shy away from putting a spotlight on the frauds, data thieves and scam artists of the world, but isolates them and spares no effort in seeing to it that they are not only put out of business, but put away. (Of course, first we've got to make that true, but that's another story.)"

How true. It seems our industry has a ways to go. Case in point, a list of business opportunists submitted to DM News earlier this month by a major list company for our Lists & Databases section. The data card reads: "This list contains individuals who have participated in multi-level marketing programs, hoping to earn extra cash. They send money to a short list of people, adding their name to the bottom and removing the name on the top. Then they mail the same offer and receive residuals. The cycle continues until they reach the top of the list and are finally removed." Yet nothing about what product was sold - a sure warning sign, says the Pyramid Scheme Alert group. The data card said the system was created by a group of "independent business professionals that have researched business trends." Where? Enron? WorldCom?

The list contains more than 2 million names of gullible people hoping to get rich by not doing a damn thing. (Yes, get 'em fast, names are only $85 per thousand!) Sadly, the list isn't unique. Even if this program gets around state laws and the Federal Trade Commission's rules on pyramid schemes, why would anyone want to be associated with such a thing? If you rent these names for a legitimate offer, you're only giving money back to the huckster to go do something equally bad all over again. And the rubes you're mailing to aren't in need of another credit card, sweepstakes mailing or other investment offer. They're probably still wondering where their money went with this one.

Marketers have enough problems being dragged down with the Nigerian scams, Viagra pushers and mortgage refinancing peddlers who are overflowing the e-mail world. Is this the example we want to set for the media?

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