I was used the other day. I was minding my own business, walking to the Pit for lunch, when I was taken in by a clever ruse. A man, sitting at a table near the Common Market, asked me if I wanted a free gift.

Well, free and gift are two words that go well together in my book. Note ? my book is a Sesame Street coloring book. So I began to get drawn in towards his table. Then I noticed the catch. Clipboards lined the table, and they had credit card applications on them.

After a bit of awkwardness, I managed to escape. Since that day, I have redefined how I travel through public areas. Rule No. 1 ? Do not make eye contact. These “people” who want to take your money, or trick you into spending it somehow, are a lot like wolves ? or bears ? or whichever animal it is you aren’t supposed to make eye contact with. Let’s say it’s camels.

Treat these people like the camels they are. If you make eye contact, you are basically challenging them. If you smile or nod, or acknowledge them in any way, you are asking for trouble.

Rule No. 2 ? No means no. When you say no, you can’t say it in a meek “I don’t want to hurt your feelings” sort of way, you need to say it with the tone of voice that says, “I know Kung-Fu.”

See, the Camel-people don’t speak proper English. They speak a variant of English, similar to that of telemarketers, door-to-door salesmen and other satanic agents.

Here’s a quick guide to their language. Eye contact means “I am interested in the crap on your table.” Nodding or smiling at them becomes “Please, I’m going to play hard to get, but I really can’t live another day without a Discover card.” Saying “I’m not interested” must really mean “You just aren’t trying hard enough. Convince me of the advantages of applying, please.” And, finally, the phrase “I am armed” translates to “No thank you, but ask me again on my way out.”

Rule No. 3 ? The free stuff isn’t that good anyway. Are you worried you might be missing out on the free prizes? If so, you should stop reading this right now because you probably have 50 chain letters and mass e-mails to get to before you order the JuiceMaker because the infomercial is so compelling.

The calculator and highlighters I got both set world records for non-functionality. I could highlight better with a box of Cheerios. The calculator, on the other hand, worked fine, as long as I didn’t want to use the numbers 1, 3, 8 or 0. These items can’t be that important, can they?

Telemarketers are one thing. You can hang up on them, and they go away for a while. You can’t hang up on Wilson Commons.

Besides, that’s our area ? we, the students and faculty of UR. Imagine if someone set up their free-gift ? contract-with-the-devil stand in your kitchen. It would be disconcerting, wouldn’t it?

The free gift people are not to be confused with actual merchants, who are very welcome. People who set up shop there, and actually exchange money for goods and services are fine. They aren’t trying to fool me.

Offering me a free gift just to order your credit card is on par with murder, armed robbery and jaywalking as unforgivable crimes against humanity.

If you agree with this sentiment, contact me about joining the “Citizens Against Merchants Lying,” or C.A.M.L.

Powell can be reached at lpowell@campustimes.org.



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