I carefully went to the bottom of each offer and found the minute “No Thanks, I’m not Interested” button. I pushed it and was instantly transported to ANOTHER offer. All I wanted to do was claim a free $25.00 iTunes card. I have learned to be careful of trying to claim free stuff over the years. I thought I had their number, though in this little gem. I followed my brilliant husband’s observation, “Yep. They have a huge, red submit button. In teeny, tiny black letters beneath it is ‘No thank you.'” How many people get roped in to getting Nextflix or ezines just because they do not read the small print?”
Well, I read the small print. I read it carefully. I even evaded the “Be in the Drawing for a Free iPad!” bit. Honest. Then what do I see in my email? I had just enrolled in an ezine for “women who had lost their OOMPH’–or words that were far earthier. I followed the “If you think you have enrolled in error” directions and deleted that ezine and another I just don’t want to think about. It is humbling to know I, a veteran English professor, still missed fine print.
I thought I had learned that lesson 38 years ago in Biloxi, Mississippi. I thought I had learned “There’s no such thing as free lunch” as Robert Heinlein put it. We were really hurting for money. Cliff made an okay salary as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. But on our trip from Ohio to Mississippi, the newly re-worked engine on the 1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass, threw a rod exactly 500 miles from home and 500 miles to Cliff’s very first active duty assignment.
That was a test of our new marriage and our relationship. We didn’t have close to enough money needed to repair the car, and we believed the mechanic in Goodletsville, Tennessee had given an honest estimate. Finding the money to pay for the car’s repair proved difficult. My parents had just paid for a wedding. It wasn’t an extravagant affair, but it still hit their pocketbooks. Cliff’s folks were dealing with college loans for his siblings. The best we could come up with was to rent a car and drive to Biloxi and figure out how to deal with the Olds after Cliff had reported in.
We aren’t sure how, but Cliff’s father got the money together and wired it to us. But that was a weekend and Cliff had to report early on Monday morning. The garage stayed open long enough to take the check and give us a lift to the airport so we could rent the car. The big, bad world just got crazier then. We tried the economy rentals, and not one of them would let us hire a car for a week even though we had the cash to pay for it. We did not have a major credit card, so, “Too bad, newlyweds!
We went to Hertz as a last, desperate shot. Their prices were higher, but at least they took Cliff’s orders, called Keesler AFB, and were assured Cliff was indeed a commissioned officer due to report on Monday. We handed them a wad of money (monetary wedding gifts), they handed us keys, and we drove to Keesler in the hot, muggy southern heat of August in the deep south.
The saga of the Olds went on for years. Someday when I have recovered from the PTSD that I reel from just at the mention of that car, I may write about it. The flashbacks are fearsome. But our big concern was how to repay his father. We were fairly sure he had borrowed the money from his sister, Margaret, but we never knew that for certain. If he had, we also knew she might not demand interest, but she had ways of making his life uncomfortable. We didn’t want him to have to deal with that any longer than possible. So, big chunks of his bi-weekly pay went back to Ohio. It took a year to re-pay Dad Biram. We lived frugally, indeed, and continued to baby the Olds along.
So, when I received a “free gift” in the mail if only I went to Mobile, Alabama to view property, I talked Cliff into it. In my dewy-eyed innocence, I thought even if we only won the electric skillet, I could sell it at the base Thrift Shop for a few dollars. And who knew? We could win the television or even (God Please!!!!) the new car.
Yes, of course, it was a time share deal. We barely had the money to pay for gas to get to Mobile, and that was when gas was $.60 a gallon. But, Cliff, bless him, despite warning me of my impending disappointment, took me over to Mobile. The tour was lovely. Mobile Bay is a beauty spot on the Gulf Coast, but we couldn’t afford a bucket of sand there. The guy who showed us around saw in a glance we were not the pigeons who were going to make his day, but he did scratch off the foil revealing what I had won.
Let’s just say I don’t think that perfume was truly Parisian. Within three miles of leaving the resort, I felt nauseous from the fumes–and I had not opened the bottle. We stopped at the first road side rest, threw the elegant purple bottle away and I washed my hand several times.
Cliff never uttered an “I told you so.” He never even repeated the free lunch line. But I learned from that. I have never thought I won Publisher’s Clearing House. I have never bought a lottery ticket. Heck, when Cliff came home and said his next assignment was to England, I didn’t believe that until we were on the plane with a hundred other Air Force families headed for RAF Mildenhall, England.
So, I’m not the sucker anymore. I am really careful about suspiciously wonderful offers in my emails. But, I had spent money on iTune cards and gone through the complicated process of using them on Cliff’s iPad. We were in Ohio and the sequels to the books I had were not available in Ohio. Since I could not find there and could not give an address to Amazon, I caved. I went electronic. For lowering my severe standards about ebooks, I guess I felt iTunes owed me a $25.00 gift card.
I should have known. Still, the card will come by FedEx which will not please my Postal Service Employee husband, but it will come. And I also know, that despite all my lessons in how not be the newest sucker or the dimmest mark, I still will find items I “ordered” in my email for the next week.
I think back to the Oldsmobile and the hole it put our early financial life. We called it The Gopher–after the cartoon series “The Go-Go Gophers.” That name arose from the fact that we sang “go-go” at every light and stop sign, never knowing if the car would take off or not.
That was the original scam, I see now. My father-in-law assured us the body of the Old was good and in 1974 Ohio, that was not always the case. In fact, my father had sold us a little Ford for $1.00 and it ran beautifully, but the body was rusting away. One memorable time while driving 55 mph down Ohio Route 7, Cliff handily caught the fender as it peeled away from the body. So having a car with a solid frame and body was aces, and Dad assured us it wouldn’t take much to get the engine right. If Dad had one fault, it was his loving to tinker with cars. He’d had his eye on the Gopher for several months and assured us it would be a snap to get the engine running.
I adored that man, and he was hard-headed and cynical about most things. He rarely let anything get by his radar. Yet, that car suckered him. I should have seen the signs all those years ago. No one is immune to “free lunch” deals.