As an eternal optimist my thinking is often tempered by my wife’s sage advice, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Undeterred by those words, I usually go forward, smiling, on yet another wild goose chase. I naively tend to think that nearly everyone else in the world that seems to be friendly and outgoing is doing it in an altruistic sense. I am often reminded of, again, my wife’s words when we were negotiating for an automobile about ten years ago. I had struck up a snappy conversation with the salesman and was discussing a variety of things with him when he received a phone call. When he took the call, my lovely bride leaned over and sotto voce said, “Rick, this guy doesn’t want to be your friend, he wants to sell you a car!”

Recently, I heard on the radio that a “free (this is the first hint of disaster) career opportunity seminar for marketing consultants” was being held a nearby hotel the following week. The radio message went on to say that “applicants” for these positions would receive a free laptop computer and qualify for car leases and various bonus plans. Needless to say, I couldn’t resist.

One of the luxuries of being suddenly unemployed is having the time to pursue all possible job opportunities. Instead of furiously sending out resumes, it sometimes is worthwhile to do a little “field work” and attend things like “job fairs” and “career seminars” to round out your job search experience. During my state of enforced vocational respite I have attended various job fairs (these are opportunities to get free food and drink, sometimes, while company employees scrutinize you and your resume and smile so much that their cheeks must hurt for days afterward) and career seminars.

The “free laptop” career seminar was just too good to pass up, so I went. After registering via telephone, where they gave me a special reservation number (which, strangely, was not required when I showed up) I wrote the date on my calendar and planned that day around the big event. Two hundred intrepid souls were herded into a ballroom and introduced to the president of the company, who had made the trip from Dallas because, “he felt that this was just too important a meeting to entrust anyone else in his company.” After assuring everyone that this was not some type of come-on where he would be asking us to get out our checkbooks or credit cards, he informed us that his presentation would take approximately two hours of our “valuable” time (looking around, I saw a lot of retired-looking people, college student-age people, and unemployed-looking schmucks like myself).

This guy was really good. He fairly oozed sincerity and personal success. He told us about how he began with nothing and was now a multimillionaire at the age of 33 (damn, I was in high school when this guy was born) with an 8,000 square foot home, five kids with their college tuition already paid for, and a garage full of exotic cars. He let everyone in the room know that he wanted to share his success with people having the vision to become successful entrepreneurs (uh oh!). He continued on with this powerful message for very nearly two hours before we got the first indicator that we were expected to part with some money, “By handing out these interactive CDs to prospects, you can expect a return far exceeding their $4.00 cost.” The crowd hunched forward in anticipation, waiting for the inevitable.

Our speaker didn’t disappoint us. After reiterating the vast amounts of money we could make with his program, he, in salesman’s parlance, “asked for the order.” For the sum of only twelve thousand dollars we could join him on this incredible journey to personal wealth and success, which included a “free” laptop computer and “qualified” us for car leases and various bonus plans. What a deal!

I passed on this one.


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