Cleanse Thyself

By Ray Schultz

Suffering from cancer or leukemia? Had a stroke or two? Don’t despair, friend. You can reverse these illnesses with a common syrup: a miracle cure that can also help you rebound from heart attacks, diabetes and everything else right down to post-nasal drip.

So said a classic direct mail piece that promoted a “nine-day inner cleansing and blood wash.” It was sent some years ago by the brilliant copywriter Eugene Schwartz.

How could he get away with this baloney without bringing the Federal Trade Commission down on his head?

It’s simple. Gene never offered the actual products: Rather, he peddled a book that told about them. And under the so-called Mirror Image rule, you can’t get in trouble for selling a book as long as your marketing copy accurately describes what’s in the volume.

Granted, he didn’t mention the book until the second-to-last paragraph in the four-page letter signed by one I.E. Gaumont. And he qualified the offering with this notice on the bottom of the very first page:

“The statements contained in this book express the opinions of the author, who is not a medical doctor.” Who knows if he was forced into including that?

Gene Schwartz has been dead for over 20 years, but there is much to learn from his copywriting approach: it wasn’t wordsmithing, but vision, to steal a phrase from the late Andi Emerson.

Mind you, Gene believed in naturalistic healing, claiming that it helped him recover from his own stroke in 1978. And his “authors” were real people, who believed in the cures they were hyping.

Who was Gene Schwartz? The six-foot-four legend from Montana was known as much for his art collection and service on museum boards as he was for his direct mail copy. (Click here for his bio). But he was one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived. And here he is at his best. (There’s a bad visual of the letter at the bottom).

Health Researcher Claims


RIGHT IN YOUR OWN HOME ‘THE NATURAL WAY’ WAY” with the “Miraculous” healing Power of internal Baths:

Painlessly! Without Drugs or Costly, Medical Treatments! You’ll Never have a sick day, he says!

Dear Friend:

I want to tell you about a mighty and powerful weapon for healing and warding off disease: THE “MIRACULOUS” HEALING POWER OF internal BATHS! It’s all part of my 9-day Inner Cleansing and Blood Washing method!

I feel it is my duty as a humanitarian to pass on my life changing discovery of the NINE-DAY INNER CLEANSING AND BLOOD WASH FOR RENEWED YOUTHFULNESS AND HEALTH TO those unfortunate people suffering from disease!

Internal Baths are fabulous! They are the most powerful weapons against obesity and produce “impossible” cures at times. No dangerous drugs or injections with their serious side effects. No costly medical treatments or tedious regimes No pains. This system can be life-saving when illness strikes, even help you survive heart attacks!

*With the “magic” healing power of Internal Baths, you’ll never have a sick day in your life – when used with the NINE-Day CLEANSING AND Blood WASH! Patients who have recovered completely from illness after using this 9-day method swear by it! It will conquer disease in almost all cases, and free your body of accumulated poisons that make you sick, in only 9 days!

Here’s what happens during the 9 days of cleansing:

*It will rid your body of poisonous wastes (toxins) that have accumulated and formed a lining around your intestinal wall – causing disease

*It will reverse the aging process, and increase your longevity by 20 years!

*It will reduce your weight without dieting or the use of drugs – and keep you slim during your lifetime!

*It is a positive way to avoid ever having a heart attack. It may keep you alive even if you’ve had a heart attack or stroke!

*It will heal arthritis if not in the advanced stages!

*It will lessen the intake of insulin by diabetics!

*It will restore masculine vigor and put energy back in your sex life!

*It will overcome low blood sugar!

*It will aid in normalizing high blood sugar!

*It will overcome post nasal drip!

*It will overcome an urge to urinate too frequently

…and still that’s just the beginning!


At this writing, I am 84 years young. When I first began my investigations, I was in a state of broken health. I suffered from bronchitis, shortness of breath, sinusitis, gastritis, acidosis, high blood pressure, constipation, chronic fatigue, backache, obesity, and hay fever. Then, about 35 years ago I discovered the NINE-DAY CLEANSING AND BLOOD WASH!

Today, at 84, I am a well preserved individual, hale and hearty, mind sharp as a razor and productive. I am erect in stature, with a youthful 34-inch waist, a full crop of silver-white hair an no wrinkles on my face.

My wife, Connie, at the young age of 70 “going on 50,” hasn’t been to a medical doctor in about 20 years. I did not have occasion to see a doctor until I was 65 when I thought it best to start having check-ups. I’ve only had one brief illness in 3 years.

What is the secret!

Inner cleansing! You see, my studies revealed to me that many illnesses seem connected with cell stagnation. If your nose is “stuffed up” or congested, or if you experience congestion in your throat or chest, it indicates that there is an accumulation of stagnant matter within you…sinus trouble, bronchitis, asthma, or colitis, is the result of stagnation. So are arthritis and skin eruptions.

All this can be prevented by giving the body an opportunity to cleanse and purify itself, and then rebuilding the body and its cells with proper nourishment.


During the 9 “Cleansing Days,” you’ll be eating certain foods I recommend. During this time, you will also begin the action which will effect a good, thorough wash of your bloodstream. You’ll simply begin to sip certain fresh juices.

What are these foods? There are several, but during my years of research. I have singled out FOUR NATURAL BLOOD-WASHING FOODS WITH HEALING POWER that play an important part in healing, curing, and preventing disease.

You may be skeptical, but remember, the NINE-DAY Inner Cleansing and Blood Wash which I take yearly, has warded off common ailments and most pernicious diseases. It has kept me in the best of health throughout the years..and I am 84. If I merely told you the names of these foods you might not be impressed. But wait till you see what doctors, nutritionists, scientists, researchers, an users themselves say!


One of these foods, a common syrup, is in my opinion, an Unheralded Cancer Fighter. I believe it will not only close the door on cancer in general, but is especially helpful in cases of leukemia, strokes, ulcers, arthritis, varicose veins, and menopause 

*James P. was in a state of broken health, unable to do even the lightest work. He was suffering from a growth in the bowels, blocked bronchial tubes, constipation, indigestion, pyorrhea, sinus trouble, and weak nerves. In addition, he was losing weight, and his hair and turned white – despite medical treatment. On hearing of a remarkable cure with this syrup, he decided to try it himself. And not only did the growth in his bowels disappear, together with all the other troubles, but his hair actually regained its original color (he was over 60 at the time). 

Others, apparently, have had the same remarkable results, including a man with a fibroid growth of the tongue, and another with cancer of the knee. Reputedly, tumors in various parts of the body have withered away without any other measures than taking this syrup. (No cancer cure is claimed, and reputable medical help is advised, of course, in all cases.)

*A “MIRACLE RECOVERY” FROM TWO STROKES! It is widely thought that when a person has had two strokes the third will be fatal – and yet it need not be so. Mr. K., an elderly man, had had two strokes and was completely paralyzed on one side. He then tried this syrup. The result was that he recovered the use of all his limbs and became completely fit, much to the astonishment of his doctor.

*SPECTACULAR CURES OF ARTHRITIS! Elaine B., 60, had severe arthritis in her knees and hip joints. She was in a great deal of pain and was unable to walk without assistance. Finally, she tried this syrup. One week later, she could swing her legs and flex her knees painlessly! Mr. J., an elderly man, could barely hobble with canes. After using this syrup for four weeks, he threw away his canes!

This common syrup can be obtained at any health food store or supermarket at negligible cost. There is nothing like it for prevention of these diseases I always take my quota of this syrup every day. I strongly recommend that you do the same. It’s a must! Several men who had been denied driver’s licenses because of heart trouble were put on treatment with this syrup. After six weeks they got their licenses. A woman afflicted with recurrent heart attacks took this syrup and the attacks subsided!


It has been said that there are a number of ailments that will automatically disappear after taking this beverage in a certain manner. It is made of the most health-giving fruit that exists.

It has been said that there are a number of ailments that will automatically disappear after taking this beverage in a certain manner. It is made of the most health-giving fruit that exists.

Reduction of weight without dieting will be achieved permanently if this beverage is taken a few times a day. It will burn up the surplus fat. It retards the onset of old age…renders the urine normal thus counteracting a too-frequent urge to urinate)…it promotes digestion because it is very much like a digestive juice! 

Observers have been quite astonished to see how forgetfulness in old people partially or wholly disappears through the practice of taking this beverage. Excessive bleeding can be reduced to a minimum in the case of an operation, and the healing process greatly quickened, if the patient takes this beverage. In cases of frequent nose-bleeding due to some unknown cause, a drink of this beverage with each meal will soon put a stop to the trouble. Sore throats – even of the streptococcus type – can be cured with astonishing rapidity, often in one day, by taking this beverage as a gargle. Tickling coughs and laryngitis will rapidly disappear. It regulates menstruation and is very beneficial to women. Belching can be cured or greatly lessened by taking this beverage.


Here is another syrup that is a most effective remedy for insomnia, emphysema, shortness of breath, sinusitis, asthma, and chronic fatigue. Combined with a certain beverage I tell you about it, it is most beneficial to those suffering from various heart troubles, hay fever, colitis, arthritis, neuritis, and many other common ailments. It is a natural laxative, and one of nature’s most powerful germ killers.

Russian medico-scientists have shown that it will cure a condition as serious as gastric ulcers. One doctor wrote: “In heart weakness I have (this syrup) to have a marked effect in reviving heart action and keeping the patients alive.”


This vegetable is the oldest known “home remedy.” It has long been used to rid the body of parasites and in the healing of disease. According to an old news item, “in test tube experiments Virile bacilli that can be killed only after hours of boiling in water die, after one hour of exposure to (this vegetable).”

This vegetable’s almost miraculous antiseptic power is an aid of high blood pressure, asthma, emphysema, colds, gas, gall stones, bronchitis, infections, hardening of the arteries, mucus, elimination, sinus trouble, and many other maladies. It has been widely used in restoring masculine vigor. It clears the blood of excess sugar as effectively as an oral drug. It has remarkable preventive powers and healing powers and offers protection against heart disease.


The diligent use of these 4 foods, with their extensive curative properties, healing powers, and remarkable preventive powers, will aid tremendously in “healing the body” in my opinion. They are all part of my NINE-DAY INNER CLEANSING AND BLOOD WASH FOR RENEWED YOUTHFULNESS AND HEALTH!


Mail the enclosed card for your FREE trial copy. You have 15 days to discover all the incredible health-building secrets that will bring amazing youthfulness to your body: honor the invoice for four easy payments $6.98 pus applicable state tax, postage handling – or return the book and owe nothing.

 Sincerely yours

 I.E. Gaumont


Health & Self Improvement

 IMPORTANT NOTICE [appearing at bottom of first page of letter):

The statements contained in this book express the opinions of the author, who is not a medical doctor. These opinions may, in certain cases, be contrary to those of the medial professions, and are based on experiences which may not be representative of results that can be expected for others. The publisher suggests that you do not attempt to make a self-diagnosis based on the symptoms referred to. Many of those symptoms can be caused be more than one condition, and these conditions cannot be self-diagnosed by the lay person. Where cancer may be involved, early diagnosis and treatment may be critical. In all cases, early diagnosis and treatment by a competent medical practitioner is advisable and, in some case, may be essential.schwartz letter

Show the Money

By Ray Schultz

History doesn’t tell us much about A. Paisley. All we know is that he lived in Gloucester, Mass., and that a letter was sent to him there in 1837.

Most mail was dropped into the system without postage in those days; the recipient had to pay. And few did. Why would they? Some unpaid letters contained news of deaths in the family, but others were sent as jokes—the victim would pay 25 cents for an envelope full of manure. But this one was paid, so Paisley probably opened the “envelope,” a folded-over sheet sealed by a red-wax wafer. And when he did, he found a letter from Sylvester’s Exchange & Commission of New York.

“I beg leave to submit to your attention to the annexed – Our brilliant Schemes to be drawn in the month of March either of which professes attractions far superior to any Scheme yet laid before you,” announced the handwritten note. “Early notice is thus given that my most distant correspondents may not be disappointed.”

Behold an early example of junk mail. Like today’s ad letters, it was full of hype, promising that the advertused lotteries were ““beautiful, grand, splendid and brilliant.” It even had what is now called a privacy policy: “All communications strictly confidential.”

In 1827, Congress passed a law prohibiting local postmasters from working as lottery agents—no longer could they dispense handbills in return for a percentage of the sales. So the lottery barons started mailing directly to the rubes; by 1830, if you believe the later claims, they even had an agency in New York to facilitate this “circular advertising.”

So great was the outcry against lotteries that most northern states gave up theirs. But tickets for border and Southern state lotteries were sold in shops and by mail by firms like Wood, Eddy & Co., of Wilmington; Egerton & Bros. of Baltimore; and the combine of Archibald McIntyre and John Barentse Yates, of New York. And they required education on how to do businss by mail. For example, Egerton & Bros. explained that “we invariably answer letters by return mail, enclosing the Tickets in a proper envelope, observing the strictest confidence and after the Drawing is over we send the Official Printed Drawing, duly certified to by the State Officer, and Managers with a written explanation of the result.” Smallwood Co. promised that its tickets would be returned in “strong safety envelopes.”

The average person learned that he had mail when he saw his name in a newspaper listing. Or he found out when he visited the post office, usually a dark general store with tools and bacon hanging from the ceiling. Then he had to pay the postage. General Zachary Taylor refused to pay for the letter informing him he had been nominated for the Presidency of the United States. And even the lottery companies wouldn’t pay: B.B. Mars & Co. of Baltimore warned customers: “No unpaid letters received in our office.”

But this all changed when Congress passed the Postal Reform Act of 1855. Magazines and newspapers excepted, senders now had to pay in advance. And the lottery operators were happy to educate people about it. “From and after 1st April 1855, prepayment, either by stamps, stamped envelope, or in money, is compulsory,” Emory & Co. advised its customers.

What is more, envelopes could be now registered and tracked for a fee. Thus enabled, the lottery promoters papered the country with offers, almost all containing an apology:

“Trusting you will not find us intrusive…”

“We crave your indulgence for intruding on your valuable time…”

“We accidentally met with your address…”


William France was a “common drunk” who rigged a lottery so that he won the grand prize himself. And he used the name of a competitor, Murray, Eddy & Co., for one of his own mailings. That firm complained that it was “being daily robbed by a man who, at the same time, swindles the public and makes the Post Office Department the innocent accomplice of his guilt.”

Not that Murray, Eddy & Co. was any better. Its main offering, the Kentucky Lottery, had been chartered in 1838 to improve the water supply in Frankfurt, Kentucky—a project long since completed.

France and others like him invented devices that would later become standard in the trade. In 1861, Schoofield & Co., of Baltimore, sent a mailing for the Delaware State Lotteries. It went in a small brown envelope with Schoolfield’s name and post office box stamped on it—one of the first return envelopes. The note that went with it implied that a prize was a sure thing.

“Dear Sir: From what we can learn of Public Sentiment we are satisfied that there exists a strong feeling against Lotteries in Your State – and desiring to remove all such prejudices by selling a good Prize to some influential person in your locality who will give it publicity, – we take the liberty to enclose you a Scheme of the Consolidated Lottery of Delaware Drawing April 24th – Class 68.”

Another agent said that he was “anxious to sell you a prize and create an excitement in your neighborhood.” And that evolved into this: “We are confident that if a good Prize was sold by us to some person in your neighborhood who would show the money and give it publicity that it would greatly extend our business and add to our reputation as Prize sellers. For this purpose, we have thought proper to tender you the Prize upon condition that you will use your influence among your acquaintances in our favor.”

Not all these letters explicitly stated that the person would win. But they inferred it, and by 1865 the mails were flooded with letters offering prizes to people who would show the money.

The Crooked Road to the End

By Ray Schultz

Flush with success, J.M. Pattee decided he needed a vacation, so he took his family to Saratoga Springs, a resort almost 200 miles north of New York City. But it was bad timing: He was going out one morning when he saw the vice crusader Anthony Comstock coming up the steps.

Pattee panicked and ran, not knowing that Comstock was there only to give a speech. But Comstock had spotted him. “He is a remarkably nervous man, and seems to be always in fear; having at times a wild, frightened look, as though he expected to be arrested every moment,” Comstock observed.

And Comstock did want to arrest Pattee. He next confronted his prey at the Simpson & Co. Brokerage in New York. A side door opened, and Comstock saw “a little gray-haired old man with gold spectacles on, bob out, and then instantly dodge back into the dark room, and attempt to quietly close the door, as to attract no attention.”

Pattee “reached out his hand to shake hands, and becoming very much excited, repeated over and over again, how glad he was to see me, stuttering out, ‘Well—I—am—devilish—glad to see you.’” In Comstock’s account, Pattee denied that he had any business in the office. “Well, well, I only have an office room here,” he allegedly said. Comstock entered a back room, and saw several employees stuffing envelopes.

Meanwhile, Pattee was indicted in Wyoming for sending false advertisements from the territory for the Seminole Gold and Silver Company. His lawyer, a former U.S. attorney named Col. George Bliss, described his client as a “man of wealth and reputation,” and made the incredible lying claim that Pattee had never been in Wyoming. Pattee escaped extradition.

Frustrated, Comstock staged another raid against Pattee’s brother-in-law Nate Read (“American, Protestant, Married, Swindler”), seizing over a million names and addresses. Bliss got them returned to Pattee, and soon Read was sending letters to that list from Canada.

These pieces described the Royal New Brunswick Popular Monthly Gift Soiree as “the only legal Gift Drawing in the whole Dominion of Canada.” And they claimed that “hundreds of clerks, working-men, merchants and farmers have paid off a mortgage on a house or farm—may have added to his mercantile stock or bank account—may have settled a number of old debts or refurnished his house, making happy and comfortable his family—all through a lucky ticket bought from us,”

This was rubbish, Comstock knew, but he was powerless to stop it. Instead, he took to vilifying Pattee in books like Frauds Exposed. “I have yet to find the first person who ever received one dollar from him in return for money sent,” he wrote.

Pattee, though, was getting tired of the chase. In 1880, beset by legal bills, he sold or lost his house in New York, and started residing in hotels in the east 40’s. Nate Read was arrested in Canada in 1884 and promptly jumped bail to the U.S.

What became of the man who had discovered the most basic law of junk mail, that a person who had fallen for one scheme was ripe for another? Pattee moved to St. Louis, and set up an office on Olive St. But his business was short-lived, for he died in 1888 at age 64 of “softening of the brain.” Thanks to his various scams, though, he left his wife an estate of comfortable proportions.

And Comstock? By the time he died in 1915, at age 71, he was widely viewed as a crank and an enemy of the First Amendment. “The fight for the young!” Heyward Broun wrote. “The phrase was always on Comstock’s lips…But, with the passing years, may it not have become a formula with which he sustained himself, unconscious that its relation to his work was growing increasingly remote?”

Despite that, the New York Times praised the old warrior upon his death for “the almost innumerable convictions of counterfeiters and green goods men.”

Yet he had changed in one respect. When younger, Comstock had railed against direct mail. Under his leadership, though, the Society for the Prevention of Vice sent it to ask for “sympathy, co-operation, and such financial assistance as you may be disposed to give.” We don’t know if it worked.

This wraps up the story of J.M. Pattee. Click here for the earlier installments.

The Vice Crusader

Ode to a Crook

The Pride of Park Row

The Pride of Park Row

By Ray Schultz

J. M. Pattee left Omaha for good—some say he was run out—in the summer of 1873. The Nebraska legislature had outlawed lotteries, effective Sept. 1, so he regrouped in New York, where he owned a brownstone near Central Park.

Not a man of idle nature, as a reporter put it, he ran a few scams in the city, then made his way to  Laramie and ingratiated himself with the right people. The Wyoming legislature passed a bill granting him a ten-year lottery license that could never be altered, and Pattee acted on it before the governor could sign it (which he never did).

It didn’t matter. The so-called Wyoming Lottery would operate entirely by mail. And Pattee could get away with it,for lawmakers had failed to keep lotteries like his out of the postal system.

Congress tried in 1865 with a law defining “nonmailable matter”—everything from explosives to lottery materials. But it failed to specify letters or circulars, and what it meant the courts could never figure out.

Realizing their error, the lawmakers attempted  to clarify things three years later by prohibiting the mailing of “any letters or circulars concerning lotteries, so-called gift concerts, or other similar enterprises.” But this bill, too, was flawed in that it failed to set penalties for disobeying it.

So the politicians went at it one more time. In 1872, they forbade the mailing of “any letters or circulars concerning illegal lotteries, so-called gift concerts, or other similar enterprises, offering prizes, or concerning schemes devised and intended to deceive and defraud the public for the purpose of obtaining money under false pretenses.”

This law allowed postmasters to hold up payment of money orders. But it was almost as if they wanted to fail. The blunder this time was that they had added the word “illegal.” How could a lottery chartered by a state or an institution be considered illegal?

Pattee had studied the mail order business, and knew that there was more to it than lotteries. For example, he had doubtless heard of E.C. Allen, of Augusta, Maine, who in 1869 started Peoples’ Literary Companion, a paper filled with stories, homilies, recipes, songs and advertisements.

Other publishers followed Allen’s lead. A fellow Augustan named P.O. Vickery started Fireside Visitor, and W.W. Gannett followed with Comfort. Mailed to farmers whether they wanted them or not, these mail order papers were “the great business of the city, completely overshadowing everything else,” wrote Frank A. Munsey.

Pattee could do the arithmetic as well as anyone. He created The Times Illustrated, a promotional vehicle for the Wyoming Lottery. The cost was defrayed, in part, by paid advertisements for Red Cloud’s Great Indian Blood Purifier and other patent medicines.

He followed it with The Laramie News, in which he described Laramie and the local mining deposits: “There are within a hundred miles of Laramie City a hundred miles in length of gulches which will pay an average of five dollars per day in gold, for every day’s labor, and they can be worked with very little outlay of capital.”

Thus he sharpened his pen for a new venture—and just in time. On July 12, 1876, Congress enacted a new bill, dropping the term “illegal” when describing lotteries. Now it was unlawful to send any sort of lottery letter.

This bill turned out to be as hollow as the previous ones. But Pattee cancelled his next lottery mailing, saying “times have been hard,” and accelerated a plan he apparently already had: He prepared a letter for fools who had won his previous lotteries and were now on his sucker’s list.

“On account of the new Postal law and the penalty for sending letters concerning lotteries through the mails, I have been obliged to make some other arrangement to pay off the small prizes of $1 and 50 cents as it would cost the party receiving them more than the amount to pay the express charges,” Pattee wrote under his own name.

Instead, he awarded shares in “one of the most extensive gold mines on this continent.” Additional shares could be had for $2 apiece.

“It is the richest gold mining country in the world,” Pattee wrote. “For miles away up in the heights of those tremendous elevations in the Big Horn Mountains glisten rich veins of gold quartz that run in golden ribbons at close intervals across their breasts. Some specimens of gold quartz have been found which assayed $47,000 to the ton—a mountain of gold ore.”

But Pattee’s own employees turned against him. They sent a mailing to his “winner’s” list, offering for one dollar “a most complete exposure of this ‘arch swindler’s’ manner of defrauding the public during the past years.” They added that he planned to “foist upon those who have won good prizes in his last drawings, amongst whom we see your name, certain stock certificates…instead of the money they have RIGHTFULLY WON.”

Pattee returned to New York, where there was less danger of getting shot. He now worked only through designated criminals who would take the fall if there was trouble. One was N. Sherman Read, a tiny man known to friends as Nate. Pattee was married to Read’s sister Eunice, and they had often summered at Read’s resorts in New Jersey.  In 1876, now working for his brother-in-law, Read opened a lottery office on Nassau St. near Park Row.

Flanked on one side by City Hall, Park Row was home to newspapers and advertising agencies–and dozens of lottery shops. “Entering the office of any one of these so-called firms, the inquirer finds himself surrounded on all sides by a ground-glass partition,” a reporter wrote. And each one had a “hard-featured man peering through a wire netting under the sign ‘Cashier.’”

These offices also sent quantities of junk mail. The city’s best printers and engravers were two blocks south on Maiden Lane, and the largest post office in the country, a five-story granite block known as the Whale, stood on the triangular lot bordered by Park Row and Broadway.

Pattee made full use of these facilities, not only for his lotteries but for schemes like the Bullion Gold Mining Co. and Carburrus Gold Mining Company.

He also got to know his fellow mail fraud artists. Ellis and William Elias were driven out of Cincinnati for swindling, then made a fortune in New York running “dollar stores”—stores in which the shopper never knew what he was buying. They enjoyed a “very unenviable reputation,” the New York Times wrote.

The brothers operated a mail room in which men and girls sat at two rows of tables shaped in the letter “L,” addressing envelopes. Also to be found there was H.P. Jones, a former post office employee who was “discharged from P.O. for NY for embezzlement or helping himself to other peoples’ money.” A handwritten note signed by him was sent to 140,000 people in the fall of 1878:

“Dear Sir:

“A cousin of mine bearing the same name as yours, after the war was over, left his Regiment and I have not heard from him since. Now I do not know whether you are the same person or not but you can tell as soon as you see my signature to this letter.”

The note continued that a contest was about to be held, and that if the recipient agreed it would be rigged in his favor. Why this largesse? “I am sure that if a large prize was drawn by you and shown around that thousands of tickets could be sold in your County.”

A series of followup letters persuaded the sucker to pay $8 apiece for lottery tickets—a seemingly paltry sum by today’s standards—but the letters cost only a penny apiece to mail, and not much more to print. The Eliases had discovered the immutable law of junk mail—that a profit could be made even after expenses and the pilfering of cash-filled envelopes by postal workers.

Anyway, it was not their only business. They also ran several “stores,” including a jewelry store on Broadway and 21st St. (above which was their mail room). But their flagship was the Centre, a large outlet on 22nd St. and Broadway, in which they displayed gold and silver jewelry in cases. It operated on the same marketing principles as the junk mail business.

The Eliases promised in circulars that they could deliver “the most valuable articles to the purchaser at the same price as those of less cost,” but what they really offered was a lottery. The customers bought tickets in sealed envelopes from a cashier, who sat hidden in a teller’s cage. Most opened the envelopes to find that they had won cheap merchandise.

Operating on the border of legality, the pair had to pay occasional modest fines. But they “reaped a rich harvest from their numerous enterprises,” the New York Times reported. Ellis Elias alone had $300,000 in assets, including a country estate and $3,000 worth of trotting horses.

“A man who came in contact with the senior member of the Elias firm used to tell of seeing him exhibit a roll containing sixty one thousand dollar bills, one day, and when putting it back in his pocket heard him remark, pleasantly, that that was some that came in after he had got done expecting to make any money,” wrote George Rowell, whose ad agency was located at 41 Park Row.

Pattee could admire these accomplishments. And though they were competitors, he started working with Eliases on a matter that would benefit them both: The trading of names and addresses.

There was at this time no mailing list business per se. Some frauds wrote to small-town postmasters offering a dollar for the names of “all men (no women) as herein provided, who are permanent residents and who receive mail at your office.” Others asked customers for the names of their friends. “Any person, who will send us the Address of ten persons of their acquaintance, we will send free post-paid, a beautiful Chromo for their trouble, and Wholesale Price-list of Jewelry,” the City Novelty Co. promised in 1873.

Still another way was to copy names out of a city directory. But this was too much work for the average fraud—an easier method was to sell or rent names from each other. Pattee had 300,000, and he turned an unknown number of them over to the Eliases for a consideration.

This bartering of names quickly grew into a business. L’Orient Chemical Company of Bristol, Rhode Island, offered its letters to all comers in 1875.

By this time, using his list, Pattee had broadened his product offering. First, he went into stock brokerage with a Louisiana criminal named J.F. Barrett, using Andrew Simpson, his Maiden Lane printing foreman, as a front man. They mailed a newspaper called The New York Stock Exchange.

Next was an outfit called Heath & Co., The office was located a few doors away from a legitimate brokerage—Wm. Heath & Co. Victims received stock certificates and regular reports on how their investments were soaring, but requests to redeem the stock were never answered.

Then Pattee unveiled his masterpiece—the Silver Mountain Mining Co. For this, he hired a former postal agent named William R. McCall, who had also worked for the Eliases.

“Persons who invest a few dollars to develop the Mine may realize a fortune,” said the prospectus, which featured a map marked in several places by the word “ore.”

What they got, though, were regular reports and requests for more money to keep the mine running. Said one: “The Indians made their appearance last week, but have all but disappeared.”

It was the summer of Custer’s last stand and the lead-up to Hayes-Tilden presidential contest. The Brooklyn Bridge was being built—the noise could be heard on Park Row. And Pattee, like many other businessmen, coped with problems beyond his control. The Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads stopped hauling mail cars because the post office had reduced their compensation by 10%. Then there was a nationwide rail strike. Meanwhile, he feuded with the Eliases. None of it stopped him from reaching the “zenith of his prosperity.”

But he was being watched.


Ode to A Crook

By Ray Schultz

Note: Last month, we posted a story about the vice crusader Anthony’s Comstock’s war against the lottery swindlers. Here’s a profile of his main target: J.M. Pattee.

James Monroe Pattee was “a diamond in the rough, as sharp as pointed steel and as far seeing as the wisest of ancient seers.” That was his opinion, anyway. To others, he was nothing but a common swindler.

Born in New Hampshire in 1823, Pattee grew up on a farm, but he “injured himself by over exertion so as to unfit him for manual labor.” From there, the path led straight to mail fraud.

At 30, having run a “writing school” in Boston, Pattee headed west and created land promotions that were “too sharp to be honest.” In 1866 he ran his first lottery for the Nevada City, California school system, raising $500 for the schools and one can only guess how much for himself.

His next stop was Omaha, the terminal of the Union Pacific Railroad, which he had last visited in 1854, when it had “few inhabitants of European ancestry.” Pattee decided that the railroad boom town needed a library, and there was only one way to raise the money: A lottery. “I pledge my honor as a man that I have done everything in my power to build up such a library that the people of this city may hereafter remember and respect me,” he told the crowd.

Those poor fools. The drawing went on for days, and the grand prize was won by a bookeeper in Boston, whose existence was never proven. But Omaha finally had a library—of sorts—over L.B. Williams’ dry goods store. “For this beneficient gift, our children and our children’s children will call him blessed forever,” one resident wrote, neglecting to mention that few people used it.

More to the point, people wondered how much Pattee had skimmed off the top, and they asked similar questions after his next two lotteries: For a Catholic hospital and the unbuilt Nebraska State Orphan Asylum.

Pattee promised that the latter scheme had been approved by the “highest authority of the State and best business men.” But the city clerk J.M. McCune wrote to an inquirer that the city councilmen had “no connection whatever with the scheme to which you refer, and do not countenance anything of a like character.” The Omaha Republican denounced the “Pattee lottery swindles,” although it was still accepting Pattee’s advertising money.

For the Orphan Asylum drawing, Pattee staged gala prize drawing at Redick”s Opera House, a building he owned, with music by the Germania band. And he was joined onstage by some of the city’s finest men as such things went in Omaha, like Judge John R. Porter, a double-chinned man with a balding head and a sour expression, who swore in the officials.

Pattee, then around 50, was a thin man “of common size and ordinary mould,” with neatly combed gray hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. “Look at him and you see nothing wonderful,” said a biographical sketch. But he knew how to work a crowd.

“I have only to say to you this morning that as there are a large number of prizes, as time is precious, as people all over the country are waiting anxiously to hear the flash of lightning over the telegraph wires, that speechmaking will be short,” he said. “I have the pleasure of announcing to you that notwithstanding the false stories that have been put forth, that I have succeeded, and am able to go forward and fulfill my contract with every patron and purchaser of tickets.”

That, of course, was a matter of opinion. The lottery drawing over, the $75,000 grand prize supposedly won by a man in Iowa, Pattee left town. He was planning to visit his children at school in Heidelberg, he said. But first he had some business in Leavenworth, Kansas, and one can guess what it was: Levenworth was about to start a “Grand Gift Concert” to raise money for a juvenile reform school.

But the Lottery King was in for a surprise. A warrant from Omaha caught up with him there, and he was returned to Nebraska and hauled before the very man who had sworn in the officials at the drawing: Judge Porter. Then the tedious process got underway.

Pattee’s own clerk charged that he had sold “duplicate and in some cases, even triplicate tickets,” including identical booklets to two men in Nevada. And other evidence was introduced.

Not to worry—Pattee could afford the best lawyers. He was free on bond within minutes, and out of town within hours. But he clearly decided it was time to revaluate his business plan.

Fortunately, Pattee had built a mailing list with hundreds of thousands of names—of suckers and of people who had done as instructed in the ads: “For balance of Prises send for Circular.” To these souls he now sent a steady stream of mail.

In Omaha, he had delivered these letters to the post office in a storeroom on 15th St., and from there they were carted to the Union Pacific terminal on 10th. Next, they were loaded into mail cars, and transported west through the Platte River Valley, or east over the new Missouri River Bridge.

Some went to cities, and were delivered to private mailboxes by uniformed postmen. Others found their way to rural general stores. These audiences were separated by geography, economics and way of life, but they shared one thing: That they wanted something for nothing. And while he never delivered, Pattee was happy to offer it to them. “The people wanted to be humbugged and it was my business to do it,” he said.



Lead de-Generation

By Ray Schultz

Lead generation is a key tool in today’s marketing arsenal. But it can, like anything, be misused, judging by a suit filed last week by the Federal Trade Commission.The FTC accused Expand Inc., which does business as, with claiming that it was screening job applicants for employers when it was really generating leads to sell to educational institutions.

The defendants have agreed to a court order, agreeing not to make such statements or transfer consumer information to third parties, according to the FTC. They will also pay $360,000 in lieu of a suspended $90.2 million judgment. The court still has to accept it.

Here’s how the scheme worked, according to the complaint filed by the FTC with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

First, the defendants told consumers that they would take their job applications and pre-screen them for employers.

However, Gigats was “not authorized by the prospective employers to collect applications, screen applicants, or interview them for those jobs,” the FTC complaint states. “Defendants do not pass along any information to the prospective employers about consumers who believe they have applied for the advertised position.”

The phone scripts used in some cases were clearly designed to generate information (“I’m an Employment Specialist here. My job today is just to ask you a few questions to determine if the position you applied for is going to be a good match for you.” But every word in them is false, if you believe the FTC.

What’s surprising is that Gigsats didn’t use these live calls to squeeze money out of consumers as far as I can tell: All they did was collect information. In some instances, they performed “warm transfers,” turning the person right over to a sales rep at a post-secondary school or career training program,” the FTC claims.

Consumers were also allegedly referred to an online program called SaleMaker, designed to lead people along and garner even more data. “Defendants misrepresent that by submitting their information on or participating in the purported interview, consumers have applied or are applying for an open job position,” the FTC continues.

The defendants got from $22 to $125 for each qualified lead. “Defendants are not paid by the prospective employers; rather, their revenue comes primarily from selling consumers’ contact information as leads to educational institutions and others,” the FTC alleges.

There’s no indication in the complaint that the schools were bona fide educational institutions, so-called for-profit colleges or out-and-out frauds. At those prices, Gigats had to come up with an enormous number of leads.

The Gigats web site carries this proviso with a job as warehouse assistant at Energy Placement, Inc: “After registering you will be able to apply for this job directly on Energy Placement, Inc.’s site. Future job matches may be sent from Gigats approved job partners.” It’s not known if that will satisfy the FTC.

The site also offers contact preferences, including this one:

“I would like to be contacted by email, phone, and/or text at my cell number (listed above) using automated technology by Gigats or education partner Degree Search which may be provided my contact information for the sole purpose of discussing my education opportunities. My consent is not a requirement of any purchase. Message and data rates may apply. To unsubscribe at any time

We’ll see if the tweaks required by the FTC will clog the lead-generation process.

What’s the takeaway here? Possibly that you shouldn’t rent your leads out until they become customers. Or, at the least, don’t try anything like this. If the FTC charges are correct, Gigats violated all four principles in Aimia’s TACT guidelines (Transparency, Added Value, Control and Trust), to name only one set of privacy principles. Such rules are observed in some form by most reputable companies.




Bogus Blurbs

By Ray Schultz

Ladies Home Journal is not known for its investigative journalism. In 1906, though, it published a story titled, The Inside Story of a Sham, about phony testimonials in patent medicine ads, exposing the inside workings of a highly fraudulent business.

The article started with the fact that the medicine sellers brazenly used real peoples’ names without their permission. For example, a Senator whose signature appeared in ads wrote that he had not endorsed the product, and that he had never even received the sample that supposedly was sent to him. Another notable threatened legal action if the medicine sellers didn’t stop quoting him by name. Author Mark Sullivan wanted to know: How did the medicine sellers get these peoples’ signatures? Here’s what he uncovered. (Note: we’ve maintained his spelling).

I found that there are three men, rivals in trade, who make a business of securing these indorsements for “patent medicines” from prominent men. They are known as “testimonial-brokers.” The best-known and most successful of the three was approached one day last spring by a man who represented a well-known “patent medicine.” The medicine man states his case: he was about to extend the advertising of his “medicine” and he wanted testimonials. In short, he put it to the testimonial-getter concretely by saying that he wanted signed testimonials from, say, one hundred Members of Congress, Governors, and men high in the Army and Navy. The testimonial-getter was perfectly at home in this situation. He figured on the contract as an architect would estimate on a house.

Confirming my talk with Mr. _________, I will undertake to obtain testimonials from Senators at seventy-five dollars each, and from Congressman at forty dollars on a prearranged contract. A contract for not less than $5,000 would meet my requirements in the testimonial line.

I can put your matter in good shape shortly after Congress meets if we come to an agreement. We can’t get Roosevelt, but we can get men and women of national reputation, and we can get their statements in convincing form and language.

 Here it was then—an actual business!

 The next point I wanted to find out was: Who gets the seventy-five dollars or the forty dollars? Not the Senator or Congressman, I found. It is true that there are a few public men who have a financial interest in “patent medicines”; but none sells his name outright for seventy-five or forty dollars. The testimonial-getter explained this:

 “The knowing how to approach each individual is my stock in trade. Only a man of wide acquaintance of men and things could carry it out. Often I employ women. Women know how to get around public men. For example, I know that Senator A.________has a poverty-stricken cousin who works as a seamstress. I go to her and offer her twenty-five dollars to get the Senator’s signature to a testimonial.
But most of it I do through newspaper correspondents here in Washington. Take the Senator from some Southern State. That Senator is very dependent on the Washington correspondent of the leading newspaper in his State. By the dispatches which that correspondent sends back the Senator’s career is made or marred. So I go to that correspondent. I offer him fifty dollars to get the Senator’s testimonial. The Senator may squirm , but he’ll sign all right. Then there are a number of easy-going Congressmen who needn’t be seen at all. I can sign their names in anything and they’ll stand for it. And there are always a lot of poverty-stricken, broken-down Army veterans hanging around Washington. For a few dollars they’ll go to their old Army officers on a basis of an old acquaintance’ sake, and get testimonials.”

Assuming that was true, it doesn’t say much for the journalistic ethics of those home-town correspondents.

Just as bad, in Sullivan’s view, were the unauthorized testimonials from ordinary people. In one case, a woman said that she “had never used the ‘medicine’ she was advertised to indorse., but that a man had called on her, offered to have a dozen photographs of her taken at the best gallery in her city, and she could have them all free of charge if she would sign the letter and let her photograph be printed. She did, and she got the photographs, but she had never had the ailment spoken of in the advertisement, and had never tasted a drop of the “medicine.”

Well, at least she got the photos. Many people got nothing. And some victims had their names used because they were actually taking the medicines, and were so zonked that they didn’t care if their names were used. Sullivan explains:

 Where the “testimonials” seemed genuine, I found that either the cocaine or the morphine in the “medicine” soothed the pain of the victim, or the strychnine or alcohol exhilarated the taker. But as to a genuine case of actual good gone or help received, except fancied, I could not find a single one of all those I investigated.

Well, so much for honesty in that supposedly golden time, but it didn’t go on for long: The Pure Food and Drug Act was passed that same year, and put most of the patent medicine sellers out of business (along with some testimonial brokers, no doubt). Still, online scam artists post fraudulent testimonials even now. Ladies’ Home Journal should look into it.









Blowing Smoke

By Ray Schultz

The liquor peddlers we covered last week may seem like the ultimate marketing lowlifes. But there is an even worse group.

The tobacco pushers. They’ve used promotion, advertising, direct mail and every known discipline to hook smokers. And while we’re all responsible for our own vices, they helped kill many people.

Prior to 1900, most tobacco was either chewed or rolled at home in cigarette papers, like marijuana today. The rare person who smoked consumed an average of 16 cigarettes per year, and most women did not smoke at all.

Then mass production came into play, enabling tobacco companies to produce thousands of cigarettes in the time it previously took a smoker to roll one.

Smokes were now available by the pack in every town in the country. And, thanks to lobbyists, tobacco was exempted from the Pure Food an Drug Act of 1906. The result? The tobacco kings avoided the regulations that plagued the manufacturers of patent medicines and many other products.

But the biggest boost to the prosperity of the cancer merchants came with the development of mass advertising. By the mid-1920s, brand names like Lucky Strike and Camel were plastered on billboards and on the pages of magazines. They depicted smoking as an attractive pastime, and linked it to sporting activities and romance. An early Chesterfield ad showed a pretty young girl telling her boyfriend, “Blow some my way.”

The tobacco lords were not merely competing with each other to sell cigarettes, they were creating a market that never before existed. In a few years, thanks to subliminal advertising and popularization of smoking by movie and sports idols, millions of men, women and children picked up the habit. Then the coffin nail sellers received an unexpected bonus: mass addiction. As we now know, the physical habit is equaled by a psychological dependence so powerful that people light up cigarettes without even thinking about it.

Once they realized it, the ciggie manufacturers wasted no time in exploiting this fact. For starters, they aimed their advertising at young non-smokers instead of at people who were already hooked. They targeted women. And they sent thousands of free cartons to veterans’ hospitals and servicemen stationed overseas. Not only did they receive good publicity for these charitable ventures, they gained new lifetime customers among the soldiers who received the handouts.

As for health, their attitude seemed to be symbolized by the copy in one of their ads: “Not a Cough in a Carload.”

Even in the ‘20s, there were indications that smoking was harmful, but the tobacco men worked hard to suppress such information. In 1936, a medical researcher exhibiting a cancerous lung remarked that such a case was so rare it might never be seen again. It wasn’t until the early ‘50s, when the first generation of heavy smokers started dying off en masse, that scientists were able to show a definite relationship between smoking and respiratory disease, especially lung cancer.

The tobacco industry sold its composite of poisons for over 50 years with only the slightest interference from regulators. But eventually, as 77 million workdays were lost and 360,000 deaths were reported due to smoking-related illnesses each year, the problem became too big for any government to ignore. In 1964, after painstaking research, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health released a historic report linking smoking with the spiraling death rate from cancer and heart disease. Unlike previous efforts, this one spelled it all out, for anybody who wanted to see it—it was also excerpted in almost every newspaper and magazine in the country.

Don’t think the tobacco firms rolled over. Almost out of nowhere, two “scientific” articles appeared, one in True magazine and another in the National Enquirer, purporting to show that cigarette smoking wasn’t bad for you at all—that it was much safer, in fact, than walking across the street or trying to fix a faulty electrical appliance The articles were widely reprinted, and copies were mailed, under True magazine’s letterhead, to 500,000 consumers.

Who mailed them? An FTC investigation revealed that it was the Tobacco Institute. The author of the article, Stanley Frank, was no scientist: This prehistoric content writer had previously done some articles on sports and other lightweight topics.

Meanwhile, the nicotine cartel carried on a backchannel fight to prevent the FTC from banning cigarette advertising on television. This went on for a few years until a New York attorney named John F. Banzhaf III petitioned the Federal Communications Commission, claiming that if cigarette companies were going to be allowed to advertise on the air then anti-smoking groups should be given equal time to refute them, under the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine.

The industry deployed its biggest legal guns, but lost, right up to the Supreme Court. The airwaves were deluged with anti-smoking commercials. And sales plummeted.

At this point, the tobacco trust decided that it should take its advertising off the air, because then the prime tine anti-smoking spots would also cease. So it sent its lobbyists out to support such a ban. And it promised to not target the young.

The ban went into effect on January 2, 1971, in accord with the Public Health Smoking Act of 1970. Some anti-smoking people saw it as a victory.

But they were deluding themselves. The networks stopped showing the antismoking commercials in prime time, and cigarette sales shot up almost as quickly as they had gone down.

What’s more, the smoke purveyors saved hundreds of millions of dollars by not running TV advertising. And they diverted these funds into other types of marketing. For example, they came up with the Virginia Slims Tennis Tournament, which won the endorsement of some of the biggest names in sports, while also gaining prime-time TV coverage (with the name Virginia Slims prominently displayed in color around the court). They also started mailing out free samples, just as they had done years before, but the FTC put a halt to it.

We’ll stop there. People of a certain age will recall that restaurants, bars and theaters were so full of smoke that the eyes burned. Things are better now in that way thanks to smoking restrictions, but you can still see young people puffing away on the street, especially women.

It’s impossible to scare them. But I’ve seen enough friends and colleagues die of lung cancer and emphysema, usually wearing inhalers for their last several years.

In the end, the cigarette marketers are worse than their liquor counterparts. An adult can enjoy an occasional glass of alcohol or enhance a meal with a good wine; why, it’s said that a daily glass of wine can improve your coronary health.

I can’t remember seeing any such reports about cigarettes (at least not credible ones). So no credit is due the swine who market the evil weed.


Drunken Youth

By Ray Schultz

Oh, our poor young people. People who worry about them often ask if liquor advertisers target youth.

Of course they do, you fools. Where else are they going to get new customers? The Boomers may drink more as they sink into dementia, but there’s a certain churn.

Rolling Stone magazine put it best in an ad in the Liquor Handbook some 30 years ago:

“Meet over 2 ½ million young adults who read Rolling Stone…They’re affluent, they’re thirsty, they’re deciding right now what they’ll be drinking for the next 20 years. Who needs ‘em?? You do: they’re your future.”

Has anything changed?

By the way, this was around the time the magazine ran a lurid article on teenage alcoholism. Talk about having it both ways.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1932, alcohol was less of a problem for both young and old. Less than a third of the American people drank at all and statistics on the damage from steady boozing were only a fraction of what they later became (perhaps because there was less research being done).

This changed in the 1950’s, when now-prosperous ex-G.I..’s created the home entertainment revolution. Booze was now more acceptable in the home, and millions of people set up bars in their houses to serve it.

Alcohol was also seen as more chic. And why wouldn’t it be? Liquor flowed once every eight minutes on the tube, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Then as now, the most common kind of liquor advertising showed sexy young people enjoying a drink. They could have been playing with toy boats, as in a Smirnoff’s ad, or sitting around a fireplace. The message was that a person who drank the beverage being advertised would enjoy wealth, sex and social status like the people in the ad.

Which was pure rot. A person who made a career out of swilling what the people in the ad were drinking would not only get further away from wealth, sex and social status, but could end up with no wife, no house, no worldly possessions whatsoever.

Naturally, liquor companies soft-peddled that sad fact. But they hinted at it in occasional ads that seemed to appeal directly to alcoholism. For example, Smirnoff’s showed a bottle of vodka lying smashed on the ground, with a caption reading, “Did you ever see a grown man cry?”

That wasn’t the worst of it. As we now know, liquor advertising was (and still is) full of subliminal messages, which the industry pretended to only dimly understand. One person who understood them was Professor Wilson Byron Key, a former advertising executive, who wrote the book Subliminal Seduction.

In Senate hearings, Key showed slides of several full-color ads in national magazines. To the astonishment of the Senatorial audience, he pointed out various nightmare images such as death’s heads and devils masks, plus assorted sexual imagery, and the letters S-E-X, all superimposed on the ice cubes in the glasses.

If the reader looked carefully enough at the ice cubes floating in almost any liquor ad, he, too, would see macabre and sexually provocative images winking at him. “The subliminal content appears to be about two things—sex and death,” Professor Key said. He then explained that most people will never even realize that they are seeing such a thing, but that it will register in their subconscious, so that at a later time, when they are shopping in a liquor store, they will find themselves looking for a certain brand without knowing why. “These are subliminal stimuli, not perceived at any conscious level,” he added. “They are perceived at the unconscious level.”

The liquor industry claimed that these masterpieces of hallucinogenic art were just that—hallucinations. “They’re ordinary ice cubes,” one ad writer said. But Key debunked that. “If you have ever been around commercial photography, you would know that this is an impossibility. You can’t photograph ice. The stuff melts under hot lights.” As far as the professor was concerned, these images were most skillfully air-brushed in.

Granted, these ads weren’t all directed at the young. But many new products were. For example, vintners learned that young people were drinking wine to supplement their marijuana. In response, Ernest and Julio Gallo, introduced pop wines like Ripple and Boone’s Farm Apple Wine, and the Heublein Corporation brought out Annie Green Springs wine. When wine faded, and the love generation turned to harder booze, the wineries switched their focus to the teenage audience. Heublein introduced Hereford Cows, an alcoholic milkshake available in flavors like chocolate, strawberry and banana.

Think about that the next time you want to criticize Millennials for their drinking habits.

What’s more, people barely old enough to drink and vote were not the only prime market. The Gallos created a libation called Thunderbird after reading marketing reports that said black consumers were fond of mixing white port wine with lemon juice. Thunderbird sold 2.5 million cases during its first year. It’s not clear who bought them, but the product later became a staple on interracial skid rows across the country.

Is it true that the industry had nobody in mind for these ads and products? If you believe that, you shouldn’t work in marketing.

“An industry that spends over $500 million a year on advertising certainly has a good idea of who buys its products and why,” said Dr. Eugene Noble, director of the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, back in those halcyon days.

It still does.

The Shameful Sham

By Ray Schultz

I shouldn’t admit this, but sometimes I get nostalgic for the scam artists of the 1980s. Even the worst of them were fun to cover as a reporter.

Well, not to worry. The old rogues may be gone. But the free market provides.

Say hello to E.M. Systems & Services, LLC, and its web of “entities and fictitious business names.”

This outfit cold-called consumers and promised to reduce their credit card interest rates, according to an amended complaint announced last week by the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General.

But the victims, who paid from $695 to $1,495 apiece, got bupkis for their money, the lawsuit alleges.

Most did not “achieve any debt relief at all, but instead found themselves saddled with even more debt than before because of the fees the (defendants) charged to their credit cards,” the plaintiffs charge.

And, of course, many never got the refunds they were promised if they failed to realize big savings (typically, $5,000 in 90 days), the court papers state.

As I live and breathe, it sounds like an old-fashioned credit repair scheme. And it was conducted in the time-honored way—not online, but by phone, according to the FTC and the Florida AG.

With E.M. Systems directing them, callers working for One Easy and other telemarketing firms “identified themselves as being with ‘card services,’ ‘credit services,’ ‘card member services,’ or one of the unregistered fictitious …businesses,” the complaint charges.

Then they “took steps to win consumers’ trust and create an air of legitimacy to their sales pitch.” it adds.

The callers told prospects that they already had “the names of some of their credit cards and/or the amount of their credit card debt,” the complaint continues.

Despite this purported knowledge, they then asked consumers for their credit card numbers, and billed them while they were still on the phone before any services could be rendered, the papers state.

And once the fees were paid, many consumers “never heard from the Debt Relief Defendants again,” and their “attempts at further communication were ignored,” the complaint continues.

Others were sent packets of information and papers to fill out. But they “rarely, if ever,” got the promised interest rate reductions, the FTC and AG maintain.

Another defendant, CardReady, arranged for at least 26 shell merchant accounts to “be used to process credit card payments,” the government plaintiffs charge. And this led to illegal credit card laundering and factoring of credit card transactions, they add.

CardReady, a so-called Independent Sales Organization, “maintained an agreement with a credit card processor named First Pay Solutions,” the complaint says.

This part of the scheme unraveled when “11 of the 26 shell LLCs were placed on the MasterCard Alert to Control High- risk (“MATCH”) list for excessive chargebacks,” according to the complaint.

Here’s a link to the complaint if you want to read it yourself.

But let’s not prejudge. This is a civil action, and it is yet to be litigated. The alleged villains may end up signing a consent decree with no admission of guilt, or they could get off entirely.

What a throwback, though—it’s enough to make you feel young again. Assuming there’s an ounce of truth in the charges, though, I doubt that the people who were snookered are amused.