The Goon Squad

By Ray Schultz

Business took me to Boston recently, and as usual I sprang for the Acela train because I insist on luxury when a client is paying the bill. I was in the club car enjoying coffee and a danish when Sonny Taylor, the simian cyber criminal, came in and ordered three vodkas. 

Now nobody would mistake Sonny for a teenager, but the server asked for ID, and Sonny exploded in a rage, hurling threats and foul language. 

I snuck back to my seat, thankful he hadn’t seen me. At length, Sonny came in with three Diet Cokes and sat down next to two men I hadn’t noticed before: his brother, the formerly late Sid Taylor, and the gravel-voiced attorney and fixer Erwin Forrest. How did I end up on a train with this trio? 

I tried to bury my face in my laptop, but somewhere around New Haven, Sid noticed me and called out, “Scoop,” his unaffectionate nickname for me.

“You thought old Sid was dead didn’t you?” he chortled. “Another factual error by the man who invented them.”

That riled me up. 

“I reported you were believed to be dead,” I said. “I always thought it was a trick to get the FBI off your trail. How come you’re not in jail right now?” 

Sonny glared at me menacingly, and Erwin said, “I have instructed my client not to answer that question.” 

“Your own brother said you were killed by crocodiles,” I reminded Sid. 

“I was bitten by a lizard,” Sid said.  “But let’s forget the past. We’re all older now. I have a new product, and I’ll give you the exclusive story on it.”

I didn’t know why I deserved this honor. But before I could refuse it, Sid handed me an announcement promoting the new Undesirables database of boozers, scofflaws, slot machine addicts and other unfortunates.

“This looks just like Mo Moss’s Proclivities database,” I observed. “Did you steal this from Mo?”

Sonny glared at me again, and I was afraid he would throw me through the train window. But Sid acted like he was impressed.  

“You’ve gotten smarter in your old age,” he said. “Did you go back to college or something?”

He explained that he was licensing the Proclivities list from Mo and repackaging it for his own clientele.

 “In that case, Mo is ripping you off,” I said. “Most of the people on it are dead.” 

“I take back what I said about you being smarter. Some of them are still alive, and I have NFT opportunities to offer them.”

“And you’re planning to amortize the cost by renting out the email names?” I asked. 

“Very good,” Sid said, clapping his hands. “You are smart after all. How would you like to come and work for me?”

“I’d rather starve to death on the street.”

The conversation lagged as I read the incomprehensible announcement. Finally, I asked, “Why are you going to Boston?” 

“I have instructed my client not to answer that question,” Erwin said. 

The rest of the ride was tense, and I was glad to get off the train at Back Bay. 

Ace reporter that I am, though, I soon solved two mysteries: 

  1. The Gang of Three was in Boston to negotiate a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Massachusetts. Sid somehow escaped jail, but Sonny will have to do time once they’ve settled cases with nine other jurisdictions, including two in foreign countries. 
  2. As I suspected, Sid had hacked and stolen the entire Proclivities database. Mo Moss said, “I’m suing those bastards.” 

Days later, I received a letter from the “law” offices of Erwin Forrest, threatening me with a defamation suit if I wrote anything derogatory about the Taylor family.

I am not planning any other train trips at this time. 

(Note: Thankfully, there is no resemblance between these characters and real persons, living or dead.)

Moss In Love

By Ray Schultz

One evening last fall, my wife and I were enjoying some Blue Point oysters at the Oyster Bar when she turned and said, “Isn’t that your friend Yale?”

Yale Moss! I tried to duck under the counter, but it was too late. Yale was on his way over, accompanied by a very tall young woman who looked vaguely familiar.

The last I’d heard of Yale, he was trying to get into the cannabis business. He sent an offer to his dad Mo’s Proclivities database of drunkards, dope fiends, deadbeats and other such riffraff.

The list hadn’t been updated in years, and the people on it were unresponsive and presumed dead. But many now came forward to place cannabis orders.

It might have worked. But then Yale offered an imported hashish sampler and was sued by a consortium of state AGs. He must have been testing his own product because he looked a little loopy.

Yale introduced us to his friend: Danielle Hall, also called Danny. Though Yale described her as a sculptor, we recognized her at once as the scion of the Hall family, the owner of vast real estate holdings, luxury car dealerships and many other businesses, and super-wealthy in her own right.

We got acquainted—Danny seemed gracious, if slightly bored with people at our level–and Yale offered me “a nice piece of opiated hash,” which I declined since I eschew drug use in all its forms.

Yale and I went to look at the desserts, and he let me in on his plan: “I met her online. I’m gonna marry her. In a month, my algorithms will be running the entire Hall empire. We’re on our way to Tampa to meet my folks.”

Now I wouldn’t be in a hurry to introduce a fiancé of mine to Mo and Wendy, especially one like Danny. But nobody asked my opinion, and they left the next day.

Predictably, Mo instantly saw the advantage of a match between the Moss and Hall families, and he arranged to have the couple married in his living room the very night of their arrival by a judge who had fixed some of his real estate cases.

I was relieved—the fact that we weren’t invited to the wedding meant we didn’t have to send a gift. But I didn’t get it. “What does she see in him?” I asked my wife.

“Well, he is a bit of a hunk,” she replied. (Something she never said about me). “He’s the only man who’s as tall as she is.”

I had to hand it to Yale—he had married into money, which is just as legitimate a way of getting it as any other.

Unfortunately, things did not go well in Yale’s initial interview with Danny’s father Hal Hall, a short man with a huge chest and a large round face.

Yale had set up a presentation on his technology (which had been down since May).

“Don’t bother,” Hal growled. “I’ve got the best IT department in the country, and if I needed any help, you’d be the last person I’d turn to.”

Then, as if he were talking to an employment counselor, Yale said he might like to get into real estate development.

Hal hissed, “When my daughter divorces you, I’ll see you end up on the street.”

Under that cloud, Yale and Danny embarked upon married life. Of course, they needed to find a job for Yale, and Hal came through in the end because Danny usually gets her way. But the job reflected Yale’s standing in the business and also, sadly, in the marriage—that of a kept man.

Every morning, Yale and Danny leave her private 12-room residence in the Pierre, Yale carrying a peanut butter sandwich in a brown paper bag. He wears an outfit that looks as if it was issued by a halfway house: an ill-fitting sports jacket, corduroy pants, a shirt and a knit tie.

They enter a chauffeured SUV and are driven it to Danny’s massive sculpture studio in Long Island City. Then Yale is on his own, and has to catch the No. 7 El to Woodside, and transfer to the Long Island Railroad. This he takes to Rockville Centre, Long Island, where he walks half a mile to a building in back of a used-car lot: the Sunrise Hauling & Cartage Company.

On Hal’s command, the low-level hood who runs the place hired Yale as a salesman on a commission basis—no salary. They expected him to fail—the next step was driving one of the trucks.

Yale sat around for a day or two staring into space. Then he had a brainstorm. Mo has always kept his customer list up to date—it’s far more important than the list they actually sell. So Yale started calling some of the businesses on it, asking if any of them were moving.

Some weren’t happy to hear from him, but you know how real estate is in New York. In two weeks, Yale sold four pretty hefty contracts to factories with all kinds of heavy equipment and computers, and more were coming in as he also worked his father’s bankruptcy list. Of course, he had to go out on the jobs himself, wearing a helmet.

Relieved that the business was starting to show a pulse, Yale’s boss asked him to sell the used cars in the adjoining lot, some of which were on cement blocks or contained stolen parts. Yale was so good at that—nobody who entered the lot, or even passed on the street, escaped without buying a car.

And so, Yale enjoyed some success, probably the first in his entire life. He didn’t make much money by Hall standards, and the pittance he made Danny demanded for household expenses—“I’m sure you want to pay your own way,” she said. But he did receive one token of family esteem.

Hal Hall always bestows lavish gifts on his key employees during the holidays: Cadillacs, Aston Martins, custom yachts. And while Yale was way down the list, he did get a present: a 1985 Chevvy with a badly repaired fender. How do I know? He tried to sell it to me.

Note: Any resemblance between companies and persons is strictly coincidental, etc. 

Previous Moss family misadventures:

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

Your GDPR Security Blanket

I Was A Bitcoin Billionnaire

The Face Of Ho Chi Minh: A Time Magazine Direct Mail Piece

By Ray Schultz

Marketing guru Ron Jacobs has observed that “Consumers don’t have the patience anymore to read an eight-page direct mail letter.” True, and they probably don’t even have what it takes to read a four-page one.

But they must have had it in 1966, because that’s when Time magazine sent the following four-pager.

Like the classic Time letters from the 1940s and ‘50s, this one is a historical artifact. It introduces Ho Chi Minh, the leader of North Vietnam, to the American people. Then it goes on to quote Marshall McLuhan, mention both LBJ and Jimmy Hoffa in passing, and explain—in some detail—the benefits of Time.

The envelope features a line drawing of a pair of sandals, with this copy: “The wearer of these sandals said: “Americans don’t like long, inconclusive wars. This is going to be a long, inconclusive war.”

Inside, at the top of the letter, is a compelling image of Ho Chi Minh. Unfortunately, I have only a black-and-white Xerox copy, and did not write down the color of these illustrations. I suspect it was red.

Having found this letter in the Time Inc. archive, I am sad to report that it was one of the last of its type. That very year, Time started sending charmless, computer-generated sweepstakes letters, although Bill Jayme’s long Cool Friday letter was mailed into the 1970s.

There were no handwritten notes attached to this one, so I don’t know who wrote it, or how it pulled. And I wonder how many people, even those who snapped up the offer, made it all the way through. But here it is: One of the last great long letters written by Time’s direct mail masters. Enjoy.

Dear Reader: 

The frail, goat-bearded comrade is in remarkable health.

At 76 he is ruddy-cheeked and cheerful. He dresses in –cream-colored, mandarin-style uniforms and “Ho Chi Minh scandals” carved from automobile tires. His tastes are exquisite. He smokes American cigarettes and dines on a rare delicacy called “swallow’s nest” – a marriage of sea algae and swallow’s saliva. 

In 1962 Ho Chi Minh said: “We held off the French for eight years. We can hold off the Americans for at least that long. American’s don’t like long, inconclusive wars. This is going to be a long, inconclusive war.”

Drenched by a monsoon rain, a leathery U.S. Marine sergeant and his platoon wait in the swampy dark outside a wretched hamlet where V.C. are reported hiding. Finally a wan moon reappears. Its dim light glints on weapons carried by four fleeing figures heading out of the village. The marines open fire. A grenade explodes.  

Says the sergeant: “I hate this goddamned place like I never hated any place before, but I’ll tell you something else: I want to win here more than I ever did in two wars before.”

Right now the war in Viet Nam is neither popular nor unpopular with most Americans. It is simply confusing.

But as U.S. commitment deepens, personal involvement becomes apparent to each of us. And it becomes expedient to know all the risks, reasons and alternatives. To know the facts.

And that is one of the reasons why I am sending you this special invitation to enroll as a regular TIME reader, at a special introductory rate:

. . . 17 weeks of TIME for only $1.87. (Just 11 cents an issue.)

But (you may ask) why do I want to read a newsmagazine? And why TIME?

Let me explain why…

In 1923 TIME initiated the newsmagazine idea.

It was a new technique of newsgathering and a new format for presenting the news which offered the reader a multiplicity of news stories each week about all kinds of human activity, within a unified structure.

There was also a consistent “tone of voice” throughout TIME’s pages. Because it was different from all other news media of the era, a new form of journalism had been introduced.

Today TIME’s way of presenting the news conforms completely with the way we live. It is as integral to our society as the electric and electronic wonders that surround us.

The newsmagazine form offers an integrated mosaic picture of our time…

Says Professor Marshall McLuhan, Canada’s social catalyst: “The newsmagazine form is pre-eminently mosaic in form presenting a corporate image of society in action…The reader of the newsmagazine becomes much involved in the making of meanings for this corporate image…”

After assembling what McLuhan calls “the crucial commodity of information” through many channels and from many sources, TIME prints only the most significant of that week’s news, news of greatest human interest. From all directions, covering all facets.

It is then up to the reader to assemble this mosaic of the news and discover for himself what it means…and by doing so becoming involved in his world in a way never before possible.

The reader begins to know who he is, what he is doing, and what it means to be a member of this particular society at this particular moment in history.  

Thus the newsmagazine is recognized as a modern, efficient and essential tool of communication.

But how does this happen? How does the reader receive sufficient information each week to formulate his own meanings?

If you know TIME (and most people do) you know that it covers the news each week completely in23 separate sections. Among them: The Nation, The World, People, Education, Law, Religion, Medicine, Art, Modern Living, Music, Sport, Science, Show Business, Theater, U.S. Business, World Business Cinema, Books.

Each section of Time is also composed as a mosaic…

Take “Medicine” for example. In six consecutive issues TIME published the important news about infectious diseases, orthopedics, metabolic disorders , cardiology, physiology, parasitic diseases, gynecology, cancer, neurology, doctors, diagnosis, bacteriology, gastro-enterology.  

In a single issues under “U.S. Business” there were stories on the economy, profits, auto, advertising, government, mining, banking. The following issue carried news of housing, publishing, publishing, communications, corporations, steel, money, retailing, oil, industry. And the next: shipping, airlines, finance, Wall Street, aviation, insurance, taxes.

One week recently under the heading “The Nation” TIME reported on President Johnson’s Hawaii Conference; the $3.39 billion foreign aid package; Senator Dirksen’s filibuster; Jimmy Hoffa; a wicked snowstorm; California’s Governor Pat Brown; Wyoming’s Governor Clifford Hansen; Mississippi’s Governor Paul Johnson; the Hudson River Valley; and the new head of all military construction in Viet Nam: Brig. Gen. Carroll Dunn.

TIME connects you with the world through a fascinating, complex, modern grapevine of information…

TIME’s staff of editors, writers, researchers and technicians scans the world to amass each week’s fund of new information. They read and translate millions of words, examine thousands of pictures, sift ideas, opinions, quotations, figures, reports….trimming, fitting, checking and transfixing it all into just about 125 columns of news and news-pictures each week. (TIME is a magazine for busy people.)

Each week too, there is an important Cover Story, a TIME Essay (on some subject as controversial as the Divorce Laws, or the Homosexual in America), and a color portfolio. With listings of what’s best in theater, movies, records, books, television.

Only an organization of TIME’s stature, structure and dimension could expend this amount of energy and effort.

But what is just as important: Time is a lot of fun to read … it often reads like fiction, humor or biography…

You can follow the exciting thriller 9reported from TIME’s Paris Bureau): “L’Affaire Ben Barka”, a sensational spy-murder-police scandal that has rocked France as the Dreyfus case did a the turn of the century.

You can play TIME’s new game of “barrendipity” (in contrast to “serendipity”, or the art of finding somewhere where you least expect to find it). Barrendipity is the art of not finding something where you might expect to find it: Danish pastry in Denmark, frankfurters in Frankfurt, English muffins in England, or baked Alaska in Alaska.

You can gain intimate knowledge of a great artist. From TIME’s Cover Story on pianist Arthur Rubenstein, who says:

“I’m passionately involved in life; I love its change, its color its movement. To be alive, to be able to speak, to see, to walk, to have houses, music, paintings – it’s all a miracle. I have adopted the technique of living life from miracle to miracle. Music is not a hobby, not even a passion with me. Music is me.”

With this weekly fund of news, insight, sidelight and background . . . you sense the unpredictable variety of life itself.

Writes Professor Marshall McLuhan: “By using our wits, we can translate the outer world into the fabric of our being.”

TIME helps you “translate.”

There is no set rule about how to read TIME. Some begin at the beginning. Others start from the back. What interests each man and woman is incalculable. So TIME tries to provide as much of interest and value to as many interested people as possible.

As the artists of 6th century Ravenna arranged mosaic tesserae according to size, contour and direction to create monumental designs, so TIME presents the design of our times.

Why not partake of this experience?

Our invitation is enclosed. It enrolls you at once as a TIME reader and brings TIME to your home or office regularly – for 17 weeks at only $1.87 (just 11 cents an issue).

Just put the card in the mail to me today – it’s already postage-paid.

And thank you.


Putney Westerfield

Circulation Director

Swimming With the Big Fishes

By Ray Schultz

What does it take to be a top marketing performer? A focus on customer relationships and a willingness to spend money on technology, according to a survey by Salesforce.

Of the 4,000 firms surveyed, 48% of the high performers are substantially increasing their spending on marketing tools and technology, compared with 23% of the moderate performers and 27% of the underperformers.

How does Salesforce define high performers and moderates? As follows:

High performers , who represent 18% of the firms surveyed, are extremely satisfied with the results of their marketing investments. Moderate performers, 68% of the whole, are only moderately satisfied. And the underperformers are “slightly or not at all satisfied.”

What do these folks worry about?

The top performers fret most about keeping pace with their customers, producing original content and talent acquisition. In contrast, the purported “moderate” performers are concerned about budget constraints, building customer relationships and new business development.

That’s very enlightening, but I wonder: Just how scientific is it when you’re asking a company to rate its own performance?

Pessimists can call themselves “underperformers,” and still deserve a higher rating. And optimists may not be doing as well as they think.

That said, here’s what the survey found. Overall, 35% of all marketers consider customer satisfaction their first measure of success. For 33%, it’s revenue growth and 24% cite customer acquisition.

At the same time, 37% list brand awareness as a top priority, compared with 34% who seek higher levels of customer engagement and 25% who cite social media engagement.

Based on the survey, digital marketing now gets 70% of the average marketing budget, compared with 62% in 2011. And the total is expected to hit 75% by 2021.

That said, here are some best practices that emerge from the survey. High performers are:

  • 8.8 times more likely to adopt a customer journey strategy as part of the overall business strategy.
  • 13.7 times more likely than the others to integrate their business systems to obtain a single view of the customer.
  • 34.4 times more likely to be excellent at creating personalized omni-customer experiences.
  • 10.7 times more likely to use predictive intelligence.
  • 7.2 times more likely to use web personalization.
  • 2.8 times more likely to substantially increase spending on marketing tools and technology.
  • 9.7 times more likely to be actively mapping the customer journey.
  • 3.3 times more likely to lean on CRM tools.

Got it all? Now here’s a couple of additional state to keep in mind: 63% of the high rollers are implementing digital transformation across the company, compared with 23% of the moderate performers and 8% of the underperformers.

Similar percentages excel at collaborating with other business units.

And not that this is any revelation, but 91% use data to segment or target advertising.

Salesforce surveyed 4,000 marketers, 32% of them in the U.S., 11% in Canada and 11% in the United Kingdom. Smaller percentages are in Germany, Japan, Brazil, Australia, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.