Scams Feed On Sentimental Feelings

To The Reader’s Forum:

Many years ago, I held a deed for a square inch of land in the Yukon, the Canadian territory where Sergeant Preston and his dog King experienced their radio adventures sponsored by the Quaker Oats Company, the same company that provided my deed in a box of breakfast cereal. The deed was worthless because the company neglected to register the transaction. The Canadian government ultimately repossessed the land for nonpayment of taxes and it became something even more trivial and frivolous, a golf course. But I did eat and enjoy the cereal.

Today there are advertisers offering, for a fee, to ”name a star” for you or your pet or loved one. In the fine print of their literature and web sites they admit there is no authority or scientific recognition for their names or acts whatsoever. It is all fantasy, all make-believe.

Although the company extols the wonderful emotional value of fantasy, it expects real money for its ”services.” But I am sure the aggressive pitchman we hear on the radio thinks well of his customers and their pets and loved ones as he laughs all the way on his frequent trips to the bank. I suspect also that lists of names of people who spring for such offers could sell for quite a premium.

I have a long standing offer to name a star or even a whole galaxy after you, if your ego is that astronomical, for half the going rate. Of course you can do it yourself at no cost with just as much authority. There are even places online where you can do this on the cheap with more of a ritual feeling and print out a pretty piece of paper with the claim suggested on it much like the pitchman offers.

I would suggest that better outlets for your money might include gifts of astronomy books or magazines for local schools or libraries, or donations to the local Martz Observatory. A cheap telescope or good binoculars would be more useful than a meaningless certificate. And if you want to display an act of love, flowers, a card or an engagement ring would have the advantage of being part of the real world. You could also buy your pet or beloved a box of cereal, but many people don’t want to hear the truth. And Barnum never really died.

Norman P. Carlson