Work/Life: Spam Me Baby, Just Make My Day

I say, I say, these spammers and solicitors are getting really enterprising.

Not only do I get an email from Fred Smith almost immediately after I send an email to Fred Smith, and they're not the same Fred Smith, I received a long, detailed diatribe showing that the solicitor actually studied my shtick, the shtick of my employer, then proposed her own shtick.

She'd devised an entire PR plan for our product.

The only problem was, it contained so many ?????????????? and !!!!!!!!!! and breathless statements that it was a complete turn off.

I almost instinctively hit DELETE, but instead shot her a quick reply, acknowledging her efforts, pointing out the ?????????'s, saying she'd have more success with us if she talked *to* us rather than *at* us, and remarked that she's clearly got a pretty tough job. After all, this woman made quite an effort. She shot back an apology, and I thanked her.

Hello ... she came back ... softer this time, and now telling me a bit about her life. And she didn't just add me to her environmental concerns spam list either.

Some further exchanges revealed she really did have an interest in the environment, was livid about some toxic dumping near her house, and understood how our bikes might have an impact on the planet, not to mention the fortunes of the Pennysaver in her area she was spruiking, if we took up her lead and bought into her coupon book promotion.

The funny thing was, she thus went from a 'trash can' candidate to a real person. It would be some amazing computer program that could generate a lucid email like that (anyone read that Road Dahl story about the steam-callopie-like machine that pumps out romance novels? Crank up the soft music here, twiddle the knob for some jealousy there, slam down the lever for more foreplay … ). Her grammar, punctuation and apparent naiveté were too poor to be a real con-bot. But hey, maybe she's onto something ...

Which led me to muse about how regardless of all these fancy widgets, twitters, podcasts, RSS feeds and other methods of getting your message across, the message is still what counts. And an eloquent scrawl on a napkin can still close the deal ahead of all the technology on the latest Smartfone.

The NYT recently ran a story on "the clever riposte" – blog commentators who've become so renowned for their pithy posts that they've been invited to parties, offered accommodation, back rubs included, all sight unseen.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has lamented our society's 'I don't want to get involved' mentality and used email to create their world, then stepped out into real-space to follow up. Yes, you can join a community based on anything at all – blood type, side of the bed you sleep on, you name it ... after absently-mindedly cracking my knuckles I googled it and came across a site called Joincrackers.com (at which I learned that if I had a penis, I could crack that too! But I digress). Now of course, groups like Facebook and LinkedIn attempt to connect you on more professional grounds, as far as I can tell, although one of them insists you can't possibly be in a place for less than a few weeks - no good for the professional homeless like me who bounce around the country ...

I admit I used Craigslist during my book tour not only to see if there were any interesting unmarried guys out there but to also promote The Handsomest Man in Cuba.

I posted both on Men Seeking Women and Women Seeking Men. Unfortunately, no one seems to take the platonics section as seriously as I do; married or single, happy or otherwise, everyone wants to know, to use a great Aussie adage, "who's up who and who hasn't paid."

The essence of the post was this:

Come to my presentation. Why? For the guys, you can observe me from a safe distance and I'll be wearing my best frock. For guys and gals, wear something red, because if I'm not your cup of chai, look around and see if anyone else is wearing red. At least you know they're available. (If you want to buy a car, you don't go down the street asking, 'is that one for sale? Is that one for sale? You go to where they are being sold. Mostly). Note that this is inclusive of both gay and straight possibilities for the attendees. If nothing else, they'd get a good show on my loitering with intent in Cuba. After all, what else were they going to do on a Tuesday night besides eat a microwaved burrito in front of the teev ...? That's right – @#$% nothing!

Well, I got a bunch of folks turning up, and I applaud that act of simply showing up. I like joiners. We all went out for coffee after, and they lamented - and I quote - how San Francisco had become such a hard place to meet people because no one seemed authentic anymore ... that my post was like an outstretched hand.

This is not intended to make me out as some kind of self-styled social working socialite, but to simply point out the power of authenticity when you blog, solicit, spam, flame, whatever.

You just better deliver when people show up at your door, and, well, they all bought my book. One gal was inspired and since went on to write her own successful Cuba book (Google 'Es Cuba'). Another guy showed me around town. Still another introduced me to his strange retail world of 16th century artifacts. Now you wouldn't get goodies like that if you didn't look beyond your same old lovable stuck and whiny friends.

Now you won't impress everyone with your audacious authenticity.

Some people responded, "Are you looking for a date or just trying to drive people to your talk and your website?"

My response: All of the above. You got a problem with that?

Because if you do, step right over me, baby, and have a great life.

Of course, after some lively exchanges with more and more people joining in, the CL community started banning my posts. In fact, I ran several posts with a bit of a fun 'where am I?' picture contest with people, seeing how fast my posts could get banned and we got down to 12 seconds. People hate to see other people getting attention, and banning someone is a very satisfying keystroke to hit, and an authentic one at that. Note, I never got my posts 'banned' in any other city doing this, only San Francisco. Which might give a clue as to what the dozen or so CL folks I had coffee with were experiencing in the town. Or not. All just datapoints ...

That email solicitor I opened this post with, whose name is Sandra, might have more success now, after our few exchanges. And I know more about the toxic environment in Maryland. And I still think CL and all other opportunities to say your piece, anonymously or otherwise, are powerful tools that can really shape your life - if you use them as authentically and intelligently as you use the phone.

Lynette Chiang, aka the Galfromdownunder, managed to get one very long and saccharin-free blog post about her journey through Cuba published by Globe-Pequot as The Handsomest Man in Cuba. It was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review on June 3, 2007.



Strewth, tragic outfit, but worth logging off for an hour to check out the talk ... thanks to Craigslist

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