Predators and Editors/Everything is Beautiful!!
Over the past several years we’ve received… pick a number: 150, 250, 750… reader allegations of fraud, consumer abuse and abysmal product quality about our advertiser, Sunshine State Slicktalkers. We’ve listened to an endless string of allegations that “SunnySlick” is in the business of inducing you through false premises to FedEx your $3500 deposit for a “once-in-a-lifetime special deal,” and then, based upon some bogus pretext, seizing all the funds you’ve sent to them as (euphemistically speaking) “liquidated damages”; we’ve received countless reports that paid-for components remain undelivered for years on end… or, just as prevalently, forever… and reported to you as… again, euphemistically speaking… “backordered parts.” We’ve substantiated reader complaints that, to deliver your kit to you, the trucking company they use charges two to three times “common carrier” rates (precisely half of which is reportedly kicked back to SunnySlick), amounting to hundreds and even thousands of dollars of trucking overcharge per kit. In pursuit of providing you with the relevant facts evidencing these complaints, we contacted the Attorney General’s office in their state and were advised that the complaints we received are merely the tip of the iceberg… that the AG’s office had filed a massive lawsuit against SunnySlick after having logged well over 2,000 consumer affidavits about this firm’s allegedly fraudulent sales and shipping-charge practices and shoddy product quality. This firm has clearly been wreaking nothing less than a replicar-enthusiast holocaust on our readers. We’ve recently been informed by the U.S. Attorney General’s office that this firm has been convicted in federal court of criminal fraud (so there’s no more “allegedly” about the victims’ accusations). We have a moral obligation and a formal company policy to ensure that you, our esteemed and valued reader, be made aware of these developments… even though SunnySlick continues to be a megabuck / mega-profitable color advertiser in this magazine. (signed: your favorite kit car / streetrod / hot rod magazine editor).
When was the last time you picked up one of the musclecar or hot rod/ streetrod magazines and encountered a “We’re taking steps to warn you about an unscrupulous advertiser” editorial like that? You can safely dismiss the “We have a moral obligation and a formal company policy…” part as sheer nonsense. In fact, when was the last time that you read in any of these magazines a consumer alert that they’d received complaints about any advertiser? I’ll answer that question for you: Never. Not once. Not ever. Not on your life. It’s one thing that the motorcar-enthusiast magazine publishers just cannot resist lunging for those mesmerizing greenbacks that these telepredators waggle in front of them every issue; it’s quite another that they feel no responsibility, legally, morally or ethically, to alert you, their reader, with even the mildest word of caution. And folks, over the years, each of these magazine editors and ad salespersons—repeat: every single one of ’em, irrespective of his or her preposterous denials—has listened to the same accounts of motorcar-enthusiast victimization about these scam perpetrators that we have… and unquestionably many, many more! This coalition of predators and editors, along with the magazine executives’ routine indifference to their readers’ exploitation—and factor in their barely-concealed glee at being a de facto beneficiary of that exploitation—all adds up to a grotesque perversion of professional automotive journalism.
Put bluntly, these periodicals might just as well feature Betty Boop high-kicking across each month’s front cover while striking up a burlesque rendition of ‘Everything is Beautiful,’ for all the genuine reporting they provide you. In these advertising flyers thinly disguised as legitimate periodicals, automotive journalism is dead, the errand-boy editor serving scant purpose other than to timidly cede his soul to those ad executives and ad salespersons who are as addicted to these predators’ advertising dollars as a junkie is to his ‘fix.’
From 1990 until recently I was investigating and reporting (not to burden you with details of the literally thousands of hours I expended listening to and assisting the victims of) the roster of fraud and consumer-abuse stratagems employed by a certain Florida-based telepredator that masqueraded as a legitimate replicar manufacturer—and denying them access to advertising in our publications. Throughout that entire 8-year span of time, the kit car and streetrod magazine editors and executives coughed up a litany of lame excuses why there was nothing that they could do. It’s an affront to one’s common sense when they whimper that even if they received 10,000 serious and substantiated complaints and affidavits about a given advertiser, why, shucks… shuffle my feet… they could be held liable if they attempted to report these complaints to their readers or if (heaven forbid!) they denied them advertising. There was plenty that I could do… and did do, and did endure… as a small publisher, but, curiously, there was nothing that the big motorcar magazine publishers could do. Nothing that is, other than to continue to push and shove and scramble and lunge for those conscience-canceling greenbacks. Doing what’s right isn’t a subject of serious discussion anywhere in their corporate corridors.
But there was always one common-denominator thread of assurance among the kit car / hot rod / streetrod editors and executives and ad peddlers: if they (the telepredators) ever wind up convicted of these alleged crimes, why, sure, we’ll surely report that, and we’d certainly deny them any further advertising. Okay, Kit Car, Kit Car Illustrated, Hot Rod, Street Rodder, Rod & Custom, American Rodder... okay, Petersen Publishing, McMullen Argus / Primedia, Paisano Publications et al…. Think fast: what’s your excuse this time around? That telemarketer… you know, guys, your pals the bucket-‘o’-boodle multi-page color advertiser, ruthless abuser and swindler of your readers… were convicted of federal criminal charges in Southern District Federal Court in Miami on 18 January 1999; furthermore, they settled a megadollar-civil suit (in behalf of over 2,000 of that firm’s victims who had filed claims) with the Florida Attorney General’s office the very next day. The vast majority of these victims were cheated out of their money, their dream for the car of their dreams in ruins, because of the big, tantalizing, mega-profitable “come hither” / 800-number 4-color display ads they responded to from right there in your kit car and hot rod magazines.
Have you read a word about these criminal convictions or civil awards / regulatory agency settlements in these magazines? I’ll provide your answer once again: Nope. Even though the lion’s share of those replicar enthusiasts were sucked into that vortex of villainy by their own publications, and even though those victims have repeatedly lamented that they had trusted that these magazines must surely check out these big advertisers for legitimacy (sigh) before permitting them to advertise… Nope. And you won’t. And no, they don’t… or more aptly put, “You’ve got to be kidding.” You see, those same periodical publishers are still frantically stuffing their Cap’n Kangaroo-capacity pockets with these telepredators’ advertising dollars, sailing right along under the false colors that nothing is amiss, smugly confident that you’ll never know the difference. Oh! And fear not that the magazines themselves will again fall victim to these scalawags: you see, they now demand advance payment from suspect advertisers. It’s okay that their readers are gonna get ripped off, but the magazines quietly invoke strict measures to ensure that their own rearside is covered. A truly lovely couple, this blissful union of fraudsters and adsters. Kinda gives you the warm fuzzies. Reliable reports have it that many of these magazine hirelings have been diagnosed with blepharospasms (i.e., chronic involuntary twitching of the eyelids), attributed to their years of endless winking at the outrages perpetrated upon their own readers.
Kit car and streetrod magazine publishers, executives, ad salespersons, editors… Petersen Publishing, McMullen Argus / Primedia, Paisano Publications: have you no shame? Must you blatantly remind us each month that your appetite for betraying your readers’ trust has no limit, no bounds? Each and every month for the past twenty-five years you’ve had more than ample opportunity to do the right thing and alert your unsuspecting readers to the menace lurking in your pages. And you never did. Damn you, damn you, damn you, you never did.
The bottom line? As long as the ad hucksters enjoy carte blanche to dictate policy… that is to say, as long as the heartless horsemen named Unbridled Greed and Galloping Contempt for our Readers wield the whip at the magazines… the editors will continue to be compelled to “see no evil, hear no evil, report no evil and pretend to be aware of no evil”… and you’ll continue to be dutifully delivered up to the telemarketing jackals.
And what about their repeated assurances that they’d report to you the details if this or any other of their mega-predator advertiser pals wound up with a criminal conviction? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
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