I Want to Complain, But…

It happens once in awhile that someone really wants to whine at me for something, but doesn’t have the guts to sign their name. Normally, such complaints are summarily trashed: if they can’t even sign their name to their opinion, then really, what’s that opinion worth?

This weekend I heard from a guy (and I am assuming it’s a guy) who is so afraid of his own opinion he even used a fake email address and (probably) used a proxy server when he used my contact form so that he couldn’t be traced at all. The IP address that was auto-stamped on the message was a server in India, but I doubt that’s where he’s from.

What’s it All About, Arcie?

In virtually every free edition of True, there’s a pitch to readers to upgrade to the paid version. It’s what makes the entire operation here run — it sure ain’t the ads, which don’t quite pay the bill for the ESP that distributes the free edition.

The edition that came out Christmas Eve (2010) was no exception, except that on Christmas I sweetened the pot a little. First, I noted that I don’t even accept ads in the Christmas edition. Vendors don’t exactly line up for them to sell things that week, and by then people are really tired of being sold to.

“On the other hand,” I continued, “maybe you want something for yourself! If you upgrade to a one-year Premium edition before the end of the year (my time here in Colorado!), you’ll get this week’s Premium edition (see below for the stories you missed), next week’s Premium, and your upgrade won’t expire until January 2 of 2012! I don’t recall ever offering extra issues on an upgrade before; maybe I’m just moved by the holiday cheer. Don’t delay: I may never do this again.”

It was a sweet enough offer that I had record Christmas-day sales. Yet the reader, who entered his name as “Somebody” on the contact form, took exception to it.

Mr. “Somebody” Wrote:

You press hard to sell your ‘stories’ as if you yourself or your organized entity (firm) gather these stories all around the world with your own efforts and money. I bet that’s not the case. I guess it is just a search you do and compile ‘already published or reported’ stories and then sell it.

If you think people should ‘buy’ your stories then you are betting on the foolish attitude of the masses. I find as much as 10 times these stories (including the ones you send) without paying anything else other than my internet connection charges (which all of your paid subscribers pay as well).

So, my point is – you are taking advantage of either the laziest people or the most fool ones on earth. Good luck! you will continue receiving this money as long as such people are dwelling this planet!

Whoosh! Right Over His Head

over his head 300x158 - I Want to Complain, But...

Obviously, this guy has been reading for awhile — yet he still has no idea what True is, how it works, or has grasped the often-stated dual purpose of its existence: to entertain, and to make people think. While he might be entertained by the stories, he has failed miserably at the thinking part.

It’s rather obvious that I don’t have reporters all over the world doing original first-hand reporting. It would be rather impossible, as anyone who thought about it for 5 or more seconds would realize. And Mr. Somebody “bets” that I don’t. Wow! Isn’t he perceptive!

True has always been billed as “News Commentary” — the point isn’t to just tell you what happened, but to comment on each story and, by extension with the entire body of work, society as a whole. No other “weird news” feature does that; it’s what sets True apart. The point, obviously, is that we can learn from watching stupid people doing stupid things. Even, sometimes, readers!

No Mere Compilation

Of course, as has been pointed out before, True‘s writers must rewrite the source stories for two reasons: 1) if we didn’t, we’d be violating the copyright of the publication that provided the facts (one cannot copyright facts, but most publications, including True, do copyright how those facts are “expressed,” to use the legal term), and 2) even if we didn’t have to rewrite the stories for legal and moral reasons, we need to for practical reasons: the average newspaper story is upwards of 750 words; the average True story is around 100 — we’re trying to get to the point, and it does take a certain amount of skill to do that and still make sense.

There’s certainly no “search and compile” operation going on here, as is patently obvious.

Pretty much all of the “weird news” sites have more stories than True. Discerning people know that quantity has little to do with quality. True’s readers aren’t just looking for scads of stories; they want to know what I find worthy of being read, and they want some thought-provoking commentary to go with the stories. That’s what sets them apart.

As far as “betting on the foolish attitude of the masses,” stupid people don’t like True very much. They don’t understand it, and reading it is like looking at themselves in a funhouse mirror.

The Ones Who Get It

Rather than fools, it’s the smart people who understand what True is about, and who wish to support it so that it will continue. And many thousands of them are past or current Premium subscribers, which is why True has been able to run for 17 years now!

Not all the smart people who like it can afford an upgrade, I know, and that’s OK: at least the free option exists for them. They understand that the only “foolish” thing is to whine about the free offering.

Smart people can and do disagree with the points made, but whine about the free offering? No, only the fools do that. And the funny thing is, Mr. Somebody clearly understands that — why else would he think so little of his own opinion that he’d not only withhold his identity, but work to conceal it?!

Mr. Somebody was the only one to complain, but dozens of readers liked the pitch enough to upgrade this weekend — Christmas weekend! (There were 27 orders on Christmas Day alone! Wow!) Plus quite a number of lapsed subscribers who used the opportunity to come back.

But Mr. Somebody is right about one thing: this publication does actually depend on fools — the people we write about to amuse and enlighten the readers who Get It. So, thanks, Mr. Somebody, for stepping up to offer yet more fodder to entertain the smart folks! That raises you up ever so slightly from a Nobody.

– – –

It’s absolutely true that direct reader support is what keeps True running. If you like the stories, appreciate the stimulation to think, and want double the stories every week, the way to do it is to upgrade to a Premium subscription. Information on your options is here.

Related Essays

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This page is an example of Randy Cassingham’s style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. His This is True is an email newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition in an entertaining way. If that sounds good, click here to open a subscribe form.

To really support This is True, you’re invited to sign up for a subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:

One Year Upgrade

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(More upgrade options here.)

Q: Why would I want to pay more than the regular rate?

A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online: this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.

37 Comments on “I Want to Complain, But…

  1. Two items. One is the ad pitch. Well, how else are you going to sell if you don’t advertise it? There was a story about the Wrigley (chewing gum) founder on a plane who was asked why he continued to advertise since he was already successful. He countered by asking, “How fast is this plane going?”

    “Maybe 600 mph,” answered his companion.

    “Well, then, why don’t we just shut the engines off, since we’re already going fast enough?” asked Wrigley.

    And the second part, the fools who continue to pay you for unoriginal news? Gee, if I were easily offended, I’d take, um, offense, I guess. But I’ve read many of the original stories, and I like the concise synopsis that True offers, along with the BONUS of ironic commentary that’s usually humorous as well. So I guess I’ll just continue to be lazy or foolish, whichever the case may be.

    By the way, I simply don’t have time to go looking for all the weird stories around the country (or world). Thanks for doing that for me, Randy, and it’s worth paying for.

  2. Somebody complained about your ad for Premium in your own newsletter? Really? And to be anonymous about it as well – to even go to the trouble of rerouting the source of the email – THAT takes real courage. Somebody not only lacks the capacity to think but also must lack means of movement because they obviously have no backbone.

    I must be one of the lazy and foolish because I’ve been a Premium subscriber for a few years now and I feel that it is money well spent.

  3. I’ve probably been a premium subscriber since the late 90’s – it’s been a long time. I pay 46¢ a week to be really entertained. I’ll stay a subscriber as long as Randy puts this out. Yes, I could get by with the free version, but I realize that without paid subscriber support, then the email newsletter is not going to make it. Fortunately, there are enough smart people out there that realize this.

    You upgraded in April 1998, and have never lapsed in that time. I appreciate your long-term support! -rc

  4. If he can find so many more stories elsewhere for free, why is he subscribed to the newsletter in the first place? He must find some sort of value in it to be a subscriber. I guess he doesn’t understand that others of us find that value to be worth paying for.

    You’re obviously correct. He sees value in the edition he complains about, but no value in twice the stories and the other features only available in the Premium version. He really shows his intelligence in that equation, eh? -rc

  5. This sterling example of a sheeple who must be bottle fed should be pitied. He evidently cannot fathom the idea of being able to ignore regularly scheduled sales pitches for premium upgrades when he would rather mooch along with just the free edition. Tell you what I will do for you so that you do not have to endure such heartache from this sheeple anymore: I will pay a special premium fee to you if you will print up a special free edition sans any and all ads which would include yours for premium subscriptions, GOOHF merchandise or anything thing else that might cost money. The business of testing weapons platforms for killing people, breaking things and destroying world governments more efficiently paid me very well this year so I can afford it.

    Remember that the world is full of two types of sad people, those who don’t get what they ask for and those who do get what they ask for.

    Well, the one thing I don’t want is more work, so I won’t be creating a third edition, but your point was well made! -rc

  6. “Somebody”, eh? As in, “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here! … I’m somebody now!”?

    Otherwise known as “The Jerk”. An appropriate comparison, methinks. -rc

  7. I wonder if “Somebody” habitually surfs the Web in this fashion. I’m not sure why he would do that, but I can imagine it happening. Maybe he’s a bit paranoid or something. Anyway, I don’t mean to make excuses for him, but it seems that otherwise he’s going to a lot of trouble to make a minor complaint.

    Right. Imagine if he put that much effort into something productive! Why, he could be an actual contributor to society. But I won’t be holding my breath. -rc

  8. I was going to comment, but can’t really add anything to what’s already been said. Long-time premium subscriber (96? 98?) who has NEVER regretted the pittance I send you for the commentary you provide.

  9. I am on a very limited budget, but “This is True” is one of my favorite ways to “waste” money (;~D) Please stay in business, you make my Tues AM.

    I fully intend to publish for many years to come, thanks to all of you. -rc

  10. What I find fascinating is that ANYONE would be foolish enough to send such a letter to a person who, for 17 years, has earned his livelihood by skewering idiots. That’s like volunteering to be a live target for a expert-level sniper!

    He sent that letter while waiting in line for that sport. How did you know, Chris?! -rc

  11. Foolish & Lazy am I? Just maybe I’m too busy following important news or keeping up in my field to follow the silliness of other people. I prefer to see myself as an overpaid technical institute EdTech facilitator who pays for the value of having the best of the silliness collected and commented on as well important unsilly honorary unsubscribes.

    Keep the truth coming!

  12. Not only do I get the Premium edition (for all the obvious reasons), but I still opt for the Free edition, as well. Because, well, I’m afraid I might miss a tidbit that gets left out of the Premium edition. Sure! There’s sometimes a little updated item in the Free edition, or something I overlooked in the Premium.

    If the Free edition still has value to a Premium subscriber, then It Takes A Village Idiot (hey, there could be a joke in there someplace) to decry the lack of value in the Free edition by itself.

    I haven’t done a cross-list check lately, but last time I did, the majority of Premium subscribers also still were getting the free edition too. -rc

  13. I, too, will remain one of the “lazy and foolish” and continue subscribing. As for “Mr. Somebody” my mother had a phrase that fits. “Some people will complain if you hang them with a new rope.”

    Keep up the great work.

    Yes, but they won’t complain for long! -rc

  14. The “True” value is not necessarily in the aggregation of stories, but in the (mostly humorous) insights gained through your tag lines and in the (sometimes new, but always educational) Honorary Unsubscribes. Those who read This is True do so to be entertained by you, Randy Cassingham, and your sense of humor and justice (or lack thereof). There will always be those who don’t understand or agree with you, but they only put themselves in your crosshairs by arguing with you or complaining about the content rather than just quietly unsubscribing.

    Unfortunately there are also those certain “somebodies” who feel that their ISP payment each month (or their mooching off the local coffee shop wifi) entitles them to all the free information they can consume, and how dare anyone even think about charging them for the privilege, much less advertise for their services. These are the Welfare Internet segment of society, and no matter what their education level or socio-economic status they will also never “get it”. Someone has to pay the bills, as long as it’s not them.

    Keep on trucking, Randy!

    Thanks for helping to pay the bills for nine years so far, Phil! -rc

  15. Maybe he’s not a subscriber at all. Maybe he has a google alert set up for his name and you mentioned him in one of your write ups!

    At any rate, I love being part of the “foolish and lazy” people receiving the premium edition!

    Hm, interesting thought! Maybe he was the dude to call the police to complain the marijuana his contact sold him was “nasty”. -rc

  16. “Phil, San Antonio, Texas” wrote:

    “Unfortunately there are also those certain “somebodies” who feel that their ISP payment each month … entitles them to all the free information they can consume, …”

    When you say it this way, I guess I am one of those “somebodies”. Once I’ve paid for my Internet connection, I feel entitled to get as much “free information” as I can get.

    I also know how much this “free information” is worth. This type of information isn’t perfect, but it’s worth a lot more than $0, because we live in a relatively free society.

    That doesn’t mean that other sources of information aren’t worth paying money for – which is why I get both the premium and free editions.

    Sometimes I am a cynic. I have a hunch that “Somebody” noticed that Randy hasn’t ranted about ignorant subscribers for a while, so he decided to send in a letter that would respond to. I hope I’m wrong about that.

    I think it’s unlikely that “Somebody” was trolling, and was instead showing his actual “thought” process. -rc

  17. I’d rather be Foolish & Lazy than “Somebody”! Keep on keepin’ on, Randy! You rock.

    Yeah, well, that particular “Somebody” is awfully close to a “Nobody” to me. -rc

  18. I have been a subscriber to your free edition since the mid-90’s and a premium subscriber for many years. (I have changed my email address, so I don’t know if you can track the length of my subscription.) Anyway I value This is True and would be willing to pay a higher subscription price to keep you in business. Don’t let the freeloaders and complainers get you down.

    To be sure, I’m not down AT ALL! This is simply the kind of person I write about every week; I consider him part of the entertainment. But I really appreciate your words of support. They’re as important to me as the financial support I get from the Premium subscribers such as yourself (you: since November 2004!) -rc

  19. I think you are giving the guy too much credit on the “working to conceal his identity” front. He could very well be in India — it’s not like the internet has geographical boundaries, and his English is almost but not quite fluent. And isn’t it basic practice to put throwaway email addresses into internet contact forms to avoid getting spam? He apparently believes you are running a scam, so I don’t know why you’re surprised he’s taking basic anti-spam precautions against you.

    He is clearly a subscriber, so obviously he subscribed using a working email address. I’m guessing he’s an American. -rc

  20. Foolish? Lazy? If that describes someone who actually PAYS to get thought provoking information — then that’s me! Keep up the good work. I am a proud premium subscriber!

  21. And to think, instead of spending all my time searching the internet to find these stories, I work and spend time with my family. Thank you Somebody for showing me the error of my ways. I will stop paying for premium, quit my job, and leave my family. Then I will have all the time in the world to gather my own stories and not be one of the “lazy and foolish”….

    Keep up the good work Randy. I am a new subscriber, but plan to keep it going for as long as you will let us.

  22. The best evidence that your work is NOT simply a “search you do” is provided by your story titles and taglines. They never fail to provide an amusing and/or thought-provoking insight into our modern society. Every time you run a tagline challenge, I realize how hard it is to be so consistently witty and wise, because I certainly can’t do it myself! Thank you!

  23. @Allan in Fontana, CA

    I’m sure I could have expressed my feelings on the matter in a better way, but what it boils down to is a feeling of entitlement by certain people.

    I also consume as much free content from the Internet as I wish, but when there is premium content that interests me, and I feel the price for that content is reasonable, I am more than willing to pay that price to support the content provider.

    There are others, though, who feel a certain entitlement to any and all content available on the Internet, whether via the act of paying for a connection or just because “the Internet should be free for all”. They don’t understand that time and money is expended to produce that content, whether original or gleaned. Further, they object to advertising on the web sites they frequent, whether by sponsors or by the content providers themselves. While I tend to get aggravated by the pop-ups, pop-unders, slide-downs, etc. that are designed to attract my attention to the ads, I don’t block them nor do I begrudge the site their right and ability to post them. As long as the ads are not screwing with my computer, more power to them as they ultimately pay for my ability to view the content I desire.

    TL/DNR, I know, but I get tired of people who feel entitled to something just because they exist.

  24. Well, Mr. Somebody seems to prove one of my favorite adages. “Ignorance can be counseled, illiteracy can be educated, but stupidity is immune to any help.” Somebody proves it correct once again.

    I’ve been a subscriber since True started (circa 1995?) and have been a premium subscriber since a year or so after Premium Edition began. Well worth the money.

    You can spend the subscription in a bar and have a good time for a night or you can send it to Randy and have a good time for a year.

    But if you spend it in a bar, you have a better chance of being featured in TRUE! -rc

  25. Well, guess it’s time I joined up with the “foolish” “masses”. I have no doubt that Mr “Somebody” is one who expects a lot more than he is due on someone else’s dime. This freeloader has convinced me that I no longer wish to be amongst his/her ilk. So I am sending off my payment for the real thing.

    To quote what a very wise man once said a couple of comments back, “Ignorance can be counseled, illiteracy can be educated, but stupidity is immune to any help.” Is that line free to use in the future, Steve in Evanston, Ill.?

    As an addendum Randy. I am a retired state employee who spent 26 years working with a lot of people who think because they are alive they are entitled. There is coming a day when the honest, hard working citizens of this great land will no longer be willing to support those who will not help themselves. To quote an even wiser person, “He who does not work, neither shall he eat.” II Thessalonians 3:10

  26. Regarding “Somebody”: Your explanation and blog was well-put. However, something I’ve learned over the years is, “Those who matter don’t judge, and those who judge don’t matter!” Keep it Simple Randy… though your response was well tempered [in your typical manner], it was probably totally wasted on the individual concerned. I wonder if HE would be a candidate for today’s blog on Alcoholics. Certainly seems to have the ‘swollen ego’ down pat!

    Keep doing what you’re doing.


    I actually don’t care if it was wasted on “Somebody” since others seem to have gotten plenty out of it — either entertainment, provoked thought, or both. Thus it fit well within my mission here. -rc

  27. Somebody is obviously a person for whom English is a second language, the likes of which now make their living as tech reps for companies like HP. Probably Asian Indian. Very bright but imperfect by western standards.

    However, I have to agree with him/her that you, Randy, tend to over-promote in your free edition. But, hell, it’s your site and you are entitled to do with it as you please.

    (s) Free Loader

  28. I am a big believer in what we call in Israel “voting with your feet”. If you don’t like something don’t go there.

    If Mr. Somebody does not like your site then why does he read it? I do not understand why he feels he must publicly laugh at the “silly” people who want to support your site.

    I am not a premium subscriber for economic reasons but if I could I would upgrade just to say thank you for the fine work you do. I have read other weird news sites but yours is the only one I have stuck to because of the balance between the humor and not flooding the in box.

    keep up the good work.

  29. Before I had a a salvo of heart attacks I did not much use the internet. After I ended up on disability it became a life saver to me. And Randy was the chief Paramedic.

    If laughter is the best medicine, and I think it is, then I am still alive because of True’s humor. I am very grateful for the free edition as that is all that is in my budget these days.

    Say, do you think I could get Obamacare to pay for True’s paid edition on medical reasons? Hmmmmm. See, Randy’s humor is contagious!

    I agree laughter is good medicine, and I’m very gratified if TRUE helped you during your recovery! -rc

  30. “the average newspaper story is upwards of 1,000 words; the average True story is less than 100 — we’re trying to get to the point, and it does take a certain amount of skill to do that and still make sense.”

    I think this takes not just a certain amount but a lot of skill! When I write a scientific paper, I need days to condense the key points into that 100 word abstract.

    You are doing great — minimal data, maximized information.

  31. “Jonathon, Tawian” is right: it takes a lot of skill to condense an article and still make sense. Anyone who does not believe this should try this simple exercise:

    1) Pick a subject. ANY subject: automobiles, bananas, calligraphy, dogs, and so on. You’ll find that more-specific topics (i.e. “How an internal-combustion engine works”) will be easier than less-specific topics (“What is a car, and how do you use it”).

    2) Write down the time of day, then write an essay about your subject. Your goal is to explain it to someone who doesn’t know anything about it – if possible, someone who has never even heard of it – but try to keep it under 10,000 words. (“Internal combustion? What’s combustion?”) When you’re done, re-read the essay to make sure it makes sense. If so, write down the time of day again – now you know how long it took.

    3) Now re-write the essay in 90 to 110 words, but still with the idea of introducing the topic to someone that doesn’t know anything about it. Obviously you can’t cover as much detail as you did before, but try to get the general concept down without resorting to the dictionary. (“An Internal Combustion Engine is one where the gas is set on fire in a tiny cylinder sealed with a piston. As fuel burns it expands, which forces the piston to move. The piston is connected through gears to the wheels, so the car is pushed forward…”) When you’re done, re-read it to make sure it makes sense. If so, write down the tie of day again – now you know how long this shorter essay took.

    If you’re an average 6th-grade student, you’ll make the second essay by picking 8 random sentences out of the first essay, possibly making minor tweaks; it will take you about 4 minutes. But if you’re being honest, and actually re-writing the essay to make it shorter, then the vast majority of the time the second short essay will have taken longer than the first one.

    One of my favorite quotes: “I am sorry to write such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write a short one.” –Variously attributed to Mark Twain, Voltaire, Proust, and others. -rc

  32. While I was reading your commentary, my neck was getting tired from shaking it up and down so much. Why I almost broke out in a rendition of the “Amen” Chorus! That is, until I came to your last sentence. It was like the needle was pushed off the platter.

    If, by “raises you up ever so slightly from a Nobody,” you mean raised up like an ugly pimple, then I agree. But I am more inclined (as a representative “fool” and “laziest” of persons) to consider “Somebody” not as raised, but rather as empty and devoid of understanding, like a large and dangerous pot-hole in the roadway.

    Nearly all of the preceding “fools and lazies” gave plenty of reasons. But I can’t help but wonder why Somebody does not have a better product to offer…unless it is because he himself is really the lazy fool.

  33. Regarding your first two paragraphs —

    One Friday morning a rabbi found a note on his desk with a single word on it — “Schmuck!” That night he told his congregation, “I occasionally receive a letter from someone who forgets to sign his name, but today I received a note from someone who signed his name and forgot to write the letter!”

  34. I’ve been a long-time free loader…I mean reader of “This is True” free edition. Despite several “almosts”, I never took the final step of becoming a Premium subscriber. This complaint letter finally tipped the scales. Obviously, there are lots of “News of the Weird” type sites out there. “True” adds a common sense viewpoint to the news and reinforces that we have to THINK about the world not just shake our head at it. In any case, the ludicrousness of the complaint prompted me to recognize that I LOOK FORWARD to reading “True” each week… and look forward to Jumbo Joke. It’s time for me to go Pro and join the Premium gang. Thanks!

    Thank you, Tom. Not so much for your upgrade (which I do appreciate), but even more for actually taking me up on the offer to think about things, rather than just shake your head (or laugh). -rc

  35. I think the reader failed to recognize one basic thing – dont complain about a ‘free’ thing – or ‘dont look a gift horse in the mouth’.

    We have that exact saying here, too. (Chennai is in India, for those who don’t know.) -rc


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