In This Episode: A complaint about last week’s featured story, which leads to why prices online end in “77” (vs “.99” offline), another segment of No Longer Weird, and how to be so stupid you can get busted for possession of marijuana in Colorado — where pot is legal! Plus: why Uncommon Sense doesn’t have “sponsors”.
- A complaint about the story featured in last week’s episode.
- No Longer Weird: faking your own kidnaping to either get away from your wife for a bit, or to get money for drugs. (Example)
- The Washington Post article on how legalized pot in Colorado is leading to a reduction in opioid overdoses.
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Randy: Welcome to Uncommon Sense, the Podcast companion to the ThisIsTrue.com newsletter, with the mission to promote more thinking in the world. I’m Randy Cassingham…
Clare: And I’m Clare Angelica.
Randy: This week we’ll be discussing a story from issue 1218 of the newsletter, which will be included on the Show Page at thisistrue.com/podcast15.
But first, I got an amusing complaint about the story featured in last week’s Podcast — or, more specifically, its slug, or title: “56 Varieties”. You can see the story on Podcast 14’s Show Page, which I’ll link to.
John in Texas wanted me to know that the Heinz food company offers 57 varieties, not 56 — and attached numerous pictures of “57 Sauce” and such to prove it. John was the only one to not get it — or at least to not get it and also write me about it. Anyway my reply to John is, if Heinz advertises they have “57 Varieties”, and they discontinued kidney-flavored soup, then how many varieties do they then have?
Clare: Did he respond?
Randy: I’m still waiting while John does the math.
Clare: Those are big numbers: it might be big math.
Randy: Yeah, “56” is a joke, and a fairly obvious one. But let’s talk about the slogan: when Henry J. Heinz first adopted it in 1896, the company was already making more than 57 different items. In 1896! In other words, the number was chosen because it was catchy, not real. Among other explanations, H.J. Heinz himself said the number 7 was selected because of the “psychological influence of that figure and of its enduring significance to people of all ages.” — which is apparently true, considering how many prices end in “7”, especially online. Maybe I should raise the Premium subscription to $37!
Clare: Or $37.77.
Randy: Or $47.77.
Clare: I’ve never heard that, wow!
Randy: Yeah. You see that a lot, especially online. Offline, it’s typically .99.
Randy: “Just $19.99!”
Clare: Yeah, I guess I normally see .99. I’ll have to pay attention.
Randy: That’s offline but online, you’ll see .97.
Clare: Huh… I’ll hafta look.
Randy: And sometimes .77. And certainly 17. Like $17, $27, $47….
Clare: I’ll have to pay attention to that now.
Randy: Once you’re looking for it, you’ll not help but to notice it everywhere. I tend to not play those games…
Randy: …except that I think — aren’t the books $17 now? The printed ones?
Randy: Because it— $19 seemed too much. $15 was too low, for the [printing] costs and all that. So I went for $17 on the books. But I didn’t go to $17.97 or $17.99, I don’t like that game. I know that I’ll make more money if I do that, but it just bothers me on an ethical level. It’s really fooling people because it’s “Hey: it’s less than $20 if you do $19.99!” No it’s not.
Clare: A penny. And then tax. And shipping.
Randy: Right! It’s not really less than $20. Unless you really make it less than $20. And $17 with free shipping is less than $20. It really is. And then we throw in free ebook copies too.
Clare: Yep. And the ebooks I think are $7, right? No, they’re $6, by themselves…?
Randy: It kinda depends. Their actual price, theoretically, because of Amazon requirements, is $9.99, and I usually discount from there.
Clare: Oh, that’s right.
Randy: For Amazon, you have to be between …what is it, I think $2.99 is the lowest you’re allowed?, and if you go lower than that, they reduce your cut.
Clare: Yeah, for the 70-cent marker, it’s $2.99 to $9.99, I’m pretty sure.
Randy: 70 percent, yeah. And you know, they call it a “royalty,” which is kind of a misnomer, because hey: I’m the publisher! They’re not paying me a royalty! They’re paying me my cut of their retail sale. That’s not a royalty. That’s what they call it. And if you price it between $2.99— you know, from $2.99 through $9.99 they’ll give you 70 percent. If you go outside that guideline, because they think that’s the price point, they cut your “royalty” to 35 percent. So if you want to charge, you know, 99 cents? They will let you do that, but then they’ll only give you 35 percent of that, instead of 70 percent.
Clare: Yep. They’ve got a good gig.
Randy: It’s “interesting.” …So back to the Heinz company.
In 1934, the company put out a cookbook with, yes, 57 items featured. Heinz Oven-Baked Beans was three of those, since you could buy it with pork and tomato sauce, with pork but no tomato sauce, or — guess what — with tomato sauce but no pork. Three items! On the other hand, Heinz Pudding was only counted once in the cookbook, even though buyers had a choice of date, fig, or plum. Also, vinegar was four items in the cookbook, since you could get it in malt, cider, distilled white, or tarragon.
Randy: Anyway, I still think slugging the story “56 Varieties” was amusing!
Clare: I enjoyed it. I love the picture!
Randy: Yeah, the rusty old can.
Clare: And the flavor: oh, I’m glad they discontinued that one.
Randy: Mmmm… kidney!
Which brings us to another segment of No Longer Weird! This week: faking your own kidnaping to either get away from your wife for a bit, or to get money for drugs. Usually the latter is pretty obvious because someone claims they’re being held for ransom by gunmen, who went to all the trouble to commit a major felony so they can get on the order of $100 in ransom, which is what the obliviot needs for their current fix. It never occurs to them that they might need another fix the next day, or that a hundred-dollar ransom is so ridiculous that it immediately clues in the clear-headed types in the family, not to mention the police, that their claim is probably fake.
Clare: That’s incredible. It’s not— I mean, it’s “totally normal” now, that people do that. But….
Randy: See? Even you know that that’s a common story. And of course, the cops simply track the supposed victim’s cell phone — since they’re almost always calling from their own phone — and go pick the druggie up. They’re then charged with making a false felony police report.
Also common is the other variety: a man — and it’s almost always a man — wants a break from his spouse for a night out with the boys, or a weekend off for hunting, or a tryst with another woman — which I suppose is just another sort of hunting — and explains his unscheduled absence by saying he was kidnaped. Naturally, the worried spouse calls the police, who pretty much have to take the report seriously until they figure out what’s really going on.
Clare: Oh wow!
I see this story all the time. And I consider them “No Longer Weird” unless there’s some extra really compelling detail to make it stand out. The recent one I passed on was from the Minneapolis Star Tribune last month, when a 34-year-old man’s wife got a text saying he was being held for ransom. The kidnapper, who was supposedly sending the text from the man’s phone, demanded a grand total of …$140. Yet when the wife agreed to pay that, the supposed kidnaper changed his mind, saying it should come out of the man’s paycheck, which apparently wasn’t due for a few days. Like, the kidnaper really wants to hold on to somebody for several days, and not take the money and run?
Clare: For $140.
Right. You can’t even buy a decent gun for $140.
Randy: “Nothing added up,” said Plymouth, Minnesota, police Sgt. Keith Bird. “You know when something’s not right.” Well duh! When police tracked the guy down, he told them they should close the case — but he apparently still didn’t want to go home to the missus. The man was not charged with a crime, and he wasn’t named by the newspaper.
“He wanted a few days away from his wife, and this was his alibi,” Sgt. Bird said. “It just wasted two days of our investigator’s time.”
Clare: That’s ridiculous.
Randy: And people come up with this “Hey! That’s a good idea! I’ll just tell my wife, ‘I’ve been kidnaped!’ YEAH! She’ll just pay the ransom! Or she’ll just say ‘OK, I’ll see you in a couple of days, honey!’”
Clare: “Have fun!”
Randy: Yeah! “Enjoy yourself!”
Clare: Oh my gosh. Well, a lot of times people …“Oh, we’re kidnaping you for your bachelorette party weekend, or your bachelor party weekend, you know, they’re joking. But to actually call and say “I’ve been kidnaped, and I need $140 bucks.”
Randy: Yeah, and the “no longer weird” aspect of kidnaping someone for their bachelor party, or their bachelorette party, isn’t that their spouse or fiancee is worried about that, is that somebody sees somebody throw a hood over somebody’s head and shove them into a car or into a trunk or something like that, and take off? They think it’s a real kidnaping and call the cops and say “Hey, I just witnessed this!”
Clare: And it escalates.
Randy: And the cops surround the car, and they take the people out with guns drawn — it’s kind of a hairy, dangerous situation, because they weren’t thinking either. But the bottom line is, these stories are no longer weird, but such people are still obliviots.
Clare: Big time.
Randy: Before we get to the story we’re talking about this week, have you ever noticed there are no ads, or so-called “sponsor messages,” in Uncommon Sense, as there are in most podcasts? And worse, those messages are getting longer and longer? In the podcasts I listen to, they have gone from 20-30 seconds to two minutes or more, even in short podcasts. One I listen to is just 10 minutes a week, so two-plus minutes of — let’s call them what they are: commercials! — is a big chunk of time.
Uncommon Sense doesn’t have those, because This is True the newsletter is reader supported, and Uncommon Sense is listener supported. Well, it’s supposed to be, anyway! Only one listener has specifically noted a contribution is in support of this podcast. Just one — thanks, Ellen in Maine, for your $10! So when I say here and there even a few bucks would help, I really mean it: we’re more than $1000 in the red on this show already: it does cost money and time to bring shows to you, and we’d rather be listener-supported, rather than record commercials. But it’s your choice. See any page on the This is True web site for a “Support Our Mission” form, and note in the first field you’re supporting the podcast. If using Patreon for monthly contributions, just send me a note saying that’s what it’s for. And thanks!
Clare: Two minutes! That’s too much time.
Randy: I know! I’m— seriously: I listen to a 10-minute podcast. And he does a quick intro, and then he does like, two, two and a half, minutes for a sponsor or two. And then he goes into the thing.
Randy: I mean, it’s a great podcast, obviously he gets a lot of listeners, which is why he’s doing all these commercials —
Randy: — but that’s how you make money in podcasts, or at least cover your costs, unless you go listener-supported and people actually respond to it.
Clare: I’d have trouble listening to that: I commend you.
Randy: Well luckily, most podcast players have a skip-forward-15-minutes button — uh, not 15 minutes, 15 seconds button.
Clare: Right. But can’t you only hit it so many times?
Clare: Oh! It’s unlimited. Oh, that’s nice: that’d make it easier.
Randy: Because the podcast apps are made for the listeners, not the show. And, you know, you can get your own podcast app just for your own show. I’m not going to go there: that’s silly. And if I did, I’d let them skip.
Randy: The story we’re discussing this week from issue 1215, called, “Would You Believe ‘Personal Use’?” I’ll include it on the web page, but the bottom line is, a Mesa County, Colo., sheriff’s deputy was on patrol, and he was following like, a Penske rental truck, and it really smelled. Guess what it smelled like, Clare? …You read the story, I know.
Clare: I know, I’m not going to… I read it already.
Randy: It was fresh marijuana. Very clearly. I mean, even though they were driving he could smell it. So the truck was speeding, which gives him probable cause to pull it over, because technically in Colorado, the smell of marijuana is not probable cause for a criminal traffic stop. But they were speeding, so he pulled it over and asked the driver if he had any marijuana in the truck. “Just a little,” the man said. He agreed to show the deputy what a “little” was, pulled open the rolling door, pulled out a trash bag, poked a finger through the plastic, and pulled out a wad of weed. “It’s just a little bit,” he says! “I can throw it out.” But the deputy could see other trash bags: in all, there were 87 bags holding 3,100 pounds of fresh bud. The driver…
Clare: Fresh! That was really fresh.
Randy: Yeah, which is why it was so smelly. But the driver and his passenger were arrested and charged with felony possession with intent to distribute marijuana. And my tagline on there was, “Will they go to prison? For a little while.”
Clare: I liked that. And if they just had been following basic traffic laws….
Randy: …they might have just driven over the border and been out of state.
Randy: That was in Fruitvale, Colorado, which is fairly near the border with Utah.
Clare: Not Fruita?
Randy: No. Fruita is west of Grand Junction, and Fruitvale is actually a neighborhood on the other side of Grand Junction.
Randy: Now, even recreational pot is legal in Colorado. I voted for that, even though I have no interest in using recreational drugs myself, because I think adults should be able to choose for themselves how they want to chill. Alcohol is legal for adults, even though it causes vastly more problems than pot, why not get taxes from it, rather than spend our tax dollars throwing people in jail for simple use of a natural substance?
Clare: I completely agree with you. I voted ‘yes’ on it as well, and I don’t…
Randy: You’re not a pothead?
Clare: No, I don’t use it at all, definitely not.
Randy: I have never used any recreational drug, but I do think that pretty much all of them ought to be legal.
Clare: I agree. I mean, there have been studies that, well, if we can regulate cocaine and heroin, we can actually help people get off of it, or at least — there’s better ways to help them if it’s better regulated.
Randy: And all this said, I can’t blame the sheriff’s deputy for arresting the truck driver and his partner. They’re from California; they were right near the border, and very likely hauling the stuff across state lines for illegal distribution. No tax money to be made there. Ya gotta play by the rules.
Clare: Yeah, they kind of walked into that one.
Randy: Now, to get back to something Clare was saying, before someone says that pot is a gateway drug to harder stuff, let me stop you with this newly released study — you mentioned studies, Clare. You’ve heard the United States is in the grip of a massive opioid crisis, leading to tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the past several years, a number that’s increasing year by year.
Well, marijuana legalization in Colorado, which happened in 2014, has led to a reduction in opiate overdose deaths, according to new research published in the American Journal of Public Health. And it’s really no surprise. Here’s what the study authors said: “After Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years.” They do caution the results are preliminary, but if you look at their chart, the trend is pretty clear. I’ll link to the story on the Show Page.
Clare: Did they talk about the births of babies addicted to opioids?
Randy: They didn’t specifically look at that, they were looking at things that were really easy to track, which includes overdoses from opiods.
Clare: Right. I just read about that. That’s heartbreaking too.
Randy: Yeah, that is very sad. And the report does note that this trend has been seen many times before with the legalization of medical marijuana, but since Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational pot, they wanted to see if it happened with that, too. And clearly, it has. They compared it with the simultaneous legalization of medical marijuana in Nevada, to see — they could compare and contrast. And clearly they could see that the legalization of recreational marijuana had a positive effect on reducing opioid overdoses. And I think that’s fascinating.
Clare: I agree. I like that it’s helping.
Randy: Yeah. And since the only way to kill yourself with pot is to have 87 trash bags full fall on you, it clearly has an advantage over opiates. The Washington Post concludes “the study adds more evidence to the body of research suggesting that increased marijuana availability could help reduce the toll of America’s opiate epidemic, which claims tens of thousands of lives each year.” That’s sad! I’ll link to their story on the Show Page.
Next week, I’ll answer the first question sent in by a listener! It’s a good one, from Andrew in Texas. If you want to send a question, you can enter it as a comment on the Show Page, tweet it to @ThisIsTrue on Twitter, or email us through the website via thisistrue.com/contact
Have a story to tell about obliviots faking a kidnap, or otherwise want to comment? Let us know on the Show Page, at thisistrue.com/podcast15
I’m Randy Cassingham…
And we’ll talk at you later.