Thursday, December 29, 2005

My mother's spam

My mother never took up computing, but she sure gets spam's predecessor, junk mail. That wouldn't be surprising or disturbing, except that she never lived at my address, where the mail arrives -- and she has been dead for nearly six years.

She was a charitable person who gave small sums to numerous nonprofits in response to what she called "begging letters." After she died, I put in a change of address so as to catch any important mail -- and dutifully marked "deceased" and returned every piece of first class mail. But some outfits never give up (and have lousy list management.)

For the last month, I've kept all the items that came to Mother. Here's the tally of the unsolicited and irrelevant:

America's Second Harvest, national office -- two pieces. They sent her address stickers and implored that she "help stop hunger at the holidays."

Meals on Wheels, Western New York affiliate -- also two pieces. One of them is a brown paper bag that reminds me the ones we put used tampax into in high school. The outside reads "the contents of this little bag can save an elderly person's life."

Martin de Porres House -- one letter. This free food program in San Francisco is a list I put Mother on. I know they know better -- they sent a condolence card when she died, but their database is primitive.

United Negro College Fund -- one appeal. "Emergency Hurricane Katrina Update." It is nice to know that Mother would almost certainly have given to that one.

Buffalo Zoo -- one brochure. "Get your tail to the zoo!"

Planned Parenthood, national office -- one appeal. "Survey and petition to Congress enclosed." Yeah sure, but she would have been there for PP.

The true spam gem yielded the illustration above. An outfit called "Help Hospitalized Veterans -- Saluting America's Heroes" sent a cover letter by General Tommy Franks, a check for one dollar and a request that she tear up the check and send them money. The five piece fundraising package must have cost nearly two dollars each, even if they sent out several million, which they probably did.

All these solicitors are mere beginners in persistent irrelevance though, compared to the National Wildlife Federation. They sent my father two pieces of mail that included holiday cards, a note pad and address labels in his name. He has been dead 14 years.

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