murder mystery, crime, & detective fiction

Phoney Buyers


Write a review.

Red Mask Detective Stories | Mar. 1941 | Vol. 1 | No. 1

Est. Read Time: 2 mins

The sweetest little swindle ... advertising!

This is a sweet little swindle, and for a long tithe was a splendid revenue to the men who started it. Gradually more and more of the get-rich-quick gentry heard about it, and the field became overcrowded. But unlike many similar rackets, it has not been done to death, and is lying fallow until the advent of an administration that isn’t so hard on the smart boys.

Let us say you are in the candy business –your advertisement appears in the papers. You receive a letter or a postal-card from Smith & Jones, Resident Buyers, requesting you to call and bring samples of your commodity.

You call at the time specified, and are ushered office where a curt, businesslike individual listens to your story and gradually unbends as you explain the good points of your product. After a while, the man behind the desk becomes quite cordial and friendly. He tells you to leave your samples, and he’ll call you after he has had an opportunity to examine them. Incidentally, he explains that his firm does the buying for thousands of stores in the South and Middle West — some in the farther West, too.

When you leave his presence, a warm, optimistic feeling permeates you. You have found the outlet you were looking for. This firm of resident buyers, for a reasonable commission that is half of what you pay a salesman, will represent you all over the country.

Fine so far.

In a few days along comes the letter you expect. Your merchandise is quite good — in fact the writer likes it and wishes to talk to you about it if you will call at such and such a time.

Promptly on the minute you present yourself, trying not to beam. Yes, Mr. Jones, of Smith & Jones, to whom your goods were shown, thinks they’re just what the firm has been looking for. They’re going in to exploit them heavily for you. All they want is their commission on any merchandise they sell.

Oh yes — there’s going to be the postage on the twenty-five or fifty thousand letters they’re going to send out to all their correspondents, with your prospectus in it. They send out their letters by first-class mail — about two hundred dollars will cover it. And you’ll be kind enough to send Smith & Jones enough circulars so there won’t be any delay.

You come across with that two hundred dollars — and you might as well kiss it goodby. Your circulars are sent out, it’s true! Post Office inspectors can’t be treated lightly — they’ll come around, and ask questions if a complaint is made.

But your circulars and the circulars of half a dozen other dupes like yourself are put into one envelope — and sent as printed matter — cheap, oh so cheap. There is a nice little profit on the transaction for Smith & Jones, and where is your kick? You say the two hundred was to cover first-class mail? It’s your word against the word of Smith & Jones.

It was mailed to the stores in the South and Middle West — and farther West, too. They have the list, and inquiry of any of the names will confirm their statement — if the recipients of the circulars happen to remember.

Yes, once in a blue moon you may even receive an inquiry from one of the stores. Manna once came down from heaven, too.