Beth Jacks Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Who’s Who hardly a gathering of owls

“Quackery hath no better friend than gullibility.”
~ Old proverb


I didn’t go seeking such a distinguished honor, but there it was in my E-mail box – an offer to be included in the new edition of Cheatmore Who’s Who (name changed to protect the guilty).  I was supposedly selected, the message said, for my outstanding accomplishments as a “key executive, professional or organization.” Obviously the Cheatmore folks weren’t sure exactly where I fit. Me either, although I’m pretty sure I’m not an organization. Neither am I a key executive. Professional? Umm … at what?

But, I must confess, when I read the message, I immediately thought: Well, I’ll be doggone. How did they know I’m so important and brilliant? Who told ‘em?

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And just as soon as I asked myself those probing questions, reality set in. Uh HUH! The Cheatmores are running a scam! They want to sell dumb me and all my kinfolks a thick book with a bunch of  names, including mine, and they could really give a flip whether my “accomplishments” are worth saluting with a cheap plaque, a certificate, a six-pack of Bud, or a $29.95 (fake) leather-bound book for my dusty coffee table.

Yep, I’m cynical, but the truth is that hundreds of bogus Who’s Who businesses have sprouted up since a United States appellate court in 1969 declared that the reputable Marquis Company could not have “Who’s Who” publications all to itself. The imposters are making a mint off trusting souls who honestly believe inclusion in such a copy-cat volume is good for their resumes.

Prior to 1969, such a distinction truly was an honor and meant something – like Marquis’s “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities,” which, note my emphasis, STILL IS a coveted honor because only a limited number of students are nominated by their schools. There are currently other publications with good reputations also, most published by Marquis, including Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s Who of American Law, and several others.

But, unlike the discriminating Marquis group, vanity publishers sneak E-mail and snail mail addresses from who-knows-where and send innocent, trusting folks like you and me flattering invitations. They have no clue if we’re actually respected in our fields or clones of a tree stump.

Believe me, these “Bestowers of Great Honors” are strictly out to make a buck.

Smart Demosthenes – remember him? – lived a long, long time ago in Greece. Even way back then there must have been scammers ‘cause Old Demo is said to have declared that “a man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true.”

Not sure if your Who’s Who offer is for real? If the invitation comes through your college, university or professional organization, go for it. It’s legitimate and definitely an honor. You’ve been nominated by smart people who respect you and consider you deserving – not by some mole who’s trolling the Net or the phone book.

If the invitation comes via E-mail, if your name is spelled incorrectly, or if your envelope is addressed to “Inhabitant,” pinch yourself really hard and admit that, although you ARE special, you’re not special to them.

I gave up my chance. I will not be included in the new edition of Cheatmore Who’s Who . . .  but I’m also positive they’ll hit me again later.

Their marketing folks probably think they simply haven’t offered me the proper category, like Who’s Who of American Chocolate Lovers or Who’s Who of American Grandmothers With Gel Nails . . . and, especially appropriate, Who’s Who of American Suckers.

I don’t know. I’m kind of like Groucho Marx, who joked: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” Clever man, that one . . . and he didn’t need a flim flam “Whosie” book to prove it.

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