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What You Won't Be Reading In LA Times Magazine
aka West, is my piece on telemarketers; or rather, how, when a telemarketer calls, I find out the honcho of the company, track them down, call them at home, chew them out, and then invoice them for hijacking my time and my phone line...and get them to pay!

Bottom Line Personal publishing's Martin Edelston (a real mensch) not only sent me a check, he apologized for telemarketing and said they'd stop, thanks to my intervention.

The point of that piece, and others like it, is excerpted below:

Yes, I’m that rare person demanding accountability in a society that’s increasingly unaccountable. When people hear how I stand up to these time embezzlers, it suddenly occurs to them that they can say no as well -- and with more than a docile “no, thank you” and a clattering of the phone receiver into its cradle. Sure, simply hanging up is one way out of a telemarketing call, but guess what: Life is short. I don’t want to spend mine jumping up from dinner, knocking over my wine, and coming when I’m called by the recorded voice of some golden-parachuted freeloader.

“What’s the big deal?” some people ask. “Why sweat the small stuff”? Well, because “the small stuff” is part and parcel of the big stuff. Corporate executives like Edelston, who’ve affirmed that it’s wrong to steal from consumers, even on the smallest scale, are unlikely to be behind the next Enron. When I shoot back with “My dinner isn’t just something I eat while I’m waiting for your telemarketers to call,” what I’m really doing is warning them, “Don’t even think of pulling a Ken Lay on us.”

My motto: If you can’t beat ‘em, annoy the crap out of ‘em, then bill ‘em for your time.

I pitched this -- as part of a series or as a single article on the disintegration of public manners, and how I try to prank the corporate and regular Joe rudesters into better behavior -- to Rick Wartzman, editor of West. He (very politely, and in a very timely manner, I must say) turned me down. Apparently, a story of one woman getting revenge on telemarketers is of zero interest to LA Times readers!

Nope, the only people in LA who'll publish my features pieces are those at Hustler. They're very nice to me, and were quite thrilled to have my piece piece on pranking telemarketers. It's in the issue that started selling on newsstands yesterday (Friday, September 15). Kate Coe blogs about it here, at MediaBistro's Fishbowl/LA. Here's the excerpt from her blog item (thanks for saying I look like a "Va-Voom girl" and write like a demon!):

The Advice Goddess, aka Amy Alkon, looks like a Va-Voom girl and writes like a demon. She exposes her inner consumer-affairs advocate in the current Hustler. (Not in the way you think, perv.) She takes on telemarketers, and basically, grinds their bones to make her bread. When disturbed at home by a pre-recorded message from some giganto food warehouse drone, she tracks the perp down--at his home. Here's the exchange:

"Hello, Mrs. Snee?" I guessed. "This is Amy Alkon. I'm looking for Tim Snee -- the Tim Snee who's a V.P. at Smart & Final." She said he was her husband.

"Well, your husband called me at home, and I don't like that." I said.

Silence.

"I got this recorded message from your husband..." I continued.

Now, the lady got it. Sounding peeved, she explained that he was just letting people know they were working to correct the shelf-restocking problem.

Yeah, so I'd heard. "Guess what?" I snapped. "I don't work for Smart & Final or Tim Snee, and I resent getting calls from him at home. How do you like being bothered at home by some irritating stranger?"

Now what LA Times reader could possibly be interested in reading such a thing?

P.S. And no, they won't be picking up that piece of crap column of mine either. I'm at the features editors' conference in Ft. Worth, and Sherry Stern, the LAT editor who picks syndicated content, couldn't have made that more clear. (She's the one who sent me a letter a while ago telling me to never send them anything again because they're "not seeking new writers. We're content with the writers we have.")

I think they're still just mad (as the wonderful editor of my LA Times Mag stolen Rambler piece, Bob Sipchen, told me) about the line I wrote about my titties:

My search fruitless, I decided to head home, after dropping in at the Hollywood police station.

BEING A GIRL, I find in-person visits in such situations to be quite helpful. ("Hi, I have big breasts, will you find my car?")

After my Rambler piece was published, he told me that women at the paper had said something along the lines of "It'll be a long time before her breasts are in the paper again!"

Yeah, who cares whether readers want to see her column (they occasionally e-mail me the requests they sent to LA Times' head features honcho John Montorio and the "not interested" replies he sends back), if she's the kind of girl who dares to make cracks about her own boobs! Here's one of the letters to Montorio:

Dear John:

I was in Marin county recently visiting my family and read another of Amy Alkon’s wonderful columns in the local weekly the Pacific Sun.

Sir, is there a reason why Advice Amy is not in the LA Times? Not only is she highly entertaining (more so than most columnists in any paper, the LA Times included), but really she is an extremely creative humorist and artist of the 1st degree. There is no one like her. There is no one capable of putting the lost, confused or simply clueless in their place with as much wild, unpredictable, thoroughly original, whipsmart vim and vigor. As I read her and laugh I am also amazed by the prowess of her consistently fertile imagination. It’s a wonder.

Her satisfying responses would be an asset to the Times and would, I am sure, be treasured by thousands of its readers. And no, I am not her agent.

Thank you

M.G. (I'm not putting his full name in since I didn't have time to ask permission to use his e-mail)

Posted by aalkon at September 16, 2006 11:46 AM

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Tracked on September 17, 2006 5:53 AM

Comments

" pitched this -- as part of a series or as a single article on the disintegration of public manners, and how I try to prank the corporate and regular Joe rudesters into better behavior --"

How 'bout a TV show? Like Michael Moore or that "30 Days" guy - but better researched and funnier.

Posted by: snakeman99 at September 16, 2006 7:57 AM

Video podcast, like Diggnation or Bloggingheads. You and Lyt. Sometimes we can see Gregg towering (silently) in the background.

Posted by: Crid at September 16, 2006 9:06 AM

I'd LOVE to do a show like that! Unfortunately, people in TV don't know I exist because I don't run in the LA Times. Recently, somebody brought me in for a show -- after they happened to be in Ventura and saw my column in the Ventura County Reporter.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 16, 2006 9:11 AM

Also....

> a story of one woman getting
> revenge on telemarketers is of
> zero interest to LA Times readers!

Years ago Seipp wrote in Buzz how a consumer awareness piece on buying cars had enraged the auto dealers who buy ads in the Times. The writer was harshly admonished, and they vowed to never again publish so useful a piece. And they never have. But I had that article in my shirt pocket when buying the old MX-6 and saved thousands. Wish they'd done that when I bought the house.

In general, I think the people who run the Times are drunk with fantasies about speaking truth to power, but they'd rather cut off their own fingers than hurt the feelings of another human being in any context.

Posted by: Crid at September 16, 2006 9:17 AM

So this gay guy is going to pick up a Hustler mag so i can read your article. What is the world coming to?!

Posted by: Darry at September 16, 2006 9:19 AM

That warms the cockles of my tiny lump of coal heart.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 16, 2006 9:28 AM

Do you really think that with all the buyouts and retirements and staff upheavel at the L.A. Times in recent years that anyone there even remembers your Rambler piece, or remotely cares that you mentioned your breasts?

Maybe they just don't like your column, finding your answers too wordy or not funny enough (no accounting for taste) or. . . Maybe they thought your query wasn't interesting, or that your constant need for revenge is odd rather than insightful. Whatever, there are literally hundreds of freelancers, if not thousands, across L.A. who feel exactly as you do -- entitled to publication in their hometown paper.

And surely there is someplace between the Times and Hustler that would have published your article, if you'd wanted to do the work of sending it out to other newspapers or magazines. That's the freelance life, after all. To constantly carp that the locals aren't recognizing your magnificence doesn't accomplish anything, which is, I imagine, what you'd tell someone who wrote in with a similar problem.

Posted by: xxx at September 16, 2006 9:48 AM

If my writing can inspire a gay guy to buy Hustler it can't suck all that much, now can it?

Hustler published it because they asked me to lunch and heard about it, and they asked me to write it for them, and were happy to have it in their magazine.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 16, 2006 9:58 AM

She doesn't carp constantly, she only carps consistently. It's her blog. Besides, if you read both Amy and the LAT a lot, you too will get the sense that an opportunity is being missed. Read their columnists; they really go for a bloodless, colorless approach to things down there. This week we had another report that Chicago is Displeased and Witholding, so it might be time for them to take a risk.

Posted by: Crid at September 16, 2006 10:01 AM

"withholding," 2 h's, sorry Lena.

Posted by: Crid at September 16, 2006 10:03 AM

Audio recording of Amy on the phone with an evil telemarketer.

http://crazytelemarketer.ytmnd.com/

This is you, right?

Posted by: Matt at September 16, 2006 11:10 AM

I thought it was me for a moment, but it turns out I still have my appendix.

And to xxx above, who doesn't have the guts to put a name on her post, I love the contention that I'm just too lazy to send stuff out. Right now, I'm in Ft. Worth, Texas, where I spent four days literally chasing features editors through a hotel to beg them to look at my work. My column runs in over 100 papers. Most of those I got into myself when nobody would syndicate me. Even though I'm now syndicated by Creators, I still sell my own work. I just got myself into a big paper in Florida, in fact. Let's just say, on the laziness about pitching scale, I'm the poster child for breaking freelance ass.

In fact, John Carroll, former editor of the LA Times, told me that's why some features editors at the LAT were annoyed with me...get this...because I pitched them too frequently! ("Too frequently being sending them about four mailings a year, just like all the rest of the papers.) My old editor at the NY Daily News used to get stuff she didn't want all the time. She just pitched it in the trash can. She didn't annoyed at the writers.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 16, 2006 11:19 AM

Who reads the LA Times anymore?

Posted by: snakeman99 at September 16, 2006 1:08 PM

is there a reason why Advice Amy is not in the LA Times?

That line might have confused someone, as they do have a columnist called Advice Amy. Just not the interesting one.

Posted by: LYT at September 16, 2006 1:29 PM

The Times publishes an "Amy" who's based in Chicago. They love out-of-towners down on Spring Street. Maybe Amy Alkon should just have somebody send 'em her stuff with a New York City postmark.

Meanwhile, I'd like to hear more about the circumstances under which Hustler invited Amy to lunch; where they ate; etc.

Posted by: Todd Everett at September 16, 2006 4:27 PM

Thanks for the link. XXX--never underestimate the grudges that editors hold. IF they've managed to hang on at the LAT, they can carry a grievence into the grave.

Posted by: KateCoe at September 16, 2006 6:19 PM

Imagine four drunk gay guys in a very straight adult book store buying a Hustler. I'm sure we were quite a spectacle. Amy's article is well worth the effort and is sandwiched nicely between some girl-on-girl action and one of the raunchiest comics I've ever seen. You're heard it before but this time it's the truth: "I only bought it for the articles".

Posted by: Darry at September 17, 2006 8:06 AM

I'm completely honored. And I wish I'd been there!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 17, 2006 8:37 AM

That recorded phone conversation is no Amy...

i don't think Amy would actually speak like that to someone right off the bat. Plus, the words used and vocabulary are very un-Amy-like in my opinion....and the recorded person obviously smokes 2 packs a day....

Posted by: Rob at September 18, 2006 6:53 AM

I think you should be polite to the minimum wage person on the phone who'd surely be a newscaster if they could, but go after the honcho who ordered the telemarketing with all teeth bared.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 18, 2006 6:56 AM

I'm not so sure about cutting the telemarketers slack. I've been unemployed before, wondering what meaningless job to take for the next 6 months or so. But, you have to know that particular job is wrong, don't take it. Sell outs.

I hold the soldiers in this war accountable, on both sides. I hold the same contempt for any a-hole who actually buys anything a telemarketer or spam emailer sells. (full disclosure- I did make a donation to my state troopers after they interupted my after work beer, but only because I'm scared of them.)

Posted by: smurfy at September 18, 2006 11:39 AM

I have been throuhg alout of bad relationships, and I like this guy that put me through one of those relationships. He dumped me and yet I still have feelings for him, he is now dating this one other chick. What should I do?

Posted by: Tabbitha Sibrel at September 30, 2006 8:36 PM

Tabitha, I answer questions by e-mail, not in random comments postings on my site. If you'd like a response, e-mail me at adviceamy@aol.com.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 30, 2006 10:43 PM

Posted by: Armenia at January 29, 2007 6:56 AM

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