Read it and weep

I just got a glossy magazine in the mail today, a magazine to which I do not subscribe. It’s full of expensive color photographs and interesting stories. Like “Why Bother to Fill Out an Insurance Claim When It’s Faster and Cheaper to Pay for Repairs Yourself?” and “You Might as Well Settle Instead of Hiring an Expensive Lawyer.” The magazine is from my insurance company. It contains other “must reads” such as “Insurance Fraud: How to Turn In Your Neighbors!” and this investigative gem, “Insurance: A Bargain or Just Good Deal?”

It is too bad about insurance fraud. It must cost my insurance company a lot of money. Almost as much as it must cost them to produce and mail this stupid magazine that I just put in the recycling bin. There could only be one story in it that I’d ever be likely to read and that would be “We’re Killing This Magazine So We Can Lower Your Monthly Bill.”

Of course, I don’t just get magazines no one needs or asked for from just my insurance company. I get magazines from my stock broker, my banker, my big box store, my credit card companies, my church, my auto dealer, my charities, my internet provider, my PBS station, my union, a couple of museums, a few antique malls, the Chamber of Commerce and a winery. There are more, but I’d need a magazine to list them all.

When do these people think I’m going to do all this reading?

“Honey, let’s skip “CSI” tonight, I want to catch up on all the new cell phone plans in “Cellibate,” the new magazine from our cell phone company. Look, they’ve got a whole page of pictures of stars who use cell phones. We may not have their looks or talent, but we can sure buy the same expensive cell phones as the stars! Let’s throw out our old ones and get new phones today!”

“Look at this - ‘Exciting New News About Their New Calling Plans.’ That new John Grisham best seller will just have to wait. How often do you get a chance to read something like this? With their new plan, all calls from North Dakota to Quebec are absolutely free! After midnight. Every other Thursday.”

The magazine from my union is a page-turner, too. Who knew that Bob Gnustelrode from the Detroit shop would be elected treasurer? Accompanying the story of Bob Gnustelrode is a color photograph by a professional photographer. How much did that cost? Bob, like most of us, would look better in black and white. His comb-over would not look so obvious, his liver spots less frightening. But at least you can’t say they do nothing with our union dues, they print a magazine. If only I were in the printer’s union, this might make some kind of sense.

My big box store’s magazine “Cheaper by the Pallet” is heavy on cruise deals and vacation packages. Are the same people who are trying to save 13 cents by buying a pallet of Pampers the same people who are taking cruises to Alaska? Even if it’s a bargain? Maybe. If they hadn’t taken the Alaskan Romance Cruise, they might not have needed all those Pampers.

It also runs handy and exciting feature stories like “Fork Lifter of the Month” and “Fewer Customers Crushed by Falling Merchandise in December.”

The magazine my auto dealer sends me assures me that 60 percent of the car I purchased was made in this country -- by immigrants. I just wish the horn didn’t play the Japanese national anthem.

Actually, I think I read somewhere that they were changing that. There was a story about it in the magazine I get from my stockbroker. In a piece called “Forget All That Advice We Gave You Last Month.”

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2006, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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