I suppose this could also be about taking in a child or a stray animal... But it's not.
No, this post isn't about anything quite so enjoyable.
It's about this letter* I received in the mail yesterday, accompanied by a $997.70 check from a hospital's account, drawn on a Wachovia Bank in Virginia:
Melrose Markerting Inc.
465 Edgar Ave
Phone: 1 905-598-0206
DATE: July 29, 2011
SWEEPSTAKES CLAIM NOTIFICATION
We have made unsuccessful attempts to contact you regarding your Consumer Rewards Program winning.
In accordance with the Consumer Rewards Program Commission Policy, your prize award money has been forwarded to our clearing / disbursement institution to release your funds to you.
Your lump sum payout is US $9,600.00(NINE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS) CONGRATULATIONS!
Kindly contact Claims Agent Kelly Evans at 1-905-598-0206 as soon as you receive this notice for further instructions on how to claim your grand winning.
We have enclosed a check in the letter. Per your state regulations, you will be required to pay a tax and processing fee before your lump sum winning can be sent to you. Payment will be made directly to your tax agent. You will also need to fax you tax payment receipt to the fax number above.
HOURS: MONDAY TO FRIDAY FROM 9AM TO 6PM
A word of explanation. Okay, several words. First: I am almost relentlessly pragmatic. My dreams, and I do have many, are quite attainable, mostly rather practical. (Some people might say, "Boring." Doesn't bother me a bit.) Second: My days of being dazzled by get-rich-quick and MLM ventures (a.k.a. pyramid schemes) are long over. I admit to some particularly poor choices in that arena when I was in my early twenties. Third: I really don't believe in "something for nothing".
That said... I was momentarily taken in. Sure, I was skeptical, but I have given in the to occasional online or phone survey that offers entry into a sweepstakes just for participating, so there was a possibility, albeit a very slight one, that this could be legit. My husband and I Googled every part of the company name, address, people named in the letter, "Consumer Rewards Programs", etc. and found nothing at all - certainly nothing that screamed, "SCAM!"
Then I did the next logical thing that occurred to me: I picked up the phone and called the number. The woman who answered identified herself Kelly Evans. I asked her a few questions about the process, told her I didn't recall having entered any particular contest. She said she could answer my questions, that I wouldn't have to make the tax payment until I filed my 2011 taxes, but that they send the first check of approximately 10% so that there's a kind of proof that you have enough to cover the taxes when they do come due and to verify that the winners have been informed of the taxes on the winnings. (Or something along those lines... It's late and there's a 7-year-old babbling at me just now...)
So I allowed myself some uncharacteristic daydreaming. (Note: I do daydream, frequently, but usually about fiction stories I'm writing.) What could I do - what WOULD I do - with $8,600 (approximate post-tax winnings).
I would pay off the majority of my credit card debt - enough so that I could pay off the remainder by the end of the year. I would pay for my car tags (which are due in a few weeks). I would pre-pay our car insurance for the next six months. I would give my mom a little extra to help cover expenses when she comes to visit next weekend. I would take some extra with me to visit my family up north when I go in a couple weeks.
See? Practical and pragmatic and responsible. Alright, you caught me, there was one final purchase on the list: a new yoga mat from Manduka. Specifically, The Goods Package:
|I'll take mine in Electric Midnight Thunder, please.|
So it was with some trepidation that I took the check to the bank today. With that much thought invested in it, a part of me had already formed an attachment to the idea. I didn't have a clue about any of this before yesterday afternoon, yet by today at lunchtime, it seemed almost "mine".
Then the bad news... Apparently, it's a common fraudulent scheme. You cash the check, you make the tax payment, you never get the remainder of the "winnings". And I experienced disappointment. Mixed with a tinge of embarrassment because the girls behind the counter immediately made those, "Oh, we've seen this before, it's fake" replies to my inquiry about the check, along with the unspoken, "Really, you must've known all along that this was too good to be true."
Yeah, I guess I did. But I'd let myself hope all the same.
It's probably a good, serendipitous thing that I've been re-listening to the podcasts that Oprah did with author Eckhart Tolle a few years ago as a read-along of his book, A New Earth. There is a lot of explanation about forms and attachment to forms and emotions of pain or sadness that can arise when you lose a form to which you have formed an attachment. This check and the promise of winning this money had become my big moment of change, my turning point where I finally have all (or at least most) of my ducks in a row, and can move on to the "bigger and better" parts of my life.
Sweetheart, it ain't gonna be quite that easy. It will take time and effort and there is satisfaction to be had in that thought and those actions. I staved off the tears with some conscious breathing, allowed myself to feel taken in without pointing an angry finger at "those people who did this to me". I was grateful that I'd thought to take the letter with me to the bank so that they can follow it up and maybe catch the perpetrators. I was also grateful that I didn't blindly deposit the check, use the money then find out later that I would have to repay it. That would've been far worse than losing it before I'd really gotten it.
My credit cards will wait for me to pay them off in my own plodding time. I will come up with the car tag money from somewhere. I will pay the car insurance monthly if need be. I will cook for my mom when she visits, fill her tank up before she departs if I can. I will take whatever money I am able with me on my visit up north.
And I accept that I will get The Goods when the time is right for them to be part of my life.
*I did my best to recreate the letter faithfully, including the misspellings. I was going to scan it, but my scanner is being crabby... If it turns out that this is NOT a scheme, I will remove this post altogether so that I cannot be sued for libel or slander or defamation or whatever.