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The Humor Column

Welcome to Florida, You Gullible Suckers!

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They say that over 1,000 people move here to the great state of Florida every single day, and really, who could blame them?!  Sun, fun, and a distinct lack of devices designed specifically for the moving of snow from one place to another … trust me, once you’ve spent 15 hours a week dedicated purely to just moving snow out of your way, the arguments against relocating to a state that instead has the word “sunshine” built right into the official slogan tend to become few and far between…

I should know – it was just about seven years ago that I made that very same transition from winter wonderland to heat wave heaven myself and really, despite those random sleepless nights when I just yearn for snowplows and my favorite shovel, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Of course, I suppose if there was but one problem to be highlighted when we talk about the notion of moving south to a state with far fewer snow-related anythings, it’s simply that nobody ever tells us northern transplants really what to expect when we get here from our frozen tundra counterparts where snowmen and polar bears and winter jackets are commonplace!  There’s no book to read, or even just a pamphlet to flip through while enjoying your complimentary glass of orange juice on your way past the welcome center once you enter the Sunshine State – nothing to tell you which sides of the street the elderly drive their golf carts on (hint: all of them), or which seasons to expect the largest influx of tourists (again: all of them), or even simply that alligators do, in fact, live in places other than the Everglades!

Nope, instead us newbies are simply expected to just figure it out for ourselves, just like our predecessors did before us, and theirs before them, which might work in some cases – I mean, sure, giant lizards munching on your rhododendrons might be a bit of a surprise the first time around, but if you ask me, a little unexpected gator with your morning paper is nothing compared to an even more vicious predator that also happens to be native to our State of Florida as well.  Frankly, now that I stop and think about it, I’m not even entirely sure that anything could help to prepare a Florida newcomer to the dangers that stem from these vile, blood-thirsty savages, but in reality, I suppose that anything to raise general awareness helps when we’re talking about the wildly aggressive, trained killer that is … the Florida Telemarketer, or Obnoxious Scam-Artius.

Preying on unsuspecting, new residents to the Sunshine State by tricking them into thinking that they’ve instantly won free cruises or amazing timeshare opportunities that they simply won’t find anywhere else, these slimy scavengers feed off of a gullibility that is actually quite common in those who have recently packed up their lives and made such a pilgrimage in search of a warmer climate.  Armed with the suggestion that one really can get something for nothing, they pounce on the exhausted and offer bargains that would in practice put cruise lines and timeshares out of business, if not for all of the hidden fees and vacation surcharges that lurk within the depths of the fine print, that is…

It was but only a couple of weeks ago that I found something in the mail that served as a pleasant reminder of the first, and thankfully only time that I, myself, got sucked into the hype by these relentless profiteers shortly after I moved to Florida back in 2003.  It had all started with finding an exciting message on my answering machine about winning a free cruise to The Bahamas, and eventually ended with the disappointed realization that $400 in “fees” was just a tad bit “expensive” for what the fine folks at Cheap Ass Travel Unlimited were calling a “free cruise!” Luckily, I think I only got about $75 into the “deposits” before the something fishy’s going on here-alarm went off and I stopped returning the extraordinarily urgent phone calls left by my official Cheap Ass Travel Agent asking that I pay off my remaining “fees” and “secure my free vacation today.” Eventually, the calls stopped and I was left to mourn the loss of my $75 in peace, but if anything, at least a lesson was learned from that experience.

On the upside, it was after that vacation-related scamming I knew that I had officially became a bona fide Florida resident … well, it was either then or that day when I had to wrestle a gator out of the only free parking space left at my apartment complex – both were pretty memorable in my book, although whereas I still like to consider myself on speaking terms with that alligator, I’m not so sure that I’d say the same for Craig V. with Cheap Ass Travel.  But despite my finally catching on to his shenanigans $75 into the scam, clearly good, old Cheap Ass is still doing ok with roping in the unsuspecting or I wouldn’t have received another fantastic offer in my mailbox just last week…

The thing is this, folks – while we may never be able to stand up against giant lizards or even the elderly in all of their 15mph glory, we can band together to put a stop to telemarketing scams right here and now by discouraging gullibility amongst our friends and family, especially if they’ve got Jimmy Buffett on the brain and have been talking about heading on down south on a permanent basis.  Seriously, feel free to just smack them right upside the head if that’s what it takes – for the amount that you’ll eventually save them in port fees and docking surcharges and cruising taxes, they’ll be thanking you when their vision finally returns to normal!

Remember, friends don’t let friends think that they’re getting 4-days and 3-nights in The Bahamas for free…