Every year our town has a carnival downtown for the Fourth. It's a cheezy little affair as one might expect for a small rural town, and for many years now I've actively avoided it after being disappointed every time I've been coerced into going.
Along with the rides, expensive stale popcorn and fatty food booths is the "Arts and Crafts" fair. While there are some actual artists showing their own work, the majority are rubber tomahawk booths, selling third world garbage products to make a quick buck. Since I have more than my share of cheap crap already, I typically avoid the fair as well, but this year my wife insisted we go.
Yep, pretty much the same stuff all over again, very little new art to peruse, and since I've been underemployed anyway...it's not like I was in a buyer's mood. One booth had a "magnetic" effect on my wife...and sucked her right in. The booth sells "magnet therapy" items, advertising cures for an amazing list of ailments that their product has "proven" to address. Rolling my eyes at her even listening to their drivel, I waited as impatiently as I could in the hopes she'd walk away. She didn't.
Something rose up in me and I started telling my kids about the new age girlfriends my natural father had when I was growing up...and how utterly full of crap they were. I saw it all: reading auras, EST, extreme health foods, crystals, herbs, gurus...just a huge laundry list of all the stuff pawned off on an unsuspecting and gullible public, many of the products advertised on the back of comic books and women's magazines, with no actual science behind any of it.
Sure, I believe that if the individual believes something has "healing powers" that the mind has an incredible psychosomatic effect. If you feel you'll feel better, you'll feel better, but at some point this self-dishonesty has to dawn on you...or maybe not. Maybe it's just me and my cynical nature. I listened to more of their spiel and they said their products were "guaranteed". Guaranteed for what? Oh, for 30 days. Real valuable considering they'll be packing up in a few hours and rolling on to the next town.
I started thinking about their business model as it were, being set up in a carny atmosphere...and it started making more sense. Buy "magnetite" bracelets for a buck made in some third world country for pennies, mark them up to $35 (Yes, that's not a typo), and even if the vast majority of customers find out you're more full of it than an overdue septic tank and return them, you'll still turn a tidy profit at a 1500% margin on the remainder. Shrewd business, but still based upon a lie.
The more I stood there, the more incensed I got at being lied to. Had they just advertised them as pretty bracelets with no "mystical healing properties" I'd have been fine. In the end I backed off before shouting at them and just stood there, though it was apparent to me they saw right through me as a "doubter". They didn't try to pitch me at all. I satisfied myself in the end with being silent, not because they didn't deserve someone exposing them for the crude charlatans they no doubt were, but because my wife bought a pretty, albeit inert bracelet...and she deserves pretty things, not my cynical and pragmatic diatribes calling what is crap, crap. I'd rather her feel better for whatever reasons she chooses.
Thanks, I feel all better now.