Stivey Bell (The real life adventures of a marketing spammer)
This guy in my office has it in for me and my assistant, Lizzy, and I can’t do a damn thing about it. He just walked into our two-man office, pointed a gun at my Liz and started screaming. Fuck, not Lizzy, she’s just a kid for Christ sake. Lizzy is my part time college student cute as a button, and about as big as one too, that answers phones, does a little data entry, keeps my files straight, convinces me to eat and tells me to go take a bath every once in a while. You know—the caring type; nothing like me.
So, when this guys comes in and points a pawn shop special at my Liz, you bet your internet jockey that I’m not going to let her get shot. Besides, I’m the one who parses the sites, collects the data and then blasts out tons of “service announcements” for my clients.
The guy yelling at Lizzy has got this checked-out thousand yard stare and I know he isn’t all there. “Take me off your fucking list.” He screams.
Liz just stammers, giving me to the chance to shine at jerkdom. I walk in between Liz and the gun, “What’s your email?”
Standard question really, but the guy blinks at me like I’ve spoken Taiwanese. So, I repeat, but this time with a bit of that retard inflection, “To remove you, I need your email.” I use my hands to accentuate my sign language slow speak, just in case he doesn’t get it.
Now, I can tell when I’ve crossed the line and pissed someone off to the point of no return, so I was expecting to get a bullet to the chest at that very moment. Fortunately, for me, being a jerk has taught me that I need to be able to defend myself when my inner asshole comes out. Okay, you caught me, I really don’t have an inner asshole I’m just an all-around American asshole. But, I’ve had cannibal training and I know just what to do in that precious three seconds of uncertainty while Mr. Pawnshop special flabbergasts.
There is a reason why police keep twenty-one feet of distance away from a perpetrator. For every three seconds, there is a chance that a person with a knife, can close the span of twenty-one feet, and slit your throat before you can get a shot off. Notice I say – a chance – so you have to weigh the options. He’s got an inexpensive, hard to aim snubby. That either means, his aim is fantastic, because aiming a short barrel gun takes practice, or, he went to his closest friendly pawn shop and plunked down a bill for a cheap revolver and some bullets.
Side-note, boy are those gun people nice. A polite society is an armed society. Maybe, I’ll get lucky and he bought the wrong bullets. Maybe he’s like me and has that luck of the Irish.
His face contorts to rage and I dash forward, grab his hand, the one with the gun, and do as my sensei taught me. Did you know revolvers are loud? When you’re that close to point of impact you can feel the blast of the powder too. Lovely. Now I have a hole in my shoulder. Instant shock. Good thing, cause I wasn’t done. I dropped the guy, face to floor, and cuffed him. No, I’m not a cop, never was a cop, never will be bacon, cuffs just go well with coffee. Okay, you caught me girls are easier to catch when they’re shackled. That came out wrong. I mean…Christ, think what you want, I’m just gonna stop there. In my defense I’ll admit I’m an asshole but I’m not a rapist.
Through the buzzing in my head I can hear Lizzy’s muffled voice screaming, “Oh my God! You’re shot.” Regular Nancy Drew, my hero. I sit up against the wall, gun in hand, “Liz?”
“Oh my God! The ambulance is on its way, cops too.”
How much louder can she get? I’m glad she’s not the one that got shot, she already sounds like a wailing hippo. Not that she’s a hippo. Let me take foot-out-of-mouth. Liz is beautiful, in a popsicle stick sort-of-way. Too thin for me, I’d break her. Too young for me, I could be her father. Way too astute, I like ‘em with no self-esteem and dumb. How else is a jerk like me to get laid? I already have to chain them to a bed before they change their minds.
Liz gives me those puppy pout eyes and applies pressure to my bleeding wound. Oh yeah, people need that red stuff. It hurts, that might mean the shock is wearing off. Can you say Vicodin? I wonder if my Canadian Viagra selling client can get me some triple “C”. Thing about my clients is, at least they sell something. There’s a lot of people out there “selling” nothing for money. With me, you get something. It’s called information.
“Hey buddy,” I glanced over at Mr. Pawnshop. “You know if you’d just give me your email, I could have granted you your dying desire. Why the fuck did you have to threaten my assistant?”
Crap. The guy was sobbing. Not crying, not “shedding a tear”, all out bawling. “I’m sorry.” Was all he repeated.
Liz, bless her, took a tissue and dabbed at his face. Precious. I would have taken her daft (or is it def? Sick? Whatever) stiletto half boot and shoved it in his eye. The whole shoe, not just the spiky part. While she was helping him blow his nose, he was blathering about his failing company. Something about the recession and losing everything. Must not have bought one of my lists. Oh well, can’t convert everyone to email marketing.
Hey look, the cops arrived. Just in time before I throw-up on the guy and his sob story. An eon later, after my shoulder got probed and bandage I had the super-fun job of paperwork. When the police asked me if I wanted to press charges, I only smelled opportunity. “Hey buddy, you say your company is in the crapper? What do you sell?”
“I’m a finance broker.”
Should have known. Those wall-street watchers might have well been on the top of a building on fire when the mortgage business “equalized”. Suicide rate is as bad as dentists. No, I’m not kidding, think about it. Dentists cause excruciating pain, and hygienists are people too. Watching patients suffer everyday and knowing you’re the root of it—ha! Root of it I made a funny! makes a sane person depressed, irritable and one of the top professions destined for harry-carry unless you’re a complete sadist. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Only a skuz-bucket would make fun of something that depressing.
“Tell you what...” I gave him the chin flip. “You buy a premier list, and you won’t be charged with assault, battery, and attempted murder. How does that sound?”
He definitely looked like the “I never buy lists” type. “How much?”
“Three grand.” Damn cheap if you ask me.
He didn’t seem to agree, “Three thousand dollars? For what? A few names?”
“No, no.” Oh ye of little faith. “First name, last name, company name, address, phone, email and we have a one-hundred percent guarantee.” Do I sound like a used car salesmen yet?
And he gives me the disgusted look. That look is why I omit the first word of email marketing when I talk to the ladies. Don’t sneer at me. Email marketing is marketing. It pays for my benzo and three bedroom two and a half bath house in Woodland Hills. Surprised? Yeah, now you’re interested aren’t ya. All paid for, and no, I didn’t get an inheritance.
“Fine.” He said it like it was a bad thing.
“You give me your credit card and criteria and I’ll have you thirty thousand records in five to seven business days.”
Oh, the jaw drop. Ladies and gentlemen, a convert. “Thirty thousand?”
“Trust me, there will be two or three passes, because of the guarantee, but I’ll replace any bad records you provide. You guys are dropping like flies, and I don’t mean just from your job.” Life weeds out the weak.
I thought I was an A-hole. This guy shot me and he doesn’t even know my name? “Stivey Bell. List All, LLC. Tell me something Mr. Snubby, where you really going to shoot Lizzy because you can’t call and request a remove?”
No, I will not feel sorry for this git who was going to commit the ultimate crime, no matter how far his head sinks down. No matter how many apologies he makes.
“I’m sorry,” He eyes glazed over. Not the sign of a stable man.
Oh come-on, he’s going to cry again? “What ever, Mr. Snub, tell it to Lizzy. Now that my left arm is non-functioning she’s the one that’s going to have to help me type.” Yeah, I’m a south paw. Burn me at the stake.
So, first thing I did was go home and crash. God, I hope Liz is okay. I like to live vicariously through her. Clean slate, plays it safe, sweet and endearing—my alter ego. No not really. She’s a straight “A” student. I’m grade “A” scum-bag, and I’m lucky to have her.
Man, the sense of relief when I saw my assistant behind the front desk was better than jizzing in my pants. Not that I’ve ever pre-maturely ejaculated, ever. Much. Often. My bright and shining star was beaming at me. It was even better when she swung around the desk and gave me a hug. Wow, how can a hug feel so good, and hurt so bad?
“Ouch, Liz, I love you but my shoulder has a hole in it.”
She looked up at me with adoring eyes, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Coffee? Will that make it better?”
“Oh baby, marry me?” No, really, when she wears those stiletto boots, a guy just can’t help but think how more shapely her legs can get naked—don't judge, I’m a guy. Every seven seconds. Sipping hot, sweet nectar of the Gods, I remembered the blasts I was supposed to get out yesterday. Crap, Susan is going to be pissed.
“Ah, Liz, has anyone from One Source called?” I cringed, my clients are tough cookies. They don’t even crumble with milk. You have to dip them in a vat of boiling oil to get them to soften up. I reckon people that make cold calls often have to be like turtles. Ugly from the inside out.
Liz smiled, “Oh, don’t worry. I called Susan, she didn’t believe me at first, but I faxed her the police report. The blast is running now, figured you want it sent out, even if it is on your server.”
From the words of my hero and bratty black helmet wearing asshole badass, I mimicked, “Most impressive,” unless you’re a Star Wars freak, you wouldn’t know the line. I’ll just leave it for you to ponder. I’m a jerk like that. “So, Liz, how’s it feel to send out your first blast?”
I get the exaggerated roll-of-the-eyes a lot. It doesn’t affect me. “It wasn’t too hard to press enter, boss.”
“Ha-soooooo, padawan, you turn to the dark side, want a cookie?”
Ah, the blanch. Good, I was starting to get uncomfortable with the adoration. “Seriously, what would I do without you?”
Wow, girls don’t blush around me. I usually get slapped. That’s what happens when your best line is—so, do you suck and swallow or am I dealing with a Jesus freak? Yeah, can’t let you forget, I’m an “A” hole, during this interlude. “So, how-you-do ‘in?”
“I’m fine.” Accompanied with not looking in my eyes.
Oh we all know what the “f” word means. “Look, Liz, if you need a break, or time off or something, I’m not going to say no. What that guy did was very uncouth even for my standards and I don’t want you freaking out because the door opens.”
“No, I’m fine. Really, if it wasn’t for you—“
“You’d have a better job, one that didn’t require hazard pay?”
At that she smiled. She’s got a great smile with like, all her teeth and everything.
“I’ve been thinking, I couldn’t run this place without you, so I’m giving you a raise.”
Again with the hug, wow two in the same year? Does this knock me off “A” hole status to just jerk? “Oh, and we have a new client.”
“Roger from Financial course.”
“The same guy that tried to shoot me?” Now, my sensei always tells the ladies that one of their best weapons, is their heels. And, I’m now here to tell you, it’s true. The pain I felt in my foot over-powered the constant ache in my shoulder. Go “A” team.
“I made a deal with him. He bought a premier list and I didn’t press charges.” I braced. You learn to brace when you can’t shut off your mouth. Staying quiet is too painful for me, I just gotta let it all out. Kinna like diarrhea.
But Lizzy hasn’t learned that sometimes it takes a slap to make a guy go away. We’re gluttons for punishment, if we don’t learn how to talk to ‘em flowery and crap like that. She doesn’t slap me. In silence she grabs her purse and walks out the door. If I had feelings, I’m might have cried. But, I don’t-so I sighed, and went on to “hunt and peck” on the keyboard, my daily routine.
It wasn’t until one that I really realized that I really couldn’t run the place without Lizzy. How did she do it? I forgot the password for the remove tool. Server one was still quirky from that one jerk that got into my system and wreaked havoc, the blast schedule was completely FUBAR, the call dialer had thousands of records to verify. How did Lizzy get all this done in a day? Parsing? Forget about it. I had enough to do without manually figuring it out. Thank goodness for automate. Yeah, you people that verify your email by sending a remove email, listen close to this secret. I love you. The confirmation is exactly what I’m looking for. Oh, you’ll get removed, but here’s the thing. I have seven to fourteen days to remove you. At which point I’ve removed you from all my lists, after I’ve sold your name on down the line. And the cycle keeps going, and going. You get the point. It’s a monster, like me. And right now, I’m going to need that lawful seven to fourteen days. This hunt and peck shit sucks. I’m a typist, that’s how I get all this shit done. Without Liz or my left hand, I’m screwed.
The drugs must have been kicking in, ‘cause when the door opened, I thought it was Liz coming back. I ran out of my chair to greet her and was met with Roger’s ugly mug. Oiy. The shock on my face might have been rude, but I really could give a flying pig about it.
The genius that I am had nothing to say. “Uh, hi.”
“Hello, Mr. Bell. Is your assistant here?” I think either Snuby or Mr. TIALTF will forever be his name. As in Takes-it-a-little-to-far.
“Not after you chased her off.”
“I’m sorry.” He should feel shame. She’d still be here if it weren’t for him.
“You know how to say anything else?” This guy was getting on my nerves. All he does is apologize.
“You needed me to sign a contract, and I came to apologize to your assistant.”
Okay, don’t apologize to the one who got shot. I could deal with it. Grabbing the contract from the printer I reviewed the criteria and he signed on the dotted line. He told me some pretty messed-up things.
“You know, if banks hadn’t loaned out money to people that couldn’t fork over the money for it, this would not have been such an issue.”
“I was totally against the whole junk loans thing.” He raised his arms in defense. Like that would stop me from pummeling him. “But the government forced banks to loan out that money to exactly those types of people.”
“That sounds like one of those conspiracy theories.” Can you tell I’m a bit right-wing?
“It’s true. It all started with Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae. The laws passed required a certain amount of loans to go out with criteria for under qualified buyers. You know those first time buyers loans. When people didn’t pay, the loans got bunched together and sold. They sold so many times and finally, when half the U.S. stopped paying their mortgage, it got bad.”
“Oh, so if people kept paying after the mortgage got over two-hundred and twenty percent over what they made, we’d be fine?”
“We were forced to make those loans.”
“So the government made you do it.” The bane of evil. The devil made me do it.
“Believe what you want. But, if people could afford it, they’d be paying the higher prices. People just don’t understand the amount of the loan when it’s a reasonable rate and then it balloons to three grand a month. Refinancing was supposed to help, but when they didn’t pay bills on time, the re-fi wouldn’t go through. People got stuck.”
“They got the bad end of the stick more like it. It was brokers that got people into all this mess.”
“I warned a lot of people, but the money was so good and the opportunity to have a house—but it got out of hand.”
Gone was the gravy train.
When Liz walked in I hoped beyond hope. I thought I’d never see her again. “I was going to send your last check by mail. You didn’t have to come and get it.”
She took my envelope and ripped the check in half. There’s an un-nerving feeling a guy gets when a woman can just – well, when you can’t buy a woman, she’s like a goddess you don’t want to piss off because they have you by the balls. I could feel the squish of my oysters roll into her purse. Fuck, this is going to go poorly.
“I’ll stay, but I have a few conditions.”
Yep, oysters in her pocket. “Give it to me straight.”
“First, I want eighteen and hour.”
“Done.” She left money on the table. That was easy.
“I want you to go back to the hospital to make sure your arm is healing alright.”
“I’ll tell the nurse to send you the nasty gram for dealing with me again.” I would have done that anyway. Women in uniform, aww, I should stop, I’m getting a chubby.
“And, I want you to throw that guy in jail.” She was not going to back off on this.
“He signed a contract. I’m not going back on my word.”
“I’m serious. That guy is a menace. He would have shot me. He shot you! Why aren’t you pressing charges?”
“I made a deal,” besides, I’m a professional. Professional asshole. It has a certain ring. I might change my business cards.
She was not budging on this. “There has to be another way.”
The glint in her eye tipped me off. I’ve been set up. “Then hire my cousin, Jose. He gardens and your house is messed up.”
“Jose? That’s his name?” I gave her the eyebrow lift. “Liz, you know how I feel about illegals.”
“He’s my cousin and he wants a better life.”
“Then he needs to get a green card and do it legally.”
“It’s too hard to get one.”
“That’s the point. You take it for granted because you’re an American citizen by birth but only because your family snitched a ride and jumped a Mexican dance to get here. Anchor baby.”
“You have no idea what it’s like over there.”
“Yeah it’s hard, but he needs to get educated and learn a skill.”
“You’re such a gringo.”
“One condition, he gets a green card.”
Fuck, I’m so screwed, compromising my morals. Hell I don’t have morals. I don’t have ethics. Ethics among spammers. Ha!
I haven’t been parsing for Financial guys in a while because it’s like why? They’re all dead. But really, they’ve asked and I give them a list in vain. Unless you have a very good product. Only thing is, the way the economy is right now, you’re catering to vultures. Vultures have the money and can wait. They’ve survived the times and they know how to strike, when to strike and how fast, far and how much. Facts of life. The strong survive. It’s why I’m still around.
So, getting in touch with my inner asshole, I parse sight after sight. Many of the names are bogus. So sad. Abandoned web sites forever looming on the internet with no new information. Now I could tell you exactly how I do this, but I’m not stupid. I’m not going to incriminate myself. So, I do my thing and carry on, except one company I see keeps creeping up like a vulture all his own. U.S. government. Don’t mistake it. A corporation has offices everywhere. Government has embassies in nearly every country. Even hostile ones. A corporation has a hierarchy. So does government. Corporations tend to be in business for profit. If you don’t think the Government is not in it for profit, then you need to take a harder look.
If your job counts on you being popular, being liked and going before a committee of people to keep your job, how far, or how willing would you be to brown nose those people? So, how many times have you told your boss, “Oh, yeah, I have that TPL report right here.” Up my ass. “I’ll get it to you…” as soon as I finish my chat with hot girl in cubical five. No, no, politicians aren’t like that. They have duty and honor to do the right thing for the people. I’m sure some of them do. But, just like in a corporation, they don’t get far. How many times have you told your boss what they wanted to hear and then gone and done your own thing? No, politicians aren’t human and I mean just the asshole way you think I mean.
Call me over protective, but when the door opens, I flung myself into the front office and slam into Lizzy. Ow my fucking shoulder.
First thing outta my mouth, “Are you all-right?” She’s shaken though she’s trying to hold herself up. I can see Roger standing there with a bouquet looking stupid. For me? What a nice guy.
“Yeah, I was just coming to get you. You have a client.” She said the words but they kina tumbled over each other. Poor kid. She’s terrified of this guy and I’d rather cram his face into a wall than look at him for scaring Liz.
“Actually, I came to apologize to you.” Roger said. All together now—What a nice guy.
“Yeah, thanks.” Score one for Lizzy’s inner “A-hole” maybe I’m rubbing off on her. Wait, that could be bad.
“Hey Liz, they’re yours, you can round file ‘em if you want.” Just a suggestion. I round file jury notices. Who’d want me in the sardine box anyway? Nope, never been called. A summons isn’t certified mail. I junked it? Prove it!
Lizzy takes the flowers and in an amazing show of restraint, at least in my story, she goes to our twelve tile square foot kitchen and puts them in water.
“So is this your apology for your involvement in the economic melt-down of all time or what?” I say. Sometimes, these public service announcements just come out.
“Actually, you can partially thank the government.” Roger stiffened. Ah, yes, let’s blame all our issues on the biggest corporation of all. Why am I not surprised?
“Sounds like conspiracy theory. The Government’s way too incompetent to find its way out of a paper bag to cause that.”
“Ah, but even a fool can cause great havoc.” Roger retorted.
“True, but unless you have proof—” I come back. I was just doing this bullshit for Liz and Roger was playing along.
“Tell me Mr. Bell,” Oh a proper nice guy, “how far would you go for someone who couldn’t afford housing?”
“Apparently, you guys were giving houses away.” I waved my hands in disgust. “Look where it got us.”
“You know the government forced many financial institutions to loan out those toxic loans.”
“The government doesn’t force loans.” But he was already adamantly shaking his head when I said “forced”.
“Yes, they were, Mr. Bell. You’re forgetting, my company was one of them.”
“So the government told you to sell bogus loans.”
“The government gave a set of criteria that, yes, turned out to be loans for under privileged people that could not pay their mortgage after the initial rate.”
“Because you hiked the loan after two years. You vermin sold naïve first time buyers, with stars in their eyes, because you promised them a house and when they signed the dotted line, you forgot to tell them, oh by the way your mortgage is going to be ten-thousand dollars every month after the initial two years.”
“The way it was suppose to work was you buy a house, you refinance after two years, get the rate down. But no, people couldn’t refi because they had a poor credit score from over spending or living beyond their means.”
“So it’s not the governments fault,” I gave him the raspberries. Now that I had one of these guys face to face I wasn’t going to let their greed go by the wayside.
“If standards were as they were, no-one would be able to buy a house.”
“So you agree with the mandatory government regulations”
“Yes and no,” What? Does that make it a maybe? What kind of fucked up answer is that? “The regulations made the process slow and there was a sixty percent rejection rate.”
“So, these regulations helped you make money.” For some reason, I got this image of rat-boy and human-cockroach going after each other in a colosseum. I just couldn’t help but smile.
“I sold dreams, Mr. Bell. People just couldn’t hold on to them.”
Here’s the kicker, right up his pucker, “And I sell potential leads, not lists, it’s up to you to make them customers. You want your data in excel or cvs file?”
“You have thirty-thousand names already?” He kina said that with a disgusted look. I’m betting he thought I was just going to give him some list I sell over and over. Okay, I do that too.
“I can usually get the info in a couple of hours. Had to verify them, but if you find any that are hard-core bounces, not blocks, I’ll replace them with the good kind. And no, there aren’t duplicates.”
“How do you verify thirty-thousand names?”
“I don’t,” watch this boys and girls, “Lizzy does.”
Lizzy dazzled him with one of her bright smiles and sniffed her flowers. Yes! She can be taught!
“There’s only you two?”
I wrapped my good arm over the one in the sling. I didn’t like the dark thoughts swimming across his face, “I think you should go. You’re insurance policy doesn’t cover a second attempt.” And, I wasn’t going to promise not to kill him the second time.
I think he got it, cause he dipped out right after he gave his half-hearted apology to Liz. He probably didn’t feel the same way about her now. Or me for that matter. I know I wanted to take a shower after talking to him. I felt shamed. I’m supposed to be the lowest of the low. And yet I couldn’t help but feel like a tadpole in the sea of sharks. I may send bothersome ads in the email. But, I didn’t cut down trees by doing it. And, I certainly wasn’t being an Indian giver with people’s American dreams. I guess it goes to show you, there’s slime and then there’s Jack the ripper. But does that make me a accomplish to murder if I give out names to a hack and slasher? Fuck it, I just sell a product. It’s up to the buyer to use it for all intents and purposes.
I’m just a small-time asshole, so when a big-time asshole rings my number, I want to ask him questions, get to know his strategy, swipe ideas from him. Swiping, not swapping. I have to scrape for every new idea I get. So, when Lizzy tells me the governor of CA is on the line, it’s an all-out opportunity for me to sink to a new level of slime. Some-times when you rub greasy elbows with someone, it pays off.
“Mr. Governor,” People tell me they can hear the grinchy smile over the phone. “Stivey Bell, what can I do for ya?”
“I was interested in your marketing strategies, your assistant was telling me your able to get government agencies, but do you also contact the general populous?”
Ah, re-election time, right. “We are usually strictly “B to B”, but I’ve been known to send out to a few consumers. It depends on what your looking for.” Consumer lists can be flakey, that’s why I guarantee the business to business contacts but stay away from regular Joe.
Until next time,
♥ ~ Stephy