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Thursday, September 12, 2013

DIY Charity: How to Bleed Hearts...and Boost Sales

Miss Fortune's been immersed the last couple weeks in an in-depth investigation of a purported "charity company" and the research reminded me of one of my very favorite "charity" scams.

A couple years ago, the Carrier family, the geniuses who run Center Line, Michigan-based Window Plus , dreamed up one of the most audacious business development schemes your girl Miss Fortune has ever seen. (And remember, I spent ten years in New York City!)

One can just imagine the pillow talk that richocheted off the walls of a certain suburban home. It might have gone something like this:

"Roll over, you slug, I've got a great idea."

"Not again! I told you I'm not into that!"

"You have a filthy mind...and that's why I love you. Effin' Lehman Brothers just cratered the market, home price are falling and we need a gimmick!"

"I'm listening...go on."

"Let's create our own charity and give a real gooey name--like Giving Hearts."

"That's great, baby!"

"And when we call to sell our crappy windows to old people home alone, we can even beat the 'do not call' list because we're a charity!"

"I've never heard a more repulsive way to drum up business...and that's why I love you!"

Well, maybe it didn't go exactly like that, but Diane Carrier and the hubs created Giving Hearts and used it as bait in the old switcheroo known as cold calling.

Here's how it worked: although "Giving Hearts" showed up on the caller ID, when you answered the operator would ask if Miss Fortune, the home owner, was available.

When pressed, the operator would claim that Giving Hearts collects on behalf of the Ronald McDonald House from every sale. Lacking a Michigan charity solicitor license didn't stop these folks from rattling the tin cup on behalf of the clown, and the scheme went on for years.

Giving Hearts did eventually register as a charity and its publicly available 990 records reveal to-date less than $7,000 was donated to Ronald McDonald House.

Wonder how much window-generated money ended up in that suburban home with Diane Carrier and her nocturnal whisperings?

Even Miss Fortune can't answer that question.

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