Missouri A. G. Involved in Psychic Witch Hunt - August 9, 2001

This article is being posted here with permission of the author, Sean Carter.

Sean Carter is a lawyer, comedian, public speaker and the author of
"If It Does Not Fit, Must You Acquit? -- Your Humorous Guide to the Law."
An autographed copy of this book can be obtained from
http://www.ifitdoesnotfit.com or from Amazon.com.

He can be reached at http://www.lawpsided.com.


With the continuing demise of the dot-coms, many Americans are being forced to consider relocating away from places like Silicon Valley, where a typical home can cost as much as the Space Shuttle or a Playstation2 during the Christmas season. For these people, I would like to suggest that they seriously considering moving to Missouri.

Homes are considerably less expensive in Missouri. And even more importantly, the quality of life in Missouri is beyond compare. Of course, I've never been to Missouri but I know this to be true because the most serious problem facing the government of Missouri seems to be Miss Cleo's psychic hotline.

In just the last month, the Missouri attorney general, Jay Nixon, has filed two lawsuits against the television psychic hotline, which advertises on late night TV through a Caribbean woman who reads tarot cards and starts every sentence with "Girlfriend!" Incredibly, Nixon's office has already obtained an order against Miss Cleo's company to pay $75,000 for violations of Missouri's telemarketing law.

Like other states, Missouri maintains a "No Call" list of residents who wish not to be called by telemarketers. Under Missouri law, if a telemarketer contacts any of the 800,000 people on this list, then the telemarketer may be fined up to $5,000. Miss Cleo's company was found to have violated this law repeatedly and fined $75,000.

Apparently, Miss Cleo's hotline features some of the most incredible psychics in existence. While most other hotlines, wait for you to call them seeking answers. Miss Cleo's psychics know you will call eventually and therefore, save you the trouble by calling you first. Now, that is customer service! However, Attorney General Nixon disagrees.

"This order makes it clear that you can't violate the No Call law without repercussions," said Nixon. Although in reality, the repercussions in this case are not very severe.

This psychic hotline charges its customers $5.00 per minute (or $300 per hour) to receive psychic insights. Therefore, this fine will only represents 250 hours of calls on the hotline. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a lot of talking time. In fact, my wife spends at least that much time on the phone with her mother every month. In fact, I've seen her spend 5-6 hours on the telephone with someone who dialed a wrong number. In short, this order is not going to make Miss Cleo lose any sleep (or her accent).

Perhaps this is why the Missouri Attorney General filed his second lawsuit last month accusing the hotline of deceptive business practices. In her television commercials, Miss Cleo encourages viewers to "find the answers for free." According to these commercials, no charges will be initiated for the first 3 minutes of the call. However, Nixon claims that these first 3 minutes are usually spent gathering the caller's personal information.

Also, Nixon is claiming that the hotline doesn't disclose the charges and has billed customers for calls they never made or for calls made by minors. In short, Nixon is claiming that the hotline is defrauding its customers.

No! Say it isn't so! Could it really be possible that a person claiming to be a psychic may be deceitful? Nixon certainly thinks so. "The fact that they didn't see [the lawsuit] coming shows they aren't psychic."

And just think, the esteemed Attorney General only had to spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to find this out. Obviously, Miss Cleo and her friends are not psychic. Anyone with the intelligence of a four-year old (or even a member of the British royal family) knows that there is nothing psychic about Miss Cleo's observations.

I'd even guess that the actual callers know this to be true. For instance, men who call phone sex numbers know that the woman on the other end of the phone does not look like Pamela Anderson. In fact, she is more likely to look like Louie Anderson. Nevertheless, this does not stop them from calling.

NOTE TO MY WIFE: This is purely a hypothetical example. And for the last time, I have no idea how 1-900-BUSTY4U got on our phone bill!

Of course, the larger issue is who in their right mind would pay $300 an hour to talk to a psychic? In my view, this is the height of impatience. At best, the psychic is simply going to tell them what is going to happen in the future. Can't they simply wait like the rest of us?

Nevertheless, in my view, if someone wants to spend their money in this fashion, they should be free to do so. And likewise, if Miss Cleo and her psychic "girlfriends" wish to pursue their livelihoods in this manner, they should be allowed to do so.

Besides, what if the Attorney General is wrong? In that case, he may be the victim of some psychic spell causing festering boils and sores. I'd hate for Mr. Nixon to wake up one morning looking like Edward James Olmos.

On second thought, I would hereby like to retract all of my negative statements about Miss Cleo and her band of wonderfully, gifted psychics. In fact, I'd rather trade nude pictures on the internet with Janet Reno than face the wrath of an angry psychic.

NOTE TO MY WIFE: This is another hypothetical example. And no, I have no idea how those pictures of Ms. Reno got on our computer hard drive. It must be that new Worm virus.


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