You may recall that extinct neoconservative vanity paper New York Sun used to run a little telemarketing scam in which it claimed to be a "snapshot" or "smaller version" of the Times. Misleading and dishonest, right? But there was a clue this was coming: The original incarnation of the Sun, which the new Sun zealously aped (save for certain inconvenient political positions), also scammed people. This fact was lost to history until a summer 1944 Sun sales rep described the setup, which involved the Lost & Found ads traditionally used to find pets and wedding rings and so forth. From a letter to the editor in the Times:
Reading about the end of The New York Sun, I was reminded of my job, inconceivable in today’s world, that I held at the original New York Sun in the summer of 1944, the year I was about to enter college. That was selling lost and found ads.
Each morning I read such ads in The Herald Tribune. I then phoned the person seeking the lost object, acknowledging that I was aware of the loss.
Invariably the person at the other end gleefully asked where I had found the treasure in question. I admitted I hadn’t and then assured my customer that his or her chances of retrieval would double if an advertisement were placed in our evening paper.
Of course said worker — and for the record she sounds like a sweet and honest soul who should never lose sleep over all this — had no idea whether people's chances were really doubled by taking out such an ad. We doubt the publisher did, either.
This particular game is just one small part of the price-gouging that went on in classified sections in newspapers throughout the country. And newspapers wonder why there is so much apathy around their declining fortunes!