How I Sold My 15 Seconds of Fame

“This guy is getting on my nerves.”

Last week, when I was being cynical, Jennie left a comment in which she suggested that the erosion of news began with the CBS show “60 Minutes.” I told her that she reminded me of a story about that show, and she encouraged me to share it. Note: I’m not blaming Jennie if you don’t like this post – she’s way too nice to toss under the bus. My blog, my responsibility. Anyway, let’s jump back to 1978.

In September of 1978, I moved from New York City to Seattle Washington. The owner-operator driver and his buddy did a good job of schlepping my furniture 2,900 miles (4667 km), but the moving company they worked for was awful. The estimated cost was way beyond reality. This was at a time when interest rates were 9-percent and climbing, so having someone else’s money made a big difference.

I had researched moving, as best one could pre-Internet and I knew what to do. The cost of the move was a function of weight and distance. Distance between the two points was fixed, regardless of the route of the truck, so the only variable was the weight of your belongings. The single-most important thing to do was to get an accurate weight as soon as possible. I knew they had over-estimated. The agent told us the estimate was likely a “little higher than necessary,” but that that was good, because if it was under, I would have to have cash or a cashier’s check before they would unload. In a new city, that might be hard.

It had been suggested that I follow the driver to the scales and get a copy of the slip. Unfortunately, the driver said: “I can’t do that, we have a load already on the truck, and it hasn’t been weighed.”

I had made arrangements to have my new landlady meet the movers. Everything was labeled as to where it was supposed to go. That took a lot of work, but surely it would pay off once I got to Seattle and everything was where it belonged. Except, when I got to Seattle, the movers hadn’t yet arrived.

Long-distance movers go wherever the next job is. From New York, they picked up a load in New Jersey that was on its way to Tennessee, and so forth. You never know how little you have until you see it expertly stuffed into the back of a 40-foot trailer.

When the movers did arrive, they apologized for having picked up a load in Portland that wasn’t weighed and said they wouldn’t be able to give me an accurate weight until they dropped that load in Phoenix. The driver gave me a “ballpark” estimate that indicated I was owed a refund of almost $2,000.

Of course, on the way to Phoenix, there was another load, and another load, and so on and so forth. This dragged on for weeks.

In October, while I was impatiently waiting for the bureau of weights and measures to rule, 60 Minutes did a segment on the various ways major moving companies were ripping people off. Overestimating the cost and delaying an accurate rate was #1. No surprise, but misery loves company, so at least I had that going for me.

The following week, during the “Letters” portion of the news show, a Vice President from the moving company holding my money wrote to thank 60 Minutes for exposing the problems in his industry. He claimed that his company was different, but that the bad actors were giving the entire industry a bad name.

I called 60 Minutes to ask if I could send a letter in rebuttal to that guy’s letter. I spoke with a member of the production crew. He was interested in my story, and the fact that I had documentation of the more than 6-week delay of my substantial refund. He said I could give him the information and my “letter” would surely be read on the air. Then he asked me:

“So, Dan, do you want your fifteen seconds of fame, or do you want your money?”

Well, having just moved cross-country, and having encountered more unexpected expenses than I could ever imagine, what I needed was the money. He said he would make a phone call on my behalf.

Remarkably, the moving company was able to get an accurate weight that very day. The estimated weight had been more than twice the actual. I had my refund two days later.


Some pictures from our weekend with the critters.

94 comments

  1. I loved 60 Minutes. And I miss those guys. I think the ‘news’ reporting crisis occurred around the same time that social media skyrocketed and the most important thing in the minds of millions of Americans was what the Kardashians were doing and who was the Most recent brunt of Simon’s ( aka, American Idol) angry diatribe. The population gets what it demands and the masses were demanding drama and entertainment. The majority of our youth doesn’t want to hear about serious ‘stuff’ as they busily rally towards free college education while posting duck lipped selfies and ripped abs from their bathrooms and gyms. Now, I have raised four sons who are among those youth; but they do care about social and world matters as do many young people. But, just like Mr Clean convinces people that the right cleaner will do the work for them, the majority of recent reporting is a con game, where the ‘right’ information gets out based on the greatest demand. It’s all about numbers, ratings and money. I do not discount any news reports as ‘fake’ just because I don’t like them, however, because at this point it is still better than no news at all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Cheryl. I liked the in-depth reporting on 60 Minutes in the early years. I’m not sure how it has held up. There are still good news outlets, but they’re getting harder and harder to find amid the entertainment.

      My encounter was practical. Maybe today, if I was in my 20s, I’d opt for the rebuttal. I’ve save it and share it all over social media and bask in my giant slaying fame. Of course, it would take months for me to get my money, but I’d have been famous for a bit. In 1978, we didn’t even have VCRs. I would have had to call my parents to make sure they were watching (and my dad would have said “you should have taken the money”).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I know I sound old but I miss the days when no one cared what I was eating, or drinking. I guess that’s the extent of my ‘fame’ n social media. And what animals I encountered. Lol. I’m impressed with your moment of fame. I would definitely have taken the money. Fame is a slippery slope in the best of circumstances…

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I would have eventually gotten the money, but the guy suggested the company would be motivated to keep my letter off the air more than they would by a desire to respond to my claim. If the letter was aired, the damage would be done. I’d have no leverage and they’d have no incentive.

      It was a lot of money, and didn’t have the luxury of time.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I would’ve sold the ‘fame’ too. Money pays the bills!

    Those shots of MuMu are terrific. She has the ‘stink eye’ down pat! “Learn to use a litter box”…..priceless!

    Maddie is definitely in her element when she’s outside. She’s going to love having the use of her decks for the next several months without having to share them with endless tools and piles of lumber. Just sunshine and fresh air and mom and dad. And a squirrel or two!
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ginger. Hardly anyone would have cared about the fame, it wasn’t like I could post it on Facebook ;-) Cold hard cash was much more interesting.

      MuMu and I are working out our routine. So far, I think it goes – she sits on the shelf whenever she wants, and I scratch/brush/pet her at those times. Yeah, that’s it.

      Maddie is liking the warmer days. She got a long walk yesterday and a nice little bit of deck time. There aren’t any big outdoor projects this year, so the deck will be for relaxing. I look forward to sitting there with an ice cold something, escaping the sun, not seeking it out.

      Like

  3. What a nightmare story! I can see why my 60 Minutes comment triggered this story of yours. And to think the weighing and issuing of the check somehow happened immediately. Hmmm… too bad the letter and 15 minutes of fame wasn’t part of the package, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The letter would have been fun to see, but I doubt I would have had the refund in time to buy tickets back east for a Christmas visit. I had leverage for about 3 days. I took advantage of that. It was a nightmare, but it was one a lot of people making long-distance moves were having. When I moved back, I knew better than to accept the initial estimate on weight. Plus, my stuff was going into storage, so any over payment went to the cost of storage.

      Thanks for jogging this memory loose, Jennie.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting tale Dan. Having witnessed the reality tv phenomenon it is not so shocking to see it hit the news side of things. Watching election coverage really shows how thin the reporting coverage is. There are very few local reporters anymore. And that makes for very few local stories. On another subject I am glad one of us is getting morning walks. Though I am sure to be correcting that soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, Dan. Imagine if you tried to call now. You would be stuck in voicemail hell. I’d have taken the money, also. The trash-talking birds are back! Can spring be far behind?! MiMi–keeping telling him. One of these days he will find another place for those darn glasses! Have a good week, Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I didn’t know that’s how moving companies work filling their trucks. I just naively assumed that they picked up your stuff and moved it pronto to it’s destination.
    I would have taken the money too – but 6 weeks? And over double the estimated weight? That’s shameful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was. It took over three weeks to get the furniture there. I had no idea. My stuff toured the country without me. My stuff took up so little room in that trailer. The estimate was a total scam. They banked a big up front payment and held on as long as they could.

      Like

  7. Thinking about it, and it took George’s stuff less time to cross the Atlantic than it did for your items to make their way cross-country. Every time I hear a story like this, it makes my skin crawl about how folks complain about government regulations as “growth killers” or whatever. Also this gave me flashbacks to moving from Louisiana to here in a U-haul truck with a regulator set to about 63. Longest. Drive. Ever. 21 hours from Hattiesburg, MS to Gaithersburg, MD.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh how I hate being delayed getting ripped off! Oh, and being lied to. I’m so glad you stuck to your guns, exposed the truth and got your long-awaited refund. Some people would just roll over and die rater than fight for what’s right. Great job, Dan. No push-over in your blood. I really like how you capture MuMu peeking from behind the curtain. Cats are so mysterious. That’s what draws me to them. But we have dogs instead because Buck doesn’t like cats. That’s funny because he married a hellcat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sandi. I’m actually pretty easy to take advantage of (my wife has pointed that out more than once), but once you push me too far, it’s over.

      MuMu gives me so many opportunities to catch her pretty face in a cute or mysterious pose. Sometimes, she sees me trying to get a picture and she moves.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can tell that you are easy-going. I’ve been taken advantage of, too but like you, when I’ve had enough I fight back.

        Our dogs rarely sit still for me to take a picture and their cute poses are impossible. I’m glad you can get MuMu’s sweet poses. Have you ever thought of enlarging them and having them framed?

        Liked by 1 person

  9. During harvest, I work in the scale house at the farm. My job is to register the weight of the trucks returning from the fields before the corn or beans are dumped into the bin. The truck weights are well known, since we use the same trucks year after year, so all we have to do is subtract the ‘tare’ (the weight of the empty truck) from what the scale weight to get the yield.

    Halfway through harvest, I heard, “Something ain’t right here.”

    “What?”

    “Let me see the tickets.”

    “Is there a problem?”

    “Yeah, Old Rusty is heavier than that. We had to repair her this summer with about a half ton of new steel.”

    “Oh, what does that mean.”

    “Means you got a lot of adjustments to make.”

    Like

  10. Moving quite a few times I sympathize. We had movers take a load from Houston to Montgomery, CO and put it in storage until we could find a place to settle. Bug mistake, things of value were broken, sentimental items also. They stacked heavy wooden chairs on a fabric sofa, etc. Total disaster. Moving is no fun and very expensive.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry you had to go through that. On the way back east, I sold everything I could before moving. A little went into storage, but not much. We did ok with that. Plus, we owed them money when it was time to get it out of storage. Not much, but it was a better feeling

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m guessing the 60 minutes guy called the moving company guy and asked, “Do you want to give him his money back or do you want more than 15 minutes of fame?” Glad that worked out for you, Dan. Who knows how long you might have been waiting for your money.

    Your photos reminded me that this past week a lot of snow has melted, I’ve seen several formations of geese and a mourning dove has shown up on our balcony to taunt the kids. Spring is arriving! Let it be!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let it be, indeed, Mary. We don’t have any snow to melt, but it’s getting a little green.

      I know there were people who waited longer and for more money than I had tied up. I was young, moving from apartment to apartment. There were people who had moved whole houses. Those guys did this because they could. If you needed them, you really had no other option.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I haven’t moved very often but each time I did, the cost of hiring a moving company was just too much so I sweet talked friends with trucks instead. Reading about your experience makes me happy I cheaped out (and that I wasn’t moving farther than the next town). I think going for the money was the right choice – fortunately, you also got the satisfaction that you put the fear of God into those crooks.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. For the record, I think you made the right decision. If that 15 seconds could have earned you money, and then more money in syndication, that’d be different.
    Your pets are so cute! I love the litter box comment! Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I don’t remember CBS mentioning royalties or residuals. Maybe if they had had a prize for best rebuttal letter. I think I took the right option.

      These girls are pretty cute. I think, when MuMu sees me outside with Maddie, she thinks, “he could be in here brushing me.” But then, that’s how cats are.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Hi Dan – well what a rigmarole … you could have written lots of stories about your furniture as it traversed around the states of the USA. I’ve no idea if I was ripped off shipping stuff out to South Africa, and then back some years later – it worked and I was grateful. I’ve moved a few times here … and will now go for the little guy – the storage people recommended someone to me – when I went to Canada. If you don’t know your way round then … it’s difficult to find out. Glad you got your money back though and were able to fly across for Christmas … great memory – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hilary. Cross country is bad enough. I can’t imagine moving country to country. I’m glad that worked out well for you. When I moved back east, the furniture was sent to storage and I took a leisurely drive across Canada. From the Peace Arch in BC to Montreal and then back down into New England.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The drive across Canada – I’d have loved to have done that journey. Not sure how I coped with the moves … actually the Canadian ones were ‘relatively easy’ – cramming everything into a few suitcases: I was more concerned about arriving back and hoping me and the luggage would all fit in my brother’s car!! One just got on with it I guess … life is life – make a decision and then get on with all the other bits and bobs. I’m glad I’m back here – but would loved to have explored more of Canada, particularly both coasts … cheers Hilary

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The thing that surprised me about Canada is that since the Rocky Mountains drift to the west, the Canadian midwest (or Canadian Kansas as I started calling it) comes up quicker and seems to last longer than the US midwest. I remember staying in Banff, and then I remember Thunder Bay. The rest is a bit of a blur. But, it was an interesting ride.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. They have been ruthlessly “pruning” trees throughout the state after a freak October storm brought power lines down about 10 years ago and left us without power for 10 days. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much thought put into the way they do the pruning, and some trees have dies as a result. The power company prunes it, but if it dies, it’s up to you to remove it. I’d say “don’t get me started” but I guess that ship has sailed.

      Like

      1. That’s crazy that they killed the tree and you have to take it down. They want to minimize the times they have to come back and prune again, so they over “prune.” I’d be takin names and takin pictures. Oooh, you got me started, Dan.

        Like

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    Liked by 2 people

  16. You made the right choice… my episode of Barnwood Builders paid in lumber so we guess about 800 dollars and my portion of State Plate was less… so if you got 2000 back that was a great rate for 15 minutes… :)

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I believe in those days you took the right decision. If this would have happened now, I am sure you would have opted for ‘live on air’ and the magic of social media would have done the best for you to get back money!!
    Thoroughly enjoyed your story and beautiful pictures 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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