In the supermarket, Shopper had just finished with the checkout line and is on his way to the exit with his one bag when his eye naturally is caught by a huge sign above a table. The sign reads “GUESS THE NUMBER OF PIECES OF CANDY TO WIN!!!”; on the table itself is a tall jar filled with the candy, a box marked “GUESSES,” and a tear-off pad for customers to enter their guess and contact information.
Shopper stares at all these for a few moments.
Shopper: (Shrugs) Hm. Couldn’t hurt.
He leans down to write in everything the form asks. He views the jar at different angles with twitchy looks on his face as he tries to calculate the number, at one point picking up the jar to count pieces with his pen before shaking his head and setting it back down. He then writes “365” on a whim, tears off the page, and places it into the box.
Guess Box: (Demonically) HA. HA. HA.
Shopper freezes with his eyes widening as he stares at the box. He looks around to see if he is being pranked, then stares at the box some more. He then thinks maybe he is losing track of the seasons, as his 30+-year-old brain has been doing so more and more lately.
Shopper: Is it Halloween? (Looks out through the store exit and sees the snow falling on the parking lot, then turns back to the box) Guess not.
He leaves the store and goes home. In his living room, he takes out his laptop and signs onto his e-mail: his Inbox displays “1,750” as the number of new messages, all received within the past hour.
Shopper: (As he scrolls through the neverending list) Whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-how did this happen?! Did I get hacked?! (He thinks back to the supermarket incident) Oh no, I gave them my e-mail address. And now they have me.
TWO HOURS LATER
He got into a rhythm of selecting “Unsubscribe,” hitting Ctrl+V to paste his e-mail address, selecting “Submit,” and then “Delete” on the original e-mail for each and every one received and kept receiving, until he finally caught up.
Shopper: There, they can’t e-mail me ever again, according to their code of honor.
He watches in horror as e-mails from brand-new addresses begin appearing in his Inbox, increasing the count to 20, 75, 280, 900 –
Shopper: (Slamming his laptop cover down, as if that would do anything. Whispers) They’ve adapted.
His phone vibrates, signaling it has finished charging as it had sat on the lamp table ever since he had gotten home. He jumps slightly, then unplugs it, starts it up, and unlocks it. He sees that he has 225 missed calls.
Shopper: (Slowly shaking his head in denial as he scrolls through the random area codes, then selects “Delete All” for them and for the 225 voicemails) Ha! In your face! Oh, wait, that last one was Mom. (The phone then rings; he sees that it is a local number and answers it) Hello?
Voice: Hello, you’re hard to get in touch with – we’ve called you 17 times. You’ve stayed at one of our resorts in the past and –
Shopper: That’s a filthy lie and I hate you!
He disconnects and triumphantly blocks the number. The phone immediately rings again.
Shopper: (As if nothing has happened) Hello?
Voice: Hello, you’re hard to get in touch with –
Shopper: You think that was hard?! (Blocks the new number)
There is a knocking on the front door: he stares at it in fear as his phone rings again. He chucks the phone onto the couch and opens the door to see a courier holding an electronic clipboard and a leash attached to a large animal.
Courier: Hello – did you order an alpaca and a deed to the farm where he lives?
Shopper: NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! (Slams the door and triple-locks it)
Courier: (Looks at the clipboard) Oh I see, this is for next door.
Back at the supermarket, Shopper returns to the scene and stares at the empty place where the table had stood. An Employee then approaches him from his blind side.
Employee: Hi! Can I help you?
Shopper: Yes, actually: I was just wondering if there is any way out of the telemarketing prison to which you people have consigned me?!
Employee: Oh, were you the one who filled out the “Guess the Candy” card? Be right back.
Shopper stands there in impotent rage-filled confusion until Employee returns with the candy jar.
Employee: Congratulations, you won! (Hands him the unwieldy jar)
Shopper: I… won? This is the prize?
Employee: It sure is! Enjoy!
Shopper: But I thought it was going to be, I dunno, like a gift card or something?
Shopper: You’re right, never mind; my real point is, how could you people completely sell all my information to those scum-sucking, low-living, dedicated-dialing –
Employee: You mean from the card you filled out? It said on the sign what was going to happen.
Employee whips out the sign where, in small print at the bottom, it reads: “By entering this contest you agree that your contact information will be sold by this store to everyone.”
Shopper: Again I ask, how could you?!
Employee: What, you think we’d just give something away? What business on Earth does that? I must say, though, everyone else had the same opinion you do, but you were the only one who actually filled out a card – we were five minutes away from scrapping the whole display when you showed up.
Shopper: And now I’m trapped forever.
Employee: As a consolation for your negative experience, I can offer to sign you up to receive store coupons, if you like.
Shopper: How often would I be receiving them?
Employee: Every week, until you die. (Smiling wildly as he looks at her in terror) Or until our company goes out of business, which nowadays, probably will happen first.
Back at his house, Shopper slumps onto an armchair and begins slowly eating the candy from the unwieldy jar. His phone rings; he cringes as he picks it up to check the screen, then relaxes.
Shopper: Hi, Mom.
Mom’s Voice: Are you all right? You haven’t been answering and your voicemail’s full.
Shopper: Yes it is, and on a related note right now I’m trying to give myself diabetes to speed things along.
Mom’s Voice: Don’t do that, hon – they’ll take your foot, just like Uncle Morty.
Shopper: (Looks at his foot, then tosses the candy jar away) Do you know how to deal with a telemarketer problem? As in a really bad, extreme telemarketer problem?
Mom’s Voice: I just don’t answer them, thanks to Caller ID and spam filters; they usually give up and move on to new prey, those poor saps.
Shopper hears noises outside his front door.
Shopper: Thanks, Mom – I’ll call you later.
Mom’s Voice: Good luck, sweetie! When in doubt, just say “Not today, evildoers!”
They say good-bye and he disconnects the call; when he goes outside, he sees the mail carrier struggling with piles of envelopes.
Mail Carrier: (Relieved) Oh, hi, here you go, thanks! (Dumps the envelopes into a jumbo garbage bag and hands that over to Shopper) Man, who did you tick off? (Does not wait for an answer and skips away, chuckling)
Shopper: (Peers into the 40-gallon bag) I wonder if anyone would believe me if I told them this is why I threw out my bills.