My late buddy Wayne told of meeting a sweet, young thang in a dicey German bar when he was in the Army in the 1980s. She didnt seem to have the word no in her vocabulary, he said until he got suspicious and asked if she was really a woman.
Thats when, he said, he snapped shut his free-flowing wallet, fled the room and left an expensive new coat behind.
Cant you at least buy me one more drink? his companion asked.
No, and I want that money back that I already spent, he said.
I thought of Wayne last week when I said the same thing. Like him, Id just discovered that someone with whom I had a relationship wasnt who I thought he was.
With too much familiarity for my taste, the solicitor on the other end of my telephone Thursday night said Hi, Barry. A few months ago you made a very generous pledge to the Fraternal Order of Police, as you have over the years, and we were just checking to see when you might send it in?
Me: Uh, well, Ive been doing some research and wanted to find out exactly how much of my contribution actually goes to police officers.
(I lied: Id really just forgotten to send in my check and had every intention of doing so.)
After I repeated the question, he presumably went to check and came back a minute later. Eleven percent.
Me: Godfrey Daniels! And where does the other 89 percent go?
Him: To the company.
Before I slammed down the phone, he asked Are you still going to send in your pledge?
No, I said, and I want that money back that I already spent.
The Triangle Business Journal, citing statistics from the N.C. Secretary of States office, reported recently that North Carolinians gave nearly $27 million to licensed charities last year. Like many of you obviously do, I give, too. A favorite of mine was the F.O.P. because I figured nobody deserved help more than underpaid police officers.
Truth alert: I also thought that displaying that little shield on my bumper saying I support the F.O.P. might actually help me get out of a ticket if a sympathetic cop stopped me. (For the record, it has never worked.)
The next morning, I called the Secretary of States office, anxious to do my duty and report this scam.
Thats when I received my second shock. Turns out my ratting out the F.O.P turned out to be a F.L.O. P. because nothing it is doing is illegal, George Jeter of the Secretary of States office told me.
Theres not a requirement that they give a certain amount to the organization they purport to represent, Jeter said. Legally ... they can contribute as much or as little as they want to the charity.
Well, how can we avoid being chumped by charlatan charities?
Jeter said, You should find out as much as you can about the specific charity ... We always recommend that when people are solicited, they check and see how much of their contribution is going to the actual charity.
Raleigh Police Department spokesman Jim Sughrue agreed, saying We urge people to be very leery of any kind of telephone solicitation, regardless of how just the cause might be. The F.O.P., he said, is not in any formal way associated with the Raleigh P.D. and doesnt have widespread membership among its officers.
That doesnt mean you have to snap shut your wallet and become a scrooge, though. Sughrue named two organizations to which you can contribute with confidence: the Raleigh Police Memorial Foundation ( www.rpdmemorial.org) and the 200 Club of Wake County ( www.200clubwakecounty.org), which provides immediate help for spouses and children of police officers, EMS workers, firefighters and sheriffs deputies who are injured or killed in the line of duty.
Rest assured theyll get more than 11 percent of whatever you give.