by Bud Buck, 2/11/00
DC: This is DCR, an enhanced reality program. When is
enough of a good thing too much? Experts usually draw the line at a
point where a person feels they have lost control and are helpless in
the face of their compulsion. But few of us are skilled at knowing where
that point is, and it's deceptively easy to go too far. Bud Buck has
a startling report about a woman who meant well, but as you'll hear,
her idea of "doing good" was doing her no good at all.
(sfx: phones ringing)
Bud: Here in the membership center, they knew Lucy Quinn very well.
Ashley: She'd phone us around a hundred and fifty times a day.
Normally we hear from a person once, maybe twice.
It was obvious ... there was a problem.
Bud: The problem? Literal Listening Syndrome.
Lucy: They said "call this number." So ... whenever they said
that, I called.
Bud: But ... you had already renewed your membership?
Lucy: Oh yeah. I got through right away and it took about 90 seconds.
But then they said "add to your membership" so of course I
Bud: Nothing wrong with bumping the old membership upwards a tic.
Lucy: They said "you'll feel good if you do it" and I did
and they were right, I felt good. I fully expected it to be over ...
but then a little bit later they said to call ... so I did.
Bud: Even though you had already called twice?
Lucy: They SAID ...
Bud: Didn't you realize they weren't talking directly to you?
Lucy: Yes ... and no.
Bud: In fact, people suffering from LLS feel compelled to do whatever
they are told. To the letter. It's a serious problem, says Dr. Andrew
Dr. Merry: A lot of doctors, when they have a Literal Listening patient,
prescribe public radio because ... well ... you can imagine what would
happen if they were allowed to tune up and down the dial.
The commercials alone would overload them with things to do ... and
the song lyrics ... it would be a bacchanal.
Bud: Public radio does have it's share of commands.
Dr. Merry: Well ... yes. Mostly it's "tune in" or "stay
tuned," which is relatively harmless. But a couple of times a year
we do run into this membership thing.
Bud: The "membership thing" can quickly become a problem for
Literal Listening Syndrome sufferers.
(sfx: footsteps away slightly)
Lola: And in these cupboards over here ....
(sfx: doors open)
I have about half of my mugs.
Coffee mugs. Tea mugs. Every size and shape mug you can imagine.
And in the basement I have three steamer trunks packed full of t-shirts.
Ashley: The public radio pledge drive really relies heavily on the assumption
that the listener has two things. 1) Rational judgment. And 2) Free
Bud: What about money?
Ashley: O.K. Three things.
Pledger: (fade on) ... the mug is a bright, fire engine red. It's quite
eye catching, and this mug is our thank you gift to you ... (fade out)
... when you call ...
Lucy: The mug sounded wonderful. I wanted the mug. I had to have the
mug. I called them right away and gave them whatever they. And as soon
as I put the phone down on it's cradle ... I could feel it.
Bud: (sympathetic) You could feel ... what?
Lucy: The rush. The high. I loved it. It was unlike anything I've ever
Bud: Was that frightening?
Lucy: Oh, no. It was wonderful. But ... it faded fast. (weepy) Within
an hour I realized ... I had to have an entire set of mugs!
Bud: (annc) But it didn't just stop at the mugs. Once she memorized
the number, Lucy Quinn was on the pledge line all the time, trying to
maintain that feeling of euphoria that she got from her first membership
Lucy: Here's my collection of program mugs. They haven't done a public
radio show that I don't have the commemorative mug for. And this is
my t-shirt closet. I have them all on padded hangers. I've got clock
radios, kitchen timers, tire pressure gauges, books books books, coffee
pots, toasters, decals, doormats ... (fade) ...
Bud: Lucy's family got involved. Her husband, Joe, was decisive.
Joe: I took her to an "M.I." meeting the very next night.
Joe: "Members Incognito."
(sfx: group hubub)
Dave: (cheap mike sound) Hello everyone. Settle down and welcome to
Members Incognito. We're all here because we realize we're helpless
to turn away from the Siren's song of the public broadcasting pledge
drives. I ... myself ... have 157 mugs.
(sfx: light applause)
Thank you. We are united in our desire to support the stations we love
... but within reason. As part of that it's important that we can stand
up here and say ... I love to pledge ... and my name ... is none of
(sfx: more applause)
Lucy: The whole focus of the group is to get you to admit you have a
problem and then to get you to withhold your name. That's the "incognito"
part. 'Cause that is really the big step you know? Once you tell them
who you are, there's no turning back.
Ashley: Is it a big problem? No. It's pretty obvious ... the ones who
are hooked on it. They call, then they call again. Then they call to
up their pledge. Then they call to buy a gift membership. Then another.
Then they call with a membership for their dog, their cat, you name
Bud: When you see someone spinning out of control ... what do you do?
Ashley: We get an intervention specialist on the line and we try to
talk them down.
Bud: One such specialist is wellness expert B. Marty Barry.
B Marty: It's really all about goodness. The membership IS something
good. And when something is good, like ice cream, you want to have more
and more. But everyone has to know their limits. And when I get on the
phone with some of these people, that's what we talk about ... limits.
Bud: But can you afford to say 'No?"
B Marty: We don't say no. We say "slow". Slow down. One woolen
blanket a year is enough, isn't it?
Ashley: Like any good bartender, we keep an eye on people and we will
cut them off if it looks like they've had too much. It comes as a shock
for some of them, but they need to realize what they're doing, and take
Bud: And for Lucy Quinn, that moment came after she'd been going to
"Members Incognito" for a few months.
Lucy: Hello everyone.
Lucy: I have 209 mugs, 88 t-shirts, and Lord knows how many bumper stickers.
I love my station, but my name is none of your business.
Dale Connelly Reporting Home