Finally, no more Miss Cleo commercials
February 19, 2002 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Finally, no more Miss Cleo commercials as the Federal Trade Commission steps into to prosecute late-night TV's most popular psychic peddler. At first I thought if you dumb enough to call a psychic line, the gov't shouldn't be stepping in to block the charges, as the article notes the average call was $60, but they also note misleading "free reading" claims and crooked billing procedures. If you're making that kind of money, why resort to underhanded business practices? Even more obvious: why didn't she see this coming and change their ways?
posted by mathowie (24 comments total)
Mathowie, I agree with your first thought....anyone who believes that crap they see on the ads on TV deserves to be taken for all they're worth. Sort of a financial Darwin Award.

I love the ads, though. They make me laugh. Sorry to see them go.

People resort to underhanded business practices for the same reason the guys at Enron did it...because they can and it makes them rich. And they so rarely get caught and even less often are punished to the extent that makes them regret their unethical business practices.
posted by aacheson at 10:54 AM on February 19, 2002

Better yet, if it is proven that she isn't even Jamaican, we'll all start wondering about that round-table conference where a bunch of marketeers decided that Miss Cleo from Montego Bay was the perfect artificial spokesperson.
posted by machaus at 10:55 AM on February 19, 2002


Her accent oscillated wildly between faux-Jamaican and faux-Irish. It was fascinatingly awful to hear.
posted by Skot at 11:07 AM on February 19, 2002

A few years ago, the Psychic Friends Network went out of business due to cash flow issues. Dionne Warwick, their chief spokesperson at the time, said in an interview....

"We didn't see this coming."

I don't think I ever laughed so hard.
posted by ebarker at 11:14 AM on February 19, 2002

So, hurry to this link to use the Ms. Cleo Soundboard on your friends before it loses cultural relevance!

I am in no way associated with Ms. Cleo or the creators of the Soundboard.
posted by hadashi at 11:18 AM on February 19, 2002

Culled from someone's blog: Miss Cleo Unmasked. An article on how her biz works, from the perspective of one of its former "psychics".
posted by Marquis at 11:19 AM on February 19, 2002

The quicker she gets off tv, the quicker people will stop thinking she's anything close to a real Jamaican accent.
posted by owillis at 11:42 AM on February 19, 2002

my wife's mother's pastor preached against miss cleo calling her a "proponent of new age witchcraft". I found it pretty funny when i heard that...since if he went throught the hassle of preaching a sermon on her, he obviously didn't realize that ALL psychic hotlines are complete scams.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:46 AM on February 19, 2002

Marquis: thanks for that link. With a stage magician, it often takes away the fun to know just how the trick works, but with scams like the 'psychics,' it's good to have as much information as possible.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:06 PM on February 19, 2002

Oh, it figures she's from Ft. Lauderdale...
posted by solistrato at 12:18 PM on February 19, 2002

that makes them regret their unethical business practices.
those are NOT unethical business practices. that is an oxymoron. there is only the great american way - fuck 'em till they squeal. poor cleo's problem is she aint mainstream enough - microsoft spews all the same broad unsupportable lies about software that cleo makes about divination of the future.
posted by quonsar at 12:38 PM on February 19, 2002

There was a crooked man
Who walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence
Against a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat
Which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together
In a crooked little house.

Samfai woman a craven choke puppy,
commuppance coming from polytricksters,
but him is badda than dem.
No badda bawl im soon come back,
Johncrow feel cool breeze,
soon come back to buy off the bar.
posted by Opus Dark at 1:00 PM on February 19, 2002

Miss Cleo is just a cheesy actress and not some mastermind that can make you pick up the phone. The "free" readings are definately scams, but this is an entertainment business and it looks like some people who thought it was real and it would solve all their problems just caught wind of that fact and decided to start suing.

The free something scam is not new and happens in almost every industry. How many times do you get junk mail or even a promotion in your own utility bills about free stuff, only if you buy $100 stuff in return? Its the exact same scam and misleading terms but its so much easier to pick on a mid-sized business than take on the giants that invented this kind of promotion.

Florida authorities announced a separate lawsuit, challenging the service's spokeswoman, Youree Dell Harris, known as "Miss Cleo," to prove that she really is a renowned shaman from Jamaica.

Fine. Now lets see this applied to every commercial or advert in the US. Any model shilling for cigarettes must be a smoker and smoke that brand. Celebrities that shill for products must use it, not just read some copy and endorse it. Of course, none of that is going to happen.

"Considering the laundry list of unfair and deceptive practices in this case, it's a mystery to us why Miss Cleo and her employers haven't seen this coming," said Howard Beales

Oh my gawd, why aren't you doing stand-up?!
posted by skallas at 1:06 PM on February 19, 2002

hadashi, thanks for that link....I laughed so hard at the Jack Nicholson and Pacino links that I attracted attention. :)
posted by dejah420 at 1:30 PM on February 19, 2002

Now that Ms. Cleo is taken care of, someone ought to look into Penthouse Forum next. Not ONCE has a set of beautiful twins shown up at my door wanting a night of wanton, meaningless sex.
posted by UncleFes at 1:39 PM on February 19, 2002

How could anyone think that woman's accent was real???
posted by grrarrgh00 at 1:40 PM on February 19, 2002

Does this mean the government will crack down on John Edward next? Granted he doesn't use a bad accent, but his directedly vague 'visions' have got to be illegal somehow eh? Or has he found the ultimately legal way to pull the wool over people's eyes?

Don't get me wrong. I love watching his show for its entertainment value and perhaps that's how he gets away with this. It's mildly entertaining, but though I believe in the possibility, I would like to see someone put him on the spot. The Amazing Randi has given him token attention (scroll down the link to find an example of Randi's dissmissive take on Edward), but Edwards needs to be royally debunked. His show is combines his blatant of body language and interaction, as well as random guesses with no promises, with good editing to weed out the 'misses' and focus on the hits. His money's being made through book sales and television deals. Maybe there's nothing illegal going on here but isn't it still unethical?
posted by ZachsMind at 2:13 PM on February 19, 2002

Hey how bout that crazy Spanish TV psychic that looks like Liberace on a bender?
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:20 PM on February 19, 2002

Does this mean the government will crack down on John Edward next?

Only after we get David Copperfield and the rest who have not made open statements before, during, and after every show that what they are doing is not magic. What if I'm that naive, can I settle on some civil lawsuit and live the rest of my life on some island because of the incredibly litigious nature of the US?
posted by skallas at 3:09 PM on February 19, 2002

I'm going to sue the Coca-Cola Corporation and McDonald's, as I have used their products in the past and never smiled.
posted by solistrato at 3:35 PM on February 19, 2002

Aw, comeon, no magic? The Chief Scientist used to say, "How the world really works? Magic and executive assistants!" That's magic, as opposed to: "Superstition - When you believe in things that you don't understand and you suffer." (The more affluent who believe in psychological counseling and prescription pharmaceuticals find this is generally spendier than psychics.)

Abusive business practices are one reason that The American Tarot Association has a formal code of ethics, and has its students write their own codes of ethics for certification. A warning sign that a psychic may be attempting to draw a client into an abusive situation is a reading which contains the suggestion of some sort of malevolent presence, evil force, or curse.

Casting a curse, surrounding yourself with an axis of evil,
or resorting to Feng Shui tactics like a picture of a rooster in your cubicle?
There's a song for that too:
"Put out a little clear energy and it'll come back at you,
not always
how you want it to,
but it'll come back at you ..."
- John Bassette
posted by sheauga at 3:39 PM on February 19, 2002

Actually, I'm pretty sure the John Edward show runs a disclaimer at some point during the opening credits.

I thought it was hilarious that when I opened the story, I got a pop-under for a toll-free telephone casino.
posted by dhartung at 4:11 PM on February 19, 2002

Check out Miss Cleo's scripts...
posted by owillis at 6:43 PM on February 19, 2002

Perhaps the government should get into the psychic racket. It's as good a way to grab bucks from naive masses as are the lotteries.
posted by HTuttle at 12:46 PM on February 20, 2002

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