Thursday, June 13, 2013

News of the Day: Rupert, Interns, Scammers

Now that Rupert Murdoch has decided to divorce Wendi Deng Murdoch, his wife of 14 years and mother of their two young daughters, do you think she regrets shielding him in July 2011 from the pie-throwing protester during the British parliamentary subcommittee hearing on the phone hacking committed by Rupert’s editorial staffers? 

Several news items of late reminded me of my experiences with interns. I was thrilled to see a Federal District Court judge has ruled interns must be paid in all but the most limited of circumstances ( For many years my magazine sponsored an intern. We paid them $350 a week for 10 weeks. Not only did we pay them but we assigned them real tasks. They weren’t “go-fers.” Indeed, aside from writing stories and representing the magazine at trade events, they worked on our list of the Top 100 retailers, the most important data we compiled each year. It has always galled me that companies take advantage of young talent by impressing them into unpaid internships. 

We hired interns from across the country. One of them, a comely junior from Louisiana, is tied into another article that ran this week, namely, the surprise that awaits many visitors to New York who try to ship their legal handguns aboard the plane they will take back to their home state. All too often, the tourists are shown a part of the Big Apple few willingly want to see—the inside of a jail cell (

Our intern from Louisiana came to New York back in the days when the city had become synonymous with random shootings. That didn’t deter her parents from permitting her to spend three months up north. But when her mother—a parole officer—came to visit, she packed more than just a change of underwear. She brought along her trusted revolver, nestled within easy reach inside her pocketbook. Fortunately, she never had to use it, and, to may knowledge, she escaped from New York without incident at the airport.

While we’re on the subject of escaping without incident, one of the press releases in my in-box came from Mayflower, the moving company. It warned consumers to beware unscrupulous trucking companies that “offer low initial estimates, but then hold a victim's possessions hostage until they receive thousands of dollars in additional payments.”

Sound advice, one that recalled a slightly different experience of parents of a friend who were moving to Florida. They had just sold their house. Rather than take their furniture with them to the Sunshine State, they called in a furniture dealer who gave them a price for their belongings. Sounds legit, but when Gilda heard about it she cautioned against a scam based on the advice her brother Carl, a furniture dealer himself at the time, related. 

Gilda told our friend some dealers often are interested in just one or two items among all the furnishings they bought. They really have no interest in carting away what they consider to be junk. She explained the scam thusly— the morning the furniture would be taken the dealer would show up with too small a truck to carry all of it away. He’d promise to come back for a second load, packing just the good stuff in the first truck. Naturally, he would never return, leaving his victims with the need to pay another trucker to take the rest of their belongings away so they could leave their sold home “broom clean.” 

Alerted to this ruse, our friend’s parents told the dealer the deal was off. He got angry, screaming they’d never find another company willing to service them on such short notice. They held their ground, secure in the knowledge that Carl had provided them the name of an honest dealer who was waiting in the wings should a problem arise.