CONSUMER CONFIDENTIAL

I knew you were going to read this

So what, if anything, should be done about things like psychic hotlines that charge $4.99 a minute and focus their entire business model on dragging out calls as long as possible?

And what about people like Crystal, whose shtick centers on upselling clients to more expensive services, such as a good psychic cleansing?

Having been recently diagnosed with diabetes, I tried to make it easy for Crystal by repeatedly asking about health matters and whether I would die from medical complications. On my wrist was a bright silver MedicAlert bracelet.

You don't have to be the Amazing Kreskin to pick up on those tells.

Crystal assured me that, aside from my funky aura, my health was fine. She said I'd live to 80 and die of "old age."

When I balked at paying $575 for a psychic cleansing, Crystal said I could instead pay her $300 upfront and the rest after I appreciated the effects of her ministrations.

I declined. But I have no doubt there are others who would have taken up Crystal on her proposition.

"It becomes an addiction for some people," said Scott Grossberg, a Rancho Cucamonga attorney who has written on efforts to regulate the supposedly supernatural. "They need to have others decide their lives for them."

My first instinct was to think this was a business crying out for strict consumer safeguards. Why should fortunetelling be any different from other commercial services?

But the more I thought about it, the more I understood that what fortunetellers are selling isn't a tangible product. It's a sense of hope, of taking control of uncertainty. It's the same product religious types have been selling for centuries.

People like Crystal might be trying to separate me from as much money as possible, but they're offering in return the satisfaction of having peered into the future and prepared for what's to come.

"People want to believe," said Grossberg, "and you're never going to legislate belief.

"This industry has been around forever, since before there were laws. It's something we want. We're wired for this."

I hate to say it, but that's probably true.

There. My aura feels better already.

--

Consumer Confidential runs Wednesdays and Sundays and frequently in between. Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

Featured Stories

CTnow is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on ctnow.com articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.

CONSUMER COLUMNISTS

Kevin Hunt - The Electronic Jungle

Kevin Hunt: Technology for the amateur spy - July 21, 2014 - Spy technology has become so widespread and smartphone-ready that sleuthing, like golf, can be played by almost anyone.

Gail MarksJarvis

Investors focus on earnings, not Ukraine, Gaza Strip - July 23, 2014 - After a few jitters over the crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, investors have used last week's stock market sell-off to buy stocks at...

David Lazarus

Trying to talk with IRS can be taxing - July 28, 2014 - No one expects the federal government to be a model of efficiency. But with a projected deficit of nearly $600 billion this year, you'd...

Korky Vann

Hot Or Cold, Lobster Rolls Are Worth The Drive - July 13, 2014 - At least once a summer, (more often, if I'm lucky), I have to have a lobster roll — preferably consumed at a picnic table with a...

Advertisement

...