From 1966 to 1988, I was a consumer reporter with CBC in Halifax, investigating countless scams and scam artists.
One scam I’ll never forget came from a frozen meat company on the Bedford Highway. The business was grabbing a lot of media attention by advertising that it was selling Black Angus beef at bargain prices. To check out their enticing sales pitch, I posed as a customer and arranged a private viewing. Joining me was a butcher from a local supermarket, masquerading as my husband.
The salesman lead us into a large freezer where several beef carcasses dangled from the ceiling. The enthusiastic salesman caressed them as he talked, assuring us he was selling it was top quality Black Angus beef. He insisted that it was the same grade of beef most large supermarkets sell. Even I immediately recognized the letter D stamped on the carcass, meaning the meat came from a “mature” animal.
Soon after I reported the scam on both radio and television, the company closed. Disgruntled customers had freezers full of meat that was so tough, in one person’s words, “You couldn’t chew the gravy!”
On another occasion, I actually counted cherries in various cherry pies. I did this after getting a tip about a Dominion Store cherry pie that had only three or four whole cherries in it. Not prepared to let such a ridiculous situation slide, I bought five or six different cherries pies and during a lunchtime break, bravely dipped my fingers into their extremely gooey contents.
Sure enough, the Dominion store pie turned out to have the least cherries. With popular news host Frank Cameron, we revealed the results on the nightly nightly news show. Faced with a public-relations nightmare, Dominion changed how its workers made the pies (it turns out they weren’t stirring the filling enough).
I also have vivid reminders of the many outstanding people I met during my consumer reporter days This including presidential candidate and activist Ralph Nader (who accepted my home made chocolate cookies), movie star Tony Randall, and Robert McClure, a medical missionary and the first layperson to be Moderator of the United Church of Canada. He was controversial because of his support for arranged marriages.
My more unusual encounters included quacks like the charlatan who claimed he could cure AIDS by using large amount of water to flush the colon and Dan Dale Alexander, AKA the Codfather. He believed cod liver oil was a miraculous panacea that could even cure baldness. He was notably bald but despite the flaw in his logic, his spiel worked. Almost every drug store in the city reported their supply of cod liver oil completely sold out when he came to town.