Dejectedly, I surfed the Internet. Maybe a new game addiction would help me forget my writer’s block. Maybe I could learn which Hollywood celebrities are taking orders from space aliens. Maybe someone would be advertising for a washed-up columnist who misses deadlines.
Suddenly it appeared. A bolt of inspiration as bright as the sun shining off Internet tinfoil hats. Millions of micro-sites promised to find me a topic, and then write whatever I wanted. Any length. Any style. And they’d even make it factual. Or at least make up reasonable facts.
The first website told me everything I needed to know–“In our modern, rapidly developing world, sometimes it is really hard to find any time for such a complicated assignment.” Being the investigative reporter I am, I didn’t trust just one site to do my job.
All said they could write anything, and even promised a custom paper that was never used anywhere before. “Plagiarism Proof” was a common thread. There’s nothing a desperate columnist needs more than the assurance his readers won’t find out he plagiarized something that first appeared in the prestigious Begonia Bay Bugle.
All the services trumpeted that anything they created was of the highest quality, written by experts with master’s and doctoral degrees. None indicated which mail order college their staff graduated from, or if their experts bought their own research papers from other companies. But, most important, every company said it could provide anything I needed—“rush jobs extra.” Just email or call them for their prices and to reduce my worries.
First up was a Los Angeles company. John, a polite young man eager to help, told me most of the term papers in the company’s catalog were 6–20 pages, and the cost was only $12.50 a page if I didn’t need it for two weeks. The company even threw in the footnotes and bibliography for free.
“I’m on a deadline,” I told him.
“No problem,” he helpfully said, “we can send it by email attachment.” But, for a four-hour turn-around, the cost would be $45 a page. “You won’t be sorry,” he bubbled enthusiastically.
I popped his bubble and moved on.
Donna sweetly told me her “staff of experts” would create exactly what I needed, but the price would vary—high school papers were less expensive; doctoral dissertations more expensive. The price varied from $14 to $44 a page. A 200 page Ph.D. dissertation on a two-day deadline would cost only $8,000. It seemed like a great bargain, considering that many years ago I had apparently wasted four years in grad school and had to max out my credit cards to get my own Ph.D. I explained I didn’t need a dissertation—only a three-page column, which she would provide at a “bargain basement price” of just $32 a page.
I thanked her and decided to shop for bargains elsewhere. At the next company, all I had to do was show them the money and, in exchange for a “fully written report”—I could even insert my own opinions—I’d have to sign a statement guaranteeing, “I understand this report is to be used for research purposes only.” I assumed thousands of high school students planning to go to college and then into corporate business had no problem with that requirement. But in case anyone thought there’d be a problem, this site, like all other sites, emphasized what it was doing was legal, thus alleviating my concerns about imminent arrest. Besides, I reasoned, the worst that could happen is that a judge would require me to write an essay, which I could buy, about why cheating is wrong.
One company flatly told me it could write anything but “didn’t do windows or columns.” But, Dr. Something-or-the-other, head of research, suggested I contact a local college and find a grad student in English to help. A grad student? In English! Obviously, this woman had the artistic sensitivity of a drainpipe.
Time for my last contact. A kindly voice answered, “Research Services.”
“Can you do a custom report?” I asked.
“Everything we do is custom made,” he replied. He charged $15.50 per page.
“Can you do satire?” I asked.
No problem, he answered. However, he explained that writing satire “is time consuming because it involves creative writing.” I said I understood.
“I’d like a foil in it if possible. You know, like this guy in Pennsylvania sometimes uses someone named Marshbaum?” Still no problem. “I need it pretty soon,” I begged. No problem there either.
For $85 he’d do something relatively quick. “We take all major credit cards,” he said. I decided not to take him at all.
I spend all week perfecting my column. And he wanted only $85? For 800 choice words? It seemed awfully cheap. Besides, by then, I had my column.