The Shame Companies

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I have an idea that will change the social order among single people and bring about more marriages, in addition to ridding Utah of its single biggest capitalist racket: diamond stores. Perhaps world peace will also be achieved, but that is not my primary concern.

Utah — and especially Provo — probably has more diamond stores than any place in the world. And for good reason: Utah is often nicknamed “the marriage capital,” although a more accurate nickname would be “the engagement capital,” since there are far more engagements than actual marriages.

In fact, at BYU alone — and I can say this without the least degree of exaggeration — EVERY SINGLE FEMALE STUDENT has either been engaged once and broken it off, or else WILL become engaged and then break it off. No BYU woman ever gets married on the first try.

(If you are going to write to me and tell me that you were the exception to that rule and that you take great offense at my generalizing, you should realize up front that I don’t care.)

One problem with the diamond stores is that they’re a huge rip-off, charging poor college-aged men outrageous prices for engagement rings that may or may not result in actual marriages.

Another problem is that they’re so omnipresent as to be irritating. The No. 1 example here is the Shane Company, and its owner, Tom Shane. If you’ve listened to any radio station in Utah for more than two seconds, you’ve heard one of his commercials. He’s got that nasal voice with that grating Utah accent (note to Utahns: Stop telling me you don’t have an accent, because you do), and he drones on and on about who-knows-what. There’s no music, no acting, no nothing. Just a guy with all the charisma of a horseshoe reading a script about the Shane Company and their diamonds.

Can’t this place afford to HIRE someone to do their commercials? I mean, it’s not like we’re talking about some little mom-and-pop operation, where the owner also has to be the advertiser. This is a place that encourages men to spend their life savings on engagement rings — and yet there’s not enough profit to hire a voice-over? Come on.

Whatever Tom Shane’s reasons for continuing to do his own commercials, he obviously doesn’t realize that every man, woman and child in Utah despises them. Never mind that the business he’s in preys upon people’s sentimentality and uses social pressure to force them into making outrageous purchases — even if he were in a more respectable business, such as kidnapping or cock-fighting, it would still be ludicrous for him to ignore common sense and go on inflicting his seizure-inducing monotone upon the undeserving public. Where is this man’s decency? Have we no reprieve?

So there are too many diamond companies, and their commercials and advertisements are everywhere, and they stay in business because men keep trying to get married but often wind up having to buy a second, or even a third, engagement ring for someone else after fiancee No. 1 drops out, citing “it just doesn’t feel right” reasons. (Why didn’t you check the “feeling” of it before you said yes? Was the light shining off the engagement ring so blinding as to overpower the Light you were TRYING to feel?)

My proposal (get it?!) is to do away with engagement rings altogether. When a man proposes marriage, he should get down on one knee, take the woman’s right hand, and give her … a check. A check made out to her for the sum of whatever a decent engagement ring costs, but with no signature. The deal? The day she says “I do,” he signs the check and she can buy whatever the crap she wants with it.

For the next couple months, until they get married — and they WILL get married, with all that loot on the line — she can carry the check around and show it to her friends. She can call the zeroes in the dollar amount “karats,” if she wants to, and the more “karats” on the check, the more the guy loves her, or however that works.

There, I’ve solved it. Thank you and good night.

The Shane Company. I'd been waiting to get THAT guy for a long time. In fact, much of my commentary on Tom Shane is from a column that I wrote but never published for The Daily Universe, many months earlier. It would have been one of my final columns for that paper, if it had run, and I felt it wasn't quite good enough to warrant being one of the final columns. So I let sit around and fester, and I wound up combining it with this whole everyone's-been-engaged phenomenon thing.

I heard from a number of people who claimed hearing Tom Shane commercials in other states, and they wondered if his accent was indeed Utahn. I had no idea he existed anywhere else, so I assumed he was a Utahn. But I did some checking and found out that he has 18 stores in 10 states (California, Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Washington, Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Minnesota). Headquarters are in Denver, where he currently lives; the folks I talked to at his Salt Lake City store said they think he's from Ohio originally, which would make his accent a Midwestern one.

If that is indeed the case, then I apologize to the Utahns for mocking their accent in this column (though I have mocked it, and with good reason, in previous ones).

If he has that many stores in that many states, then there's even LESS reason for him not to hire a voice-over for his commercials. He's even more well-off than I thought. If I'd known that, I would have pummelled him more mercilessly.

This column probably sounds more bitter and angry than I actually am. I've never had a broken engagement, though I know many who have. I guess I just get frustrated with indecision in general, but especially when it affects the lives of people I care about.

Which leads to the subtle religious commentary I make in this column, which is more than I usually do. People in a religious community like this one tend to pray about huge decisions like marriage even before they get engaged, which is certainly a good idea. And yet so many of them wind up later changing their minds. Is God going around giving people "Yes, go ahead" answers and then changing His mind later? I doubt it. More likely, people are eager to get married for whatever reason, and so when they ask if it's right, they don't really listen for the answer. It's not until the reality sets in that they realize, "Oh, wait, this isn't right at all, and it really never was." Like I said here, maybe the light reflecting off the engagement ring (used figuratively here, to mean "the prospect of marriage") is overpowering the Light (note the capitalization) they're trying to feel.

Spirituality, and receiving answers to one's prayers, are touchy subjects, of course, and I don't claim to be any great theologian or spiritual giant. But the fact is, so much heart-break could be avoided if people would do things right the first time. End of sermon.

(By the way, in publication, The Daily Herald de-capitalized the word "Light" in the just-quoted paragraph. This, of course, obscures the meaning. I made it clear in my notes on the column that the word was intentionally capitalized; obviously, the editors knew better than I did what point I was trying to get across.)

All of this led to quite a discussion in the old, now-defunct "Snide Remarks" message board (beginning with post #328, or thereabouts), regarding the Spirit's role in making decisions, and whether men were equally to blame in broken engagements. Quite lively, that debate.

Despite my insistence within the column that I didn't care, I did get an e-mail from a Daily Herald reader, which he also sent to the Letters to the Editor folks. I reprint it here exactly as I received it, with my own interjections, of course:

I certainly hope that the Daily Herald doesn't actually pay Eric D. Snider for the column that he writes. [Yeah, because a lot of newspapers are in the habit of actually PAYING their writers, and we'd hate to see The Daily Herald succumb to this fad.] It's bad enough that you waste paper and ink printing his mindless drivel. In his article about men being forced to buy diamonds for fiancees he makes it apparent that he has no regard for his readers, "If you are going to write.......You should realize up front that I don't care.", he also makes it very apparent he looks on Utahns in general in with disdain."He's got a nasal voice with that grating Utah accent". [If making fun of the Utah accent is the most heinous crime that can be perpetrated against the populace of Utah, indicating "disdain," then Utahns are even more touchy than I thought they were. Which is entirely possible.]

I don't know who he thinks his reading audience may be, writing for a central Utah newspaper but I am certain that there is one Utahn that won't be reading his column again. [Actually, if this Utahn is like most of his fellows, he will continue to read the column faithfully, just so he can be offended again. It sounds crazy, but people do it!] His column certainly sounds like the poor moanings of someone repeatedly left standing at the alter. I am happy for the young ladies that were able to regain their senses in time to break-up with Eric before making a tragic mistake and ending up married to him. [Wow! This guy can tell just from reading one column that it would be a mistake to marry me?! Does he do palm-readings, too?] Rest assured that this is not normal behavior for young women in Utah County just the ones smart enough to see through your idiotic behaviors. [Not normal behavior? Try telling that to the 15 guys I know personally whose fiancees have broken off their engagements in the last three years. If it's not "normal," it's at least common.] Perhaps Eric and all of us Utahns would be better served if he returned to whatever rock he crawled out from under [that would be Lake Elsinore, Calif., thank you] to find his dream mate. I am sure he will have lots better success there offering checks instead of engagement rings to potential spouses. Good luck Eric and good rittance!

Quite a scorcher. Not sure exactly what his beef was, except that I made fun of Utahns and their accent, and that I sound like a whiner. I wouldn't have supposed either of these to be major offenses, but I've been wrong before, too.

Nearly four years after this column appeared, I received another angry e-mail, also from someone who is not especially clear on what exactly she's so angry about.
I am writing in regards to engagement rings and the Shane company. You must be a guy that has been rejected from engagements so many times, or can't afford a wedding ring that you can't stand people talking about them. [Or maybe I'm a humor columnist who often comments on cultural trends.] I am not surprised that such a guy as yourself would feel that way, considering you are either homosexual or cheap. Maybe both. [Yeah, because homosexuals are SO OPPOSED to buying expensive jewelry.]


I wrote back to her, at her e-mail address, which is juliahuntington@yahoo.com, and said this:

Thank you for the hilarious angry letter. My readers enjoy them, so I'll post it on my Web site immediately. I'm curious, though, why you would get so worked up over a column that made jokes about engagement rings. I mean, does it affect you personally? Why take the time to write an angry letter over such a trivial matter? Be sure to take your blood pressure medication, and to ask your husband's permission before using the Internet again.

The last part was just to try to get her angrier, as I was hoping for an even funnier response. Alas, she didn't take the bait. She replied thus:
Dear Penny Pincher,
Im not worked up over your column. i just find it interesting that you would be so jealous of a multi-million dollar industry in comparison to your pathetic critiques. [I never indicated in the column that I was jealous about it, but when you put it that way, who WOULDN'T be jealous of a multi-million dollar industry?] you could spend your time volunteering at an orphanage or rest home, or making young cancer patients laugh. [Or writing angry letters to columnist about articles they wrote four years ago.]

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