Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I see a tall, dark small cap index in your future

The New York Times reported last weekend that some folks are turning to psychics for a bit of guidance.

As a Florida trader interviewed in the story said, "if she [his psychic] tells me she is getting a negative view, I will sell.”


“Your mortgage agents, your realtors, your bankers, you can’t go to these people anymore,” said Tori Hartman, a psychic in Los Angeles. “They’re just reading a script — at least that’s how my clients feel. People are sensing that the traditional avenues have not worked, that all of a sudden this so-called security that they’ve built up isn’t there anymore. They come to a psychic for a different perspective.”

Psychics, astrologers, spiritualists may be one of the only market sectors that's not in hopper. Business, they say, is strong - and those in need are forking over upwards of $75/hour. And that upwards can be very upward: the article mentioned that some can charge $1,000 an hour. I took a forecasting class in business school. Too bad it was econometric forecasting, not soothsayer forecasting. I always liked playing with Ouija Board. I bet I could have learned how to read a tarot card. Yet another point where my career could have been on that $1K/hour trajectory. Damn!

“My Web traffic is up and up and up,” said Aurora Tower, a New Yorker who constructs spidery star charts for her growing clientele. “People will entertain the irrational when what they consider rational collapses.”

Increasingly, the folks turning to psychics are men, especially those from the beleaguered real estate and investment industries, along with CEO's looking for help trying to figure out whether they're candidates for a give out, a buy out or a bail out. (Having more men in the mix is interesting, if only because these captains of industry tend to ask  questions about the psychic's accuracy rate, and whether they'll guarantee their readings. Oh boy.)

One of the companies cited in the article was which offers - as the name implies - live consultations. Live Person (with  revenues this year of $30 million) doesn't just have spiritual readers on board. I swung by, and you can get a C++ programmer for $.50/minute, someone to give you real estate advice for $1.00/minute, and help with your PowerPoint preso for $.75/minute. (Hmmmmmm. Maybe I could find a little sideline here.... What's help with your blog worth per minute?)

There's also a mixed bag of medical practitioners, psychologists, life coaches and others who are out there, willing to charge by the minute.

I don't know about anyone else, but I really don't think I'd want to go to a doctor who charges $2.99/minute. ("Average time take per live advice is 10 minutes.")

Many of the Live Person consultants seem to be south Asian - but unlike those "hi, my name is Brian" customer service reps who try to pretend that they're sitting in Wisconsin ("Go, Packers!", these folks are using their real names and personas, which I find a plus.

But the professionals - south Asian or not -  on Live Person are absolute cheap dates compared to the spiritual readers.

On the first page alone - and there are 249 pages of spiritual readers, ten to a page - you could find yourself paying $17.70/minute to a "God gifted psychic."

Or you could send an e-mail to Elizabeth (no price quoted), who is a "certified, 6th generation psychic who will give you an open, honest reading every time."

People are asking their psychics all sorts of life, professional, personal, political, and other pressing questions. (One New York astrologer said "I get a lot of Republicans wondering where their party is going.”)

Given the uncertain times we live in, it's not surprising that people are grasping at the straw of psychic readings - although it's hard to believe that it's worth $17.70 a minute.

But I know the feeling.

During the run-up to the election, I found myself looking at the polling data a dozen times a day; reading every comment on HuffPo; and channel cruising every evening from one talking head to the next. When I really wanted to make myself crazy, I looked at Rush Limbaugh's web site.

Did it really matter what Zogby was saying about Pennsylvania or what Rasmussen was saying about Florida? Especially when it wasn't changing from one hour to the next?


But I was so completely crazed and neurotic that I just couldn't keep myself from behavior that simultaneously alleviated my anxiety and exacerbated it. ("He's down by 1 point in Wisconsin!")

As it turned out, the biggest anxiety-allayer was working a phone bank the Saturday before the election.

At least I felt I was doing something.

Which, as it turns out, is also a pretty decent antidote for recession anxiety.

Read a book, watch a ball game, bake brownies, take a walk, blog...or just commiserate and anxiety-swap with your friends and family, who - last time I checked - do this kind of "work" for free.

The answer, as it usually turns out, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves.

1 comment:

Mark Bell said...

Good article. The psychic business is indeed booming. We offer a service that allows people to start their own pay per call business ( and in the past three months we have had a number of psychics sign up. In times of uncertainty their business grows and as you can imagine these are uncertain times.

One new psychic I spoke to said she cannot keep up with the calls and is not taking any new clients at this time. Thats a strong statement for someone who can command over $300 an hour.