It was time to haggle.
“Can you beat that offer, K.C.?”
I was speaking with K.C. Traylor, the lead instigator of the group opposed to the contemplated All Aboard Florida train that would link South Florida to Orlando.
“All Aboard Florida is offering me sky miles,” I told her.
That’s right. If I fill out a form letter to an elected official, a letter “to express my strong support” for All Aboard Florida in something called “an e-Miles earning opportunity,” I could get points on U.S. Airways, United Airlines, or AirTran in exchange for my insincere letter of support.
What a deal.
Sure, I’d have to suspend a healthy dose of self-respect to go along with the script in praise of the train.
“We should celebrate that it’s being implemented by the private sector, and encourage the public sector not to lose sight of this important fact but to help expedite the process so it can come to fruition that much faster,” the script says in part.
Private sector, my caboose.
The whole deal hinges on a $1.6 billion federal loan, and hundreds of millions of dollars in state money on an Orlando station and track improvements along the route.
But hey, sky miles.
“In an effort to reach Florida residents who have a vested interest in travel, we have engaged in common direct marketing efforts to educate people about the All Aboard Florida project,” a spokesman for All Aboard Florida said. “Those that choose to support our efforts through this email are not obligated to click through to a continued survey for an exchange for e-miles.”
The spokesman said it was false to imply that All Aboard Florida was offering free sky miles in exchange for support. If so, I’d suggest that the online direct marketing effort shouldn’t be entitled “e-Miles earning opporunity” with the subject line: “Show Your Support For All Aboard Florida.”
At any rate, it was time to get a counteroffer from the anti-train group, which also provides a form letter of its own to send to elected officials. But the anti-train form letter doesn’t come with goodies.
“We’re not offering frequent-flyer miles,” said Traylor, the Stuart woman leading the group Florida Not All Aboard. “We’re offering a chance to stop this train.”
“That’s not good enough,” I told her. “We’re now in the bribery stages of negotiations here. And you’ve got to do better than sky miles.”
Traylor quickly assessed the stakes. In the battle of letters of support, her side was at a distinct disadvantage by drawing only from the sincere.
“I’ll have to confer with my people and get back to you,” she said.
Ten minutes later, she was back with a counter offer.
“We can offer you a puppy,” she said. “That’s the best we can do right now. We have some puppies we could give away.”
“What kind of puppies?” I said.
“The cute adorable kind that lick your face,” she said. “Who won’t write a letter to get a puppy?”
Hmm. I had to think about it.
“If I write a really good letter, with lots of strongly worded language, can I get an upgrade from a mutt to a purebred?” I asked.
She said it might be arranged.
I was still playing hardball, and not about to tell her that after reading through the fine print of the “e-Miles earning opportunity” I had by writing a letter in support of the train, I had discovered that the fake letter of support for All Aboard Florida would earn me just 5 e-Miles miles.
Five miles? And if I don’t use them in a year, I lose them.
That doesn’t sound like much of an incentive at all.
But then again, the hasty plan to offer puppies didn’t sound like the best way to use the dogs in this battle of the tracks, either.
“You know, on second thought, if you really want to stop that train,” I told Traylor, “you might be better off just lashing those puppies to the tracks.”