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JOHN MARX: Don't fall for the Valentine's Day hustle!
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JOHN MARX: Don't fall for the Valentine's Day hustle!

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A little dude fluttering about wielding a bow and arrow is strange, not romantic.

Cupid rhymes with ...

A box of drugstore chocolates, a silly stuffed animal, jewelry and a jacked-up bouquet of flowers costing six times more than it did two weeks ago are not signs of how much I care about someone.

They are, however, the sights and sounds of the American hustle that is Valentine's Day.

To those of of you taken by the scam that is today, I'm sorry. I was, for many years, one of you.

Now, though, I am out.

For the record, I'm married. Go ahead, say it: "Poor woman.'' Like I haven't heard that a hundred times already today.

And my favorite ...

"Even the blind squirrel finds the best acorn,'' my late father told me on my wedding day.

My wife is pretty, brilliant, a great spouse and arguably the best mom on the planet. I do not have to buy her flowers, discount-store chocolates or jewelry, or take her out for an overpriced meal, for her to know how I feel.

She knows what a hustle today has become. It's an insult to the intelligence of women and men everywhere, and like me, she refuses to play.

Is Feb. 14 is the only day movie theaters, restaurants and florists' shops will be open?

Today is man-made, a scam set in motion by retailers to empty our wallets in the name of love. For decades, I was a fish waiting for the worm. I'm sorry for those of you who are still on the hook.

The hustle begins young.

As kids, our parents are forced to buy a box or two of those silly Valentine's Day cards for us to sign and distribute to our classmates, often putting them in shoe boxes teachers in need of a break from math and science made us decorate.

The drill was/is that you put a card in everyone's box but yours, along with those heart-shaped candies stamped with romantic sayings. The only people who gain from Valentine's Day candy distribution are the dentists who for some reason buy a new Mercedes every March.

The scam grows as you reach your teen years.

Because you cannot let the magical day pass without doing something, you fret for days or weeks, worrying about a gift you cannot afford. You want the world to know you are sensitive and thoughtful, which apparently can only be said at age 16 or 17 with the purchase of flowers, bad chocolate, a necklace you cannot afford, or the cheesiest stuffed animal the drugstore offers.

The hustle grows through your college years and hits its peak as you make your way through your 20s and 30s.

By then you are working and have a sliver of disposable income, which is right where the V-Day scammers want you. No way you can land or keep that special guy or girl unless you go big. Then, two weeks later, when you decide the relationship is not right for both of you, all that's left is frustration and a large credit card bill.

The scam that is Valentine's Day even jabs those who who don't have or want someone in their lives. Those people should be celebrated, not made to feel left out because no one bought them a fondue set for $99 from Amazon.

Of all the made-up days, of all the retail hustles, Valentine's Day is the most flagrant. For those of you wishing to play today, I say, "Good luck."

The flowers will be dead by next Tuesday.

Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309 757 8388 or jmarx@qconline.com

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