A client of mine was recently approached, through her ticket desk (me), to speak at an event at St. Paul’s Church in Jarrow, UK. The request allegedly came from Bishop Mark Jarrow. I thought it odd so I did some research on the internet. There is a St. Paul’s Church in Jarrow, UK (in fact, it’s the home of the Venerable Bede) and the local Bishop’s name is Mark Bryant aka Mark Jarrow.
This is where the political correctness comes in: the language in the ticket and in subsequent emails wasn’t that of a native, English/British speaker. My first reaction was scepticism but then I told myself, wait, maybe you’re being unnecessarily snobbish or prejudiced. Britain is well known as a melting pot of many cultures – not all of whom speak English the way you or I do. I remembered that at my Uncle’s funeral in a small town in northern Central Ontario, the Catholic priest was very Spanish. Would he have been able to write an email in English that was completely grammatically correct? Ditto a Catholic priest in a church in the Beaches area of Toronto a few years ago. So, on with my political correctness hat and I let my client know about the ticket.
However, something never quite seemed right. They sent a contract, which my client signed and returned (now they had her signature). They needed her passport info, d.o.b. and full name to book her flight. Then came the bombshell that she would need a work permit and would have to pay for it herself.
We both tried contacting the British Consulate here…they want $3.20 a minute to talk to a live human being. After a tortuous search of the website we agreed to have the permit pulled in the UK – despite the fact that the British Consulate’s website said a Tier 5 permit would be 190GBP and the contact in Jarrow said it would be 430GBP. I suggested they use part of the deposit they were going to send my client, but no…that was coming from a sponsor and not immediately available. In any event, they said they were going to reimburse the cost so we were going to go ahead.
Still, something didn’t feel right at this point and when they asked me for the second time, when my client would like to travel, something clicked in me and, on my own time, I started really digging. First I compared phone numbers and postal codes on the contract and the website (they were different). Then I emailed the rector listed on the website and was put in touch with the real Bishop’s PA (who writes impeccable English). Turns out it’s a scam that the local constabulary are well aware of but interestingly enough, the Toronto cops couldn’t care less about.
The real church in Jarrow has now added a disclaimer to their website about this scam under the “Jarrow Lecture” tab.
Thank goodness we figured out it was a scam before my client actually wired any money to them. Oh, and for the record, my client looked up the IP addresses and they are in Nigeria.
So, when does political correctness become dangerous: the minute we stop relying on our instinctive reactions and mask them with political correctness and the desire not to offend.