@ Work

Alex Palermo: plugged-in psychic

I am an empathic medium, which means that I have the ability to sense others' emotions and to communicate with the dead. A few years ago my brother purchased the Original Tremont Tearoom Inc., in Boston. It's one of the oldest psychic salons in the country. I've since become its "guardian," or manager.

When we took over the tearoom, it didn't even have an answering machine. My brother and I wanted to do things differently. We bought a Compaq Presario, loaded Quicken, and started keying our financial data into the computer. We also asked customers to fill out comment cards so we could begin to build a database of names and addresses.

Today we have almost 6,000 names in the computer. From the database we can generate mailings and track our advertising. For example, we can print out the names and addresses of only those who want to receive our publication, the Boston Metaphysical Newsletter, which we produce two to three times a year using Microsoft Publisher. Or if we want to know if our classified ad is working, we can call up a list of everyone who found out about us through the Boston Globe.

The Web, however, has brought about the most dramatic changes. Since we built our Web site last summer, the tearoom has increased its business by about 25%. The information superhighway is incredibly fertile ground for the occult and the esoteric. Once we were able to accept credit cards, we could do on-line readings. Of course, we never ask the customer to send us a credit-card number over the Web because we aren't convinced that on-line transactions are secure enough. We first set up an account over the phone and then send the customer a receipt.

We do most of our on-line tarot-card and other psychic readings through Internet Relay Chat, a protocol that allows near-real-time, text-based communication between two people over the Web. You can either buy the software off the shelf or download it from the Internet. Using a program called the World of Tarot, we can quickly shuffle, sort, and flip through up to 14 different decks of cards. We charge $35 per half hour for on-line readings and $15 per 15 minutes for walk-ins at the tearoom.

We also do a little with astrology. If you give us your name, date of birth, and time of birth, in about four seconds we can generate a 26-page star chart and report using Astrolog, and E-mail or fax it to you. We charge $10 for the chart and report.

In addition, I teach a psychic-development class every Tuesday night on CompuServe's New Age Forum. In general, whether you're talking about a healing group or a psychic reading, you don't have to be in the same room with someone to pick up vibrations. I can sense energy through the computer or over the phone and do what's called a remote reading. For example, I can pick up vibes from the words someone types in an on-line chat. Energy is energy--whether it's transferred from one human to another or through a computer.

You can reach the Original Tremont Tearoom at www.tremont-tearoom.com.