Skim Scammery

Saw a commercial for the “Q-Ray” on television earlier today, andit always grabs my interest it’s so ridiculous (“oooh, an ionizedbracelet!”). One thing that especially caught my eye this time wasthe scammy wording of several of the segments, for instance (andI’m paraphrasing, so take this as satire and go watch thecommercial yourself if you care enough) “For $19.95 (+shipping andhandling) get your Q-Ray 30-day trial only!”. Now this little pieceof braided wire seems to be a ripoff at $19.95, but their deceptivewording made my wife and I curious. So much so, that she dialed the1-800 number, and we learned that it’s $19.95 (+s&h), and ifyou don’t return it within 30 days it’s two more installments of$50+ (again, I didn’t care enough to really catalog it in mybraincells accurately, so call if you really want more specifics).I’m sure the return-within-30-days thing is about as easy asgetting a rebate check, though the weak of mind that orders thissort of garbage will likely attribute every positive event in theirlife to the magical ionization, and thus happily fork over another$100 plus..

Speaking of ripoffs, what’s the deal with instant rebates Iunderstand the concept behind mail-in rebates (which in a nutshellis that many customers don’t bother to mail it in from the get go,and of those who do you can get rid of many of their claims just byignoring them, conveniently losing material, and so on. Prettyclever use of fraud to compliment legitimate retail), but I fail tosee who the winner is in a scheme where 100% of the customers getthe savings immediately at check-out. What I suspect is that it’san accounting trick – sell a $200 item for $300 + $100 instantrebates, and then put a $300 sale on the books, and a $100 expense.Sales then are bloated, although the profit percentage hasdecreased. Corner stores should hop on this idea, selling chocolatebars for $10,000 – $9,999.01 rebates, chocking up record breakingsales quarter over quarter.

On the theme of lame adverts and sales techniques, another sourceof irritation are car leasing ads that put gigantic monthly leasingvalues (“$299/month. You read it right! $299!”), and then absurdlyhide the down payment portion in tiny text at the bottom: The firstvalue is pretty much meaningless without the second — youcould lease a Mercedes S600 for a pittance per month if you justput $120,000 down. Car companies think they’re being clever withthis sort of lowest-common-denominator advertising, but the endresult is that all car ads become nothing but noise, with a bunchof meaningless, context-free random values on them.