Saturday, April 01, 2006

Alluring Scam (or at least a time-waster)

I received a letter from a company called "Western Express", for which I could find no definitive information online. The letter claimed I was a prize recipient, and that I should call them to discuss how to claim my prize, but nowhere did they explain with whom they are affiliated, nor did the give a hint at what the catch was. Out of curiosity I called and asked (since I'm trying to beef up my bullshit detector, having been a somewhat naive person my whole life). They explained that I would have to take a tour of their properties in an area outside of New Braunfels, which I'm sure is quite lovely. However I have no intention of buying, and the $500 minimum prize was too large for me to think they were serious when they claimed it was essentially payment for good word-of-mouth advertising.

I spoke with Nasium about this since he is wise beyond my years, and he gave the impression that this scheme is not unlike rebates or other awards: the confusing fine print and extra effort required will disqualify most participants. I spoke to my Dad afterwards and fed the story to him piecemeal to see how quickly his bullshit detector went off. Right into it he knew what this was all about, but maintained that it's definitely still possible to get the prize. It just requires guarded participation, a jaundiced eye on the fine print, and a willingness to walk away empty handed if they ask too much of you (e.g. SS#, CC#). The latter is why I chose not to participate.

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