Articles

Not really too good to be true, as it’s true and not that good

In Correspondence, Media on Wednesday 22nd April, 2009 by Guy

I received a letter yesterday from some obscure organisation called Reader’s Digest. It began as follows:

Dear Mr Freeman [I don’t think they know my first name, but I won’t hold that against them],

Please take a deep breath before you read this letter, Mr Freeman, because great news like this doesn’t come along every day.

The reason I am writing to you is because you could soon be confirmed as the sole winner of our £5,000 Immediate Payout Draw. Further, this prize will be awarded shortly. Therefore, the action you prepare to take now could easily translate into a big cash windfall for the Freeman household [sic all over].

Many large cash prize winners have told us that suddenly coming into so much money often brings with it a few days, sometimes weeks, of utter exhilaration. In fact, this could end up being among the most exciting and memorable moments of your life.

That’s why we’ve enclosed a Frequently Asked Questions report [on which more shortly]. It includes some helpful hints [for what? Is there some sort of game involved?] and observations, and could certainly start you thinking about some of the things you’ll be asked should we confirm you as our very lucky cash prize winner.

**For instance: We stand ready to present our winner, upon confirmation, with a cashable cheque for the total sum of £5,000. Given that you may in fact become our qualified winner, and you would have had some time to think about winning, we could offer you the chance to claim the prize as an immediate wire transfer of funds to the financial institution of your choice near your home.

Mr Freeman, please take a few minutes to think about what it would feel like to be the confirmed winner of our £5,000 Immediate Payout Draw. Important documents will arrive at [my address, give or take] in a large orange envelope bearing a green 028 Tracking Ref label. It contains everything you need to guarantee your chance to take delivery of the prize cheque. [Yes, this emphasis is all theirs].

I can’t be bothered to write the rest as it carries on much in that vein, but losing the humour somewhat. They’d run out of their best jokes by the time I stopped quoting there.

Now I did have some questions relating to this prize draw, such as: Why were they making such a big deal out of it? Why do they write like a bad spoof of a 1950s hard-boiled detective story? Is there a possibility that they’re trying to persuade me that I’ve already won a prize despite this patently not being the case? Do they really think anyone is going to fall for it? And lastly, not too sound spoilt, but is £5,000 really enough to cause “weeks of exhilaration”?

I, Mr Freeman, after taking a few minutes of utter exhilaration to think about it, made the decision to read the enclosed Frequently Asked Questions booklet, because surely I couldn’t be the only one who was confused by this letter.

The top of the booklet was sliced inexpertly, deleting the tops of the letters of some of the questions. Intrigued and impressed by this stylistic touch, I started reading. The first few questions were to do with procedure if I was “confirmed” as the winner. Then came the truly wonderful queries which I’m surprised are Frequently Asked, if they are indeed:

Will I be contacted by the media?

If you win, it’s possible that you may be contacted by your local newspaper. [Oooooh! Golly and gosh!]

What kind of questions would I be asked?

Questions are usually anecdotal, such as ‘did you always believe in your chance to win?’, or ‘what were the reactions of family and friends upon learning of your good fortune?’.

Are there any other helpful hints and tips a winner might want to know about?

Some winners feel it’s a good idea to share the news with close family first in order to decide what to do with the prize! For instance, would you want to splurge on some luxury items, or put the money into a secure savings plan?

Other winners said that the money didn’t really change them as people. It just made life a lot easier!

This isn’t really a scam of the first order. It’s just a way to find the gullible, the semi-educated, the lonely and the elderly in our society and target them with crap which they will be powerless to stop. As amusing as I found this letter initially — and I did have a good chuckle again while typing it up just now — I can’t really understand how the people behind it can live with themselves for knowingly writing such tosh and thus being fully aware that only the most vulnerable of people will respond to it. Shame on them.

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One Response to “Not really too good to be true, as it’s true and not that good”

  1. You’re too cynical: http://xkcd.com/570/

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