Monday, April 15, 2013

Sales and Scams

Sitting at the office today and the phone rings. No one is around so I pick it up. The recorded voice of a robot is on the line. By the way, how absolutely amazing is it that we have a global network to transmit sound in real time, and that network is used by robots to engage in commerce with humans.

Anyway, the robot tells me that because my company accepts visa and mastercard, we are eligible for a free super fancy card reader. Now, I don't know enough to say with absolute certainty that we don't accept credit cards here at the office, but I do know that we really aren't a customer/credit card business, more a client/invoice/check business. Maybe someone in accounts got us set up at some point, and maybe we use it occasionally, I don't know.

Anyway, I hung up at that point because we don't need a card reader and I had more important shit to be doing. And yet I wonder; that could well have been a completely serious, legitimate offer. Perhaps one of the new payment system companies that have started advertising are trying to gain customer adoption by driving business adoption. Maybe it is an established company hoping to gain our business with free samples. But it could just as easily have been yet another scam like the business listing robot calls we get three times a week.

And I realized that I have no way to tell the difference.

What if I, notable inventor that I am, actually invented a penis enlargement pill? I don't have a lot of funding sources, and what money I could get my hands on would have to go towards manufacturing. But how would I get off the ground? The most effective way to get the word out is advertising, and I doubt there are many people left on the internet who would consider a person selling penis enlargement to be legit even if it really was. What if one Iowa mom really did discover a weird trick to beat belly fat? After all, good advertising is pretty hard and a new company getting off the ground, or even an inventor distrustful of ad-men but supremely confident in her invention, might well run a whole lot of shitty ads.

Take 5-hour energy, as an example. I had already tried that product, and knew it was legit, but when they started running shitty TV ads, it really looked like a scam. It wasn't a scam, but I have been trained by all the hucksters on the internet to just assume that anything other than the slickest, most professional ads are probably advertising sketchy services.


  1. Had you put these thoughts into a formal model some time in the late 60s and written it up, you could have won a Nobel Prize in economics for it.

    1. That's part of why I never went to grad school-- all these dead people (actually a lot of them are still alive) came up with my brilliant ideas way back when. Also grad school seemed like more work than it was worth.

      There ought to be someone on the internet somewhere who buys up all the shit from scammy ads and reviews them. Not me, because that sounds like it would involve effort, but someone.