Sunday, June 19, 2005

American Express "Rewards Options Program"

I have an American Express card, and now for about a year they bombard me with invitations to join their "Rewards Options Program" So, my natural reaction is "What's the catch?"

I checked their invitations several times and it seems that there are nothing. No enrollment fee, no annual fee, no minimum purchase requirements... Simply put it looks like a regular credit cards with partial rebate, and this rebate is also not in a very usable form. So, why do they need my signature? They even promise a 2,500 points on a sign up, that is $25, so, what's the catch? Cannot see any.

Even better, it seems like their promotional materials are written by some mentally challenged lawyers who have a special pride in making you to believe that there is some catch. Check the statement on the enrollment form: "By signing below, I understand my enrollment is subject to the Membership Rewards." Do you get it? I don't.

Anyway, why do they need my signature to give something back? And if they want me to join so badly, why do they design it in the language that would make people want to throw it away?

I'll tell you what I think it could be about. It's not about us -- the customers. Nobody gives a damn about us. It's just a byproduct of some internal office politics where some guy builds a career by simulating being "customer oriented". And the people who execute the program, they just don't give a damn about us, or the program, or the whole company. That's how such materials are normally created. We are but innocent bystanders in these battles. I may be totally wrong, but that's the only explanation that I can come up with.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Internet Marketing Center

That's not exactly a "corporate" stupidity, the "corporation" apparently is smart enough to get people with such an advertising. But I cannot pass that without some serious eyebrow raising...

Let see, the guys propose to organize your affiliate program. Right, quite logical business, "during the gold rush, sell shovels." Now would it be logical to use them? For some people, probably. But stilll... the claims are kind of frivolous.

It starts with a statement "Even though I paid over $248,000 for this, I want you to have it risk free for the next 90 days…" Who paid, for what, why do we care? Ask yourself, would you even consider paying $248,000 for creating your affiliate program? Frankly, you can do that with a couple of simple php scripts and an MS Access database. In fact, I am planning to publish this all on my website promotion blog in a couple of months absolutely free under CC license. So, that's just plain crazy.

Of course, then follows the pitch that it's really easy and "don't be afraid" stuff, and some millions that somebody earned, and over $11,500 there (who would pay that for an affiliate program?), and $1,876,053 made there, and blah-blah-blah... Of course, these are all money that are not in your pocket, but somehow visitors to this site get agitated enough to buy. Puzzling, isn't it?

Then you are explained that your affiliates will get 2 level downline and how important it is. Say, tells you the site, if you get 50 affiliates in a month, you have just 600 affilitaes in a year. But, and you feel like the author lows his voice and shares his great secret with you, with our two-tier program, it will be 1600 in the same time with the same effort... That's assuming that each of your affiliates recruits 50 new affiliates a month... I will not even comment on it.

Then you find out that all that separates you from the happiness are mere $677 plus $47 per month. Of course, it is compared to some "generic detergent" for $350 per month, just to make you feel comfortable about $47. But even $47 a month is still a lot of money for such a service. Sheesh, you can have the whole site for less... For reference, asks for only $50 one time fee and no monthly fee at all. Sure, they require using their link, but that's a guarantee to the affiliates that you will not cheat them. Kind of important if you really want to recruit 50 affilicates a month...

But here is a really mind-numbing statement: "Recruiting affiliates is easy with AssocTRAC 4.0!" Guys, that's the key and that's NEVER EASY. All the rest is pretty much technology, not a big deal, recruiting affiliates is the actual marketing, that's what requires skills, and persistence, and work.

And, by the way, most affiliates don't see any reasonable profits even if the company does not cheat on them. Count yourself. If you need 1600 affiliates to make, say, $50,000 a month (quite a hefty profit, isn't it?), then even if you give it all to you affiliates, each of them will get on average $50,000/1,600 = $31.125, yes, 31 dollar and 12 and a half penny. That's why recruiting affiliates is not easy. People know how to count, they learned that in the third grade of the school.

Oh, well, I guess that's it. IMHO, trying to pull such tricks on customers does not look very bright to me. Again, I may be wrong. And, maybe they really help some people, but somehow I doubt that their average customer is doing great. Although, I'd be happy to be proven wrong in this particular point.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Ritz Camera "Frequent Foto Rewards Certificate"

Ok, I am puzzled. I had to scan a lot of old film so I've got their "Frequent Foto Member" card. I've got my discount and that's all I essentially wanted from it. But, wait, there are more "benefits" to it. Few days ago I've got a "Frequent Foto Rewards Certificate" It contains a bar code, my name and full address (and frankly, I am not thrilled with that), expiration date, card #, terms and conditions in a fine print legalese...

The only thing missing, is what does it do? I am not picky, I don't expect anything fancy, just tell me! Say, "$5 off your next purchase of $15 or more" or "10% off your purchase" would explain the things just fine. Nothing of the sort.

Friday, June 03, 2005 - mallist removal

Other heros of impossible tasks...

I tried That included subscription to their maillist. Of course, I did not want my main address spammed, so I gave them a forwarding alias. Then, I cancelled my account, but I continued to receive their junk.

Each mail from them contained an instruction how to unsubscribe: send a message to Cool, right? Wrong. They look into the From: field, and From: field contains my real address. So, they say:

> We were unable to locate an account with the email address provided.

Then they provide another way to unsubscribe: login and uncheck the preferences. Well, guys, I quit on you, remember?

I don't think they are actually trying to cut maillist removals this way. It's just that: the corporate stupidity. They know that they must provide unsubscribe, they just don't know how to do that right.