On the way to the gym this morning I heard a radio ad that I’ve heard several times before. It’s from the International Star Registry. It’s a mind-boggling scam.
These people offer the chance to “name a star”, and tout it as a “great gift” — “a gift that will last a lifetime”. And, “your gift will be registered in book form in the US Copyright Office.” In some weird sort of way, it almost seems like a nice idea.
You can almost imagine taking your honey out to Lookout Point on a clear starry night, pointing up just to the right of the Big Dipper and saying, “Look, Dear, there’s the Candy Smith star. I had it named just for you.” And as you melt together into the evening, it all seems so perfect.
But it’s a complete lie. Take a quick look at the web site’s FAQ. Aside from several questions about how to order, there’s the real meat of the matter. Q: Am I buying the star? A: No. We do not own the star, so we cannot sell it to you.
More importantly: Q: Will the scientific community recognize my star name? A: No. We are a private company that provides Gift Packages. Astronomers will not recognize your name because your name is published only in our Star catalog. We periodically print a book called Your Place in the Cosmos © which lists the stars that we have named.
So let me see if I have this right. For my $59 – $159 I get a certificate from you that says you named some random star in my name. You will occasionally print out a list of these names and send it to the copyright office (as any author can). And that’s it. No one will recognize this name, and all I have to show for it is a credit card receipt and a piece of paper.
The International Star Registry sold something they don’t own, have no inventory of, have an unlimited supply of, and have essentially no cost-of-goods-sold. It’s raw profit. I could also print out a piece of paper that says “This star over here is the CLWill star”, send it in at essentially no cost to the US Copyright Office, and I’d have the exact same effect.
This is an incredibly inventive scam. But it begs an important question: how do these people sleep at night?
I can understand how some low life came up with this idea over a couple of beers. I can even understand that there are people in this world like this scammer who live for separating fools from their money. I don’t like that, but I realize they exist.
What I wonder about is all the other people in the organization. This can’t be a small endeavor. There are people answering the phone. People entering things into the database. People handling the accounting, payroll, taxes, etc. People developing the ads and the web site. There must be a dozen or more people involved in this scam.
How do they all sleep? They all must know the ridiculousness of the deal. They must all start out chuckling at the people who order. But at some point it has to turn sickening. There just has to be silly levels of turnover as people tire of cheating their fellow man (or woman).
Then I wonder, what is this organizational culture like? Do people cheat and connive each other into promotions and raises? Do they stab each other in the back? If they scam strangers for a living, they must treat each other like crap.
On a personal level, can they really look themselves in the mirror every morning as they head off to work, and think this is really OK? Do they go to church and talk about “doing unto others”? What do they teach their children about work ethics? It turns my stomach from 2,000 miles away (they’re in Illinois), I can’t imagine being involved in such a thing.
And as I’m typing this blog entry, I got a new piece of spam from the “Heritage Registry of Who’s Who”. The exact same scam, in different clothes. Add in the incessant diet drug ads that proliferate this time of year, and the incredibly annoying ads for Enzyte, “for natural male enhancement” and you wonder, where have all the scruples gone?