Monthly Archives: April 2009

Reader’s Digest Contest: Winning huge money?

Over the last year or so, I have faithfully participated in two different Reader’s Digest sweepstakes contests.  There is promise of cars, sums of cash, and more.  Now I know Reader’s Digest is a legitimate organization, but they do seem to use their literary skills in a technical way to sell you products unknowingly.

We all realize that the printed magazine industry is hurting with the internet these days.  Naturally Reader’s Digest is constantly on the hunt to obtain more magazine subscriptions. By offering a sweepstakes or free giveaway, it really helps their marketing efforts.  The problem I have, is that the way the sweepstakes is conducted can be misleading to many people.  I’ll create an example below which will explain further.

DISCLAIMER: Not actual statements by Reader’s Digest. I created these examples to express my point.

Affix this gold seal to have a chance at Winning $40,000 and also receive our free-gift**”      

Then buried ten paragraphs down, it could say something like this:

**Not only will we send you our special free gift, but we will also send exciting new books to you each month. There’s no obligation, simply return the unwanted purchases. In the event you do not return them, we’ll assume you want them, and you’ll be automatically charged on your credit card”

But you get the point. Read their fine print. Actually, it’s not really “fine print” either. There is just pages and pages of print.  It gets confusing and information overload takes over. Soon, you find yourself peeling off the gold seal sticker, and affixing it and mailing it back without fully understanding what you are committing yourself to…

I also find the YES and NO envelopes they send quite amusing.  If you want the extra chance at the larger prize (and a magazine subscription), mail back the YES envelope. Otherwise, mail your contest entry in the NO envelope.  Hmmm… I wonder which envelopes will get opened back at headquarters?

I do appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes.  What I don’t appreciate is my grandmother might get confused by the overwhelming fine details and information overload.  My grandmother might innocently get caught up receiving tons of unwanted purchases by mail without realizing she “opted in”

Have you, yourself participated in one of these Reader’s Digest sweepstakes free contests before?

Scratch Lottery Tickets: Winning Prize Strategy

Scratch ‘n Win, also known as Scratch Off lottery tickets are available everywhere and they are a lot of fun.BUT!The majorityof prizes just give your money back, a $2.00 profit, or maybe only a free ticket.Cheap prizes exist so that players can get excited and say “Hey! I won $2.00!”  (As if that is something significant.)

They advertise “Chance of winning 1 in 3!”  It is helpful to understand that petty prizes are paid frequently in the game just to make the odds of winning look better.


If I scratch a $5 ticket and see “congratulations $5 winner” — How is that really winning anything?

In my opinion they should discontinue these types of petty prizes. How many people will buy a scratch ticket for the purpose of winning their money back?  It doesn’t make sense. We’re all out there to at least double our money.  I wouldn’t mind getting scratching more losing tickets if that meant that I’d have better chances of getting bigger prize over the long term.

For instance, say I buy 25 tickets over the course of a three month period.

Instead of getting 8 winning tickets giving me my money back, I’d prefer to get one winning ticket with 8X the money!

Scratch lottery tickets that would do that wouldn’t sell as well though, and the lottery organizations know that. .  If you won one big prize out of every 25 tickets, you’d probably be less likely to buy 25 more tickets over the following three month period.  They know that if you experienced a loss 20 consecutive times, you’d stop buying tickets;  it is that simple.

Obviously, the current system is by design. They want you to get the illusion that by winning more often, that the big one is just around the corner.

Moral of the story? When you’re feeling lucky, play the ball drawn lotteries, like the Pick 6, or Lotto 6/49, etc. These lotteries will net you a few million dollars if you win big. Unlike the scratch off tickets where the largest prize is only $25,000, sometimes less.   You get better value for your money by buying one of those ball drawn lotteries instead.

What do you think?

Option 1) Would you rather win less often, but get bigger prizes?


Option 2) Would you rather win more often, but get much smaller prizes?

MagicJack: It’s on TV – so it must work right?

If you’ve seen the numerous commercials for MagicJack — the little USB phone thingy that plugs into your highspeed connection via your computer and gives you unlimited local and long distance calls, you’re probably wondering if it works.

Well if you do a massive amount of Google searches and spend time reading as much as you can, you will find that the majority of the people DO say that the MagicJack works and is well worth the money.

So how do they do it?

Well – I can tell you.  Basically the MagicJack is cheap to manufacture when you buy them in the hundreds of thousands.  The cost of the hardware, wholesale wise, is fairly cheap.

The problem begins with:

a) Marketing

b) Support

c) The network the needs to convert this internet traffic into analog phone line calls, where these calls are placed via the internet and converted over to the regular phone lines..

Now, to be honest, I really do not have any insider information whatsoever. I am approaching this issue from a completely logical standpoint.

If “I” was the MagicJack people (which I am not)… and I wanted to get my device into the hands of many, I’d offer it at a break-even cost… Sell as many of them as I could in Year 1 and Year 2…

Then in Year 3, I’d raise the cost and go into profitability.

What does this mean for the consumer? They’re getting a great deal in the ramp up stage.

What could this mean for MagicJack if I am right?  Well they are building a very nice little consumer empire, which could result in lots of future profits…

So who is behind the MagicJack, where is it going, and why is it so cheap?

Well Dan Borislow is named the inventor of MagicJack.  He’s not new to the Telephony business. However, he is a Thoroughbred RACE horse owner and breeder, which means he’s got a gambling streak to him.   So he must be betting the odds that MagicJack will make it to the finish line, and be a winner.

Now I found a good article about MagicJack’s Network that explains the behind-the-scenes technology that has to exist to make MagicJack work. It also mentions that $17 MILLION DOLLARS has been invested in MagicJack.

So Today’s cheap offering, and service quality is great for consumers.

BUT! Expect the near future (next year, or the following year) to yield some surprises.

So while its cheap, go get a MagicJack and enjoy.

Just get ready for new announcements coming your way, once the user base hits the numbers they are anticipating.

Not every great deal lasts forever.

Drivers License with RFID chip?

From what I’ve heard many Department of Motor Vehicles (MOT) or (DMV) are issuing new drivers licenses that contain an embedded RFID chip for enhanced security.

Actually they are referred to as being called the “new enhanced drivers licenses“.

What I do like about them, is that they will all be standardized now, so having a fake ID for young kids trying to obtain alcohol will be that much more difficult.

However, I don’t know much about RFID in identification. For instance, can retailers read this RFID chip so that I will no longer need to carry a loyalty card? I can just swipe my drivers license at the cashier to get my bonus points when I make a purchase?

RFID technology is quite exciting in many ways. I love the new benefits of it.

However, I am also worried about the unknowns out there – what happens if RFID technology is used the wrong way? For instance, say that I owe a large Corporation money on my department store credit card, which is linked to my drivers license RFID chip?

… and then I walk into any chain of that department store to make a cash purchase, and upon entering the the store, their internal security gets alerted and I’m told that I am not welcome to shop unless I pay my outstanding bill.

Or what about unfair discounts – where some lucky RFID people get discounts, and others do not, based on a single swipe of their new drivers license at the checkout? Could this lead to new types of fraud by internal staff and white collar crime?

Could we do away with Debit and Credit Cards if we have an RFID chip on our drivers license? Does this mean that the 32 plastic cards I keep in my wallet can be reduced down to one?

If yes, I see the benefit in that..

But what if these large retailers start creating treaty alliances with one another, and start sharing customer information? Or is that happening already?  I suppose it is on one level with credit bureau agencies – but what if new RFID agencies pop up, and sell consumer information in a similar way?

I guess we’ll all find out soon enough. RFID is no longer a choice when the Government demands you have an RFID chip to drive an automobile, cross a country border, etc.

By law, you must be “RFID” enabled — so hopefully we all have common sense and keep this a nice thing for the people, and nothing worse comes out of it.

The way our lives are now, we’re basically RFID in paper form, which is coverted to computers. Everytime you’ve filled out an application, given your name, your birthdate, or your mailing address — it’s on a computer somewhere, for some purpose.

The only difference now, is that when you walk into a store, or a government building, based on the RFID chip you are carrying, they will be instantly notified you are there.

From what I hear, these RFID chips can be detected from as far as 50 feet. Which means as soon as you park your car, the front entrance of the building could know you’re on your way in..

Pretty neat technology. So many uses.

Surely they must have government law and legistlation that regulates the use of RFID right? If so, I haven’t heard anything about it.  I know that disclosing my Social Security Number is optional to me in many circumstances. But what about unauthorized reading of my RFID chip without my consent?

I’m interested in hearing your comments. Anything related to the new enhanced drivers licenses, or new passports, or the RFID technology in general.

Snow in April — What’s going on with Spring?

A lot of places have reported getting snowfall this year during the month of April when they should be getting the first signs of Spring.

Is this Global Warming, or is it the impending 2012 pole reversal that is coming into play early? Will these same places be getting snow in May 2010 next year?

It’s becoming impossible to predict weather patterns these days — it is just too chaotic.

I live in the Northwest, and here we are usually just getting lots of rain. But we’ve been getting heavy spurts of damaging wind, hail storms, snow… and if we’re lucky, the rare sunny break.

I think this type of weather pattern is starting to take its toll on people’s emotions too! Starve people from the Sun, and society starts to get easily angered and intolerant of one another.

I hope we see a good summer this year — I’m craving it already.

Have you noticed the same weird weather in your area? I’m interested in hearing your comments..