You May Already Be an Idiot!!!

I don’t know if there is something similar in the rest of the world, but in North America, everyone with a mailbox has at some (or many) point(s) received a giant, colourful envelope from Reader’s Digest bursting with the good news that they are a guaranteed winner to receive a grand prize, as soon as a bunch of stuff happens.

Inside the envelope is a long letter from the President of the Company himself, telling you the amazing news over and over whilst carefully not telling you that you are an actual winner.

Also in the envelope is a reply form that wants you to search through the myriad of other documents in the envelope for secret stickers and super prize number guarantee labels which you have to affix to the reply form.

Then there are pages and pages of advertisements for magazines or gadgets which you have the golden opportunity to purchase at deep, deep discounts through this offer only. There are usually more stickers included with this. You just paste the sticker related to whatever you want to buy on the reply form.

Then there are 2 return envelopes. One with a big red YES and one with a big, black NO. If you’re buying something you stuff everything into the YES envelope. If you’re not buying anything you stuff everything into the NO envelope. It’s a fun 10 minutes of pre-school entertainment. And then maybe you’ll actually remember to mail the thing away. And maybe you won’t. Nothing could be simpler. Barrels of fun for the cost of a stamp.

Of course, some people find these things so annoying they just pitch the whole tree-killing mess into the recycling bin as soon as they see it crammed in their mailbox.

And then there are the people belonging to the Slack-Jawed Yokel family tree who always choose option “D” (“D”for D’uh, I wish they wouldn’t lick the envelope so tight)

Option “D” apparently involves believing Reader’s Digest is secretly hypnotizing them with their shiny array of stickers, forcing them to buy thousands of dollars worth of products to prove their worthiness or something before Reader’s Digest will give them the thousands of dollars that are already theirs according to the big bright envelopes with the “fancy cipherin” they keep getting in the mail. After a few years of not winning, Part II of Option “D” involves one or more Slack-Jawed Yokels getting “real riled” and instigating a law suit.

I didn’t even know there was an Option “D” until Canada’s dubious “investigative consumer show,” Marketplace, uncovered Reader’s Digest’s diabolical plot to fleece the fantastically stupid.

As with most things, the US was already way ahead of us and has settled Reader’s Digest v. Slack-Jawed Yokel  law suits in 32 states to the tune of $6 million. Canadian Slack-Jawed Yokels now want their 15 minutes of look-at-me-I’m-a-moron pie.

Reader’s Digest says over 75% of people respond with the NO envelope. They have awarded over 22 million dollars in prizes to more than 105,000 winners across Canada through its Sweepstakes since 1962. And, 75% of those winners responded with NO envelopes.

Most of the other 25% probably really wanted the stuff they bought because they do offer some good deals on subscriptions. But, if you’re one of those who accidentally bought 8 or 9 thousand dollars worth of magazines and are waiting for Ed McMahon to show up with your big cheque, please call Marketplace’s Wendy Mesley. You may already be a Goler. (Please, please click the Goler link — the Golers are the funnest Nova Scotia thing ever).



26 responses to “You May Already Be an Idiot!!!

  1. actually, Readers Digest does this in other parts of the world too,slightly differently.If you fill the address of 10 people you know you will get some crap diary etc. Used to fill in fictitious addresses and mail them. never got any prize

    Surely that means something?
    I’m quite certain that if one of your American readers were to get a letter from the President of one of their banks or car companies, they’d take it with great gravity. A letter that reassures the recipient that their investments/auto warranty/job was safe and secure would obviously be taken seriously by such an honorable man (or woman – naw – they’re mostly men).

  3. “Hey, Lurlene! Is that them there one of them shiny stickers? Ya’ll should save that for Gumpy Junior’s Easter basket. And if we turn the papers over and staple all of ’em together he’ll have himself a fancy scribblin’ pad, too!”

  4. I can’t believe there is an award in those lawsuits! I can’t believe companies are still allowed to mail as much useless PAPER as they do without some gigantic penalty.

    This is off the subject, but last week Marketplace had a show on Ponzi schemes and my friend Bob Fitzpatrick was the expert they used. He sent me a link so I watched it. Did you see it?

  5. If we still get those things, I never see them. Of course, we quit sending anything in on those mailouts Readers Digest and Publishers Clearinghouse many years ago.

  6. Lost – That sounds like a lot of work. I definitely wouldn’t fill that in no matter how much prize money there is.

    Trashee – It would mean a lot more if The President had actually signed it instead of just photocopied it. But they do personalize the letter by saying cool things like: someone with the initials XUP living in Ottawa will be the grand prize winner!! And… stuff like, Think of what you, XUP, could do with $500,000!!

    Raino – Ha ha. I guess it was worth a try. Did the bank ever charge her an Idiot’s Service Fee (ISF)??

    Maven – That’s assuming the younun’ have learnt reckonin’ and cipherin’

    LoLa – Marketplace makes me cringe sometimes. They’re kind of like the Canadian version of Geraldo Rivera – lots of ado about not very much most of the time. Nobody useful ever agrees to talk to them and they wring a lot of stupid information out of some questionable sources. Reader’s Digest had quite a lot to say about their segment on their company. And, no I didn’t see it.

    Mike – If you ever order anything through the mail whether it’s a book from Amazon or a subscription to anything or something off e-Bay – they get your name eventually by buying up mailing lists. I go through long periods with nothing too, then all of a sudden I seem to get one of these envelopes every week.

  7. Well my pappy learned me young that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Don’t know why he learned me that, cause they never offer free lunch in these winnins.
    I gots to go empty the attic now.

  8. When I was eight, I got a Reader’s Digest ‘You May Have Already Won’ package. I tried very diligently to fill out the whole succession of forms to say (a) yes I want to be in the contest (b) no I don’t want to subscribe and (c) I do want the free cuckoo clock.

    I slipped up somewhere, putting the stickers they send into the appropriate boxes and ended up getting a subscription. The whole system is, of course, designed to make you slip up and get a subscription you don’t want.

    I never paid for it, and it therefore sullied my credit rating for the next seven years. Good thing I did it when I was eight, rather than sixteen.

  9. C’mon, those contests are totally legit! I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who heard about somebody’s ex-brother-in-law’s estranged cousin twice removed who actually won the big prize!
    Do you want to take the chance by NOT sendin’ back them thar shiny sticker thingies?

  10. Bandobras – I had a free lunch once.

    Jazz – You’re not on the right mailing lists, that’s all. I’m sure it would be very easy to get yourself back on. You’re really missing tons of fun.

    Milan – They send these things to 8-year-olds? Gadzooks!! Serves them right that they never get paid for their subscriptions then.

    Nat – There’s a whole book about the Golers. In Nova Scotia kids grew up using “goler” as a synonym for “stupid-head”, many without even knowing that there was an actual family called Goler

    Bob – I know somebody who knew somebody whose neighbours won, too!! They’re like the lottery – somebody wins, but your odds are crazy-high. I always send mine in because it’s fun.

  11. The Golers remind me an awful lot of the family in the horror flick “The Hills Have Eyes.” Yeesh.

    These Reader’s Digest things take me way back into my childhood. My parents used to get them all the time (they didn’t fill them out) and I was left to play with the stickers and stamps and whatnot. I LOVED them. (Odd child.)

    I love this line: “…uncovered Reader’s Digest’s diabolical plot to fleece the fantastically stupid.” Ha!

  12. someone told me to read that book at one point. i cant remember who.. but i recognize the name.

    i remember those envelopes. when we were young we would play with them. sticking the stickers all over and telling my mom we were going to sign her up for all kinds of things.

    oh the fun

  13. I’m feeling quite sad now as I no longer get those promising packages. What did I do wrong, Ed? Didn’t I faithfully complete the sticker scavenger hunts? Didn’t I actually sign up for a magazine subscription or two? Why don’t you love me any more?

  14. I kind of enjoy those RD letters – I have a grudging appreciation for the sheer amount of effort that goes into putting fake “authenticated!” and “cleared for final entry” franks on the letters and all that sort of stuff designed to convince you that this really really wasn’t churned out by a computer somewhere. I also used to be very cynical about the prospects of winning if you returned the “no” envelope, but when I was a legal trainee, I handled the executry of a guy who had done just that and won £250,000. Just goes to show…….

  15. We have only just started to watch Marketplace and so its been very informative.
    I used to place all the stickers on all the right spots in the hopes of winning a buck ot two. Then one year they had somthing I wanted to order, a book of some sort I think so I ordered it. Then I forgot about it untill a year later I found the envelope in a draw and jkust for the sake of it I mailed it. A few weeks later the book arrived…no such a thing as deadlines afterall.

  16. Lesley – I’m just glad it was the Reader’s Digest reference that took you back to your childhood and not the Goler reference.

    Jobthingy – Just think, if your parents hadn’t let you play with those shiney stickers you might have grown up a millionaire.

    Louise – I think Ed actually moved on to pitch sit-down shower stalls for very old people, but I’m sure Publisher’s Clearing House would welcome you back into the fold. You just have to say the word.

    Loth – Yay somebody who actually knows somebody who knows somebody who won!! And yes, these things go against everything we’re told in PR/Marketing/Advertising school about brevity and clarity, but they must be making them millions or they’d have stopped this madness ages ago.

    Kevin – They ARE called Reader’s Digest after all — they’d never deprive someone of a book just because of a pesky deadline. And yes, Marketplace does seem very informative, but you should probably take everything they tell you with a grain of salt and double check the facts for yourself. They do tend to go for sensationalism over absolute truth.

    CP – And what have you done to piss off Reader’s Digest? Why won’t they send you stickers anymore? Everyone else is still getting them

  17. Well, I thought when I saw the show, it was quite the scary business! I told Bob, he looked like he’d been sucked up by reality television but this was news.

  18. I tried entering this contest years ago. It took me forever and I kept mailing in the no envelope, several times, and, as you might guess, I never won. I guess I was feeling hopeful and lucky. I also bought a few lottery tickets in my day and I love to play black jack. I think I’m a gambler at heart.

  19. Kimberly – Well, now you’ll NEVER be a millionaire!!

    LoLa – Poor Bob. Marketplace always scared me, too. I’m not saying they don’t have some legitimate issues, but they discuss them is such unnecessarily melodramatic ways.

    Linda – You sound more like a dabbler like most of us. I like to buy a lottery ticket now and then, too. If you were a real gambler you’d be flat broke and living on the streets by now.

  20. You (the blog author) are a cruel, sick person to casually joke or talk about the Golers – “the Golers are the funnest Nova Scotia thing ever.” That’s an immature, insensitive, cold hearted, disgusting comment.