It’s Been Awhile…

Posted on September 22, 2011

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But I’ve never been one to give up on my goals.  Set them aside for a year or ten, but never give up.

What brings me back to the page after a several month hiatus is a number of little things that have all come together.  In short, I’ve managed to get myself moved and settled, and am now examining where to go from here.  I’ve been writing, designing a couple board games, and taking care of my family.  In general, life sucks, though I don’t express as much here, but it has its highlights, not the least of which is my family.

Still, the search for a reasonable job continues.  What I find particularly interesting about today’s market is the impact of the internet.  I got it in my head to look into the “secret shopper” industry, to see if maybe there was a way to leverage that into an actual job.  I don’t mean that I would spend a ton of money on stuff I don’t need, only to receive a pittance in return.  That sort of thing is barely above receiving a discount for purchases, and when you don’t need or want the product in the first place, it’s a waste of time.  There are a couple companies that actually do really work in evaluating products and services.  However, getting a job for them is like getting a job for any business or industry: you have to know people, or you have to be persistent.  The masses who stylize themselves “secret shoppers” are really just receiving discounts for stuff they would have purchased anyway.  Their net earnings are a loss, and unless you have a good paying job in the first place, there’s no point to it.

In my search I came across a company that does online research of products and services.  They’re called the Vindale Research Group.  (You might not be able to reach the link; as I was writing this, my browser kept returning a 503 Service Temporarily Unavailable message.)  If you run a Google search on them, you’ll find the term “scam” in the suggestion dropbox.  It seems, however, that they’re not a scam.  Their process is clearly laid out for those who are attentive enough to read it: you sign up, they direct you to products and services, you sign for said products, you take a survey, they “pay” you for the feedback.  There are two problems with the program, however.  1) You don’t get paid per survey.  You get paid when you complete at least $50 worth of surveys (and they assign the dollar value to each survey).  Also, they only pay in increments of $50.  But you do get paid, right?  Yeah, that’s point 2) most of the products/services require some form of payment or information.  For example, you might have to request a credit card, be accepted, and activate the card to receive $35 to your Vindale account.  But do you really need a credit card?  Do you need the request on your credit report (because all requests initiated by you are recorded)?  Sure, you might be able to go through the process and cancel the card, but it’s mostly a hassle.

It turns out, though, that there are quite a few companies that perform similar “market research” opportunities for businesses.  Maybe there’s one or two that will pay out in a reasonable manner, but I’ve yet to see any.  I knew it was a pipe dream when I started researching it, and it’s only because I have some time on my hands that I can afford to even be interested.

As a side note, I should add that participating in these secret shopper programs carries an additional complication.  I’ve started receiving letters in the mail from people who want money.  One, which I find particularly interesting, is an eight page monster of text, written in a personal manner, from some guy named Kevin or John (he calls himself Kevin in his personal anecdotes, but signs the letter John), with the word “free” included ten times in bold text.  I’ve been over the letter twice, and even with my education I can’t figure out what the hell they’re talking about.  I think they want me to join a secret society so they can share the secrets of the universe with me.  Course, the only reason I would join, they seem to think, is so I can become filthy stinking rich, primarily at the expense of others.

A little digging found that I’m not the only one: this blogger shed some light on the scam, and led me to a Wikipedia entry.  Yup, seems this guy has been at it for years.  What’s worse, despite multiple felony charges (and convictions, I think), he’s still at large.  It seems that all of his previous scams have been put to rest, though, because he’s been sentenced, by law, to not endorse any product, ever.  Course, they can’t limit his right to free speech, so he sends letters, offers information, and tries to sell his book.  This list shows just how active he and his people have been.

I am amused.  I mean, I know there’s a lot of stupid people out there (how else would any state lottery make money?), but seriously, scams like this are far too obvious.  I guess, though, that the subject does lead to some interesting questions: how far can we go, as a society, in limiting people’s rights to engage in these activities?  I mean, it’s obviously harmful to the consumer, and thus to the society at large, but if someone is really stupid enough to fall for it…

Saying as much leads us into murky waters.  On the one hand, it’s not right that people should be able to get away with such blatant theft (and even if the wronged individual gives it away, it’s a form of deception).  On the other, it’s not my job to tell people what they should and should not do with their money.  Or if it is, I can’t actually make them listen and follow my advice.

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Posted in: Philosophy, Politics