Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Beware the "Free" Offer

For months now I've been getting phone calls from "The Gas Company." Each time a computer voice asked me "Is Mr or Mrs Pascal Fervor" there to hear of a 20% discount? Of course it mispronounced my name. So I was inclined to hangup.

This last time I had some time available to learn more; so I pressed "1" instead of hanging up.

The voice then said:
"We need to find out if you are eligible. We will ask you a few questions. Be assured your answers will be held in the strictest confidence."
So I answered the questions (IIRC, there were only 3). Then the voice chirped:
"Congratulations. You are eligible to receive a 20% discount on your gas bills"

Uh huh. Wait for the "but" I'm thinking... I did not have to wait long.

Almost all of the conditions it stated was okay with me -- except for the last one.

Can you guess what it was?
The answer is below the break. Tell me if you guessed correctly as to what the stinker was.

In order to receive the 20% discount, the last stipulation that I had to agree to, inclusive with the reasonable others, was:
'You agree that we may share this information with other agencies so that they may make you similar offers.'
Let me see if I get this straight. "Be assured your answers will be held in the strictest confidence" to be evaluated, but in order to actually GET the feature being offered "for free," I must agree to permitting the gas company to "share this information with other agencies."

Uh Huh. Gotcha.

Just in case you think I'm being too cynical, I have a postscript for you.

After I pressed "2" to not agree, the voice comes back with one more choice for me.
'If you don't want to pass up this 20% discount, please press 1. Otherwise, just hang up.'
It was the way the "computer" voice was programmed to say "just hang up" that was so striking. It actually had a condescending note, one that implied "such a fool."  I swear it is so close to what I've heard out of the mouths of "snake-oil" salesmen all my life, you would think that sign-off would be poison to them. But no. They just need to have one last parting shot to make them feel better over having wasted time on you.

In fact, it was that unmistakeable note out of a computer voice that compelled me to write this post.

Beware the "free" offers folks. And try to teach your children how to recognize them. The kids either will thank you, or come back later crying how smart you were and that they wish they paid more attention to your warnings.


  1. Amazing isn't it? How many people will give up vital information for a few dollars a month. They haven't a clue that _______ company is making back that 20% in spades. Corps pay sizeable fees for such info.

    There really is no free lunch. Children who've been schooled in tolerance are not getting that lesson, and are not ready for the evils that are really out to get them.

    Right on there Pascal. Teach the kids. Or a least those willing to pay heed.

  2. Agree with the unknown one above, TANSTAAFL all the way! The corollary to this...if said free item, becomes unserviceable or breaks shortly after receiving same....it is worth exactly what you paid for it. (Legitimate prizes/gifts being the exception to the rule).


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