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Buzz on Buzz: Free for a Fee

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Buzz on Buzz: Free for a Fee

Lately, advertisers are doing much to tout the "free" aspect of their brands in advertising campaigns. For example, the company Free Credit Report promises a free credit report. Maybe you should call them the "$49.95-Each-Month-Credit-Report" since they continue to monitor consumers' credit for a fee after that first report rolls in.

This arrangement occurs thanks to another marvel of modern advertising: the membership. Customers automatically receive their membership which kicks in within seven days. Interestingly, the real free credit service, no strings attached, is called the less alluring Annual Credit Report available at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Another compelling example is Scholastic Books. They offer "free" books collections like the "7 Free Books by Dr. Seuss and his Friends." Families receive the "free" books then others show up and keep showing up. Suddenly, parents realize they've joined an official book club which also requires monthly payments.

This is an offer parents can't refuse with kids excited about each new shipment. Besides, this is Dr. Seuss. Would Dr. Seuss actually engage in misleading advertising? That's like calling Santa Claus a thug.

Other "free" gifts really are free and for many, irresistible. The television is full of ads offering everything from Mighty Putty to kitchen knives, complete with "free" gifts if you order now. Actually, the "free" gifts are frequently part of an "I scratch your back" arrangement where manufacturers make the real profits by selling consumers' information.

This point is discreetly articulated in the fine print on the Web site, www.asseenontv.com , where consumers can purchase the products online. Here's what they say: "Certain information" will also be sold, exchanged or otherwise disclosed to third parties "to be used for direct target marketing to you."

Perhaps consumers will be most surprised to learn that they okayed the deal as indicated in the same fine print which states that in making the purchase, consumers ""hereby authorize AsSeenOnTV to sell, exchange or distribute all or a portion of your personal information "

Are these examples of unscrupulous advertising? Or maybe it's just another case of "you get what you pay for." Regardless, one thing's for sure: better read the fine print. And if you don't see it, ask.

 

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Marketing expert, author, and talk radio host of The Greater Voice Susan F. Benjamin reaches thousands of listeners throughout the world each week. Articles by and about Susan have appeared in publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA (more...)
 

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