Wednesday, January 11, 2006

More sneaky bastards

Lately I've been getting a lot of mail from companies that want me to consolidate my student loans. This is a perfectly legitimate form of business in the USA, and for all I know they may even save some people money. But this is also another area where the standard practice for some companies is to try to trick people into doing business with them.

The first step is to use official-looking envelopes. They may look like some sort of government notice:

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Or, they may look like a bill:

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On the outside, the letters may have vaguely governmental-looking return address names and logos:

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They may conspicuously refer to your student loan payments, and reference your "file number," as if you are already involved with them in some way:

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Or, they might inform you in red letters that that this is your "SECOND NOTICE," as if referring to a bill that you had overlooked.

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The second step comes with the letters inside. These letters avoid at all costs saying what they actually are: solicitations to do new business with a for-profit corporation. Instead, they make it sound as if you're already about to make payments to them and need to take some sort of action.

They may ask you to contact them to "verify information":

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(Note how even though the company's return address is on the West Coast, it conspicuously refers to "Eastern Standard Time," as if, perhaps, it were coming from Washington, DC.)

Or, they try to confuse you into thinking the letter is some sort of government notification:

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Or, they may tell you that you must contact them immediately to avoid higher payments and ensure your "rights":

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Or to avoid "overpayments":

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And, of course, they don't have salespeople, they have "advisors":

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The common theme of these letters is a simple one: deception. Trick the customer. Make them think you're something you're not so they'll do business with you. The customer is always stupid.

Well, "stupid is as stupid does." One would have to be pretty foolish to do business with one of these companies. But I wonder why this sort of trickery is even legal (assuming that it is).

2 comments:

  1. Amen, brother. You're preaching to the choir. I get these letters all the time now that my son is in college on student loans.

    I also get similar things looking for my business regarding my home child care. NC requires a specific number of credit hours a year to keep a child care license, so companies send letters wanting you to sign up for their classes, but they make it look like the letter comes from the state licensing agency. Grrrrrrrr!

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  2. I loathe these things. I get them SO often, I literally could wallpaper my house with that putrid shade of manila. I hate advertising, I hate junk mail, I hate manipulation, I hate deception.

    Argh. Thanks for writing about this and letting me vicariously vent my angst.

    Carrie

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