Wednesday, July 22, 2009

You May Already Be A Loser

My wife received a mailing the other day from something called "Sweepstakes Clearinghouse". The accompanying "Official Prize Award Directive" informed her that she had been awarded a consolation prize in a multi-million dollar giveaway. A voucher for $500.00 was enclosed which, according to the letter, could be applied to any one of six prizes listed; a digital camera, a gold and diamond watch, a luggage set, a digital camcorder, a desktop computer and a laptop computer.

Since she has been interested in a laptop she asked me if I thought the offer was a deal or not. It only took a glance for me to realize this was a good deal like buying a Rolex from the homeless guy behind Lexington Market is a good deal.

The laptop listed a "National Reference Retail" price of $879.95. It came with Windows XP operating system, a Pentium 3 processor, a 10 gigabyte hard drive, 256 megabytes of memory, a fax modem and indicated "CD-ROM included".

Now one needn't be a computer expert to see something was wrong here. To provide contrast I showed my wife the ad in last Sundays Parade magazine. This displayed, for $479.00, a Dell Inspiron laptop, complete with Windows Vista, the latest operating system; a Pentium Dual-Core processor (many times faster than the ancient Pentium 3); a 250 GB hard drive (25 times the capacity of the other); 4 GB of memory (40 times the power of the 256 MB); and a CD and DVD recorder (oddly, the other said "CD-ROM" which describes a CD disk but does not mention an actual CD player/recorder.

I concluded that the "fully-loaded, ready-to-run, multimedia laptop" Sweepstakes Clearinghouse was hawking was in fact a refurbished 5 - 7 year-old machine, the type of starter system one might purchase for a very young child for under $100.00 at a flea market.

What worries me is how many people sent in their voucher with a check for the difference (including a hefty shipping and handling charge).

Sweepstakes Clearinghouse is the clear winner here. If you get this "You may already be a winner" garbage in the mail, my advice is to shred it, burn it and toss it out.