March 1, 2005

Pod People

I think I'm the last person on my block, but I officially became a member of that pack of iPod people that Andrew Sullivan is convinced represent the end of civil society as we know it.

It started with an unsolicited email promotion for a "Free 40 GB iPod", (tell me everybody gets these, please). All that was required was to sign up using a credit card for six different items, from computer training software to vitamin pills, to Blockbuster home DVD subscriptions, etc., all of which had 30-day Free Trial offers or "first month supply free" or some such, but all could be cancelled or unsubscribed in order to avoid any charges to the credit card. (In one case it was a charge and then a credit upon return of "unused portion" of trial offer). So I dove in, and resolved to be on my toes and to be sure to cancel each offer at the first opportunity.

As you progress through the six required services or products, you have to be careful to select only the freebies or "pay shipping only" items, until you can no longer do even that. My last item, after spending only about $10-12 to that point, was to subscribe to Vonage for one month, plus start-up fees totaling $57.00. So I was able to get my $379.00 iPod for only about $70 out-of-pocket. But I was sweating it out until it arrived today.

The cooperating "sponsors" of this program (Blockbuster, Vonage, etc.) have to report your subscription or purchase to the company running the promotion, and there is a web site where you can monitor the progress of your "fulfillment" of the required purchases. After all six items have been purchased and verified by the sponsors (which can take several weeks) the consumer is informed that the company "reserves the right" to substitute another (non-iPod) product of similar functionality, or to sustitute a used or reconditioned iPod if there are no new ones available.

Well, that bugged me, but not as much as the fact that the promotion company had changed their name twice between the time I started this process and the end of it. In addition to that, there were no customer service numbers to call, and several emails I sent with questions went unanswered. Several times I started to get that sinking feeling like a "mark" that had been stung.

But all was well today when I opened the box and found my shiny new 40 GB iPod straight from the factory. It wasn't "free" like the original email said, and it took about three months to get it here, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

Posted by dan at March 1, 2005 8:49 PM