Sheesh…I’m not even sure what category to log this one under.
Normally, I’m so against the intrusiveness of Internet advertising and I’m so deeply convinced that the majority are scams that I refuse to succumb to the urge to click-through on even the best-sounding ads. I figure unless I’m deliberately trying to help support someone’s website by getting them get “click-through credits,” I’ll just buy my stuff the normal way — through eBay!
But I’ve been craving another Apple Macintosh lately. And tonight I just happened to see an ad banner I couldn’t resist.
While reading an unfathomable article — a group of Christians has convinced an Indiana legislator to change the name of highway I-69 because (obviously) it’s an immoral number — I spotted an ad banner that said if I could “shoot the cockroach,” I might win an Apple desktop computer.
Shooting the representation of the cockroach was easy. But it turns out the real cockroach is the company: Consumer Research Corporation.
Because, you see, the “free offer” is not, technically-speaking free. Or maybe the real problem is that it’s only “technically-speaking” free.
Shooting the representation of the cockroach caused it to splatter (nice graphics) and then I was asked to enter my zip code to see if they were “recruiting” in my area. Imagine my amazement when I discovered they were.
And am I glad I did. I almost sacrificed another (temporary) email address.
The participation terms are that you agree to let them track your behavior on the Internet. They’ll do it with cookies, web bugs, web beacons and things of that sort. You agree that they’re allowed to use the information “in accordance with the terms of this Policy.”
“This Policy” explains that they’ll sell the information to other companies and that people will spam you (of course, they don’t call it that; they say “targeted advertising via electronic delivery and/or direct mail”) and that you’ll agree to periodically fill out questionnaires — some of which, apparently, will be used to cross-reference information about you. They’ll track whether you’ve read email promotions that have been sent to you and which servers your computer logs onto.
Several times during the process, I was told:
You are guaranteed to be accepted if you meet the eligibility requirements:
- Over 18 years old
- Legal United States Resident
- Valid Email & Shipping address
Since I was going to give them an old Hotmail address to use, I was willing to chance the spam for my free Apple computer. But then . . .
To receive the free membership incentive gift you must complete all of the steps outlined herein. . .
. . . acquire two advertiser action points from each of PTP’s three Offer Groups for a total of six advertiser action points. Action points are earned when a PTP user fully completes an advertiser offer after accessing the offer by clicking on a link provided on the PTP website or from the PTP member area. Attempting to gain action points in any way other than clicking on the advertiser links provided by PTP will result in the cancellation of your PTP membership. Please understand that this means completing two offers from the Top Offers group, two offers from the Prime Offers group, and two offers from the Premium Offers group.
If the “offer” is a credit card, you have to actually activate and use the credit card — and you have to keep it for at least 60 days. If the “offer” is a “paid retail offer,” then you have to actually accept delivery on the item and pay in full.
That’s how you earn the points to get your “free” Apple computer. Oh, and you have to “earn” all your points within 90 days.
And so, when I said “you can imagine my amazement,” I actually meant to say “you could imagine my amazement if it turned out they were not accepting new testers in my area.
It’s “technically” free, I’m sure. No doubt they’ll probably really give you the computer if you get all your points. But, somehow, giving me 90 days to buy six things I probably don’t need takes the joy out of it for me.
Too bad all I got to shoot was a representation of the creature that cooked up this “free” offer.