Friday, May 01, 2009

Now here's something you should participate in.

My piece on the burgeoning clique of Secret alumni and their imitators who urge us to refuse to participate in the recession (in some cases by selling "key insights" that Ms. Byrne supposedly left out of her original product) appears in today's Journal. I wish I'd had more room to stretch out a bit (side note to writers: Don't we always?), but it makes its point, I think.


Those of you who thought you read an earlier version of this posting aren't crazy. (At least, you're not crazy on that grounds.) I wrote it up quickly and offhand, then realized I should've done my homework first, so now I've gone back, corrected that oversight and rewritten the item accordingly.

And so we return to the wonders of American marketing. Get this: For several years now I've maintained a running subscription to STOPzilla, a top-rated anti-malware program; it costs $9.95 a year, billed each May. (I could swear I paid more than that when I signed on in 2007, but maybe I'm wrong. I couldn't locate the charge receipt.) Unfortunately, STOPzilla doesn't get along very well with my new Toshiba laptop. In fact, it's proving to be an RPitA,*
causing start-ups to drag on endlessly and then slowing computer performance to a crawl. (At a certain point one must ask oneself, if the anti-malware program mucks things up as badly as the malware itself, where's the advantage?) I don't know whether it's something to do with Vista or the Toshiba or whatever, but the bottom line is that I've decided to cancel my subscription. Which I did via email first-thing this morning.

A little while ago I get an email back from "Michael" at STOPzilla customer support. It's a special invitation for me sign up for their "Lifetime Upgrade (LTU) program at the discounted price of $29.95." This program apparently entitles me to all future upgrades and updates as well as "daily enhancements to target the latest threats to your system," in perpetuity. "You will never again be billed for STOPzilla," asserts Michael, who goes on to say, "Please call me direct, as we do not offer these rates online" [emphasis added].

I see. Let me get this straight. STOPzilla normally charges $10 a year for its service (and in its publicity material makes a huge deal about all the features and benefits you're getting for that low-low price). But because I decided to cancel, they'll give me the same product/service
foreverfor a single payment of $29? I actually went to the site to check out Michael's assertion that the rates aren't available online, and it's true. They do offer a lifetime subscriptionan option I don't recall having when I first orderedbut it costs $39.

A few thoughts.
1. Why didn't they offer this to me originally?
2. So while I get away with paying $29, everybody else who signs on today for the "LTU" plan pays $39?
3. Everbody in the STOPzilla community who upgrades to the LTU after several years of annual subscription pays $10 more than I do, just because they didn't have the foresight to cancel first?

Yeah, I know: It's ten bucks, BFD. That's not the point. Besides, $10 off on a $40 purchase is a difference of 25%. If you bought a car for $39,000 and learned that your neighbor got the same exact car for $29,000, would you just shrug it off?

This kind of stuff drives me up a wall.

* It shouldn't take much imagination to figure that one out. The first word is "royal."


Rational Thinking said...

Good piece Steve - thanks for the link. Just thinking again about this whole "Secret" thing, one of the things I find most disturbing is that it really is a philosophy of rampant materialism, sold under the guise of spirituality. Or perhaps I'm just being cynical;-)

RevRon's Rants said...

I agree... good article. Narcissism, with a nod & a wink to altruism. The unwashed and unenlightened (read: those who haven't bought my stuff) burn, indeed!

Roger O'Keefe said...

Steve, I can't log in for some reason, which explains the "write-in" format. I could be wrong about this, but to me it's a bad idea for you to have columns on the blog like the one you wrote yesterday at a time when you know you have something running in the Journal. As you've noted in the past, the Journal piece drives people to the blog, and if what they read is off-message or downright off-putting for that audience you're not going to get maximum mileage out of that visibility, IMO. I'm only talking from a marketing standpoint, leaving writing issues and professional integrity and the rest of it aside.

I did enjoy the column itself. Funny and on point.

Steve Salerno said...

You may very well be right, Roger. Thanks for your input.

Steven Sashen said...

The surest sign that some psychological or "metaphysical" theory is, at best, off-base, is when the rash of "Here's the tweak that makes it REALLY work" products hit the market.

I'm still waiting for "The Secret Secrets that 'The Secret' Experts Secretly Kept Secret."

Steve Salerno said...

Steven: That is essentially Proctor's new pitch. Go to his site and check it out. (And James Ray isn't far behind.)

Debbie said...

Great article Steve. Thank you for sharing. Witty and to the point as usual.

The accompanying cartoon reminded me of a fabulously satirical book written by (Canada's own!) Will Ferguson, called "Happiness", about what happens to America when someone writes a self-help book that actually works. It was originally called "Generica", but after the first printing the name was changed to a more masses-friendly title. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks, Deb, the point? When have I ever been "to the point"? In fact some years ago I remember the editor on my second book saying to me, "Can't you ever just write something straight-out??" The book was so bad, such a hodge-podge of hatchet editing and rushed rewriting, that it earned me more than anything else I've ever written and even became a TV-movie.

There's a message there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Proctor is one of the motivational gurus that America produces even in years when it can't seem to produce much else."

How true. This is one booming business in America, no matter what.

Nice piece, Steve. But I'm saddened to hear that Joe "Zero Limits" Vitale's car rides have gone up. Last I heard (from Connie) it was only 5 thou. Now it's 7,5?! Jee-bus. So now I've gotta concentrate on imagining that extra cash coming my way so I can afford the privilege. 'Cuz it surely will come if I only visualize enough. (To think of it, I'ma cancel my client today to spend more time on visualizing my future wealth.)

More seriously(?), though, you can't blame these bozos -- for them, the recession indeed does not exist. Their business is as good as ever, if not better these days. They are recession- (and reality)-proof. What a line of work to be in... (said with some perplexing jealousy)

Anonymous said...

That message (apropos your 11:50 comment), Steve, is: write another book.

Cosmic Connie said...

Great little piece for the WSJ, Steve. You managed to say a lot in a few words. (That’s a skill I am trying to develop myself, which is why I’m on Twitter. Yeah, that’s it.)

Secret fever is spreading far south as well; Bob Proctor and Joe Vitale are going to Peru together in June to do a presentation on the Law Of Attraction, supposedly to a stadium of 35,000 people:
Joe has been busy learning Spanish for the event.

Not meaning to cast aspersions on our neighbors to the south, but the Latin American region seems ripe for this kind of thing. I suspect that there’s a whole huge gullible market just waiting to swallow whatever LOA swill Joe-Bob can pour over them.

Joe has tentative plans to go to Russia later in the year…and there’s a whole ’nother gullible market.

By the way, Eliz: Joe's Mastermind rides are still $5,000.00 a person IF you choose the usual format of riding two-up -- in other words, another person who paid $5,000.00 will be riding in the back seat with you. A "special guest" who generally plays chauffeur while Joe rides shotgun are the other two participants. So far, the "special guests" have been one of Joe's joint-venture buds such as Mark Ryan, Pat O'Bryan, Craig Perrine, etc. Pat and Craig are two members of Joe's regular SIGLO Mastermind group, named after the cigars they all love to smoke.

The $7,500 deal is only if you want to have Joe and his buddy all to yourself in that Rolls. Instead of paying the full double price of ten grand, you get a discount, see?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I gotta find me a scam…

Cosmic Connie said...

It occurs to me that the wording in part of my comment was kind of strange...

"A 'special guest' who generally plays chauffeur while Joe rides shotgun are the other two participants. So far, the 'special guests' have been one of Joe's joint-venture buds..."

What I meant, of course, was that the other two participants in the Rolls-Royce Mastermind (besides the two fools who paid for it) are Joe V (riding shotgun) and one of his joint-venture buds (who plays chauffeur).

As for Bob Proctor, I am thinking that we should at least give him props for longevity. He's been doing his shtick for over forty years now. He is definitely the elder statesman of hustledorkery. (And he happens to be a Canadian import, although the US has been very, very good to him.)

Hmmm...verification word is "vigra"...

Anonymous said...

"The $7,500 deal is only if you want to have Joe and his buddy all to yourself in that Rolls. Instead of paying the full double price of ten grand, you get a discount, see?"

I see, Connie. It's a pretty sweet deal, IOW. And of course I'd like Joe all to myself -- wouldn't have it any other way... ;)

P.S. Eww.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: I have it on good authority that you wouldn't say that about Adam Lambert...

Stever Robbins said...

Re: pricing. Steve, I share your mystification, but can only say that market forces and pricing have much to do with human beings being hardwired for irrationality and inconsistency. It isn't even that companies are trying to cheat, it's just that the market itself is irrational.

Why do I happily shell out $10 for a two-hour movie but complain about $20 for a hardcover book that will give me two weeks of enjoyment? Pricing is bizarre.

Steve Salerno said...

Good points, Stever. I guess it's a little silly for me to expect any kind of pricing consistency from STOPzilla when there's no such consistency anywhere else in American consumer life--or even in our own valuation of various products (as you insightfully illustrate with your own book vs. movie tensions). But I still say, I've always thought it devious for manufacturers to have a certain price that they claim is the real price--until they think they might lose you as a customer. Then suddenly the real price goes out the window and they'll sell it for less. This, in fact, is what for decades made most of us HATE car buying. I remember spending a mind-numbing 20 minutes with a dealer once trying to buy my eldest son his first car. The dialogue went something like so:

Me: How much is this car?
Dealer: Well, what did you expect to pay?
Me: I just want to know what you're selling it for.
Dealer: There are variables. Had you thought about what you were prepared to pay to drive away in a new car today?
Me: Yes. That has nothing to do with what this car costs.
Dealer: It has everything to do with it...

And on it went until I reached down, found a loose piece of heavy masonry, killed him with it, and simply drove my son off in the car.

Nowadays, we're told, car buying is no longer like that. The price they'll sell it for is right there on the window.

Uh-huh. Hell, apparently you can't even buy software without wondering if the price you paid is the honest price.

Anonymous said...

"Eliz: I have it on good authority that you wouldn't say that about Adam Lambert..."

Ahem. You're right, but this time I better keep my mouth shut. ;)

BTW, I like your way of negotiating with car dealers:

"And on it went until I reached down, found a loose piece of heavy masonry, killed him with it, and simply drove my son off in the car."

That's the spirit!

And, oh, what really is the "honest price"? Does such a thing exist? As a former (i.e., currently recovering) clotheshorse I can tell you that in the realm of fashion, for example, this term is extremely fluid at best, and meaningless at worst. I suspect it is no different in other areas.

But then if Joe V. can charge $$$$$ for a car ride(!) and find people willing to pay(!!) for it, then I guess there are still plenty of fools ready to part with their money, no matter how (dis)honest the price.

Anonymous said...

In negotiating situations, I've learned that these words have rarely disappointed me when querying price:
"Is that the best you can do?"

It is or it isn't and it usually isn't.

Steve Salerno said...

Again I'm going to be accused of naivete, but I expect merchants and people to give me their best price first. Right off the bat. I certainly don't expect major companies to put a price down in black and white on their web sites and other promotional materials and then tell me in follow-up emails, "Call me; I can do better."

Jenny said...

Steve, regarding that second book of yours, is it "Deadly Blessing"? I read that one, too, after learning here in your blog that you had written it.

I am curious about your perspective on it now. What would you have done differently?

Mike Cane said...

WTF? StopZilla?! Is that for real?

Man, people in the know use avast! -- and it's FREE. And updated just about DAILY (sometimes more than once!)

You make me wonder, Steve!

Steve Salerno said...

Been using avast (home edition) for three years now, Mike. But I just always figured I needed something beyond that--something spyware-specific--especially since avast doesn't seem to catch all the trojans. I'll give STOPzilla that much: It found bugs that other programs didn't. (I'd also get site warnings with STOPzilla that I never got from antivirus software.) But then, for all I know, maybe STOPzilla was making the bugs up out of thin air--as some of those "free online scans" do--just as a marketing ploy, in order to justify its subscription costs. Who even knows with these things.

Mike Cane said...

Aside from avast, there's also Spyware Search & Destroy. Free. And CCLeaner for the every now-and-then sweep to clear out the accumulated crap.