Home > Uncategorized > Biggest. Ripoff. Ever.

Biggest. Ripoff. Ever.

Monday, October 24, 2005, 01:10 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

No doubt you have heard those ubiquitous radio ads for the International Star Registry. It’s an operation that has been around for years, and while it can’t quite be called a scam operation because it don’t offer something it don’t deliver, its success certainly depends on a gullible target market.

What this company sell is a star-naming service. "Give the gift that will last forever—name a star after someone." For a fee, the customer gets to name a star after the person he or she designates. The name will be recorded "in book form in the U.S. Copyright Office", and noted on a certificate and star chart sent to the customer. The fee is $54 (plus shipping and handling) for the basic package. An additional $43 buys a double-mat and metallic frame for the certificate, plus a wallet card; for another $42, the star chart is matted and framed too.

Having done some matting and framing myself, I can tell you that the International Star Registry is making a killing from these so-called deluxe packages. A standard-size double mat and ready-made metal frame can be had for about $15 at retail prices. But even the basic product is a lot of nothing for a lot of money.

The International Star Registry is not associated with the scientific community, so there is nothing official about the name it assigns to a star, nor is it precluded from naming the same star more than once. The company isn’t even "international" except in the sense that they’ll take your money no matter where you live. Essentially, they don’t do anything you can’t do for yourself:

  1. pick a star off a star chart and decide that you’re going to name it after your great-aunt Helen or your next-door neighbor or your dead cat,
  2. write it down, and
  3. copyright the paper on which you wrote it down.

In the United States, practically anyone can copyright anything original for a fee of $30. What the International Star Registry does is hold off on copyrighting until it has a book full of names, and then spends $30 to copyright the whole book. If there are 100 entries in the book, it costs $0.30 per entry; if there are 1,000 entries, $0.03 per entry. My guess is that each book has tens of thousands of entries.

As for the certificate, I’ve seen one, and I thought it was tacky. The name of the individual for whom the star was named was inscribed in poor quality calligraphy. The star chart was like what you might find in a children’s book about astronomy, with the named star marked by what looked like a rubber stamp circle.

Clearly, this operation has sold enough of its product to have lasted for more than 25 years and be able to afford radio advertising all over the country. It’s success is proof that many people have more dollars than sense.

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