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Business/Finance
The business magazine Forbes "absolutely denies" a rumor that it's being bought by a Russian private equity firm, Onexim.

The irony here is that it was Forbes, back in 1991, which published a hoax claiming that the Russian government, desperate for foreign currency, was selling the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin to the highest bidder.

Times and fortunes have changed. It appears now the shoe is on the other foot.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 26, 2008
Comments (0)
Britain's Financial Services Authority has found a new group to blame for the financial crisis: naive traders spreading rumors. It cites one example of a trader who "spread a piece of 'hot news' to 10 to 12 of his friends over a messaging system without making clear that it was a rumour. One of his contacts then did not hesitate to spread the message on to 150 of his contacts."

To counter the problem, the FSA is urging companies to adopt policies "on how to deal with rumours and monitoring chat sessions, phone calls and emails from traders."

Good thing it's tackling this problem. And once it's succeeded in making the stockmarket perfectly sane and rational, perhaps it would consider cleaning up the internet as well.
Categories: Business/Finance, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 19, 2008
Comments (2)
This rumor is going around:

BoA to close credit cards for approximately 60% of customers?

"I work in Credit Department at BoA (Senior Level Credit Analysist Boa Bldg 3rd fl, Char, NC). We just received memo indicating that all BoA credit cards are being closed as of 10/1. Credit score and income do not matter, all accounts are closed as of 10/1." Executive VP Bank of America

"This is true, but not as bad as he/she says. We are closing accounts, but only ones with credit scores under 750. We will reopen cards within a year as long as crisis lessens." - J.mcmanus / VP Credit Dept BOA

The news is sourced to iReport.com. If true, it would be another sign of the deepening financial crisis on Wall Street, but Bank of America doesn't have any info about this on their website, so my guess is that the rumor is false.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Mon Sep 29, 2008
Comments (29)
I stumbled across this site, weirdfragrances.com (I'm not linking directly to them, so I won't boost their google rank), that promises to send you a free sample of cologne. In return you simply provide them with your email and mailing address, and promise to later answer a few questions about the fragrance. You can choose from a variety of offbeat scents such as Grease Monkey, Burning Rubber, or Ash Tray.

Is it a legit offer? I would guess not.

First, it strikes me as odd that the site is registered anonymously through domains by proxy. Why would a legitimate company be trying to hide their identity?

Second, a quick google search reveals people posting on forums about how they submitted their info but never received anything except spam. So it appears to be a spam trap.
Categories: Business/Finance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue Sep 23, 2008
Comments (2)
Media Agency Carat recently decided to lay off some of its employees. PowerPoint and Word documents somehow leaked out detailing how management planned to inform employees and clients of the decision. They offer an example of corporate b.s. at its finest. Details include:

• The agency wasn't going to be down-sizing. Instead, the documents repeatedly described the moves as a "right-sizing" of the agency.

• Clients were to be informed of the "staffing change" with this script: "Mary Smith will be moving off your business. Now that we understand your business better, we are replacing her with someone whom we feel will be a better partner for you."

• The remaining "critical talent," who might understandably be "questioning if this is the right place for them to build their careers" were to be reassured with this script, "The actions we had to take, although unfortunate, were necessary to right-size the company and ... bring in the skill sets we need to effectively service our business and future client needs."

Full details at AdAge.
Categories: Business/Finance, Literature/Language
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 11, 2008
Comments (11)
Thieves used a hammer to break open a plexiglass box being used as a Drop-A-Note donation box in the Kentucky Theatre's lobby, and they stole the money inside. Unfortunately for the thieves, the money they took was fake. From kentucky.com:

"It's sad when idiots can't tell fake money from the real thing," said Steve Brown, president of Kentucky's Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ Project, a group dedicated to restoring a Wurlitzer organ and returning it to the Kentucky. Proceeds from the Drop-A-Note box, which is three wood organ pipes with a space for donations in the middle pipe, go to the restoration project. The fake bills looked similar to real ones, but they didn't have serial numbers and were black and white, Brown said. The thieves, who struck early June 2, made off with little or no money because the box had been emptied that weekend.

The thieves were probably former convenience store clerks, fired for accepting too many George Bush and Santa Claus bills.
Categories: Business/Finance, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Mon Jun 23, 2008
Comments (1)
The Daily Record reports on a stupid counterfeit scheme that almost worked:

A FORGER convinced a cashier a £20 note was real - despite Santa Claus and his reindeer being on it. Stacey Rice's self-made Santa Christmas Bank note promised to pay the bearer nothing and listed Santa as the bank's "chief operating officer" with his address as the North Pole. But Rice, 27, was still able to pass it off as genuine in an "astonishing" scam, a court heard. She duped a gullible cashier at a gym and the woman gave Rice change of the £20 in smaller denominations.

It reminds me of the phony $200 George Bush bills that people often try to pass off. Here's a question to ponder: Is it dumber to accept a bill with George Bush on it, or Santa Claus?
Categories: Business/Finance, Scams
Posted by Alex on Tue Jun 17, 2008
Comments (7)
I'm guessing there's at least one guy like this in every company. The Mainichi Daily News reports:

A tax inspector has resigned after being punished for telling bosses that relatives had died in order to claim compassionate leave on 11 occasions, officials said...
His bosses discovered the scam when he told them in September last year that his grandmother's funeral was being held at a funeral hall, which was found not to exist.
It was learned that he'd taken 10 more days off between 2004 and 2007, falsely claiming a relative had died each time. Moreover, it emerged that the man also went home on 11 other occasions in 2006 and 2007 by faking business trips.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Mon Apr 07, 2008
Comments (5)
Recently the national bank of Ethiopia discovered that much of the gold in its possession was fake. It was simply gold-plated steel. It found this out after it sent a shipment of gold to South Africa, which promptly sent it back.

Theo Gray, writing for popsci.com, points out that it's incredible that a national bank fell for a fraud like this, since simply by picking up the gold bars someone should have noticed that they were too light to be real -- gold being much heavier than steel.

Gray then considers a potentially very useful question: how could you create a fake gold bar that would be convincing enough to pass the pick-up test? The solution he comes up with is to use tungsten, which is about as heavy as gold, but much cheaper:

start with a tungsten slug about 1/8-inch smaller in each dimension than the gold bar you want, then cast a 1/16-inch layer of real pure gold all around it. This bar would feel right in the hand, it would have a dead ring when knocked as gold should, it would test right chemically, it would weigh *exactly* the right amount, and though I don't know this for sure, I think it would also pass an x-ray fluorescence scan, the 1/16" layer of pure gold being enough to stop the x-rays from reaching any tungsten. You'd pretty much have to drill it to find out it's fake.

Gray notes that it would cost about $50,000 to produce a fake gold bar in this way. But the bar, if accepted as real, would be worth around $400,000 -- which would be a pretty good return on your investment.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Sun Mar 16, 2008
Comments (15)
At the beginning of January I ordered a seat cushion from a company called Amerimark. I got the cushion. It was fine. I'm sitting on it now. But a little over a month later I was looking at my credit card statement, and I noticed that in addition to the charge for the cushion, Amerimark had posted a second charge three weeks later for $3.99. I had no idea what the additional charge could be for. I asked my wife about it. She didn't know either. But I figured it must be postage, or something like that, so I didn't think any more about it. After all, it was only $3.99.

But today I was looking at my credit card statement online, and I noticed that Amerimark had recently posted a third charge to my account, this time for $29.99. Now I decided to call Amerimark to find out what these charges were for. I reached a customer service rep who told me I had subscribed to their "Passport to Health" program.

Suddenly I remember. I had received a sales call from Amerimark back in mid-January trying to get me to sign up for their "Passport to Health" program. I told them I wasn't interested and thought that was the end of it. But they had my credit card information since I bought the cushion from them, so apparently they signed me up for it anyway.

The customer rep told me that the charges were in error and that he would cancel them immediately.

But after I hung up with him, I decided to google Amerimark, and I discovered I'm not the only person who has been "mistakenly" signed up for the "Passport to Health" program. They're pulling this scam on a regular basis.

"Passport to Health" appears to be a program that offers no (or very few) benefits, except the benefit of getting charged $29.99 every month (the first month is only $3.99). The really slimy part is that many of their customers are elderly people who may be less likely to look carefully at their credit card statements, so they never notice they're being charged $29.99 every month.

For instance, 800notes.com has an entire message board full of people complaining that they were ripped off by Amerimark. One person describes how they've been "charging my 87-year old mother $29.99 a month for 'Passport To Health' that she supposedly signed up for in April '07 when they called to 'make sure her Amerimark mail order arrived safely.'"

In addition, Tom from California has posted a report on ripoffreport.com describing how he was subscribed to the "Passport to Health" program after his wife bought a pair of shoes from Amerimark.

I didn't trust Amerimark to actually credit back what they had billed me, so I called my credit card company (Bank of America) to contest the charges. While I was on the phone with the billing dispute department, I described how Amerimark was scamming elderly people, and I urged Bank of America to do something, like stop accepting charges from Amerimark. But the service rep just gave me the run-around and didn't promise to do anything.

So I'm posting about it here to help spread the word. Hopefully if someone is considering making a purchase from Amerimark, they might come across this post and decide to shop elsewhere.

In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out who else I can report Amerimark to. The FTC? Better Business Bureau? I want to bring this company down.

Update: I checked out AmeriMark's listing on the Better Business Bureau's site. It turns out that the BBB has already received a lot complaints about them (I filed one more), and particularly about their Passport to Health program. The BBB page about AmeriMark notes:

Many complaints processed by the BBB concern confusion over the company's membership renewal policy in the Passport to Savings program and the Passport to Health program (formerly known as Family Health Network program). Many consumers claim they are not aware that the company automatically bills their accounts for the renewal fee unless they notify them to cancel. Many of these consumers complain that they were not aware that they had been enrolled in the program. The company has responded to these complaints by canceling the membership and issuing refunds. In January 2005, the Cleveland BBB met with company representatives. The company has indicated its willingness to work to correct the cause of consumer misunderstanding concerning enrollment and cancellation of these programs.

Apparently AmeriMark's meeting with the BBB didn't have much impact on the company, because they're still working the same old scam.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 26, 2008
Comments (64)
When someone wants to rent a midget, I'm apparently the first person they contact. I say this because I receive A LOT of email inquiries from people wanting to rent midgets, such as this one I got yesterday:

do you know any midget strippers that would do a wake up at a bachelor party

or this one from a few weeks ago:

Do you know if I could get 2 male midgets at my Lounge for a party this Friday Jan 25th in Chicago IL.  I would appreciate a response.

It's my fault. I posted about a rent-a-midget service years ago, and ever since then the emails from people seeking midgets to rent have continued to trickle in, usually at the rate of about one a month.

I also receive many inquiries from people who want to buy tapeworms for the purpose of dieting, who want to know if I sell marzipan babies, who are looking to buy a fake sun roof, or who want to join the Nigerian navy.

I'm really missing out on good business opportunities by not offering these services.

Once upon a time I was receiving emails almost daily from people seeking fake doctor notes, but no longer. Apparently someone has usurped my position as the preferred source of information about this product.
Categories: Business/Finance, Miscellaneous
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 25, 2008
Comments (7)
Following the release of a company's quarterly earnings report, analysts get a chance to participate in a conference call with the company's management. When I briefly worked in a pr firm, years ago, I had to listen to quite a few of these calls. I thought they were usually mind-numbingly dull. But it sounds like someone has figured out a way to have some fun with them. The Wall Street Journal Reports:

At least seven times just the past three weeks, a mystery caller has cleverly insinuated himself into the normally well-manicured ritual of the quarterly calls. As top executives of publicly traded companies respond to securities analysts’ questions about their balance sheets, he impersonates a well-known analyst to get called upon. Then, usually declaring himself to be “Joe Herrick of Gutterman Research,” he launches into his own version of analyst-speak.

“Congratulations on the solid numbers — you always seem to come through in challenging times,” he said to Leo Kiely, president and chief executive officer of Molson Coors Brewing Co., on February 12, convincingly parroting the obsequious banter common to the calls. “Can you provide some more color as to what you are doing for your supply chain initiatives to reduce manufacturing costs per hectoliter, as you originally promised $150 million in synergy or savings to decrease working capital?”


The question is: Is Herrick a prankster who's trying to mock the corporate-speak of conference calls, or is he just a nutcase who's obsessed with grilling CEOs about corporate efficiency?

Giving weight to the nutcase theory is that Herrick's questions don't seem designed to be humorous. They're excessively focused on obscure details, but they are serious questions. One CEO speculates that he's "'some minion' at a consulting firm trying to do clandestine research on companies’ use of Six Sigma techniques." So if Herrick is intending to poke fun at corporate-speak, he's doing so in a very, very deadpan way.

The Wall Street Journal article has a link in a sidebar to an audio file of Herrick's exchange with the management team of Molson Coors Brewing. So you can listen for yourself and try to figure out just what Herrick is up to. (via Art of the Prank)
Categories: Business/Finance, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Wed Feb 20, 2008
Comments (5)
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