James (Jim) Rickards has been doing the rounds on the independent media lately advertising his new book “The Road to Ruin”. He states that he is giving away this new book for free, On hearing this, I thought to myself “that sounds good” so I gave it a look, what follows is the disappointing reality of such hyperbole.
During the process of ordering the book, I noted a number of red flags which, to my shame, I ignored and completed the order. The first thing that I noticed on entering the website was its appearance, in hindsight, this was the first red flag,
The website was put together in the same way as many others that I have seen and the format will be very familiar to anyone who has clicked on an interesting looking advert whilst browsing the web. Firstly, you are pitched a problem, in this case, it is the current climate of financial instability which is forecast (by the website) to end in doom, then comes the introduction of the person with the answer, (Jim Rickards) and his resume. Of course, there is a hell of a lot of text to plough through before he cuts to the chase which is, in my opinion very deliberate.
Now remember that he said the book was free… red flag number 2
So the book was not exactly free but I thought to myself “well, fair enough, can’t really expect him to pay the postage and it’s still cheaper than buying it new” which is exactly what people who operate in this way count on. They also count on the fact that after a certain point, the perspective customer will stop reading the vast amounts of cleverly written sales blurb and try to skip through it and get their order placed. Which, again embarrassingly, is exactly what I did, however, although I was, perhaps stupid and trusting enough to complete the process, I am not so stupid that I cannot tell when I am being manipulated and indeed after some thought, I figured out how that manipulation is done so for the sake of accuracy, I want to make clear that the screen shots of this website were taken at the end of this interaction once I had decided to write this article
The following is an example of just how much sales nonsense you have to scroll through before you get to the order button and there is more than one order button.
Get to the point….
I have highlighted the words “no-obligation” for a reason but for now, just note it because it’s not strictly true. The website continues…
The highlighted section of this screen shot concerning the billing of your card is one of the parts that I missed, however, I did catch the part about it costing £97. In my defence, it was late at night when I placed this order and I was more concerned with getting to bed, however, on reading through some of these screen shots, I do feel a bit daft. Moving on…
I took these screen shots so by Jesus, I’m gonna use ’em. It is important to note, however, that although I have used rather a lot of screen shots from the FIRST page of this website, this is not all of the text that was displayed on that page. This final shot is the first part of the second page, just before they ask for your name, address and credit card details, which I gave them.
Also, it is important to note here (which I did at the time) what was the biggest red flag to me, there is no PayPal option. This means that there is no middleman in between you and them, they want your credit card details so they can keep billing you.
Once they have your details, they then try to sell you 2 or 3 (my memory fails) other products, each bombarding you with text to the same degree as the first page and this is BEFORE you can complete the order process. I simply scrolled down to the bottom of all them and click the No Thank You option and completed the order.
By now it’s probably obvious what the angle is here and you are thinking that I must be an idiot of the highest order but I would caution anyone reading this to not lurch so quickly to judgment, anyone can be fooled in the right circumstances, many people will be too embarrassed to make a confession like this and if this method of sales did not work it would not be used.
To summarise my experience, I heard the advert on show that I consider reputable, I decided to have a look at the offer, I did not read much of the text on the website but I did catch enough of it to be suspicious, I gave them my details, I refused their other products and completed the purchase, I then went to bed. Whilst I was lying in bed I realised what this free book offer really was so I got up out bed and emailed the company on the same night as the order was placed. Just as an aside, once you have placed your order and you are “trialling” their advice service you can expect to get quite a lot of emails from them.
My email stated (approximately) that I only intended to order the Road to Ruin book, I did not require a free trial as, in my experience, they always had an auto renewal and I did not want to find any nasty surprises on my credit card statement in the near future.
My thinking was that if this company (Agora Finance) were to be difficult, I would cancel the order, however, their first response to me was to tell me that they were encountering a high volume of email traffic and the answer to my question would be delayed. It took them around 4 days to answer my email but only two days to deliver the book, which seems a little convenient to me. In fairness to them, when they did answer, they were very polite and cancelled the auto renewal but I have cancelled the credit card just to be on the safe side.
My conclusion, this offer is a total manipulation, I came across this offer through an alternative media show, which, in my mind gave the offer credibility. This is the first stage of the manipulation, once you have arrived at the website and decided that you want the book, comes the second stage of the manipulation which is to get you to plow through copious amounts of text that they count on you not reading properly, the third stage is to tell you that the item is not exactly free and to charge for something innocuous like the postage, this stage is particularly clever because it leads you to believe that you have already found the catch and renders you even less likely to continue reading. The fourth stage is to play on the fact that you have jumped through a lot of hoops and by now you just want to get the order in, making you more likely to give them your card details in the absence of the PayPal option. The fifth stage is to automatically saddle you with a free trial of something that you do not want for 30 days which contains a trojan horse (auto renewal) so even if you read all of the text, you may well forget to cancel the auto-renewal before the 30 days and if you did not read all of the text, they can bill you without your knowledge. So a book that was supposed to be free could well end up costing you over £100.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few things out such as the fact that they use a problem-reaction -solution of creating a fear and providing a product to assuage that fear but that’s the gist, they establish their credibility and make you want the free whatever and because you want it you will not read all of their text. This is what they count on so they can gain access to your credit card and sell you something you do not want without your knowledge.
It is also important to realise that you can substitute free book for free anything, all of these kinds of website are the same, they even look the same, to the extent that it would not surprise me to find out that they are made by the same entity, be it a person or a company.
You may well say that in cases like this, it is the fault of the customer for not properly reading everything before agreeing to make the purchase and you would have a point, but what I have described is a predatory practice which counts on the fact that you won’t want to sit there and spend maybe an hour reading sales blurb (where they bury all of the important details) when you think you are only spending £3.50. The real red flag is that there would not be anything like as much text to read if you were only spending £3.50
It is a shame that there are people out there who attach themselves to the alternative media and the truth movement who operate in this way as it is very poisonous to anything it touches. Impulse buying is a weakness and it can get you into to a lot of trouble so be wary and remember the wise old saying that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.