Princeton Premier -- Not in Princeton, and How Premier?
Let's trace a spam e-mail making current rounds that plays on one of the seven deadly sins -- vanity, supposedly Uncle Scratch's favorite, if you believe the movie The Devil's Advocate. We tracked down apparent exclusive biography publisher Princeton Premier (though not by the phone number in its spam e-mail). Shockingly, it's not in Princeton, New Jersey, home to the prestigious alma mater of John Stossel. In fact, it seems to be in bucolic but pleasant Astoria, N.Y., home to several excellent Greek restaurants. We're left wondering whether the company is legitimate or if someone's trying to hijack their mailing list -- we couldn't get Princeton Premier to return our calls to confirm. Click the link below and we'll start with the whole spam letter on the next page.
Here's the whole spam:
Subject: (your name here's) Selection Into Princeton Premier
It is my pleasure to inform you that you are being considered for inclusion into the 2008-2009 Princeton Premier Business Leaders and Professionals "Honors Edition" section of the Registry.
The 2008-2009 edition of the Registry will include biographies of the world's most accomplished individuals. Recognition of this kind is an honor shared by thousands of executives and professionals throughout the world each year. Inclusion is considered by many as the single highest mark of achievement.
Upon final confirmation, you will be listed among thousands of accomplished individuals in the Princeton Premier Registry.
For accuracy and publication deadlines, please complete your application form and return it to us within five business days.
You may access the application form using the following link:
(link to forms page that harvests some relatively innocuous personal information)
On behalf of the Managing Director, we wish you continued success.
This email was sent to (your e-mail here), by Princeton Premier
23-35a Steinway Street
Astoria, NY 11105 United States
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So: Clicking on the application form link leads to this page, with no navigation forward or back except for a link that places Princeton Premier in Fresh Meadows, NY. You actually have to search for Princeton Premier via Google or other means to find the Web site. Digging deeper on the site, there is a phone number, and on two separate occasions on March 26, 2008, real human beings answered it. (As of late afternoon Friday, March 28, the phone number has since disappeared). We tried to get more information about how to purchase a biography, but were told to go to the Web site. Jason Harris, Princeton Premier's Managing Director, apparently has an office where we called, and we were assured he would return our call, but so far he hasn't. We left several phone messages as well. By the way, the Princeton Premier phone number in the spam mail, and the one found in directory assistance for Astoria, NY, didn't work when we tried them.
We can't really critique Princeton Premier's business model, because we don't know what it is. Google "Princeton Premier," and the fourth result says the site has been suspended because its domain account expired, but on March 28 we were still able to see it. If you do manage to get past the impressive array of services on offer, you will find a "terms of agreement" link that tells you all you need to know about whether you should pay any money for a Princeton Premier biography:
"Our cancellation policy states there is a non-refundable 20% processing fee which will be automatically retained on any cancellation that occurs within 24 hours of any sale.
All program sales after 48 hours are final and no refunds will be issued for our service and all accompanying personalized products." So if a profile costs $100, you're still going to get stuck for $20 even if you get a case of buyer's remorse. We couldn't find a price list, though.
This isn't the first time we've written about exclusive-sounding professional "directories" that pretty much accept anybody who's willing to pay them money. With apologies to Groucho Marx, would you want to join any club that would have you and everybody else as a member?