Thursday, December 15, 2016

LifeLine Screening

Is ultrasound screening a good deal for you?  Well, consider the way it is sold....

I have talked a lot here about how things are marketed to you and how you can basically tell if something is a good deal or not based on the way it is marketed to you.   You don't have to "do the math" on a business proposition if it has been sold to you using one of the following techniques:

1.  FEAR
2.  Deception
3.  Telemarketing
4.  Mass-Mailing
5.  Appeal to Status
6.  Appeal to Vanity
This list is by no means exhaustive, of course.  You no doubt have your own list of "tells" that tip you off when someone is lying to you, which marketers are doing all the time.

Fear, I have written about extensively.   It is a great way to get people to buy things and do things.   You tell people their laptop is in danger of a virus and they will buy your anti-virus software (even through Windows now provides this for free).  Or they will click on a link in an e-mail that, ironically, will load a virus onto their computer.

Sometimes this fear is even trivial.   A scammer sends an e-mail saying, "Message attached!  We have been trying to reach you for weeks!" and the victim will click on it, fearful they "missed something" or just plain curious.

Deception is also common, but again, all marketing is indeed deception.  As I have noted time and time again, if you enter into a business relationship based on a deception, no matter how trivial, the relationship will only go downhill from there.   So if a car dealer or cruise line lies to you by saying you "won a contest!" when in fact, everyone they call has won, then they are lying to you, and if you get into bed with them, they will lie to you some more.  They have already telegraphed how deceitful they are, so you have no cause to claim "unfair!" later on.

Moreover, if you do business with deceitful companies, you encourage such deceit.   Click-bait "fake news" has promulgated only because people click on it.   Similarly, sleazy ways of marketing survive because people fall for them.   "So what if they use a fake contest to lure me into the showroom?" you say, "I still got a good deal on a 2017 Hupmobile!"   Well, probably you didn't get a "good deal" for starters, particularly since you really weren't in the market for a car to begin with.   But regardless of the deal, the fact you fell for it means that dealer - and his competitors - will continue to use these sorts of tactics in the future, as they know it works, and merely presenting good bargains doesn't.

And that in a nutshell is why the local dealers in my small town have to resort to "gimmicks" to sell cars, and why the big-city dealers sell more cars at lower prices.   The small-town people are not very sophisticated and fall for gimmicks - which is the only way to get them into the showroom and to pay higher prices.  The big-city dealer has a critical mass of people who not only want a car, but need one, and will buy one because the prices are reasonable and well-marked.

Telemarketing and mass-mailings are a form of deception.   The telemarketer lies to you the moment you pick up the phone and he says, "How are YOU today?" because he really doesn't give a shit how you are doing, only whether after his spiel that you will cough up those 16 digits of sweet, uncut pure Visa or Mastercard.   You can safely hang up on any telemarketer call and know that you are not missing a damn thing or any good bargain.  You can safely throw away ALL junk mailing as none of them are for a good deal.

Good deals present themselves, and the cost of mass-mailings and boiler room call centers has to be folded into the price of a product or service, and thus things marketed this way are never great bargains.

Appeals to status and vanity are in themselves, a form of lie.   A car dealer will tell you that you look sexy in a new Mercedes coupe, and moreover the neighbors will be jealous of your perceived status.   Both are emotional arguments and fail to address whether you are really getting a good bargain, in terms of reliable transportation for the dollar.   My experience has been than esoteric German cars are not any more reliable that a Toyota (and indeed, often less reliable) and the cost per mile is easily double or triple.   So now you know why they make emotional arguments!

Chances are, if you live in an area with elderly people, you will get a mailing from Lifeline Screening.  I have gotten mailers from them before, and some elderly friends of mine even suggested I should go to this as it is a "good thing" to detect undiagnosed problems.  They were sold on the idea - literally - although I think the only thing it did was lighten their wallet slightly.

I came across this company again when I tried to renew my Obamacare for 2017.   And what a nightmare that was - faulty websites (both BCBS and that lead to dead pages or server errors, telephone wait times measured in hours, not minutes, and confusing mailers and instructions that are anything but clear and concrete.  I may have signed up for Obamacare twice, so I will have to monitor this and cancel one of the sign ups in January.  It is really, really poorly done.

But I digress.

The funny thing was, when I called Blue Cross, I was connected to lifeline screening.  What??|

It turns out, the phone number for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia is the same as Lifeline Screening, the difference being that BCBS has a 855 number and Lifeline Screening has an 888 number.  Funny coincidence, eh?

And this is not the first time I have seen this "coincidence".   I called a 1-888 number for a cruise line and dialed 1-800 instead by mistake.  The people answering the phone congratulated me for "winning a free cruise!" and it took me a while to realize that "Caribbean Cruise Lines" was not the same as Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

The idea of sound-alike URLs has its ancestry in sound-alike 1-800 numbers.

I had heard about this screening before, as I got a junk mailer about it and someone here on retirement island mentioned it.  I also had heard that it was some sort of a scam.  Well, not a scam, just paying for medical screening you may or may not need.

An article about Lifeline Screening notes that the testing they offer may not be of much use.  The Wikipedia entry (above) also notes some "controversies" about the service, although the article (like much of Wikipedia these days) seems to be poorly written and edited to make the service look good and the detractors look incoherent (this is how you groom your image on the Internet).

One can go online and do the research and read the articles, pro and con (guess who writes the pro ones?) and figure out whether or not you need lifeline screening or whether they are selling unnecessary services.

Myself, I can just cut to the chase and look at how this is being marketed to me, and come to a fairly accurate conclusion of my own that it is not something I need.   If I give into fear, I lose control of my own emotions and also lose control of my finances.

And fear is what they are selling here - that I may have some undiagnosed condition that could kill me at any moment and I should obsess about my health and become a hypochondriac and worry about dying.

Dying is inevitable.  And fear of dying prevents so many people from actually living.  And that is sad.

But the point is, (and I did have one), that you can and should walk away from things that are marketed to you on an emotional basis.   You will not be missing any great bargains if you do, and you can save yourself a lot of time and grief in the process.

And who knows?  Maybe if everyone was a little more rational in the marketplace, the marketplace would behave a little more rationally!