DoomsDay Aardvark Random Rant

Random Rant for 7/18/2002: A Bit about Honor Societies

All right, I know I usually try to keep these funny, and they've so far been pretty much limited to my off the cuff rantings about computers, but every no and then, we all need a change of pace. Today I will take an opportunity to blast the crap out of something that's actually been bothering me for several months now.

What triggered this was an email I received a few days ago. But before I begin, I believe that a little explanation is in order. Several months (I forget exactly how many) ago, I was inducted into the Golden Key International Honour Society. Since that time, I have come to believe that perhaps accepting membership was a mistake. This most recent message has done nothing to change my opinion of them. This opinion will become quite clear as you continue reading. What follows is the message I received, with my own comments inserted.

From: "Golden Key IHS" To: Show Your Commitment to Academic Excellence, With the Golden Key International Honour Society Credit Card!

Quite the opening. From this much, I couldn't even tell if I was supposed to be a member of what I was supporting. For all that could be gathered, this was like one of those credit cards with the little lightning bolt on them. One could also make the arguement that using a credit card might not really be the best way to support the cause. But perhaps we are judging them too soon. It continues:

Click on For Golden Key students only: A FREE Gear for Sports(R) Long Sleeve T-Shirt ($30 estimated retail value)- with qualifying transaction(s).+

OK, this is an acedemic honor society. What are the chances that any of it's members will be taken in by a marketing ploy involving a free shirt. I have never met anybody who actually wanted the free gift from any marketing offer so badly that it actually changed their mind about the real product. To think that I would be swayed by this actually sort of degrading. I also find the use of a .dll file interesting in a URL. Anybody want to lay odds on an NT server? Perhaps the most interesting part of the thing is that the page in question is actually a redirect to: A bit odd, don't you think to send someone to a redirect page? This is beginning to smell a bit fishy.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Dear Ian McLaird, Now you can demonstrate your dedication to intellectual achievement and help support Golden Key at no additional cost to you! Simply request and use the No-Annual-Fee Golden Key International Honour Society MasterCard(R) credit card.+ PLUS: Receive a FREE Gear For Sports(R) Golden Key Honour Society Long Sleeve T-Shirt after the first qualifying use of your card! That's a $30 value! Don't delay, though- because you must use your card before 110/31/02.+ Click on to apply online!

Oh, good, I was wondering when we'd get to the salutation. For those who have forgotten, that should be the first thing in a polite formal letter. So far, this message has been neither. It is good to know that I can demonstrate my dedication to intellectual achievement at no additional cost to myself, but, isn't that what I'm already doing by going to school? At least they won't be charging me for doing good work... Note how this section is almost an exact copy of the opening few lines, too. Creativity must be in short supply. I would also like to point out the ending date for this shirt offer (just in case anybody cares) does not seem to be any type of format that I'm familliar. The least they could do is proof-read. For reference, I think that means October 31, 2002. Halloween, interesting. That reading, of course, assumes that they know that there are not 110 months, or if they are European (which I sincerely doubt), that no month has 110 days in it. It also makes the assumption that they know that November has only 30 days. Anyway...

The advantages of your Golden Key International Honour Society credit card are many:

Oh, goodie, the sales pitch...

- For every new account that is issued, MBNA makes a contribution   to the Golden Key Scholarship Endowment at no cost to cardholders.   This endowment has enabled many outstanding members to receive   scholarships.

For every new card issued. Not based on the purchases, just on the issuance of the card. And since they're the ones issuing the card, they really make all of the decisions concerning how much and when to send any money at all. Somehow, I am a little less than impressed. Next point, they don't say how much they contribute, so who knows. On the other hand, don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Scholarships are issued, and they are actually acedemic this time, so that much is good, and in fact to be commended. Perhaps at another time, we can get into my opinions of scholarships. For now though:

- Pay No Annual Fee. - Based on the success of this program, Golden Key has added   new scholarships for members, and now over 100,000 lifetime   members proudly carry it.

Uhh, guys, you said that already. Twice. We've already discussed the scholarships, and we already knew that there was no fee. Saying it again still doesn't make a sale. At least they're persistent, though.

- Instantly access your account online. - Get online shopping services to increase your security and save   you money.

OK, that is kinda neat, but still nothing that I haven't heard on TV or gotten in the same mail that everybody else gets.

- Much more! Visit and apply today!

Alright, that's it. "Much more!" is not a feature or a benefit. On TV, you are pressed for time, and you say this to save time having gotten somebody's interest. In the mail, you may be pressed for space on the page, and you might write this to gain some page space. Electronically, though, these limitations don't apply. You already have my attention, tell me everything!

Since 1989, MBNA has offered members the exclusive benefits of this card. Join them, show your pride, help provide scholarships for your fellow Golden Key members-and receive a FREE Long Sleeve T-Shirt!+ Apply Online Now at Sincerely, Robert P. Sheppard Assistant Executive Director Golden Key International Honour Society

OK, it's nice to know that they're at least willing to sign the silly thing, dispite it being nothing but an add. This is at least the third time that they've mentioned the shirt, and I still don't care. They've placed the link in such a way that it will always be visible at least twice, no matter what. But it's still a redirect.

P.S. Both MBNA and Golden Key are committed to minimizing the use of valuable environmental resources, which is why we are using e-mail for this offer. Thank you! * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If all else fails, claim to be a member of greenpeace. Oh, please, that is not why they're doing this. This is just one last, desperate attempt to try to get us to like them. And they aren't fooling anybody. I have gotten as much snail mail from MBNA as I have from Capitol One. Don't lie, guys, it just doesn't work.

+ For rate, fees, features, and benefits associated with the use of the card; or to apply, click on and refer to the disclosures accompanying the online credit card application. If you do not wish to receive future e-mails about this product, you may send an e-mail to: with "REMOVE" in the subject line. PLEASE DO NOT INCLUDE INQUIRIES OR COMMENTS in the body of the e-mail message, as our computer-automated system cannot process other requests or inquiries at this time. MBNA reserves the right to communicate with you through e-mail about your account. If you have inquiries or comments, please contact us at MBNA America, P.O. Box 15266, Wilmington, DE 19850.

OK, so at last they tell us that we can stop getting this crap delivered, but we can't complain about it. Well, that's why I'm doing this. I really hope they read this, too. Since I'm about to rip into them in earnest.

So what's the deal with the card? We still know squat about it. Interest rates? Limits? Penalties? Billing Cycle? Something pertenant to the card rather than the shirt? OK, after clicking on a few links the interest rate turns out to be 14.99 percent. Which is a killing in the stock market, unthinkable at a bank, fairly low as credit cards go, and highway robery. Naturally, they reserve the right to change it at any time. There is a 25 day grace period on pretty much everything. All in all, a fairly typical credit card pitch.

Now on to the reason that this actually makes me angry. It honestly wouldn't be so bad if it were in fact, just another credit card offer. Those are a dime a dozen, and fairly easy to ignore. However, this was not a typical credit card offer. This was not sent from a credit card company, but from the assistant executive director of an international honor society. From day one, I have had a feeling about the society. It has totally and completely sold out to corporate interests. All of their literature and forms are covered in corporate logos. Their web site looks perhaps a little too professional, and the only contact that I have with them is through messages like this one, and an occasional, " please update your information" type message.

In order to be offered membership into the organization, students must do some fairly spectacular things. These accomplishments should be honored. This kind of thing, however, is not an honor. Golden Key is not an honor society, national, international, or otherwise. It is a corporation which gathers demographics for other corporations' marketing departments. They scout out students who perform well and then attempt to sell things to them. This is not right. I, for one, do not feel honored by this. I feel that tactics like this cheapen my accomplishments, making them no different from the random chance associated with winning the lottery. They use the British spelling "Honour" to make themselves look better. They even give out scholarships. This does not mean that they are honoring anybody.

The Final point that I want to make about this group. I've really already touched on this, having said that they've sold out, but there's more to it than what I've said. They have a "Corporate Council" made up of the corporations for whom they gather information. They purport to give members an edge at these companies. I hate to say it, but it looks an aweful lot like the old saying "It's not what you know, it's who you know." The fact that this advice is taken to heart at an honor society, really cuts the idealist in me to the bone. I work hard because I don't know any other way to work. I couldn't not do my best at everything I try. It would make me feel cheap. Honor to me is not being given the world, a big prize, or even a T-Shirt. Honor is a sincere and heartfelt "Thank you" given by somebody I've just helped. Honor is a "Good work" from a professor. Most of all, honor is internal. Please, Golden Key, don't cheapen my accomplishments with little toys, and offers of free (or more acurately, cheaper) stuff. Shake my hand, look into my eyes, and tell me that I've done a good job.

This is the DoomsDay Aardvark, signing off