I don’t know about the rest of the world, but here in upstate NY we have been inundated with infomercials featuring a spokesman with the most obvious attempt at intellectual I have ever seen. The product which demands so much airtime, but not attention to detail, would be a free copy of the book, The Green Millionaire. (I will not provide a link for the website in case a reader forgoes the remainder of this text and misinterprets this as a recommendation)
Now, I would like to think I am a pretty savvy guy, and when I saw the bald-headed man on TV with his thick-rimmed, square-framed, black glasses discussing how much money I could save by making green decision I was naturally skeptical. The obvious question would be, if making simple green decisions could literally save you thousands of dollars a year, then why do we need a book to tell us about it? I was intrigued with one statement he made though. As my wife and I continue to contemplate home ownership, I am constantly searching for ideas to save money or improve the living conditions we have yet to acquire. This thick-rimed bald man mentioned the ability to install solar panels on your roof for free and receiving grant money for home improvements. I didn’t expect to learn much from the book , but if it did provide some hints or tips for acquiring funds for specific repairs then it was worth some cursory investigation.
To make it clear, I did not purchase this book. I wrote down the website and gave it a visit. The second red-flag was that I could not discover anything further about the book than what I was told in the commercial. All the hotlinks on the web page just directed me back to the top of the screen with a large banner proclaiming how easy it was to sign up for my copy, and did I mention free?
The third warning signal was that all the advertisement and marketing for this product seemed to be geared towards the customer who desires to strike it rich. The mere presence of the work “Millionaire” in large bold font within the title of the book tells me that this book, or the revenue it generates, is designed to target individuals who are motivated by monetary savings as opposed to actual sustainable lifestyle changes.
So I left the website and conducted a quick google search. The first page of results told me the rest of the story and firmly solidified my suspicions. “Green Millionaire Complaints – SCAM“, “The Green Millionaire Scam Alert“, “The Green Millionaire – Scam Times.” The headlines tell it all, the forums contain stories of people who signed up for the “free” book, paid the $1.00 processing charge, then in 14 days were charged the full price of $30, not for the book but for an online subscription of The Green Millionaire eMagazine. The only way many of these individuals were able to escape from the recurring charge was to cancel their debit or credit cards.
I am not claiming that the company violated any technical obligation to full disclosure, or that they deliberately withheld information from customers. Just illustrating how easy it can be to spot a scam, or a bad deal, and save yourself the hassle of rearranging your finances. To top it off, the subscribers who did receive the book all commented that it was rather banal information which could be acquired at many other reputable locations.
Here’s a quick list of some legit sustainable living websites:
The list goes on and on. A good tip would be that if you are looking for information on greening your home or living more sustainably, you can find all the information you need without providing your name or credit card number.
So, while my search for free solar panels and residential wind-turbine will continue, I will not subscribe to a company that relies on illusion and fine print to secure it source of income.