Dustin has succinctly pointed out some Journal Times lapses, presenting flackery masquerading as news coverage, but -- despite the risk of being accused of piling on -- I want to point out a recent advertising scam in our local newspaper.
Yes, scam. A totally dishonest full-page advertisement designed to separate gullible Journal Times readers from their money -- in return for nothing of value. Here's what the top of the ad looked like. Note the word "Wisconsin" under the top serial number of the $2 bill. (Click to enlarge.):
The ad on Saturday -- page 7, in case you missed it -- had the same look-and-feel of the similarly bogus Amish heater ads and the cool fan/free gas ads run previously in the paper, all looking like news coverage. The gist of this new ad is simple: For $15 the company will sell you a special Wisconsin $2 bill. Well, yeah, if you buy 'em four at a time in their "vault" pack: Total cost with shipping for four $2 bills: $60.88.
Such a deal!
But hurry! "There's a strict limit of 10 Wisconsin state $2 bill vault packs per household." The vault pack, by the way, is a leather (leatherette?) wallet.
As the ad makes clear as mud, these are "new, never before seen state $2 bills being overlaid and released exclusively by the World Reserve Monetary Exchange." In plain English that means a sticker with the word "Wisconsin" has been stuck on the bill. Do you think that increases its value from $2? Think again. Ignore such words in the ad as "exclusive," "precious," "newly enhanced" and "highly sought after," implying added value. These bills are worth $2 each. No more. Maybe less, if the stickers don't come off easily. Unlike the series of state quarters, there is no such thing as a U.S. Bureau of Engraving-produced "state" $2 bill.
Doesn't the Journal Times care about its readers? Does the desire for every almighty buck trump basic concern for its core customers? Hell, the ad was probably sold cheaply as remaindered space; it couldn't have pumped that much revenue into the paper's coffers. And even if it sold at full price, JT, have you no shame?
It's a scam, pure and simple.
If you call one of the toll-free numbers on the ad -- and recite the special ordering code -- the telemarketer ("Brian," in my case Sunday night) will say (after he first guesses I'm calling from Delaware, although these special bills are only for Wisconsinites): "I'd recommend that you claim all ten packs." Yes, folks, there's a limit: You can order no more than ten packs of four $2 bills -- that's $480 plus $12.88 shipping per pack. Brian hinted that I might get a discount on the shipping...but I demurred: Forty $2 bills worth a total of $80 for $480 plus shipping. Gotta ask the wife first.
Tempting as Brian's offer was, I asked whether it is possible to buy the special $2 bills from every state? Oh, yes! Be still, my heart. A chest with 50 bills -- "each in its own acrylic cover" -- costs $588. Shipping is included. Six easy payments of $98! Again, let's point out for the mathematically impaired: You're getting fifty $2 bills, worth a total of $100, for the low, low price of $588.
Brian tried hard to convince me. "Each vault comes with its own letter of authenticity," he said. "You can't get these anywhere else. You can't even get them from the Federal Reserve."
A quick internet search shows that we're late being invited to this party. The ad appeared in the Arizona Daily Star (for bills "overlaid" with the word "Arizona," of course) back on Jan. 18 -- and was unmasked by one of their own reporters a week later. Reporter Rick Villarreal quoted Brett Sadovnick, a Tucson coin dealer who filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, saying: "There has never been a resale value for that type of product at any collectible store. It's just a regular $2 bill with (a sticker) on it. The U.S. government hasn't sanctioned it, and anything in the ad about the popularity or scarcity of it is misleading."
Need I mention that the Arizona Daily Star is owned by Lee Enterprises, which also owns the Racine Journal Times? No, I didn't think so.
(Full disclosure: I am thoroughly ashamed to admit today that I'm a former Journal Times publisher.)