Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Abusive, misleading paper-mail spam

I got something in the mail last week that I found interesting, in a sleazy way. The return address said United Airlines Awards Processing Center, and emblazoned on the envelope was this:


Your Mileage Plus® Miles
are expiring. Use by
October 19, 2010.

Looks alarming, with urgent in bold, red letters, no? Well, but the return address used a P.O. box in Utah, and the postage payment area showed a pre-sort permit. Bulk mail.

Inside were the following:

  1. An envelope, pre-addressed to Processing Center (another bulk-mail flag), with the same Utah P.O. box number.
  2. A yellow sheet telling me that I can get faster service by making my redemption online. But not at united.com nor mileageplus.com; the URL is at magsformiles.com, and includes a code that will let them track the specific mailing.
  3. A letter, repeating the URGENT NOTICE, and bearing a date of 24 September — two weeks before I received this.

The letter is, in fact, a solicitation for me to use my miles to buy magazine subscriptions, and does not come from the United Mileage Plus program, but from a vendor (Synapse Group, Inc, in Stamford, CT) that wants my purchase for absolutely no cash cost.

United has a policy that if you have no transactions on your account for 18 months, your miles expire. But as long as you have at least one transaction, however small, within 18 months, you keep your miles forever. This promotion is presented as a way to use small transactions (a few hundred miles) to buy magazine subscriptions, thus keeping tens of thousands of miles from expiring.

The sleazy part is that it’s meant to make me think that my miles will expire next week if I don’t do something quickly. And that’s not true at all: my miles won’t be expiring any time soon, and there’s no reason for me to worry about it (though I did check, just to be sure).

Scumbag business practices are everywhere, and the spam isn’t just online.

Now to go to United’s web page and see if there’s some new we may share your address bit that I haven’t (yet) opted out of.

1 comment:

HRH said...

I received similar solicitation, regarding my American Advantage miles (mileage award program offered by the American Airline) in the past. By responding to that offer, I ended up receiving a one year FREE subscriptions, to Time magazine, Barrons financial, Wall Street Journals, and a few other periodicals. Since I wasn’t using the award miles at the time, I didn’t have any objection to trade a few hundred miles to get assorted reading materials for my daily commute. Although I prefer, they didn't lie to me about the mileage expiration.