Junk mail uses personal notes to win confidence

POSTED: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 2:00pm

UPDATED: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 2:04pm

When Laura Hooker opened her mail, she thought a friend had sent her a newspaper clipping.

On the article was a yellow Post-it note with the words: "Laura, Thought you'd be interested! - J."

"The Post-it note was handwritten, and it was like, why would somebody think they had to send this to me?" said Hooker.

She was even more curious when she read the article.

It told the story of a woman who's husband died in his sleep and then talked about financial planning for the future.

"Is somebody trying tell me something?" said Hooker.

In fact, the article and the sticky note were not from a friend but from a marketing company using the ploy to get people to open the letter and read the advertisement.

The ad encourages people to order a book called "A Married Woman's Secrets Of Financial Survival."

The technique of using an article and personal note has been going around for more than ten years, but Hooker and her daughter Valerie had never seen it before.

"It is unethical and mean and it scares people," said Valerie Hooker.

Hooker said her mother called her when the letter arrived and was concerned about the personal note and the subject of the article.

Hooker said she looked up the information on the internet and found out a similar approach was being used to generate business across the country.

Eva Velasquez with the San Diego Better Business Bureau says the personal note is misleading.

"It is probably not the best way to market goods and services," said Velasquez.

The BBB has heard from other consumers who were confused into thinking the note was from a friend and not simply an advertisement.

It is interesting to point out that many of the sticky notes end with the initial "J" as the person who is supposedly sending the information.

Why "J"?

Velasquez believes it is because many of the most common names like John or Joe or Judy start with the letter.

Does Hooker believe it is a good way of selling their product?

"I would not want to do business with them," she said, "I don't think they should be allowed to do business that way."

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