Thank you reward? No, thanks

(Originally published June 4, 2009)

Over the past month, my wife has received two mailings from People magazine offering a thank-you reward for being a valued subscriber. The maximum reward value is purported to be $183. A small catalog accompanies the mailing listing other magazines, jewelry and such items as a wallet, a first aid kit and an alarm clock. Each item has a price, and the recipient of the reward is supposed to select up to 12 gifts.

A casual read would make you believe that you can select gifts up to a total of $183. In the fine print, however, you’re told that People will send your credit-card information to the vendors to process your selections. Also in the fine print, you learn that your “reward” results from the savings you receive between the “full” value of the gift and the “discounted” price you’re paying. There’s no way of knowing, however, what the “full” value of the gift is.

Frankly, I expect better than this from People and the folks at Time Inc. I’m sure there are many subscribers who, giving this offer a casual read, will believe they’re actually receiving a reward. Instead, they’ll discover credit-card charges that they never expected. Many will simply acquiesce, but all will have a bad taste in their mouths. Whatever short-term gain People may realize isn’t worth what it will cost in reputation.

Grammar tip: There is a difference between “continuous” and “continual.” “Continuous” should be used when you want to say that something is continuing in space or time without interruption. For example, the continuous gas line had no breaks in it, or the continuous hum of the engine gave me a headache. “Continual” should be used when something happens intermittently or in intervals. For example, the continual banging of the shutter in the wind gave me a headache.