Saturday, December 08, 2007
one very bad holiday gift idea
I listen to a news radio station every morning as I'm getting ready for work, and I can always tell when the holidays are approaching. No, it's not from their coverage of the cutting and lighting of the Rockefeller Center tree. Nor is it from the frigid temperatures that the weatherman starts announcing in late November. I know it from the gradual appearance of probably the most annoying ad I've ever heard. The advertisement is for a company called the International Star Registry (ISR). Their pitch begins, "For the perfect gift, name a star after someone!" Rocky Mosele, CEO of the company, goes on to tell you that for as little as $54, you can name a star after a friend or other loved one. Your money supposedly buys you the official naming rights to a star, which is registered "in book form in the U.S. Copyright Office." You also get a (pretty hideous) paper certificate; a star chart with "your star" circled in bright red; and a booklet on who-knows-what. Umm...this just might be the biggest scam in all of holiday giving!
The truth of the matter is that only one organization has the authority to name stars officially, and that is the International Astronomincal Union. The U.S. Copyright Office has absolutely no authority in this area. What's more, even if you decide to pony up some cash for these bogus naming rights, there's no way to prove that the ISR hasn't reused a small number of stars over and over again. In short, the International Star Registy is a black hole for your wallet. Of course, they aren't the only company claiming to let you name your own star; there are probably dozens of others. However, ISR just may be the worst offender, at least in the U.S.; they apparently make enough money spend up to $1 million every year on sketchy advertising! At this point in the conversation, I'd probably whip out the word "suckers," but as this is a friendly blog, I'll instead offer some advice: This holiday season, dear astronomy buff, please spend your money elsewhere...like on a new telescope, a Hubble Telescope poster or print, or some astronomical Christmas tree ornaments! ∞