By Siddharth Prasad
These days Reader’s Digest is sending us a tree, which would be fine, since we like trees, except for the awkward fact that they’re sending it in installments – one mailer at a time.
The story began a year ago, with the arrival of the First Fat Envelope. It was an invitation to win multiple lakhs of rupees in a sweepstake for which we had already been preferentially shortlisted! What luck! All we had to do was peel off a very official looking ‘Yes!’ sticker from annexure ‘A’ and stick it in the intaglio-printed square on card ‘B’ and then shove the card into the post pre-paid envelope ‘C’ and drop the envelope into a friendly neighbourhood post box.
Easy enough; so like good, greedy citizens, we peeled, stuck, shoved and posted. Same day, too, so we would also be eligible for the Early Bird Bonus.
A couple of weeks later, the Second Fat Envelope arrived with the heartening news that we’d now moved a step closer to getting our grubby hands on the mega moolah. In fact, there was already a sample cheque enclosed for the full amount. Next mail, it could be real, we read. Were we really interested in going ahead and winning all this money? You bet your pink posterior we were. There was also an exclusive offer to buy some enlightening books (which we declined) and, with caviar shining in our eyes, sent back the required reply indicating that we’d be okay with winning kilos of cash.
The Third Envelope was slim enough to contain a high-value cheque, but it didn’t. What it did have was a 5 x 4 glossy photograph of the Marketing Manager handing over a cheque to someone who wasn’t in frame. That’s what the ceremony would look like when we officially stepped into multi-millionairehood! Were we still keen? Like a truckload of mustard, we said, as we peeled the enclosed sticker of a very large tick mark and stuck it on an impressive rectangle of 300 gsm art card.
We spent that fortnight discussing which brand of champagne we would fill the swimming pool with, and whether the swimming pool should be round or regular. The Fourth (or was it the Fifth) Fat Packet soon arrived: half a dozen glossy pages brimming with good news.
Congratulations, it said, we had now made it to the second round of the sweepstake process. Second round? We hadn’t known there’d be rounds, but as long as we’d cleared it… We felt a bit guilty turning down the offer to buy a handsome set of classical music CDs, but sent in the business reply card indicating we’d still like to win the money anyway.
Are you getting a bit tired of reading all this? So are we, actually. But we’re so close to winning now that last week we even checked with our bank manager to make sure our account has enough space to accommodate all the extra lolly. Any week now…
There’s Science at work here, not mere direct mailing. Behind the beguilingly written copy, the subtle art direction and the high grade paper, you can detect the hidden presence of psychiatrists with years of expertise in how to gauge greed. Trained titillators who know just how to keep leading you on. And raconteurs who can keep you on tenterhooks with a neverending story. But alas, no environmentalists whatsoever – all those piles of beautifully printed pages sent to hundreds of hopeful households.
So uncool in these times of global warming. We’re feeling guilty-in-advance about the huge carbon footprint of our forthcoming fortune. Why is Reader’s Digest doing this?