The Strangest Marketing Ploy I’ve Ever Encountered, But I’ll Admit It Worked

What would you do for one dollar?

Usually unmarked and unsolicited envelopes go straight to paper recycling heaven in my house, but for some reason, one of the grown ups opened a piece of mail from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Maybe it’s because my grandpa used to work for the VA, or maybe because I was hallucinating and thought it was one my missing checks. (My mail goes missing on the regular, how bout yours??) Regardless, I’m glad we did, because look what we would have missed if we hadn’t!


The enclosed letter asked us to fill out an enclosed form, and for our trouble, it offered us one dollar. An actual dollar, like a golden ticket, right there in the envelope!

And I have SO MANY QUESTIONS. Is it legal to send cash money through the mail? Advisable? (According to Snopes, the answers are Yes, technically, and No, not really.) How many dollar bills went into the trash — or, in my neighborhood, to paper recycling heaven — because so many people did what I usually do and forwarded this unsolicited solicitation directly to a bin? How many dollar bills did Dr. Victoria J. Davey start with? How many did she expect to net her any kind of results? How many was she prepared to sacrifice: 97 out of every 100?

How much actual money, in addition to the regulation amount spent on envelopes, paper, manpower, and so on that a campaign like this requires, was she prepared to lose on this endeavor? Especially since my surmise would be that most people willing to open an envelope like this would be as likely to fill out a short form whether or not it came with a small token of appreciation. But maybe I’m wrong! Certainly the dollar got my attention, even if I’m not sure its value — in NYC, about $.85 — was enough to change my behavior.

The form is easy enough to fill out: as you can see, it starts with one basic question, “Was anyone in your household born before 1958?” If your answer is “No,” you’re done. The form merely asks that you return it in the self-addressed, stamped envelope provided for you. And I complied. Maybe I would have even without my friend George winking up at me from my kitchen table. I wouldn’t have written about it, though! And you? Did you get this envelope too? Are you kicking yourself for throwing it away unopened? What would you do in response to the novelty of getting a dollar from a stranger, if not for the dollar itself?

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