Reader's Digest think of next? To induce people...

WHAT WILL

April 21, 1992

WHAT WILL Reader's Digest think of next? To induce people to enter its annual sweepstakes, the magazine is sending out letters from a vice president of the obscure bank in Minnesota to which it has transferred money to pay the winner.

"Even though we've never met," says the letter from Paul C. Forstrom, vice president for special accounts of Citizens State Bank in Clara City, Minn., "I may turn out to be one of the most important people in your life." Mr. Forstrom goes on to explain that Reader's Digest has deposited $167,000 in his bank, the first payment of the $5 million sweepstakes grand prize.

"Important, Reader's Digest has advised us that you have come through both stages -- selection of names and issuance of Entry Documents -- and that you will be guaranteed eligibility in the Third Stage Prize Selection for the . . . Grand Prize."

The magazine also offers the services of its assistant treasurer and investment manager, C.E. Blank, to help the winner "define your investment objectives." After you win, the letter says, "please feel free to call Ms. Blank if you'd like to set up an appointment for a private consultation." Her business card is enclosed, as is Mr. Forstrom's.

There are two difficulties. The person receiving Mr. Forstrom's letter never entered the contest in the first place. The first two "stages" are apparently the magazine's use of mailing lists and the dispatch of sweepstakes inducements -- the "issuance of Entry Documents."

But most important, odds of winning the $5 million are there in small print at the bottom of the second page: one in 199,500,000.

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