On MarketWatch, Chuck Jaffe presents his Stupid Investment of the Week. In this case, it is the STAR Trader Workshop. If workshops like these have superfans, I am the farthest from one.
Luckilly, Chuck lost only time and not money by attending an introductory workshop. This seminar, as advertised on television infomercials, is supposed to give the attendee tools for better investing. As you would imagine, you come away from the workshop with nothing of value, except perhaps a ticket to the non-free higher-level seminar.
The entire first hour was spent hyping what STAR Trader was really selling, a three-day educational course that costs a reasonable $99, but which undoubtedly leads to sales pitches for the really expensive stuff, including more advanced workshops. Undoubtedly, a big chunk of time at the $99 workshops will be spent trying to get you to fork over more cash.
When I was working for a non-profit organization, my boss “strongly suggested” I (and a few others) attend a similar workshop. This workshop wasn’t related to investing, but it was a similarly-structured life-path and philosophical event. It wasn’t free; I spllt the $300 cost with my boss.
It’s all a vicious marketing scheme formulated like a religion or cult. The group leaders use psychological breakdown techniques to convince people of their philosophy, and like a religion, the members are taught that non-believers simply do not “get it.” Any questioning of the philosophies by participants is immediately dismissed. Landmark has special words with meanings specific to members as a way of creating an identifying community. There were audience members who told their stories of redemption through the program, obviously staged. It is mass-brainwashing. I refused to progress to the next level, and left the organization where I had been working soon after.
Luckilly, Chuck’s only stupid investment was his time wasted in the seminar. Back in 2001, I wasted my time as well as $150.
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published August 19, 2005.