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Category: Finance

Do you know of a company that offers rebates by check and is also unethical and hates its customers? Here’s one weird tip for that company that is ACTUALLY USED IN REALITY and is incredibly annoying!


When a company offers a rebate (“buy this widget, get $50 back”), only a fraction of customers will actually deposit the rebate check.

If customers don’t deposit their rebates, then the company can keep the money.

So it would be useful if there was some sort of dirty trick to reduce rebate deposit rates. Read on for details!

(Note: this is not a novel idea—it was inspired by an intentionally bizarre rebate check I received that could not be deposited online by at least two different banks.)


Normally, when a customer receives a rebate, it’s standard-format check (Figure 1). The customer’s banking app certainly knows how to read this format, so it is deposited with no problems.


Fig. 1: The BankApp online deposit system has no problem reading this straightforward check.

The rebate-issuing company may really want the check to fail the depositing process (Figure 2), which adds hassle and inconvenience for the check-depositing customer.


Fig. 2: If the customer’s banking app can’t read the check, then the check is much less likely to be deposited: now the company will never have to pay out the rebate! (Unless the customer actually goes to an ATM or bank branch.)

So the solution is simple—tweak the format of the checks a bit (whatever is still allowable within the law and/or banking agreements) and try to make a new check that is:

  1. Legal!
    • This is the most important aspect—the company’s checks definitely need to be 100% legal, so the company can later blame the customer instead of taking responsibility.
  2. Acceptable to the banks and/or conforms to whatever check-format specifications exist
  3. Difficult for a computer to read (so it can’t be deposited online)
  4. Superficially OK looking to a human, so it isn’t obvious that the check wasn’t intentionally made to be difficult to deposit
    • Also, this gives plausibly deniability to the whole business: if the company is called out on its actions, a PR person can go online and post “Oh, we didn’t realize that our rebates couldn’t be deposited online. What an unintentional—yet profitable—oversight!”

Popular ways of doing this may include:

  • Weird check sizes
  • Strange watermarks leading to odd contrast
  • Superfluous extra characters in the deposit-amount field (like “AMT: ****123.45 $” instead of just “$123.45”)
  • Irregular size (some checks are more square-shaped than “check” shaped)
  • Odd or elaborate font choices


Although the specific checks depicted below (Figs. 3 & 4) probably violate the “check” specifications somehow, they may be useful for inspiration.


Fig. 3: This check looks vaguely legitimate to a human, but an online deposit app is unlikely to be able to read it.


Fig. 4: Can a check be a weird futuristic hexagon? Probably not! Customers will definitely know they’re being scammed if they receive weird checks like this one.

PROS: Saves money on rebate checks! Rebates can be made more generous, since it’s now extra-difficult for anyone to redeem them.

CONS: Customers might find out about it and get slightly annoyed and call the company’s customer service line to complain. If each rebate-receiving individual wastes 20 minutes of customer service time complaining, this check technique might no longer be profitable.

Show how classy your phone app is with REAL fake GOLD text! Gold everywhere = high class operation.


PayPal recently announced a new font that they are quite proud of, which, according to the designer (https://klim.co.nz/blog/paypal-sans-design-information/), features “understated elegance” and shows the confidence and foresight to buck the neo-grotesque groupthink of their Silicon Valley brethren.”

Fig 1: Left: PayPal’s new custom font. Right: this approximation in “Hiragino Sans” (a default Mac font) lacks the Skia-esque whimsy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skia_(typeface)) of PayPal’s font.

Since this font is to be used in the PayPal phone app, it was designed “with special consideration for mobile devices.”


However, perhaps this font can still be improved.

To really convey a sense of “money” and “confidence,” a banking font can evoke the idea of gold. Everyone knows: gold = money, so this is a shortcut that brings trust and reliability to the forefront of the user’s mind.

The problem with making a gold-leaf font is that there isn’t just a specific shade of yellow-orange that you can make as a font and have it be “gold.”

Gold requires a specific kind of metallic reflection that can’t be faked with a single color.


Fig 2: The “gold text” on this tilted smartphone just looks orange. That won’t do!

Luckily, we can fix this

  • Since this is on a phone, the accelerometers of the phone can be used to figure out how the phone is being held, and then a fake reflection can be generated on the metallic surface of the text.
  • The phone’s front-facing camera could even be used to detect light sources; then the gold could reflect light (and perhaps even the actual room the user is in!) in a convincing manner.


Fig 3: Now that the phone’s accelerometer is being used, we can have a shiny specular highlight move across the text as the user tilts the phone (note the shine on the right side of this image). Instant gold!


Only through the use of a gimmicky gold font can a bank (or other financial operation) prove that is a legitimate and venerable institution.

PROS: Brings gravitas to your online bank. And you don’t have to pay a custom font designer.

CONS: May dazzle users with its brilliance. Could induce epilepsy under unusual circumstances.




When you purchase something, don’t get your change back as annoying coins—have it dispensed as delicious candies instead!

The issue:

Sometimes you pay for something in cash and get 19 cents in change. Who wants to deal with those coins? No one.


Fig 1: Coins and a dollar bill. This is what people in olden times used to pay for things.


Instead of having to deal with annoying change in your pocket, or leaving it as a bizarrely unwanted tip at the DMV, how about getting your change back in delicious candies? These could be generic candies (chocolates, cashews) or perhaps a company could sponsor them and provide them at a discount to the government (“each M&M is worth 2 cents, each Red Vine is worth a quarter”).


Fig 2: When given the opportunity to pick between $1.62 in change OR eighty-one delicious candy-coated chocolates, the choice is clear!

PROS: No more annoying jangle of low-value coins in your pocket or purse. Saves the nation’s mint from having to create low-value coins that no one wants (so it’s more eco-friendly as well).

CONS: If peanuts are used for change, every cash transaction would become a Dangerous Game of Death for anyone with peanut allergies.

Will 10 losses in a row guarantee a payout on the next spin of a slot machine? The only way to find out is to play!


An ATM (“Automated Teller Machine”) resembles a slot machine in many respects: the user fiddles with a set of controls for a bit, and money (hopefully) comes out in the end.

Additionally, humans have a fascination with gambling, and will often happily hand over a small amount of money for a small chance of a much larger sum.

One of the problems with a slot machine is that, over time, a user who continues to play will (eventually) go bankrupt due to the house edge.

But we can fix this and increase bank profitability at the same time.

The proposal: “ATM Slot Machine”

In these proposed ATMs, when the user inserts their card to make a withdrawal, the ATM would have a button that allowed it to operate exactly like a slot machine; the user would have an opportunity to deduct extra money from their account, and if they won, the ATM would dispense their winnings in cash right there.

The user could be limited to (say) 5 plays per day, to prevent long lines from forming behind compulsive gamblers at ATMs.

Because the user is withdrawing their own money no matter what, they would always “win” in the sense of receiving a positive amount of money from the ATM (even though a losing player might only get $40 in cash from a $50 withdrawal—which is not too dissimilar from the fees charged at many ATMs, so there may be less customer resistance to this new type of ATM than would normally be expected).


Fig 1: The boring regular ATM has been a staple of urban life for many decades. It’s time to spice it up.


Fig 2: Gold spray paint and giant dollar signs add a touch of class to this new ATM.


If slot-machine-ATMs violate any laws in your jurisdiction, you should protest immediately.

PROS: Adds a sense of adventure and excitement to a mundane ATM withdrawal.

CONS: May be illegal in your state or country.

Double your credit rating with this one weird tip, which assumes that a double-sided credit card will somehow also double your credit rating. Maybe credit bureaus have not yet considered this unlikely loophole!


Many people avoid registering their displeasure with a commercial transaction due to the social cost of confrontation.

Yet, many commercial transactions involve an annoyance of some sort. Perhaps it would be beneficial to both the customer and the company for this displeasure to be known?

Proposal: a two-sided credit card with both “satisfied” and “dissatisfied” sides

If a credit card transaction could also provide instant feedback to a company, this might provide an “early warning” to the company of customer dissatisfaction.

In this example (see Fig. 1), the two-sided credit card is essentially two separate accounts in one; depending on which side is swiped and/or entered in some other fashion, the card will also inform the company that the transaction was satisfactory or unsatisfactory.



Fig 1: This credit card has two sides and two magnetic stripes (or chips). One side is the “happy” side, and one side is the “sad” side. When making a transaction in person, one simply provides the credit card in the desired orientation.


Fig 2: For in-person transactions involving a tip (e.g. restaurants in the United States), the credit card could be configured to give a default tip amount as well. This would save the card owner from the annoyance of calculating tip amounts. In this case, the user could configure each side to a custom amount; perhaps the “happy” side would also translate to a 20% tip.


Fig 3: Since tipping at American table service restaurants is socially obligatory, having the “angry” side have a low tip would have to be reserved for incredibly awful locations that the patron plans to never re-visit.


You should write your credit card company today and demand that this feature be implemented.

PROS: Allows even the meekest individuals to register their transaction-related opinions. Saves the trouble of adding the tip to a bill.

CONS: Possibly redundant with Yelp and other review sites. Unscrupulous employees might run the card on the “happy” side no matter what, to boost their own customer satisfaction numbers.

When someone lost all their money to a scam, you’ll never believe how they recovered 90% of it thanks to one weird legislative trick!


Financial scams come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in nature from “unbelievable” to “completely hilarious.”

But, it’s rarely hilarious to the scammed person! And even people who haven’t fallen for transparently obvious scams can be affected, as relatives are often are on the hook to keep their loved one from starving on the street post-scam.

The issue:

So we’d ideally like to reduce the number of scams that separate people from their worldly possessions. (This only applies to financial scams, and not, for example, “lose weight instantly with this one weird trick!”)

Right now, scammers operate in a realm of fantastical results where they don’t face any competition. For example: “10% returns on your investment, every month! Guaranteed to not lose money!” These claims are necessarily far superior to the claims made by legitimate investments.

We would like to add more competition to the scam-space by sanctioning a certain number of officially-licensed scammers.

Thus, instead of having 100 legitimate businesses offering “1.5% investment return per year” and one scam business offering “35% return every month!”, we would now have the same 100 legitimate businesses, but 100 new scam businesses that would offer a variety of unbelievable returns.

So far, this only makes the situation worse—but the crucial difference is that these new “official” scammers would have to abide by certain rules, and would have to return a certain fraction (say, 90%) of scammed funds to their marks.

percent-100Fig 1: Before the proposal: 100% of scammed funds are stolen by unscrupulous scammers.


A prospective scammer can register with the government for a “scam license.”

Possession of such a license immunizes the scammer from prosecution, as long as they follow these rules:

  • 1) Properly document all financial transactions
  • 2) Hold on to 90% of the scammed funds for each scammed individual.
  • 3) Return this portion of funds when they are (eventually) “called” on their scam.

Additionally, in order to keep these scammers from competing with legitimate businesses:

  • 4) The official-scammers must make outlandish claims of returns so as to not be mistaken for a legitimate investment. These would be specifically regulated (e.g. “Promised returns must be at least 5x higher than this year’s best-performing ETF on the NYSE”).
  • 5) The scammers must claim to compete in an existing market, to prevent scammers from poisoning innovation by making any new high-returns market immediately appears to be a scam. So “we have one weird trick for flipping real-estate and guaranteeing 200% gains” would be OK (real-estate flipping is an existing market), but “We have a secret plan to mine asteroids and earn a billion pounds of gold” would not be (asteroid mining is not an existing business).

percent-90 Fig 2: The licensed “official” scammers can take 10% of scammed funds, and must return 90% to their overly-credulous “investors.” Red portion of pie chart represents the stolen funds.


These new officially sanctioned scammers might be able to lure gullible “investors” away from real scams, and cause them to only lose 10% of their money rather than 100% of it.

Although it’s possible that people would fall for multiple scams in a row, it would still be preferable to lose 10% of funds each time rather than 100%.


PROS: Reduces the number of financial scams by providing additional competition for those scams. Provides additional sources of employment for ethically-flexible employees in the financial sector.

CONS: Would remove sources of income from scammers, who presumably occasionally also have families to support. Cry a tear for them!