Rob Cockerham hacks the "Gold Kit"

God bless Rob Cockerham. He's a reality hacker who conducts prankish experiments to test the limits of corporate intelligence and behavior. He's a national treasure and a personal hero. In 2006 I blogged about his credit card application experiment and the scary results.

This time around, Rob prank-tested, an outfit that asks you to send them your "scrap gold" in exchange for a check: Goldkit

I called the 800 number and was connected to a very nice gal. She was very polite and asked for my name, address and phone number. She promised to send a "Gold Kit".

A few days later, their package arrived. It was a business reply envelope, a thick plastic bag, and a brochure about the gold recycling. I was ready to go!

Actually, I was a little disappointed, because I wanted to write an article about how incredibly terrible their offering price is. Unfortunately, they don't actually tell you how much they pay for used gold.

The look and frequency of their television commercials did nothing to establish them as a legitimate market-rate merchant of precious metals, so I was not at all surprised that they didn't name their price.

Lippencott employs the following system:

* You send in your gold items.

* Lippencott decides what they will pay for the items.

* Lippencott sends you a check in the mail.

* If the check is acceptable, you cash it. If not, send the check back and they will return your gold.

To test their system and discover their exchange price, I should have sent in a known quantity of pure gold.

Unfortunately, real gold is very rare, and hella expensive. Even after checking the whole recycling bin and both garbage cans, I found that I had absolutely no gold scraps in the house.

I grabbed some doo-dads out of the junk drawer and some gold spray-paint out of the garage.

Soon I had a gold bottle cap, a gold stem from a bunch of grapes, a gold pop-top, a gold zip-tie, a gold 'S' hook, a gold nut and the elusive gold nickel.

In all, a nice sack of treasure!

Visit Rob's site, for the rest of the story. Link


  1. I bet they sent him the $1.01 because they knew it’d cost at least that in postage to send him back his junk – which presumably they’d have to do if they weren’t going to buy it.

  2. I’d ask Rob to check all the small print, especially on the check itself (including the back). Lippincott’s not going to send money in exchange for something worthless – I suspect cashing the check opts him into some service/fee/Cthulhu sacrificial trouble.

  3. I came to add a comment to say the exact same thing as #2: I would recommend checking the fine print very, very carefully. I once received a check, for no reason, for about $18.00, that came along with a rebate check. Assuming it was some extra rebate, I almost didn’t think about it, but then saw a bunch of fine print on another page. Turns out by cashing the check I would be signing up to be a member of some scam organization that gives you the odd coupon and charges you something around $30 per year……

    Then again, #1’s idea also makes sense — if they promise to ship it back, why spend $1.50 when you can buy the person off with $1.10. In which case (since it costs you nothing but time to send it), the hack is ripe for exploiting.

  4. The next test of this would be to refuse the $1.01, send it back, and see if you really get your bric-a-brac back…

  5. This is really funny, but I’d be much too concerned about mail fraud charges to play with this. Thanks for sending me back to Rob’s site – I haven’t been there in way too long!

  6. I just wonder if it’s a good idea (not relating to the prank, mind you) to pop actual gold into regular un-insured and untracked business reply mail. I wonder how much of it actually arrives? And I wonder how often the company says, sorry, not our problem?

  7. Bah, I cant pull up the site. I am guessing because I am at work and it has “cock” in the URL. I can ping the site, but cant access it with my browser. GOGO Nannyware!

  8. Gosh, it must be nice to have so much free time to waste doing stuff like that! Some of us have “jobs.”

  9. well Chris,if you just exert yourself a little you too could have a job where you sit on the web all day talking about what you like and get paid for it.

  10. Gosh, some really resourceful people manage to combine these things called “jobs” with things called “hobbies” or “pastimes”.

    It’s a matter of “priorities” and “choices”.

    If you choose to prioritize posting snarky comments about other people’s activities over actually doing the activities that you want to do, well, it’s not surprising if you have less time available for those activities.

  11. oh, no, please…no,oh..don’t get me started….(ohhe’salumberjackandhe’sok.) Nurse! The bucket!

  12. @Chris – after taking a look at your personal link, a cliché about glass houses comes to mind. You’ve got an awful lot of time to waste on non-jobby things apparently.

  13. Sorry @Chris I have to jump on the bandwagon too. Rob is a National Treasure. His ‘all in the name of science’ attitude toward life is so refreshing. Spend some time on his site with your mind open to new things and let the kid inside you out for a little fresh air.

  14. Yes, I realized too late after clicking “post” that I did, in fact, have enough time to do precisely such things. Maybe it was the nature of what Rob was focusing on that led to my knee jerk, hypocritical pot-calling-kettle-black comment.

  15. What’s with all the Rob haters? It’s been proven by the world’s leading scientists that it’s actually impossible to hate after visiting it and reading at least 4.27 stories.

    Although I must admit that I’m surprised it was taken down by a boingboinging.

  16. The announcer/talking head guy in those commercials is Wendall Woodbury (Google results). He used to be a news anchor and reporter on the local (Lancaster PA) NBC affiliate, WGAL, until he split to start his own production company, located about 10 miles out of Lancaster. He and my Pops (William “Bill” Martin, a newscameraman) were good friends until Dad died in ’94. Super nice guy, brilliant, great story teller, and not at all the vapid, vain stereotype one might think of as being a TV news anchor.

    When I first saw that commercial, I was a little dumbstruck at the cheesiness of the come-on, but hey, I guess everybody has to pay the bills.

    Oh, and yeah—Cockerham rocks as a prince among men. I’d love to meet him and hang out sometime.

  17. Actually cashing a check does not obligate you to fulfill any obligations set out on the check. In the late 80’s all the long distance companies were sending me $50 and $100 checks with the text on the back endorsement box “I agree to switch to MCI/Sprint/ATT/etc”. I would just deposit them in the ATM without signing the back, and they never switched me. It was free money. There’s also legal precedent that contracts cannot be established by notations on checks. Otherwise you could write “cashing this check entitles me to free service for life” on the check you send in for your monthly bills.

  18. “. I would just deposit them in the ATM without signing the back, and they never switched me. It was free money. “

    Hmm…I imagine you can also use a printed endorsement stamp like business do and which don’t count as a signature for purposes of signing a contract–but, neither should an ELUA, so who the heck knows.

Comments are closed.