Update: On June 24, 2013, the founder of Your Star Forever commented on this article. His input was important. Click here to scroll directly to comments.
We contend with opportunities for frivolous purchases every day. Unless you live under a rock (which seems unlikely because you’re reading this article), overcoming debt, creating a budget, and starting a savings all require behavioral modifications. But our healthy desires for a frugal life are tested by a society that encourages owning things.
Material possessions and physical land are our two most common examples. Our drive to spend and own leads us to waste money and fall into debt. This malignancy can spread from sea to shining sea, and comically, beyond our humble, earthly world. Sometimes scam artists prey off this susceptibility.
Recently, I was browsing and researching a few science topics when I happened upon a conspicuous ad. It read that for only $29, you could dedicate a star. In this moment, an alarm was blaring in my head: this is fishy. I followed the link to “YourStarForever.com” out of pure frustration that anybody could spend hard-earned money like this.
Lo and behold, it was a “real” site. You can name a star, print a certificate, and it’s yours to keep (sort of). Except there are two major problems. First, nothing exemplifies conspicuous spending better than buying and naming your own star – forever. While $30 may not seem exorbitant, this money could be better spent in any number of ways (think: feeding the homeless, clothing the impoverished, etc.). There’s no tangible asset or production to this consumption. Second, the entire site and naming process is made up – including the “Star Dedication Registry” that it links to.
This is what makes it an ingenious system for the owner, Hart Ventures.
Allow me to explain. Over the years, I’ve become a skeptic to the world around me. Maybe I can blame graduate school and the field of psychology – maybe not. Either way, when I visited the website, something seemed askew. I decided to investigate further.
By clicking on YourStarForever.com’s FAQs, you can find this:
Once a star is dedicated on Your Star Forever the dedication it is filed within StarNamingRegistry.org’s online database. Unfortunately, because of our agreement with the Star Naming Registry, we cannot provide any refunds.
Fair enough, but when you go to “StarNamingRegistry.org,” you are forwarded to the, “StarDedicationRegistry.org.” Already, the agency that keeps track of your star names can’t keep its own name straight.
What about international recognition of your star’s name?
Dedicating a star through Your Star Forever provides unique access to proclaim your love in the sky. However, it is not possible, at this time, to purchase the name of, or rename, any star so that the dedicated name is recognized by any scientific or governmental agency. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) (http://iau.hq.eso.org) is the only body that can officially name a star. And the IAU uses only one internationally recognized system to identify the stars in the sky – either by using preexisting names or by using their precise numerical coordinates. FYI – No one can sell you the rights to officially or exclusively name a star. The IAU does not allow it!
This makes it clear: You cannot actually name a real star by the only internationally-recognized body that oversees this activity. Then, what’s the purpose of this site? Why would anybody pay for something that doesn’t exist by any standards? Great questions.
These ironies grew into wonder about the owner(s) of the website and registry. Who was behind this colossal waste of money? One company: Hart Ventures.
You see, Hart Ventures had a brilliant idea. They decided to create a market for a virtual good that doesn’t exist on any scientific record or tangible level. Then, because people would wonder about the credibility of their named star, they created the registry to catalog them. It’s as if Hart Ventures single-handedly created the New York Stock Exchange and every stock that was available for purchase.
By digging into the public information available on domain owners (WHOIS), I found that Hart Ventures owns both YourStarForever.org and StarDedicationRegistry.org. They’ve created their own monopoly on a market that doesn’t actually exist.
Truth be told, I simply wanted to point out an example of how we sometimes waste money. The reality is that purchasing and naming a star should never be considered worthwhile for anybody at any age. The little investigation and subsequent results were just a puzzling bonus.
This is part of the “Money Mistakes” series, which documents frugal myths and strange purchases.