I am personally pleased to announce your selection for the Institute's esteemed MAN OF THE YEAR representing your country for 2009. This Award exemplified the importance and validation of deeds well done.
The letter goes on in this fashion for a couple of pages. For $295 USD you can get yourself a nice plaque for your wall that says you have been named Man of the Year by the American Biographical Institute.
The award itself is "an elegant 8 x 10 inch plaque in a cherrywood piano finish with a black gloss insert and gold lettering." And it's guaranteed against material defects during shipment.
Just think of the margin on this operation.
It seems to be a very successful business, in operation since 1967.
But it reminds me of something I once heard about the wine industry, along these lines... if you can't win a medal in a wine industry contest, you need to start a new contest.
I guess you could just go out and buy your own plaque. But that probably feels just slightly less satisfying, and where's the fun in that.
OK, maybe you don't want to sell people overpriced plaques. But people need and want to feel special and unique and they want their achievements recognized. In a world of six billion people, getting a little recognition counts for a lot.
Maybe there is a better way to achieve that.
Wikipedia entry on American Biographical Institute, showing some of the awards they make available.
Benazir Bhutto was apparently awarded the 2000 Millennium Medal of Honor in November 1998.
A university professor issued a press release on his award.
It looks like there's a similar operation in the UK, called the International Biographical Centre.
Check out the list of awards this 'surgeon' has. Clearly, this individual understands the importance of third party confirmation in getting people to trust you.