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Ironic and a waste of money

Posted on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 in rant

Remember those old TV commercials telling you that you could get all sorts of information for free by requesting the Consumer Information Catalog from Pueblo, Colorado? They still print it. I picked one up from outside a Sam’s Club. My favorite offering is for an 8 page booklet, titled Apply Online for Social Security Benefits. You can avoid the $2 service fee if you order it online. Is the Social Security Web site really so bad that you need 8 pages of instructions? They only offer a single screen (maybe¬† 400 words) of instructions on their site, so maybe you get a better deal in print. You probably get instructions for applying for retirement, medicare, and disability benefits, how to apply if you’re blind, and other options you might miss on their site since they are hidden right smack in the middle of their home page.

Then there’s the Advance Fee Business Scams booklet from the Department of State. They charge you a $1.50 in advance for that. But it’s available for free online.

Don’t think this agency is in the dark ages. This place understands Web 2.0. They have a free publication all about it. It looks like all the stuff in the catalog is available online. You can even go to the Federal Citizen Information Center site and “
A white envelope with an arrow pointing to it.
Sign up to get e-mail notices of each new Catalog.” You don’t have to be bothered to use Google like the rest of the world to learn how to attract birds, learn about ID theft, or get the facts about cholesterol. You can receive convenient emails reminding you that these facts are out there.

They have their own blog, too. It’s called Gov Gab and it’s at Maybe at one time they were going to name it Roller? There are even more free publications to be found here. But no links to the contents of the publications. You’ll have to order them online and have them mailed to you.

But if you want to know how to contact President Obama and didn’t want to type “contact Obama” into a search engine or go to the Contact Us section of the site, you could learn how to do it from the Jan. 26 blog entry.

I don’t understand why they replicate on their site the exact same data as on the publishing organization’s site. You’ll see that the Federal Reserve Board and the GSA have the same brochure on their sites:¬† and The only difference is that the Fed logo isn’t a link back to the Fed on the GSA site.

I’m not against print. This catalog is probably still serving a purpose. My mother and others don’t have Internet connections and print is sometimes easier to use. I resented having to make up a non-existent e-mail address for my mother when I went online to change the addresses for all her magazine subscriptions. But I’m not sure the GSA Federal Citizen Information Center really needs its own blog or social media releases.

  1. As an FCIC employee, I wanted to let you know that most of the publications we offer through the Catalog are also available online in a PDF form for people who would rather read that way.

    We offer the print publications because there are still people who don’t have access to the Internet, like your mom, and people who would just rather hold a print version in their hands.

    But we also know there are a lot of people who get most of their news from blogs or other social media outlets. So by putting information in more than one place, we can reach more people and let them know about differet kinds of consumer information they may be interested in.

  2. Hi,
    Great job. But not enought info. Where can i read more?


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