Having strayed into the creepy crevices of the internet a bit too often, for my eighth column I decided to go commercial, and pretended that the editors were forcing me to use the press releases they were shoveling my way.
Star Dreck 10/2/1997
by H.B. Koplowitz
I try to avoid reviewing “official” Web sites. But how can I expect trade-outs, comps and other perks unless I suck up to promoters? So here’s some Web sites I have been “encouraged” to review. Warning: Some of the following may have been taken verbatim from press releases.
Star Trek: The Ad: “Star Trek: The Experience™” is a 65,000-square-foot attraction at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel. The completely interactive entertainment concept is based on the voyages of the most enduring and extraordinary television series of all time — “Star Trek®”. There’s only one problem: It ain’t open yet.
No matter. You can still visit “Star Trek: The Ad” <www.startrekexp.com>. The Web site has news, tour information and even a so-called “virtual tour,” which gives a sneak preview (mostly descriptions and drawings) of the $70 million attraction.
Once the experience opens later this fall or winter, visitors will be transported to the 24th century and immersed in a futuristic adventure that starts with a museum-like exhibit featuring authentic “Star Trek” stuff from the four TV series and eight movies. Next they get beamed aboard the Starship Enterprise for a deep space adventure that includes an exciting shuttlecraft voyage through space and time. Afterwards, awestruck visitors can hang at the Deep Space Nine™ Promenade and enjoy the galaxy’s finest dining, entertainment and shopping for officially licensed and custom Star Dreck.
“Star Trek: The Experience” won’t have gambling. However, a 22,000-square-foot space-themed casino will serve as the gateway to the attraction. You can’t purchase tickets by phone, mail or Web site, but must get them in person at the Las Vegas Hilton. With 3,174 rooms and suites, the Las Vegas Hilton <www.lv-hilton.com> is one of Las Vegas’ most luxurious and exciting casino-resorts. [Star Trek: The Experience closed in 2008.]
Spooktacular Video: Hey kids, join Casper the friendly ghost as Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment launches an out-of-this-world “Casper Web site” <www.caspervideo.com> to support the studio’s first made-for-video release, “Casper, A Spirited Beginning.”
Scroll along the halls of Applegate Manor to access hauntingly fun activities including an interactive concentration game; a timeline to learn about the history of Casper; and behind-the-scenes production information with cool ghostly images. However, the site uses Java and other plug-ins, which means it is slow to load, tends to crash your computer, and unless you have the right plug-ins you can’t fully enjoy all the bells and whistles.
The made-for-video prequel answers the question: How did Casper become the friendly ghost? The video, which debuted Sept. 9 for $19.98, is an all-new adventure starring the same characters as the 1995 dud, “Casper.” Joining the spooktacular fun are two new ghostly characters, Snivel and Kibosh, voiced by Pauly Shore and James Earl Jones. The “fleshie” cast features Steve Guttenberg, Lori Loughlin, Rodney Dangerfield, Michael McKean, Brian Doyle-Murry and newcomer Brendon Ryan Barrett.
Inexplicably, the Web site won’t sell you the video, and doesn’t say where else you might buy it. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is the worldwide marketing, sales and distribution company for all FoxVideo and Fox Interactive products.
Haggle-Free Car Buying: Car buyers can avoid the haggling process — and save an average of 8 percent on the sticker price of a new car — by buying a car by computer. So says AutoVantage, which sells cars by computer.
At the Houston, Texas, company’s Web site, consumers can browse through car reviews for free and look up new car prices. They also can submit a price request through the Web site or by calling a toll-free number. AutoVantage then does the haggling for them and tries to respond within two hours with a “preferred price” to be honored by a nearby car dealer.
AutoVantage says it has been rated the best interactive car-buying service by Motor Trend magazine, and that 30,000 people a month submit price requests. It is also the featured new-car buying service for netMarket, which claims to be the leading interactive consumer commerce Web site.
AutoVantage offers financing and leasing options, and a national used car database containing more than 50,000 used cars. But before accessing many services you have to join netMarket, which turns out to be a buyers’ club. I never could figure out how much it costs to be a member. But you can join for three months for a mere $1 plus your credit card number.
If you want Blue Book values and used car prices without giving out your credit card number, try the online version of Kelly Blue Book <www.kbb.com> or any of the other services listed under the Auto Channel on the search engine Webcrawler <webcrawler.com>.