Just using Microsoft online services isn't enough to get your ticket punched, though. You must run Internet Explorer (6.0 or higher) when you use those services. Even visiting getsearchperks.com with Firefox or Opera is a futile exercise; you will have to start IE to see what goodies the site has to offer. Oh, and if you sign up you'll have to install the Perk Counter toolbar to let Microsoft keep track of your tickets.
The rules for SearchPerks are complex and designed to provide greatly delayed gratification for consumer loyalty. Microsoft SearchPerks enrollment is open until the end of 2008. You can collect tickets in the program until April 2009 when the ticket accumulation stops; you must stay in the program until the end to be eligible for any tickets at all. You won't be able to use any of the tickets until they are are actually paid out to you some time in May. After that, you have until October 2009 to redeem the tickets on dozens of fabulous prizes.
What kind of prizes? Treat yourself to a DRM-encumbered song from PureTracks.com for 105 tickets. A deck of playing cards is 350 tickets, or about seven Web searches per card. Microsoft has a lot of balls to offer a program like this. Titleist golf balls, that is, and you can get three of them for just 3,000 tickets. Programs like this are frustrating enough to give you a headache. (That reminds me, you can get a basic first aid kit for 2,200 tickets.)
Microsoft's search engine share has continued its flight to Google this year, and a program like this has the potential to draw some reward-oriented consumers to Microsoft's service. I suppose it might work, at least as far as driving some clicks and searches. Yet I wonder about the quality of consumer that will be drawn by a promotion like this. It's a sign of how far Microsoft has fallen to be trying to grab traffic from AOL.com and IWon.com, rather than attracting high-end consumers and business customers.
Even with its delayed gratification of payouts, the rules of Cashback are pretty straightforward compared with SearchPerks. Plus, Cashback does give you real money eventually, instead of trinkets. SearchPerks is reminiscent of the crazy rules that rebate programs used to apply in order to make sure you'd never see the rebate. No thanks, Microsoft, I'm not interested this time. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt--with a lot less hassle than the 1,100 tickets I would have to shell out for a T-shirt from SearchPerks.