As readers are no doubt aware, it’s possible for college students, for $200 or so, to get someone else to write their papers. In fact, regular readers of this blog might notice people in the comments who try to post links to places where readers can go to buy college essays. (“If you long for perfect writing help, just check out gogetpapers agency. Get a term paper and keep your spirits up.”) I delete such comments, but it’s a continuous struggle.

What one might not know, however, is that these essays are usually terrible. One professor at Duke University, Dan Ariely (right), as part of a larger investigation of dishonesty, attempted to figure out what was going on with companies that sold college essays. According to a review of the book Ariely wrote about the process, Sampling the Cheating Life, in Bite-Size Pieces, by Janet Maslin in the New York Times:

He went to essay mills that supply dishonest students with research papers and commissioned 12-page papers about how cheating works. The essay mills sent him such junk that they allayed Mr. Ariely’s immediate concerns about whether or not academic cheating really pays.

One example of a passage from an essay Ariely paid for:

Cheating by healers. Healing is different. There is harmless healing, when healer-cheaters and wizards offer omens, lapels, damage to withdraw, the husband-wife back and stuff. We read in the newspaper and just smile. But these days fewer people believe in wizards.

Ariely discovered that not only was the writing bad (and often plagiarized), so was the customer service.

When he asked for his money back, because he didn’t feel one paper was really worth the three figures he paid for it, the person who actually wrote the paper threatened to turn Ariely in for cheating (since Ariely claimed to be a student).

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer