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No it isn't. The moral is that the promotion business brings with it certain inherent risks. It always has and it always will.
The moral isn't not to pay for something you want even if you are so evil you want a link solely for it's PR value, (there really aren't any people out there that evil are there?). The moral is to know what it is you are paying for so that you can realistically evaluate the risk involved.
A little tip from someone who's won a few and lost a few. Don't pay for link pages unless you're getting paid for your link going out. An exchange actually makes some small degree of sense as long as you aren't paying for incoming while not being paid for outgoing. Link pages are worth about 10 cents per thousand, if it's really a high quality link page.
If you are going to pay someone to build your PR, then make sure they are getting quality, unreciprocated, page specific links. If you are paying someone to just get you a bunch of links, don't pay much, keep your exposure to a minimum and expect a bunch of link page links. I wouldn't expect a bunch of first page placements though.
It just depends on what you want. Crap is cheap. You can't get ripped off unless you buy cheap crap at a high price.
In spite of what has been said, a link is worth what the next girl is willing to pay for it.
If the contractor had been placing links to the same sites on those pages, they might have been judged to be a link farm and penalized.
The odds of dozens of completely unrelated link pages being simultaneously penalized seems minimal, to say the least.