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Deals are so untrue they can't be any good
VITAL TRIFLE, BY LAURI GROSS
Deals are so untrue they can't be any good
Have you heard about the fabulous new gadget? It performs every task you need performed. It comes in every color. It is available for three easy payments of $99.99, and, if you order in the next 10 minutes, you'll get free shipping.
Oh, really? Since TV commercials like this seem to run every 10 minutes, doesn't that mean I can call whenever I darn well feel like it and still get the free shipping? Besides, you know half the claims are not true, and you know the product will not actually make you as happy as the people in the commercial appear. Also, that extra stuff they throw in to sweeten the deal is not worth whatever they say it is. Oh, and by the way, $9.99 is actually $10, not $9. I thought you should know, since the people who make these commercials apparently think we can't figure that out on our own.
These annoying TV ads are just the beginning of how marketing experts use double talk, fear mongering and a distinct lack of facts, not to mention grammatical errors, to sell us stuff we don't need.
Phone calls from a prerecorded voice are always annoying, but the ones about my credit card are the worst: "I'm calling with important information about your credit card. There is nothing wrong with your account, but you need to call me right away." I don't think so. "Our research shows that you are paying too high an interest rate for your mortgage." More lies. Even if we were planning to refinance, would we really hire a company that lies to us in a prerecorded message?
Surely, you've seen those TV ads featuring a woman in a business suit in front of the White House, holding a microphone. She is "reporting" some "news" about President Barack Obama's plan to help people obtain home mortgages or get out of debt. She proceeds to spew a bunch of double talk about the urgency to act now and how the government wants you to call. Hmmm. Could it be instead that this is just a run-of-the-mill TV commercial from a for-profit company seeking to empty your wallet?
Lately, I've heard radio commercials that sound like public-service announcements inviting people to participate in clinical drug trials. But if you listen closely, they are just selling pharmaceuticals. They say things like, "act now," "a limited number of people will have this opportunity," and, "will be available in your area for a short time." Baloney.
Product X is now 10 percent more effective! More effective than what? Than is used to be? Than its competitor? Than doing nothing at all? Product Z is now available at a fraction of the cost. What fraction? One half? One third? More likely ninety-nine one-hundredths. Product ABC is a $100 value, but if you act now, it's yours for $10. Guess what? Then it's not really worth $100. Some stores festoon their facades with huge colorful "50 percent off" banners. But the banners are up all the time. Every day. Every week. Every month. Year after year. Then it's not really 50 percent off. It's just the regular price.
How about the "Going out of business sale"? Even these are often scams. Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about companies that name themselves, "Going Out of Business." They set up shop with this name and convince shoppers to act fast and take advantage of their great deals. Then they pack up, move to a different location, open under the same name and do it all again.
Perhaps no organization is more skilled at making you think you need to buy something that you don't than the organization that sells coin sets. A few years ago, a friend purchased a Presidential Golden Dollar set for our family as a gift. He sent me the paperwork that explained that we would receive four coins each year until our set was complete. So far, so good. The problem is that, with each coin, we also receive piles of ads, fliers, "newsletters," offers and urgent messages designed to whip us into a money-spending frenzy.
Our most recent set of coins came with these actual words: "Before the news got out, we wanted to make sure you got your advance registration for the 2011 Presidential Golden Dollar Set. Can you believe it? People are already calling to get their 2011 Presidential Golden Dollar Sets so they don't miss out! And they've been put on a waiting list. You, Lauri, are special because you've received this Advanced Registration Notice guaranteeing you'll be one of the first in Auburn Township, OH, to receive all of the new 2011 Uncirculated Presidential Golden Dollars at no extra charge as soon as they are released to the Gallery from the U.S. Mint. Your immediate reservation is very important!"
Huh? I am already going to receive these coins, but I still need to reserve them? I already paid for them, but I still need to pay for them again? "No extra charge"? Does that mean there is a "regular" charge? You are telling me, before word gets out, but if everyone already knows, isn't the word already out?
There was no phone number on the letter, but there was a form to fill out and submit with my payment for my free coins. Finally, I located a phone number and talked to an agent, who said I didn't need to do anything. My coins are paid for and would arrive in the mail each month as usual. Good thing they didn't actually say that in the letter they sent. No sense in spoiling a perfectly good sales pitch by including some true words that actually made sense.
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