Why do I get the impression that some marketing people think we are all stupid? Maybe it is the ads they run that constantly insult our intelligence. I am referring to those direct sales ads that include the words “Free, just pay.” For example “hurry and order our gismo for only $19.95 plus shipping and handling. But wait! Order today and we will send a second gismo absolutely free, just pay extra shipping.”
Now, there is only one meaning of the word “free.” If an item is free, you simply walk in, pick it up and walk out. No money changes hands. If you have to spend money to get any item, it is not free. When they toss around the word “free,” they are lying to you. They think you are so stupid that they can get away with it.
It is a perfectly legitimate sales technique to offer a premium as a way to encourage you to buy. But the offer has to be honest. For example: “order our gismo for only $19.95 and we will send you another gismo at no additional cost.” The second gismo is not free, it is a premium for buying the first gismo. Even an offer to send the second gismo for separate shipping cost is fine. Just don’t call it free!
The same applies to ads promising “buy one, get one free.” If you have to pay any amount of money, it is not “free.” If you are offered “Two for the price of one,” that would be a legitimate ad. The second item is not free, it is a premium for buying the first item.
Another thing that bugs me is the “mail-in rebate.” In this scam, you pay the full price at the time of purchase. Then, if you mail in a coupon, then wait for several weeks or months, you eventually get a coupon back allowing you to buy another item at a lower price. If they really want to gain me as a customer, they can simply reduce the cost of the item at the point of sale.
O.K. It might be true that some of us are stupid enough to fall for these lies. If they were not working, the ads would disappear. And they keep running.
So here is my suggestion. Never respond to an ad promising something “free” if you buy their product. If it is a good product, someone will offer it at a good price without gimmicks. If they proclaim “not available in stores,” there is probably a reason. Someone is trying to sell you junk. Only buy from legitimate companies online or in the stores. Only buy items that actually improve your life, not items that are “cute” or promise some kind of satisfaction that you don’t need.
When these misleading, or in some cases, fraudulent ads show up. Ignore them or hit the X button and clear them from your monitor. When these false ads stop being effective, they will vanish. It is as simple as that.
It is your money, spend it wisely.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is email@example.com. His website can be accessed at http://www.frankgillispie.com/gillispieonline.
09/27/13 at 08:04 PM
Yeah and I see the ads on TV all the time that say they sold a million for $39.95 and the response was so great they are offering it again for ONLY $19.95. Anybody with a brain can see if you sold a million for $39.95 you ain't going to cut the price in half? You may raise the price but you ain't going to lower it. I figure they didn't sell at $39.95 so they are cutting the price to try and sell some? BUT people fall for these gimmicks everyday SO they don't have to come up with a new way to sell their products.
This is good advice that many need to hear and remember. Even Resident Redneck knows the games they play, but too many are unthinking about their money. Everything in our lives has become so highly sophisticated that just getting through an hour requires serious use of our brains to question and sort out what we are confronted with.
Every item we buy is a battle, every can of beans and each bottle of detergent has about 12 aspects to consider. That's truly overwhelming! I never feel I make the best purchase possible on anything even though I have been a life-long subscriber to Consumer Reports. There comes a point where you just grab something and go, regardless. And sellers know this; they designed this into their strategies to put us in that situation.
And that's just shopping. Then there's politics, which has adopted the same strategies to confuse and mislead. The sad part is that this competitive pursuit of our money and our votes has added layer upon layer of unnecessary burden to our lives just to get through our day and for lining other people's pockets. It's no wonder people 'lose it' and turn to aggression as an easier way to get what they want and need (the subject of one of Frank's other musings). If we continue to make life in this country beyond the ability of most to cope, we will see more and more aggression. This Great Recession seems to have brought that out more now than in the past. Or, as Frank suggested, media manages to let us know about what we didn't used to know about.