Marketing by Deception Redux

I’ve written about deceptive marketing practices before, notably here and here. Finding people who are willing to ascribe to ethical business practices is a challenge in this world, and in marketing and advertising the phenomenon is well-nigh absent.

Here’s an example of an egregious bait-and-switch ad I received in the mail last week (click images to enlarge)

Deception Front

Deception Back

Now, before we go any further, some will already be shouting “But it’s a car dealership! What do you expect?” Yes, well, more about that later, but let’s look at the flyer in question.

The front clearly states,

“If the number you scratched off matches to any of the prize numbers, you have definitely won! Proceed immediately to Tucker Chevrolet to confirm and collect your prize.”

You’ll see that the scratched-off number matches the $250.00 prize in my case. I’m not a fool – I had no real illusions that I had won anything of value, but I went down the rabbit hole to see how the game is played.

And, as it turns out – as in so many instances – the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away. Look on the back, and you’ll see this:

If the number printed next to your name in the address panel of this mailer matches exactly to the winning number on the prize board at the sales event, Setp. 27 – Oct. 2, 2017, then you win the prize that matches your number. The number you scratched off does not give you a choice, but an opportunity to win a prize. (Odds of winning grand prize of $25,000 cash 1:499,999. Odds of winning 60″ HDTV (value $499) 1:499,999. Odds of winning $25,000 cash 1:499,999. Odds of winning $1000 cash 1:499, 999. Odds of winning $250 Walmart card 1:499,999. Odds of winning five dollar want Walmart card 499,995:499,999.

In plain English, you’re walking out of there with a five-buck Walmart card, unless you’re the kind of person that regularly wins the lottery. I’d love to see a reddit AMA from someone who actually scored the grand prize in one of these “giveaways.”

The bold text in the disclaimer above seems to directly contradict the blaring statement on the front of the mailer, but it should be noticed that “you have definitely won” does not specify what you have won. The mind, however, fills in the gaps and brings you down to the dealership, which is the whole point.

The salesman who showed me the board, patronizingly explained to me that I was not a large prize winner, and handed me my $5.00 Walmart card “so you don’t walk away with nothing” indicated that he’d like a chance to earn my business whenever I wanted to trade in my Prius.

Odds of earning my business at a dealership that resorts to such deceptive advertising: 0:7,571,086,556 (number changes continually).

For all the good that car dealerships do – sponsoring Little League teams, funding scholarships for disadvantaged children, donating vehicles to first responders, paying their taxes and flying big flags, people generally have an unfavorable opinion of auto dealers, both used and new. And that reputation is deserved, even though some are better than others. There are just too many rotten apples in the barrel for the entire industry to clean up its own act.

Car sales is a business where the goal is to make the sale, get the commission, get the customer to agree to as many worthless add-ons as possible, buy the gold service contract, use dealer financing at the highest possible rate (if you manage to score 0%, you know they’re making money on unadvertised holdbacks or something else that you can’t see), and if the customer is really stupid, go for the lease option.

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There are too many hungry salesmen and sales managers out there, some of whom would make Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross look like Miss Julie from Romper Room. Ethics isn’t even in their vocabulary. And based on the kind of advertising campaign we’re discussing, it doesn’t really seem to have a presence in corporate boardrooms either.

“But it’s just advertising, nobody really expects the truth!”

Well, yes. Yes, they do. I went into this little exercise with my eyes wide open, so coming away with a $5.00 Walmart gift card is actually more than I had expected. But I know there are many people who truly thought they had won something significant, and left feeling used and cheated – or, if they were really unlucky, with a new car.

TANSTAAFL: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. It’s good to remember, especially in the world of advertising. Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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HOLLYWOOD DICTIONARY

VERBS

  • To schmooze    ‑ befriend scum
  • To pitch       ‑ grovel shamelessly
  • To brainstorm  ‑ feign preparedness
  • To research    ‑ procrastinate indefinitely
  • To freelance   ‑ collect unemployment

NOUNS

  • Agent          ‑ frustrated lawyer
  • Producer       ‑ frustrated writer
  • Writer         ‑ frustrated director
  • Director       ‑ frustrated actor
  • Actor          ‑ frustrated human

COMPOUND WORDS

  • High concept             ‑ low brow
  • Entry level              ‑ pays nothing
  • Network approved         ‑ has made them money before

FINANCIAL TERMS

  • Net            ‑ something that apparently doesn’t exist*
  • Gross          ‑ Michael Eisner’s salary
  • Back End       ‑ you, if you think you’ll ever see any
  • Deferral       ‑ don’t hold your breath
  • Points         ‑ see  “Net” or “Back End”

COMMON PHRASES

  • You can trust me              ‑ You must be new
  • It needs some polishing       ‑ Change everything
  • It shows promise              ‑ It sucks
  • I’d like some input           ‑ I want total control
  • Call me back next week        ‑ Stay out of my life
  • Try and punch it up           ‑ I have no idea what I want

Notes:

* Sir Alec Guinness, despite his lack of love for the cheesy dialog in Star Wars Episode 4, made out like a bandit as his agent negotiated a deal for 2.25% of receipts. (There are stories that he was promised 2.5%, but didn’t quibble over it when the offer was confirmed in writing.) It’s estimated that his and his estate’s take over time was between 50 and 75 million.

A good article about why there is never a “net” profit can be found at TechDirt. If you’re an actor/actress and you’re offered part of the net, negotiate for a ham sandwich instead. At least you’ll get something.

Don’t waste your money on this garbage.

Every time I see a new scam for weight loss, I shed a tear for the people who are taken in. But when I see major retailers pushing snake oil, the tears dry up and are replaced with fiery heat under my collar.

Saw this at Walmart the other day – absolutely nothing new here, they’ve been doing this for a long time, but this is the latest example.

Scam 3

There’s no excuse for this. It’s taking advantage of people who are trying to release weight, selling them something that is just as valuable as the gravel in their driveways.

There is no magic bullet.

The large print giveth, but the small print taketh away: “Kelli used C. canephora robusta with diet and exercise and has been remunerated. Average weight loss with C. canephora robusta was 10.95 lbs in 60 days with a low-calorie diet and 3.7 lbs in 8 weeks with a calorie-reduced diet and moderate exercise.”

Scam 0

Do you happen to detect a trend here? As I mentioned in an earlier post, reducing caloric intake and increasing caloric consumption (i.e. exercise) will cause you to release weight even if you:

  • Take HydroxyCut
  • take homeopathic drops
  • sing an aria from “Aida”
  • stand on your head and spit nickels, or
  • eat a spoonful of Portland cement with each meal.

If  you weren’t sure, C. canephora robusta is also known as “robusta coffee,” a cousin to arabica coffee, and is often used in espresso because of its stronger flavor and increased bitterness.

Coffee. Trying to recycle the “green coffee extract” scam. Let’s look at all the ingredients:

Scam1

You can see that what you’re getting is basically caffeine and some other random herbs. And for weight release, it’s junk. It doesn’t work. And they know it.

To release weight, eat less and/or exercise more, preferably both. If you set up a consistent caloric deficit, you’ll gradually release weight in a healthy way (unless you really have a medical condition preventing it, in which case see your physician.) Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s hard; as I saw posted by a Facebook friend just today:

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And that’s another conversation. But don’t waste your money at Walmart or elsewhere on this worthless garbage.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Microsoft, stop resetting my program defaults in Windows 10.

reset

Dear Microsoft,

  • I don’t give a rat’s south-40 whether or not an app caused a problem. Handle it with an error message, if you must. Or a recommendation.
  • I’ve been to “program defaults” and I have specified what program I want to handle given file types.
  • You have NO RIGHT to change those back just because you want me to use your own (often substandard) applications.
  • Stop doing this. I configure my computer to my own needs, not yours. This is beyond ignorant, beyond arrogant, beyond anything reasonable or normal. It is stupid and maddening. Just STOP IT.

cactus

No love,

The Old Wolf

Next phase of the United Saga

First, Oscar Munoz “apologized” for re-accomodating” a paying passenger – by beating the snot out of him and dragging him off the plane.

Then, this fine specimen of corporate leadership doubles down by blaming the passenger.

Finally, United offers a real apology and promises changes.

With regards to United’s “apology” for the event,

“The sentiment certainly rings a bit hollow when it follows two previous failures and 36 hours of intense public pressure…The back-against-the-wall, through-gritted-teeth apology isn’t generally a winning strategy.” (Jeremy Robinson-Leon)

Have a look at these articles from the New York Times about the matter:

The Internet, of course, has come up with its own response:

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Keep up the pressure on United until things improve, not only with this airline but throughout the industry.

The security officers involved in this debacle are not squeaky-clean either – three of them have been suspended pending reviews.

Lastly, the social media flap and internal policy reviews are not the only consequences – the affected passenger has retained a high-powered attorney and begun steps to file a lawsuit. As much as I execrate frivolous legal action, I hope whatever happens is a serious financial incentive for United to be careful how it treats paying customers in the future.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Oscar Munoz, United’s CEO, doubles down.

My previous entry dealt with an event in Chicago where a paid passenger was roughed-up and dragged off a flight by Chicago Aviation Security “officers” – notice those scare quotes, they are there for a reason – for refusing to give up his paid seat.

  • In an email to employees, United CEO Oscar Munoz addressed an incident in which an overbooked passenger had to be forcibly removed from a United plane.
  • Passenger described as “disruptive and belligerent.”
  • Munoz: “I emphatically stand behind all of you.”

United’s policies are crack-headed to begin with.

  1. Overbooking is a legal but disrespectful and passenger-unfriendly practice
  2. Throwing passengers off a flight to accommodate deadheading employees (regardless of whether or not they are needed for another flight) is morally reprobate.

Here’s a screen cap from the internal memo Munoz sent to United’s staff:

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And here’s pretty much the reality – the video of the event is damning:

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The customer defied Chicago Transportation Security because he had a right to be on the plane, in a seat which he had paid for. As a physician with patients to see, it’s not surprising that he was upset. When people are upset they don’t always act in the most rational manner, behave like sheep, put their heads down and blindly comply with corporate douchebaggery.

“Mr.” Munoz, dragging a paying customer off an airplane is not “re-acccomodating” him, you insufferable asshat.

If Oscar Munoz thinks that “established procedures” for dealing with unhappy customers should include calling for armed men to brutalize, assault, and humiliate a passenger, that’s a good reason for the flying public to shun United like the Ebola virus.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

United breaks guitars, and beats up paying customers.

We live in a tumultuous world, with a lot going on around us. There’s a lot that we can’t do much about. But I’ve always felt that corporate douchebaggery and abuse of power need to be called out whenever it happens.

According to a video posted at Facebook, and reported on at the Courier Journal, the following events just took place.

thugs

  1. United Airlines flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. (That practice in itself is worthy of a lot of discussion, but it’s standard operating procedure in the airlines and hotel world.)
  2. Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday.
  3. Passengers were allowed to board the flight. (Notice: you’ve paid for your ticket, and you have your butt in a seat.)
  4. Passengers were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. (United feels that deadheading employees are more important than paid passengers.)
  5. Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats.
  6. The offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.
  7. A manager came aboard the plane and said a computer would select four people to be taken off the flight. (“The Reaping.”)
  8. One couple volunteered as tribute and left the plane.
  9. The man in the video was confronted. He became “very upset” and said that he was a doctor who needed to see patients at a hospital in the morning.
  10. The manager told him that security would be called if he did not leave willingly, and the man said he was calling his lawyer.
  11. One security official came and spoke with him, and then another security officer came when he still refused. Then, she said, a third security official came on the plane and threw the passenger against the armrest before dragging him out of the plane.

So here’s an elderly Asian doctor who needs to see his patients in the morning, who has a confirmed, paid ticket on a United Airlines flight, and because UA overbooked and wants their employees to have free seats, three armed thugs come on board and knock the old man out before dragging him, bloodied, off the plane, because he wouldn’t surrender his rights.

Great work, United. This beats breaking guitars six ways from breakfast.

This is what should have happened:

  1. United doesn’t overbook their flights (Not likely, it’s common travel practice.)
  2. United continues to bump the incentive – $1,000, $1,200, and free hotel, etc. etc. – until enough people take the offer. It would have happened quite soon, problem solved.

Here’s what I’m hoping happens:

  1. The physician in question does indeed get hold of a high-powered legal firm and sues the company for enough money to buy the entire European Union, plus Canada.
  2. United’s stock ends up in the Mariana Trench because nobody ever flies with them again.
  3. The three armed thugs (security personnel, cops, whatever) are fired and end up spending the rest of their days sweeping up after horses in Texas rodeos.

Here’s what’s likely to happen:

  1. Some sort of settlement, and the affair quietly fades away.
  2. United continues to abuse passengers because, after all, most of us are very comfortable and there will be a Starbucks to go to at our destination. (Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people continue to protest in Serbia and Ecuador and around the world because they are tired of government corruption.)
  3. “Proper procedure was followed.”

Disclaimer: I wasn’t there. I didn’t see the event. There are always more facts to any story than are being reported. But regardless, this looks really bad at first blush. If United’s corporate leadership were any sort of humans, they’d be filling their britches and entering DEFCON-5 damage control mode, but I sincerely doubt they’ll lose a minutes sleep over the event.

Don’t fly United. This is really sad in a lot of ways, because for the longest time United was the best of the best in airlines in the USA, and I have a long history of flying with them since the 50s.

The Old Wolf has spoken.