Main Street: July 11, 2018

July 12, 2018

Definition of falderal: trivial or nonsensical fuss

Let’s have a little fun poking fun at some “falderal” practices in the marketing and advertising industry. I suppose I should have been the last person in the world to have taught advertising and marketing at Olivet for the 15 years before I retired.

Why? While I recognized the importance of business communications and sound marketing practices, I spent considerable time teaching students how to avoid the constant bombardment of ads. While there are strict codes of conduct for members of the American Marketing Association and the Advertising Federation, many of the actual practices used by organizations (ignoring these standards) are ridiculous, stretch the limits of common sense or are downright unethical.

To avoid much of this, I myself subscribe to commercial-free SiriusXM radio; through Amazon’s Echo I can listen to thousands of commercial-free songs; I subscribe to Netflix, fast-forward through recorded programs on my DVR and use a pop-up blocker on my phone and PC.

Nevertheless, some things still get through. Honest advertising and marketing practices are important, but the bad stuff is really bad.

I must honestly say, though, that newspapers and magazines, are the most attractive format for me because I can view them when and if I want to. Also they are not fleeting, if I want to read further.

• Falderal No. 1: The first crazy thing we as consumers have to deal with is the ridiculous pricing of gasoline. Why, since the 1930s, do we still price it with 9/10 of cent attached at the end?

When my daughter was young, I taught her to always round up. A toy priced at $3.99 is really $4 for all practical purposes. Recently, as gasoline has risen, we see these ridiculous prices of $2.999.

According to MarketPlace.com: “Raising prices a penny would have been disastrous when gas only cost 15 cents. But why did it stick around? They found out that if you priced your gas 1/10 of a cent below a break point, let’s say 40 cents a gallon, ‘.399’ just looked to the public like 39 cents …”

You won’t find tenths of a cent on your credit card bill. Or even on the pump. But if you buy 15 gallons of gas at $3.299, you’re paying 13 cents more than at just $3.29. Since Americans buy 178 million gallons of gas each day, that’s a half-billion dollars more per year.

Even though we all know we are being played, we still fall victim to the power of the 9s. In telemarketing, you’ll notice common prices such as $19.95 or $39.99. Matter of fact, though, it plays the other way, too.

If you go into a fashionable clothing stores and see a shirt, don’t count on seeing many 9s. That polo shirt won’t be $49.99 — it will be $50. It connotes higher, but largely imagined, quality.

• Falderal No. 2: Have you ever heard those ads about reducing your credit card balances? The announcer boldly proclaims in two or three lines, “It’s not your fault that you are deep in debt! And here is information your credit card companies and banks don’t want to know about. You do not have pay back all of what you owe.”

Of course, they tell you they can renegotiate with those greedy credit card companies. Excuse me — who spent the money in the first place? What they don’t tell you is they will charge their own big fee and probably damage your credit.

If you have large uncontrolled debt, it is far better to go to a nonprofit credit counselor and work out a plan. The shysters are not the credit card companies, but these companies are the real con artists.

• Falderal No. 3: Multiple purchase item pricing. But this practice is highly contextual. We all appreciate those two for $5 specials or those 10 for 10 specials. But check it out. Sometimes you really have to buy two to get the $5 rate. Others times it really is $2.50 for each one and no savings for buying two. If you only need one, don’t buy the extra one.

• Falderal No. 4: Sue, sue, sue. Lawyers are a necessary and important part of our legal system. Bad things do happen, and accountability is needed, but some lawyers are out “trolling” for marginal lawsuits. In my opinion, many of them are trivial, and it is a waste of resources. During the many years of healthcare reform, there was never a serious attempt at tort reform. Going forward, we must consider this.

If you have visited Florida in the past few years, you will see wall-to-wall lawyer billboard ads. A few years ago, I had a relative in a hospital in Central Florida.

Right across the hospital parking lot was a large billboard for lawyers ready to sue for almost anything. Ironically, on top of the billboard were perched a half dozen black vultures. Being a little devious, I took a picture.

At a presentation a few weeks later back in Bradley, I showed the picture at a service club presentation I was making and asked in a very non-innocent way, “Lawyers and vultures — how can you tell the difference?” Worse yet, there was a flock of vultures circling over the hospital. Well, to my lawyer friends (the ones I use to have before this article), I beg your forgiveness.

In the end, as always, “caveat emptor” applies — buyer beware. Most merchants, credit card companies and lawyers are honest and fair, but in the end, be wise and watchful to avoid the tricks and traps.

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