Why I Refuse to Get Upset By Subtly Deceptive Advertising

Last weekend I was lured to an online calendar website with the following promise: “Everything up to 60% off!”

Sixty percent!

While I was visiting there I found a calendar that was on sale for $13.49 — $1.50 off the regular price of $14.99.

Now, after taking a couple of minutes to do the math, I became a bit put off because, let’s face it, that’s only 10% off — not 60%.

That’s when I realized the website had pulled a fast one on me.

The advertisement said everything was up to 60% off. And there’s a big difference between “up to 60% off” and “60% off.”

The truth is, if I had paid closer attention, I wouldn’t have fallen for one of the oldest advertising tricks in the book, which is why I really can’t be too upset. They got me fair and square.

Besides, I like pulling fast ones myself; I always have.

When I was about eight-years-old, I woke up early one morning and put salt in the sugar bowl. I’ll never forget watching my dad spit his first gulp of coffee that day all over the kitchen table.

As a dad, I love pulling pranks on my kids too. Of course, now that they’re both teenagers, being a successful prankster isn’t as easy as it used to be. The days of watching them jump out of their pants after they open an envelope of “rattlesnake eggs” are long gone.

Years ago, an old girlfriend and I bought a lottery ticket after the jackpot had reached some ridiculous sum. No, I can’t remember exactly how big the grand prize actually was — but let’s just say it was a billion bucks. Or so. Whatever it was, it had to be an enormous figure because as we all know, playing the lottery is a sucker’s game.

Needless to say, I knew we were going to lose before we bought the damn ticket, but I was determined to get my dollar’s worth anyway.

The next morning, while I was at the table eating breakfast and reading something called a newspaper (if you’re under 30, ask your parents), I went into action.

“Hey, look!” I said to my flame, feigning mild surprise. “Here are the winning lottery numbers. Get our ticket, Sweetheart, and let’s see if we won!”

“Yeah right!” she said. “We never win anything.”

“You’re probably right, but let’s see.”

And with that, my girlfriend grabbed our lottery ticket off the counter and then waited for me to read her the winning numbers.

Of course, instead of reading the actual winning numbers printed in the newspaper, I began announcing our ticket numbers which, unbeknownst to her, I had written down while she was still sleeping.

“16,” I said.

“Yes.”

“27.”

“Uh huh.”

“31.”

“Yes!”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Then we just won $5,” I said.

“Good, keep going.”

“32.”

“Shut. Up!”

“That ticket’s gotta be worth at least $100!” I said.

“I know!”

By now it was obvious that my girlfriend was completely duped. So much so that I immediately considered fessing up and begging forgiveness — but I quickly came to my senses.

“45.”

This time my steady just looked at me and smiled.

“I said ’45.’”

“Yes!”

“No way!” I said. “If that’s true we’ve probably won at least $10,000.”

With an almost maniacal laugh, my girlfriend gave a one-word reply: “Way!”  At this point in the ruse, I swear to you that her brown eyes had turned emerald green and, if I’m not mistaken, her pupils morphed into dollar signs.

I decided to double down on the deception. “If you’re pulling my leg, I’ll …”

“I’m not pulling your leg, Len. Look –”

“Whoa! Are you crazy?” I said, raising the newspaper up to shield  my eyes from our “winning” lottery ticket. “Don’t show me that ticket now. For God’s sake! You’ll break our string of luck.”

I then gave my girlfriend, one last dramatic stare before I called out the last number, phrasing it as a question for added effect. “Forty-nine?”

And with that, my girlfriend was, without question, the happiest girl on Earth. Unfortunately, that only lasted for about 200 milliseconds.

Then reality set in.

Before I knew it, she had grabbed the newspaper out of my hand and was checking the real lottery numbers for herself.

A few seconds after that, I was wearing a half-eaten bowl of Cap’n Crunch atop my head.

I know what you’re thinking: In the end, was the milk-and-cereal bath you received really worth it?

Oh yeah.

Photo Credit: Jerry Paffendorf

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