Friday, October 24, 2014

The Best Consumer Protection

Maybe I should listen to different radio stations while driving or not pay attention to the ads, but as it happens I have come to the conclusion that the best consumer protection is between your ears.

The first ad told me that I could make millions just like the announcer presumably did by following his method for flipping real estate.  It is easy and he will share his secrets with me!  Well, if it is so easy and so lucrative, why is he wasting his time making radio ads, designing brochures and holding seminars?  If you had an easy way to make money, would you, or any other reasonable person, stop doing it to put together programs to share it with other people.  If he is so generous, why doesn’t he just keep making money by flipping real estate and then donate that money to a worthy cause?  The premise of the ad makes no sense at all.

It reminds me of another that tells me that some guy knows the secrets about how to make money in the stock market whether it is going up, going down or running in place.  The questions are the same.  If you know the secrets, why stop to share them?  This seems like a poor use of his time when he could be racking up the big bucks, sitting at his computer buying and selling.  Perhaps he is just an extrovert who gets lonely trading stocks all day and yearns to have a big crowd of people around him in his free seminars – act now; seating is limited.  I really don’t think that is the case.

Finally, some guy – why are all these voices on the radio offering me such good deals men? – some guy tells me that he will sell me property for an unbelievably low price.  In the ad he says something like, “you decide if other misleading offers measure up to ours.”  Is that a Freudian slip?  Does he really mean to imply that his offer is just one of a larger set of offers that can all be labeled misleading?  You wouldn’t say that John is going on a field trip with the other girls in his class.  John is not a girl.  To say it that way, you would think that John, or perhaps Jon, is a nickname for one of the girls.  So to ask me to compare his offer to the other misleading ones, makes me laugh, shows that he needs someone to carefully edit his script or might be a subtle clue to run the other way before doing business.

The problem is that these radio ads cost money.  They wouldn’t be spending the money to advertise if it were not showing results, results in the form of people spending money on the programs and seminars that are so transparently presented.  There seems to be a breakdown in critical thinking, the kind of thinking that makes people appropriately skeptical when it comes to these too-good-to-be-true offers.

The FTC and other consumer protection agencies at all levels of government cannot police all of these and cannot protect us from our own foolishness.  The best consumer protection is between your ears.  Many advertisements are a lot more sophisticated than the examples I gave here.  They will use every psychological trick to try to separate us from our hard earned dollars.  Be alert.  Be aware.  Be on guard.

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