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Kent Bernhardt: Buying and selling

I bought a new electric range this week.

It bothered me that the old one had a self-cleaning oven, and not once during the 27 years I owned it did it ever clean itself.

The new one has a self-cleaning oven too, but I’m not holding out much hope. I think ovens are just naturally lazy.

Ok, I know you have to push a button. Besides, only cats are self-cleaning. God designed them that way because he knew you’d never want to try bathing one.

But it got me to thinking about words we use to sell things and how products have a hard time living up the hype companies create. I suppose it’s natural to want to present your product in the best possible light, but I’ve always been a bit astonished at just how far some companies will go to do that.

Just last week, I saw an ad for a new movie that stated “It’s already being called one of the best pictures of the year!”

How did they arrive at that conclusion? It’s January. A lot of motion pictures will be released between now and December. This is already one of the best ones? Is it really that good, or are they assuming the rest of this year’s pictures will be that bad?

I’m also wary of products with labels that say “New and Improved”. It always makes me wonder if the old version was any good at all.

Besides, I always feel like “New and Improved” is just something they put on the label to justify a price increase.

I saw a cleaning product label the other day with “25 Percent More Cleaning Power!” streaked across the front. I wanted to call the company and ask “Why were you holding back? Do you have even more power tucked away somewhere in the laboratory? Will it go up to fifty percent in a couple of months?”

When I was growing up, ads were even worse because there were few restrictions on what you could legally say to sell a product.

I saw an old ad for Tang recently. It’s the orange flavored drink that they used to boast about sending into space with the astronauts. For a while, I wanted to be an astronaut because I thought you got to drink lots of Tang.

On the label, it said “More Vitamin C and A!”. More vitamin C and A than what? A radish? A piece of bubble gum?

I loved Tang when I was a kid, but I always wondered if the astronauts were really that crazy about it.

And as I write this, I’m sitting at my desk looking at a 1950s ad from The Soda Pop Board of America. Yes, there actually was a Soda Pop Board of America at one time.

It shows a picture of a one-year-old boy just under the caption “For a Better Start in Life, Start Cola Earlier.”

The fine print states that “Babies who start drinking cola during the early formative period have a much higher chance of gaining acceptance and ‘fitting in’ during those awkward pre-teen and teen years.”

Now there’s a statement that was obviously the product of years of scientific research. They’ll ‘fit in’ everything but their clothes, no doubt. It sounds ridiculous, and it is.

In the world of business, politics, and sometimes even religion, someone is selling something.

How much actual truth they use to do it varies, but one thing will never change. As long as we’re buying what their selling, that’s all that matters to them.

And that’s a “Pow-Pow-Powerful” message to remember.

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.


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