Mischievous marketing methods manifest madness

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

A few years ago I was driving my old 1994 Ford Thunderbird through the streets of Dayton, heading downtown.

About halfway to my destination, I began to slow down for a red light, when I was suddenly jolted forward; the coffee in my lap spilled and my body was clutched by my seatbelt.

I was rear-ended by a newer model Toyota in a car wreck — not a serious one, but enough that both parties swapped insurance, the girl who hit me was cited and she nearly totaled her car.

Email newsletter signup

I was not injured, nor was the girl — though she was visibly shook up by the accident, and I understood why after she handed her registration to the police officer. The car was in her father’s name.

Amazingly, my Thunderbird had only a small scratch on the bumper — amazing, considering her Toyota looked like an accordion (gotta love those “crumple zones”).

Anyway, after exchanging information, I jumped back into my car and went about my way, forgetting all about the accident.

Then it started.

I began receiving phone call after phone call from lawyers and chiropractors, anxious to cash in on my rear-end collision and eager to examine me for whiplash or other potential health problems.

And that’s not all. I also received letters from people, all wanting to turn my misfortune into a small fortune.

You know, you have to wonder about companies that rely on these marking tactics to make their money.

For me, it’s hard to respect someone who preys on the misfortunes of others so easily.

But that’s just one example of questionable marketing. There are many companies that resort to sneaky tactics to get your business.

I walked into a convenient store last weekend, and saw bottles of water on sale: “2 for $2,” the sign said.

Hey, that’s a buck apiece. Not bad.

So, I grabbed a bottle and took it to the counter.

“That’ll be $1.49,” the cashier said.

“Um, the sign said 2 for $2. Wouldn’t that make one a dollar?” I asked.

“That’s only if you buy two of ’em,” she said.

You just gotta love it.

Then there’s the companies that just love to use the fine print: “Broadband Internet access for $29 a month,” and in fine print: “for the first two months after a $99 activation fee.”

Have you ever thought you were getting a free iPod music player on the Internet only to find out you have to buy subscriptions to 10 different magazines and jump through about 20 other draconian hoops?

Yeah, me too.

Then, there’s the “no annual fee” credit cards that charge a “$50 convenience fee every year.” How convenient. And that doesn’t include the $30 activation fee, the $80 credit granting fee and the $49 kick in the teeth fee.

It’s really no wonder why many of these companies that revert to questionable tactics never seem to stick around very long.

On the other hand, reputable companies, such as Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Fifth Third Bank, Pepsico and others have endured the test of time without ever having to trick their customers for their business.

It seems that more companies should heed the advice of some of the big players in the game and let their reputation, not trickery, sell their products.

Don Willis is managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445, ext. 12 or don.willis@irontontribune.com.