Tuesday, 29 November 2011

just tell the truth - it's not that hard

i've been getting annoyed at nz businesses lately, and their pretty shoddy marketing practices. this kind of thing is what i'm talking about:

In a 14-page judgment handed down by the Advertising Standards Authority, Progressive Enterprises, which runs Countdown supermarkets, was found to have misled or deceived its customers about in-store promotions in two stores.

A Countdown store in Hornby, Christchurch, ran an advertising display featuring two supermarket trolleys, one filled with items from the store, the other from a nearby Pak'n Save, in an effort to show its prices were lower. A similar promotion was run at a Countdown in Rotorua...

The authority ruled that despite the fact Countdown had highlighted the items on special, it had chosen nine out of 33 special items from its store, compared with just three from Pak'n Save. The highlighted items included a bag of dog biscuits reduced by $7.10.

"The method of selecting items, the brand of the items and products on sale all comprised elements which had the likelihood to mislead or deceive the customer," the authority said.

Every year since 2008 there have been complaints upheld against either Progressive Enterprises or Foodstuffs under the authority's code for dealing with complaints about comparative advertising.

i've been dealing with another case of misleading advertising, which has resulted in me putting in a complaint to the commerce commission for the first time in my life. i'm not going to name the store or the product just now, but basically the store advertised an item on special for just under 50% of the recommended retail price. the RRP was stated as $199 in the ad, and the price on special was $99. thinking i was getting a real bargain, i bought it. the ad had stated that they were selling some items at below cost price, so i don't think i was being naive in believing the mark-down.

when i got home and looked at the packaging, the sticker price on the package showed that the normal price for this item $129, not $199. thinking that they may have given me the wrong model, i checked through the specifications, and they exactly matched the specifications on the ad. i went online, and sure enough, the product was listed on the store's website at $129 - and that was clearly the normal selling price.

so they hadn't marked it down from $199 at all. the ad was just a blatant and shameless lie. i know i shouldn't be shocked at this kind of thing, but i am. i thought we had laws and standards in this country, and that retailers would make some attempt to comply with them. the fact that they were so careless about the actual price just seems to show a real contempt for the consumer. not that any attempt to have been more clever at their cheating would make them any better. i guess maybe i'm just as appalled at the stupidity as i am at the cheating.

another example is a box of muesli bars i bought this week at the supermarket. they were on sale for $2.49, which is pretty cheap for a pack of 6 muesli bars. so i bought a few. when i opened the packet next morning, it turns out there aren't 6 bars in the box, only 5. every single box of muesli bars i've bought before now, regardless of the brand, has had 6 bars. there was no overt advertising anywhere to highlight the fact that the cheaper price was because there is less product.

i know it's a small thing, but just the number of problems like this is really highlighting for me the total lack of ethics in the business community. again, i know, this is not a major new finding on my part. i know the history of business is full of similar examples. i bring these things up to show how much business needs to be regulated.

and yes, there are bigger and better examples. the whole leaky buildings things. the financial crisis both here and overseas. all show that unless someone is keeping a close eye on them, businesses are likely to cheat us without even thinking twice about it. not every business and not all the time. but enough times to make it clear that deregulation is a bad thing.

and yet consistently, almost every business or organisation that is representative of the business community complainly as loudly and as often as they can about bureaucracy, red-tape, over-regulation. ugh. i'm particularly sick of it right now, given they can't keep to some pretty minimum standards of honesty.

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