5 Obvious Marketing Lies We're All Weirdly Cool With

In the good old days when I still watched normal TV, my brain got to the point where it could filter the ads out. Sure, my eyes were still on the screen, but the people begging me to buy gum or finance a car became just a casserole of colors and sounds that threw off the pacing of The Simpsons. But after college, I spent a couple years watching Netflix or Hulu or YouTube, where you don't see a lot of ads, and that skill atrophied. Then I went to visit my mother, and when we watched TV, I was unprepared to process ... this.

Somewhere along the lines, ad companies realized that they could get away with literally whatever they want. That's why nobody complains when they tell us a bold-faced lie about ...

#5. How Much Your Monthly Bill Will Be

Monthly bills are my enemy. And because they're paid automatically, on my credit card, they're a largely invisible enemy, like cholera or David Christopher Bell. So whenever I sign up for something that I'm going to pay for forever, like a new cellphone line or internet service or monthly deliveries of fresh buffalo meat, I carefully negotiate. I do math. I stick that number into my budget. And then, when I get my bill, it is always, every single time, several dollars more than we agreed.

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Even worse, they are the very same dollars that I had planned to spend on drugs.

This is by design. Cellphone companies intentionally make their bills so confusing that you don't know what you're paying for. Which is why your $69.99 plan ends up costing $86.73 every month. And, sure, if you click that link you'll discover that AT&T eventually got sued for that shit, but don't worry: Phone companies figured out other ways to lie to us. Like that time Verizon intentionally overcharged all their customers for years, and no one cared. Or that time the government gave them $2.1 billion in tax breaks to install fiber optics in Pennsylvania, and they didn't do it. What was their excuse? Haha, it's adorable that you think they bothered to offer an excuse.

Why This Will Never Change

Getting mad is hard. Reading fine print is also hard. And the whole reason we have cellphones and internet service in the first place is convenience, so putting effort into improving the experience would be, ya know, paradoxical. So instead, we just shake our fists at the heavens and mutter, "Ahh, they got me!" every time we read our bill. "Can you believe this shit?" we ask, perhaps. Or, in extreme cases, all we can muster is a long, raspy, "Ehhhhhhhhhhh ..."

#4. How Long Something Will Last

Consumer electronics and prescription medication have exactly two things in common: I use them recreationally even when I'm not supposed to, and they will lie to you about how long they last. Whether it's a bottle of Tylenol promising "relief for four to six hours" or a laptop battery that's supposed to last "for your entire road trip," these are promises that were never even intended to be kept. Listen, label-writers: You can't lie to me with numbers. The whole reason we invented them was to get around the tricky subversiveness of words. They have an inherent power and must be respected.

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Also, I'm pretty sure there are more of them than there are of us.

Now, I know the excuses that some of you are offering. "Those numbers are estimations," you squawk, "there are a lot of variables here, and it's hard to measure this stuff accurately." Really? Is it harder than making a tiny white pill that cures my head pain? Is it harder than building a talking pocket computer that is also a phone, a camera, a GPS, and a sex toy? You're telling me that scientists built a machine that can take a high-definition photograph of my penis and then use satellites to beam that picture anywhere in the world, from the snowy mountains of Japan to the bustling metropolises of Africa, but they can't accurately tell me how many times I can do that before I need to plug that phone in? Bullshit, scientists. Bullshit.

When it comes to batteries, there is one explanation I always hear: When they're measuring the estimated battery life of, say, a laptop, they're doing it with the screen dimmed and all the apps turned off. OK, fine, but listen: Why? No, seriously, look at me. Look right at me. Stop doing that. Stop it.

Stop.

Why This Will Never Change

I don't think anyone important reads my column.

Aside from you, obviously. You're really important to me.

#3. Whether Something Is "Special Edition," "Collector's Edition," Or No Notable Edition At All

Remember when DVDs first came out and some of them weren't special editions? The first DVD I ever bought was Shrek -- not Shrek: Ogreific Edition or Shrek: R-Rated Director's Cut; it was just Shrek. With a picture of CGI Scottish Mike Myers on the cover. Back then, the idea of a special edition meant specialness. It meant extra features. Now, it means nothing. It's gotten so bad that there are some special edition DVDs out there that list "interactive menus" as one of the special features. I've seen it. With my own eyes.

Then there's collector's editions, which I can't even begin to decipher. What's the difference between someone who wants to own movies to watch them, and a "collector"? Am I too much of a peasant to own a collector's edition because I remove my movies from their plastic wrap? Are there people out there who see the words "collector's edition" on a DVD and say to themselves, "Finally, the film Gods have deemed it necessary to make a special version specifically for me, The Collector."


My bidding be done.

It gets to the point where there are so many versions that you don't even know what you're buying. Say that you, like any red-blooded American, want to buy a Terminator DVD. Good fucking luck.


There's twice that many. I ran out of space.

The reviews are full of people complaining about how the version they got has fewer features than earlier versions, but it's never clear which version they're talking about. And none of them look like the "special edition" I have:


I bet I got my copy of Terminator for less than you!

Even if you put in the research to figure out which version is for you (and if you look in the Amazon reviews, you'll see that lots of people have done just that) you may quickly discover that you're wasting your time, because they're all the same fucking thing. The 10th Anniversary Edition of Titanic is just the first two discs from the four-disc Collector's Edition that had come out years earlier. The 30th Anniversary Edition of Bob Marley's Exodus is just the normal edition of Exodus. Then there's my 50th Anniversary Edition of Ben-Hur, which offers ... a single commentary track. Who do you bridge trolls think you're trying to fool? We're the internet. We have eternal eyes and infinite opinions. We see all.

Then we get distracted and don't do anything about it. That's kind of our jam.

Why This Will Never Change

Because even though we're all catching on to this, they'll soon figure out something else. There are two different versions of Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight -- a 70mm cut, and a digital projection cut, with the former having six minutes of extra footage as well as an overture and an intermission. But he couldn't call it a special edition, because "special edition" is tainted language. So he had to call it a 70mm version, which alienates everybody except the kind of people who like to talk about how they're the kind of people who go to see movies in whatever the hell 70mm is (aside from the length of my penis).


Is that ... is that impressive? I genuinely don't know.

And now Batman V Superman is going to release an R-rated extended cut, which people are going to want to see, because what the fuck does an R-rated Batman movie look like? Though they'd probably get a more enthusiastic reaction if they called it Batman V Superman: The Version That Makes Sense. The point is, we can't help but fall for extra versions of stuff. Even when they're stupid riffs on foolish things.

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J.F. Sargent

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