Posted by languageandgrammar on December 14, 2009
I recently received a flier in the mail from a major department store that was obviously trying to lure me in so that they could make their Christmas quota——oh, I mean so that they could personally alert me to their latest beneficent offer.
Their “big” news———and by big, I mean barely worth my time——was that I could get 10 dollars off my sale or clearance purchases of at least 25 dollars. (Well, I suppose if I were only to spend 25 dollars on something that I’d planned on buying regardless, that would be a 40-percent savings, which really would be worth it.)
In large, red letters, the ad proudly proclaimed NO EXCLUSIONS ON APPAREL! (Yes, that exclamation point was theirs, not mine.) Wow! No exclusions on apparel. I thought that perhaps I should take a look after all since I’d been eyeing up a little cashmere number anyway. That’s when the trouble began——-and when I say trouble began, I mean it became apparent that their crack marketing staff was trying to use language as a way to be a little less than forthright.
Under the NO EXCLUSIONS! promise was smaller red print that read (except specials and super buys). On another part of the ad, it read TUESDAY OR WEDNESDAY ‘TIL 1 P.M. (By the way, why did they feel the need to use ‘TIL instead of UNTIL?) And tucked away on the bottom of the ad, I was informed that I couldn’t get the 10 dollars off on any morning specials or super buys. (I still don’t know what a super buy is. It sounds like some sort of retail superhero.)
So, I thought, let me get this straight: I need to spend at least 25 dollars—-on either Tuesday or Wednesday——–until 1 o’clock——but if it’s a special or a super buy, then I can forget the whole thing. I was intrigued.
I opened the catalogue to get a closer glimpse of my potential choices only to find an item of APPAREL that was NEITHER A SPECIAL NOR A SUPER BUY but was, indeed, on sale on both TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY that read under it CANNOT USE 10-DOLLAR COUPON.
The moral of the story: If you’re going to say NO EXCLUSIONS ON APPAREL!, then that’s what it should be; otherwise, saying NO EXCLUSIONS is, quite frankly, a lie. This is a wonderful example of using language to mislead rather than to communicate honestly. For the one promise of 10 dollars off, I found 3 caveats on the same page and one blatant exclusion on the first page to which I opened.
It’s enough to make a person want to say “what does NO EXCLUSIONS ON APPAREL! mean?” Or, as I like to say, Bah! Humbug!
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