By LARRY M. JONES
Each time I sit down with my sharpened quill and Big Chief tablet to concoct my weekly missive, the hardest struggle I often have is to decide on a topic on which to pontificate. This week my wife Helen, the little lady preacher, suggested writing about some of her pet peeves---misleading sales flyers and advertisements at stores and raising prices prior to “markdowns.”
I, too, am a bit jaded by the pitches proffered to entice me to buy something I don’t need, doesn’t work right, and costs too much. While I understand the need for stores to “hawk” their merchandise, I think Americans have become a bit, shall we say, undignified in our buying habits. During the time of my youth, no one in Parker County would consider trying to haggle over prices of merchandise offered for sale in a store. Perhaps in a pawn shop in the seedy part of Fort Worth, but never in a reputable store. Their prices were posted, and if you didn’t like them, go somewhere else.
There was of course one major exception to this practice---buying a car. I suppose this is part of the business that evolved from the transition from horse trader to car salesman---mind games and manipulated perception. You may have noticed that I deliberately did not mention lying, cheating, and deception. Those things only happen with border town street vendors.
A great deal of my wife’s frustration with the marketing strategies of the big box stores centers around the deceptive fine print cleverly obscured by the prospects of fabulous savings. It’s only after you are inside the store that you find that you are limited to stocks on hand, sizes of clothing no one wears, you’re a day early or late for the sale, and items may be purchased only with a store brand credit card. In addition, there may be defects, everything is sold “as is,” and all returns must be made at store headquarters in Guadalajara.
Back in the 70’s, Sears was particularly notorious for sale flyers in the newspaper. If you ever bought something from them that wasn’t on sale, you paid way too much for it. During this era, I found a sale brochure advertising a set of their high dollar car tires that fit my little Datsun for $100 for a set of four---roughly half price. I also noted that it was limited to stocks on hand---Saturday morning only. The brochure stated opening time to be 9 AM. When I arrived at 8:30, all the tires were already sold because they had opened at 8 AM. I pointed out the error in the sale flyer to the manager who was about as sympathetic as Adolph Hitler. Nevertheless, I got my tires.
All my life I’ve heard that if something sounds too good to be true, there’s a good reason. If a sales brochure, television advertisement, or pitch from someone like the late Billy May makes you take note, you’d better take time to read the fine print. Nancy Pelosi told us that we needed to go ahead and pass Obamacare. We could always read what the bill contained afterwards. What a shame that American statesmen have devolved into snake oil salesmen (or women).
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.