In the supermarket last week, I reached for a bottle of mustard but put it down after spotting a second bottle from the same manufacturer whose label boasted "14 percent more!"
I consider myself a careful consumer, so naturally I wanted more mustard for the same price.
Then I saw wording beneath "14 percent more!" in much smaller letters: "Than our 12-ounce bottle."
That gave me pause. Instead of offering me more mustard for the same money, the bottle was actually just a larger size, at a larger price, than the 12-ounce mustard. Indeed, the bigger bottle was bigger than the smaller bottle. Go figure.
That's like advertising a medium cup of coffee as "larger than our small coffee." That's true, but it's misleading to hurried customers forking over their money.
On the next aisle, I picked up a pouch of mashed potato flakes. For less than a buck, I could get "100 percent Idaho potatoes." Not a bad deal.
I didn't expect to find a list of ingredients on a bag that contained "100 percent Idaho potatoes," but there it was. A long list it was, too, with all sorts of flavorings, preservatives and who knows what else. That wasn't my idea of 100 percent potatoes.
I suspect the label meant that if I culled out all those other things from the pouch, then whatever was left - no matter how tiny - was real potato. I put down the pouch, walked to the produce aisle and bought a 10-pound bag of potatoes. One hundred percent potatoes, I'm pretty sure.
That night, I looked up from my book when the TV commercial touted a laundry detergent's merits: "Takes out the stains and leaves your clothes whiter and brighter!"
"We need to buy some of that stuff," I told my wife.
Then came the small print. At the bottom of the screen, in pixels almost illegible, was this: "Than clothes before washing."
What the commercial actually said, then, was: "This stuff makes your clothes cleaner than they were when you threw them into the washer."
I hope any detergent would do that. In fact, I would expect plain water with no soap at all to clean my clothes better than they were when I took them off. For crying out loud, a bucket of marbles would beat out some dirt.
The next morning, as I dressed, the woman on the television said her station "has learned" that something was happening in the community.
"Isn't that the same thing that was in the newspaper yesterday?" I asked my wife.
"But maybe they just now learned it," she said.
"How? By reading the paper?"
I was sharing all of this at the office, and a friend said he had once seen "Lose 20 pounds!" on a package of gum. You can't beat that. Or can you?
Underneath, in reading-glasses type, was the rest of the story: "Over a period of time when combined with proper diet and exercise." I'm inclined to believe that the diet and exercise would work - with or without a stick of gum.
It's difficult to know what to believe these days. In fact, I am beginning to think I'm the only person I can trust anymore. And some days, my friends, I'm not so sure about me.
Reach Glynn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org
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