Calling B.S. on ...

Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek


Calling B.S. On ….

The time has come to call B.S. on TV advertisements that use hard-sell promotional tactics to convince us that this ____ is the best ____ you will ever buy, or your money back. Or, if you want to find the lowest prices for hotels, go to _____.
Oh, there are plenty are products and services that could be inserted into the blanks but there is one that set me off like a firecracker. When the founder, CEO, and TV pitchman for MyPillow twice graced my TV screen within an hour with a faulty presentation, that was enough to stir the Footloose Forester into action. What else would you expect from an acknowledged contrarian? He is also an unabashed cynic and purveyor of critical analysis, so no apologies for calling B.S. on one of the most obvious shams in recent memory.

What was so misleading about a TV commercial purporting to show that the two other pillows of competitors are inferior? The answer has two parts: what the spokesman did to disguise the truth, and what he did not do to enlarge the truth. When the MyPillow pitchman demonstrated the pillow of the first competitor, he said that when you lay your head on the pillow, the shape of the corner will go down. No, on its own it will not go down. He made it go down by pressing on it. With the second pillow, he had a male volunteer lie with his head on the taller side of a firm, sculptured pillow that is designed to keep head and neck aligned. He pointed out that the head and neck were not in alignment. But he did not show the volunteer lying with his head resting on the other, lower side. The pillow in question was designed to have a high side and a low side, to account for slightly different head-neck alignments of various people. Thus, the demonstration was B.S. for avoiding the alternative choice of sides. In the case of the second pillow, the Footloose Forester should know, because we have two of those pillows at home. Finally, over 60% of trained observers from the Consumer Union and reporting in a recent issue of Consumer Reports did not agree that MyPillow was superior to several others tested. In the current absence of the commercials on TV, methinks that the ad was taken down.

Another line of commercial advertising that does not instill confidence in a well-traveled Footloose Forester are those promising the best prices for hotel rooms. Trivago shows the array of prices for the same hotel room in one version of its pitch for smart hotel booking. Most often, the top choice still has a price tag of over $100 per day. Maybe for a ◊◊◊◊ hotel overseas, but you should be aware that good, clean and air-conditioned hotels in many overseas destinations in Asia go for $20-$30 per day. What is best for you is what you think is best for you. The difference is, the very comfortable smaller hotels do not pay for TV advertising and are not generally known to would-be travelers who choose to book on-line and compute their budgets based on expensive advertising pitches.



How much are you willing to pay for this room?

If TV viewers choose to limit themselves to televised advertising pitches, they will end up paying more. No doubt that booking in advance cuts out some of the anticipations of securing a room, but it also eliminates some of the adventures of finding real bargains, in the same part of town in most cities and; and near the action.


A Cambodian hotel with a gesture of welcome

Adventure in planning a trip may be curtailed if the would-be traveler starts to add up the costs, based on the advertising seen on TV, in the glossy pages of travel magazines, or even online. As a true contrarian, the Footloose Forester does not hesitate to say, if you see it advertised in glitzy commercials, you will not see the best price. For that, you have to travel to those dreamed about destinations and discover for yourself. When you get there (a big part of the total adventure package) you will come to find out that there are, indeed, clean, air-conditioned hotels, guest houses, youth hostels, YMCAs, and other places that will not break the bank. Backpackers know these things and many of them are quite willing to share with you.  The Footloose Forester remembers paying $20-28 a day for air-conditioned hotel rooms in Viet Nam and Cambodia when there were $100+ hotels nearby. 

What has been said about securing affordable hotels at vacation venues can also be said about buying automobile insurance. Yes, 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance, but you could probably save even more by looking elsewhere, perhaps at an insurance company that does not have a huge advertising budget. To be sure, advertising drives business to the featured advertisers, but you have to do a thorough job of research to uncover the truth about who the real cost beaters really are.

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