My Sunday Andy Rooney Moment

Sales types even have a name for it: “create a sense of urgency.” Don’t walk the prospect; close the sale. This means that when the prospective customer hears or sees your pitch, they need to made to realize that time is limited … this is the deal of the century; they NEED this offering, and they must act promptly!

The sales, advertising and marketing people are clever at this. You might think some people, paying big bucks to go to sales seminars to learn these rhetoric tricks, would have a sense of moral scruple about trying to convince you their product or service is the only game in town.

Not so. One of the things you learn in the seminars is that it’s win-win: you wouldn’t buy it if you didn’t need it. So, they get the sale. You get the product or service. Even if you don’t really think so, it’s for your own good. And they get to feel good when they drop the odd quarter or two into the collection plate. May the little Baby Jesus bless you, bubba.

The competition for your dollar has hit a world-class high. As our economy becomes less proficient at creating new markets through the manufacture of real goods and services, we have to become experts at siphoning off bucks from existing markets. We’re the best of the breed.

When you know all this hype is canned – an integral part of basic sales and merchandising training – and it even has a name, “sense of urgency”, advertising is even more annoying. It’s not just annoying, it’s not just bad taste, it doesn’t just reflect poor judgement on the part of the merchant paying for the pitch: it’s intentional and contrived.

I had several Andy Rooney moments this morning. Opening the Sunday paper, the first job is always to pull out the sections you want to read, and put the rest in the recycle pile. It’s worse nowadays. Your first task is to FIND the sections you’re interested in, and this can be frustrating. I am a big Sunday Funnies fan, but when my comics are hidden inside a Kragens Auto three-color full sheet ad wrapper, I get mad. Next, you have to tear off the Big ‘O’ tire ad that is actually ATTACHED to the comic section, and I get really mad. I actually do need a couple of Michelins, but I won’t buy them at Big ‘O’.

This week I was actually looking for the Sears ad, because I might be interested in a refrigerator. I know it’s in there. The Sears ad is always in there. The one week I didn’t want to throw it out, I couldn’t find it. Too many other interleaved, inter-folded, inter-stuffed ads.

If you think about it, this might be no accident. Like the magazines that no longer index their contents: if you have to leaf through every page to find what you’re looking for, this shows “extra effort” to the sponsoring advertisers. They’ve made you look after all, haven’t they?

My trips to the dumpster include about a pound of read newsprint and 15 pounds of stuff I would have been happier to never see in the first place. But I’m paying them to deliver this to me. I recently actually paid $15 for a year’s subscription to my favorite comics. The next step is to cancel the paper entirely and read my choice of US and overseas newspapers free, online. Truthfully, I would be happy to pay real online money to save a tree, because it saves me those trips to the dumpster recycle bin.

Then, paying the bills, I had to open all those envelopes and separate out my bill or invoice (1 page) from the advertising matter (5-10 envelope inserts). PARTICULARLY ANNOYING (I’m shouting, and I hope they get the message): the banks and credit card companies that enclose “free” preprinted checks, with your name, address and an actual transit routing number on them. All you have to do is fill one out and deposit said check, or use it to pay some other bill you owe (really stupid), and you’ve got a loan at 0.00% or 2.5% for a short period of time, depending on the fine print, after which the rate goes to the maximum legally allowable.

Sales of home office shredding machines are booming, thanks to this proliferation of sensitive envelope stuffers and confidential junk mail. I think the unsolicited sending of stuff that represents a negotiable instrument should be illegal, but it’ll never happen. I recommend a shredder that cross-shreds too; these are tougher and usually digest all those unsolicited credit cards. Make sure your shredder includes a big waste-basket for the shavings.

Most recently, turning on my classical radio station, I was treated to an annoying ad for some impulse fashion product, complete with phony testimonials and musical jingles contrived to make you feel it’s all just as natural and classical as watching Masterpiece Theater.

I may be old-fashioned, as Andy would write, but I expect my bank to act dignified, like bankers, not carney hucksters. I expect my food store to behave like a place where shoppers put together the meals for the next week, not like would-be sponsors at an AmWay convention. And, I expect my classical radio station to give some thought to advertising that’s consistent with the music that soothes and relaxes, not like the music you hear in the stores that sell droopy baggy pants and pre-soiled tank tops to slack-jawed hip-hop snot-nosed teens.

But it’ll never happen.

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