Some years ago, fresh out of college, I started working for an Internet(ish) start-up. For anyone who has had the benefit of experiencing firsthand what it’s like to try and get a company off the ground by working twelve hours a day with nominal pay, you’ll understand how taxing it can be. For anyone who hasn’t had the benefit, it fucking sucked. Over time we gained a little ground and I found myself moving up in the company and taking on more responsibility.
With hard work comes reward, and one day, in a conference room filled with co-workers I became the center of attention. Unbeknownst to me, I was presented a new title and promotion. “Executive Vice-President of Business Development”. Not knowing exactly what that meant, I kept my questions to myself during the presentation and merely beamed with pride as the office gave me a round of applause. Of course there would be time later, in closed quarters, where I would find out from the Human Resources gal what perks came with the promotion. Here’s how that went:
Me (modestly): “So, I was wondering what the bonus/salary benefits were to the promotion.”
HR girl (immodestly): “There are none”
Me: “You mean there’s nothing that comes with the promotion?”
HR girl: “Well, you have a nice new title and more duties I imagine.”
I walked dejected out of that room and went back to my desk. This life changing experience taught me one valuable lesson:
Words can be used as a substitute for financial and spiritual enrichment.
You see, my boss wanted to motivate me, to make me proud and to get me to be even more productive, but he didn’t want to do it at a cost to his bottom line, so he bestowed free words on to my title to accomplish the same goal. Since then I’ve been more privy to this type of manipulation.
A couple years ago we sold our house and bought a new one that needed remodeling. There was to be a period of roughly two months where we’d be without a house, so we hauled ourselves to a nearby apartment complex. My wife had already checked the place out and signed the 2 month lease. As she pulled up to our new place with yours truly riding shotgun, I noticed the big sign in front, advertising to passerby’s. It read:
I immediately perked up. “What does that mean?” I excitedly asked myself. “Surely, they must have some exclusive amenity that makes every resident here happier than a teenager getting his first hand job. Turns out, that wasn’t the case. A couple highlights:
1) A 20 inch TV complete with bunny ears in the living room
2) Stained carpets. By all appearances the stains consisted of baby vomit, split green soup and likely a rotting corpse.
3) A dog park. Not only was this a dog friendly apartment complex, it allowed all breeds, not just the non-baby killing ones. I spent 5 minutes in that closed off park before walking out of there for good before my best golden retreiver felt the cold angry jaws of a pit bull clamped around his neck.
4) Grass throughout the complex that wasn’t so much grass as it was yellow circles of death caused by the aforementioned dogs.
I could go on but you get the idea. This was ‘life upgraded’. The owners of this complex thought a little marketing was in order to separate themselves from the competition and what better way than to put a sign up in front of your business that LIED to people.
This cute little anecdote is merely one example of the horseshit we’re fed as consumers. Every toothpaste is recommended by 4 out of 5 dentists. Every restaurant is world famous. Everyone agrees that this product is the best at whatever it’s supposed to do.
Why? Why is ok to lie to people? Advertisements, be they TV, print or otherwise or almost always created by ad firms that had no part of creating the product. Ad firms that make money by selling you on something regardless of the product’s quality. I could put dog shit in a box a hundred times over, call it ‘Nature’s Doorstop’ and hire a marketing firm that will sell the shit (pardon the pun) out of the product. Who’s to stop me?
Tacking on meaningless words to a tag line, or a title, or a whatever, is the easiest way to circumvent the hurdle of actually providing a quality product. My title of Executive Vice President was nothing more than a couple of free words intended to manipulate me into thinking something good had just crossed my path.
So that’s it, years of being lied to has made me cynical and distrusting every time I come across something that I’m told I need or is good for me.
At any rate, I hope you enjoyed reading this enriching, ground-breaking, award winning blog entry.