Essay: Deceptive Advertising

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Examples of deceptive or misleading advertising:

  • "Zero grams trans fat." Legally, if the content of a nutrient is less than half a gram, it does not have to counted as a gram in the nutrition facts table. Thus, products with "zero grams trans fat" may actually contain any amount less than half a gram of trans fat per serving.
  • Hormone free chicken. Federal regulations ban the addition of any hormones to chicken. Therefore, the chicken company is advertising something that is true of all chicken sold in stores. Tyson Chicken actually pulled its hormone free ads because of this.
  • Item untested. This is a common trick on eBay used to sell probably broken items. By deliberately not testing an item, a seller makes the item appear better than if it they tested it and found it to be broken.
  • Rare item. This is another common eBay trick. The implication, of course, is that the item is collectible or otherwise valuable because it is rare. However, thousands of items are "rare" but have no particular value.
  • "X percent off" signs. Often, a company will place signs out proclaiming a sale, when sale price is reflected in the current labels. That is, there is no "sale", the sign is just telling you the item was marked down at some time in the past. Occasionally, these signs will not even note that the sale price is already factored into the current labels.
  • "Collectors' edition." Items marked "collectors' edition" are not worth anything more than non-collectors' edition. Many collectible items are valued for an obscure feature or for cultural significance, not because they were specifically made for collecting. In fact, items made for collecting may never accrue much value exactly because they are labeled as such.
  • "Everything must go" sales. This phrase is used to imply low prices, since it states that all merchandise must be sold. However, it is often the case that all merchandise does not need to be sold. It may, for example, be shipped to another location.