Be wary of misleading advertisements

Michael Howlett

January 29, 2013

We’re bombarded by advertisements every day. Turn on the TV, computer, radio or space-time continuum facilitator and you’ll hear just how great your life can be if you purchase the newest car, the newest detergent, the newest adult diaper.

To tell you the truth, I’m pretty much fed up with the claims some companies make, and, apparently so is the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC, which also stands for …. Well, you figure it out … recently published a list of some of the worst violators of the public trust. This had to be a hard job since, in my estimation; the public’s trust is violated more than Paris Hylton at a pajama party.

Now, how many of you have seen the commercial for Sketchers Shape-Ups? You know - the shoes that will give you the legs and butt of an Olympic gymnast. You don’t have to exercise or anything, just wear the shoes and, presto, you can crush walnuts with your cheeks. Well, it turns out Sketchers was overstating the effectiveness of its product … overstating to the tune of a $40 million settlement. Now, I have second-hand knowledge of Sketchers Shape-Ups because the Mistress of the Manor has a friend who bought a pair. Her friend’s glowing review of these shoes is “they made me tired.”

If the FTC is going to bring the hammer down on Sketchers, why doesn’t it address some of the thousands of exercise programs advertised on TV? One claims that just by exercising 10 minutes a day you can look like this … then shows a guy who looks like he could lift my house and a gal who … well, who looks like she could lift my house. There’s always a before … someone who looks like he has been living off potato chips and whale blubber for the past three years. But in 10 minutes a day for two weeks, he turns into this amazing specimen who has not a six-pack, but a 12-pack.

Another product that drew the ire of the FTC is 5-Hour Energy, which claims to boost your energy level with “no crash later.” Now, when I was in college, there were so many items available to boost your energy that it seemed like everybody was on fast forward. And no matter how zippy you felt, you knew there would be eventually be a time when you went from zippy to catatonic. Living Essentials, the maker of 5-Hour Energy, says if consumers read the fine print they will find that “no crash later” refers to a sugar crash, which is an easy claim to make since the product contains no sugar. However, there is another problem, just a small one mind you, something called death. Yes, the Federal Drug Administration is currently investigating a series of 13 deaths that may have been linked to the product. I guess you could say 5-Hour Energy gives you all the energy you need to dig your own grave.

Okay, let’s turn our attention to a little company known as Apple. The company claims Siri, its voice-recognition and personal assistant software, “Understands what you say. And knows what you mean.” Now, that’s sounds impressive. Heck, I don’t even know what I mean half the time. But that also appears to be a problem with Siri, considering the lawsuits filed by disappointed customers.

I was lucky enough to get a copy of one of the lawsuits, which details the kind of tragedy that can unfold because of Siri’s inability to properly understand the human voice. The following is taken from a transcript:

Mary Sue Beauregarde : Siri, call Betsy Suzanne Ritchmont! It’s an emergency!

Siri: Did you say Aleando Sebastian Morequa?

Mary Sue: No! Siri, call Betsy Suzanne Ritchmont immediately!

Siri: Did you say Geneva Fusal Brechtinduct?

Mary Sue: No! Hurry! Call Betsy Suzanne Ritchmont!

(the phone rings)

Arvis Delecoix Munchhausen: Yes?

Mary Sue: Betsy?

Arvis: No, but I’ll be your Betsy if you want me to be.

This is just one of the disturbing results of Siri’s inablility to correctly understand the human language. There are many others, some even more disturbing than the one presented here. Apple is, of course, working on this, but until they get it fixed, I’m told the company plans to route the Siri calls through India. That should help tremendously.