Friday, August 03, 2007

A culture of dishonesty

I am watching this TV ad for laser eye surgery, and it says that the surgery costs 395 per eye. "Per eye"! I think most people would want to fix both eyes while they are about it.

But it's not just that. It's in everything we do. Anywhere when you say something that will be read or heard by many people, honesty and factual information becomes secondary to appeal.

Prices are now always 19.95 even though it's 20 quid, they will appear as 19 to a prospective buyer, the visual appeal.

When a product is advertised the good points are embellished to the point where they are just short of falsehood. In case of several toothpastes and toothbrushes I suspect they go beyond falsehoods as long as it can't be challenged in court.

Take a good look at matrimonial ad's, words have different meanings, a "well-adjusted" girl may mean more than 2 months since she was released from the mental asylum.

This tendency is more apparent in case of businesses and corporations than individuals. Recently I had an occasion to buy a used car, and I buy a lot of things from the net, liked used books, and I find that descriptions from individuals usually contain the bad points as well as good. The system of feedbacks to create an honest reputation might have something to do with it.

A placement ad from a big company will talk all about the company's strength, it's ultra-techy image and a whole page full of things that will make it look like it's the only company to work for but there will be no mention of the fact that they laid off a big percentage of their staff in the Y2K crisis, and did it heartlessly, just before a big holiday. Or the fact that 20% of their staff resigns every year because of their policies, work environment or remuneration.

Come to think about it, how many of the "real people" ads have real people in them?

I can go on but I know I don't have to, you can think of countless such examples yourself.

Sounds like "Honesty is the best policy" is no longer the best policy. I am not a preacher of 100% of the truth 100% of the time, no culture could withstand that. On the other hand, as George Vth said, "Once people begin to deviate from the truth, they do not know where to stop!"

What is the result? The result is a common distrust. When a recruiter reads a CV he is prepared to grill the candidate to find out how much of that is true. When a candidate gets a call he always turns to his friends to ask "What kind of company is this?"

Think about the last time you tried a new product or service. Then think about the last time you tried a product or service without the recommendation of a friend or a source independent of the provider of that product or service. You might be surprised.

The ads, the press releases, the speeches, we have learned to take all of them with a grain of salt. We acknowledge them but don't accept them until we can verify ourselves.

The human race has come a long way from the caveman era. And this is the trend. What will happen in the future? Will we all become professional con-men? Will we never believe anyone who says, "Come on in, the water is fine!"?

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