Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Select, Farm-Grown Potatoes!

Image result for gluten free potato chips

The more flowery the language, the rawer the deal will be.

On our trip, we have indulged in a guilty pleasure of buying potato chips.  They aren't bad for you, but they aren't good for you, either.  Loaded with carbs and sodium, they can really mess with your diet.  And the potato chip and snack food industry (which has a lobbying group of the same name in Alexandria, Virginia!) knows this.  So they use flowery language on the chip bags to make these diet-killers seem benign.

On a bag of Canadian Potato chips, we are told the potatoes are "select" - or as noted on a different brand, "selected".  Indeed, the non-selected potatoes, by definition, are not used.   Another brand proclaims their potatoes are "farm grown" which sounds so much better than the kind that are made in a factory.  Oh, wait, all potatoes are farm-grown.  "Select Farm Grown Potatoes" is a phrase that translates from advertiseese into English as --potatoes--.   Nothing more.

But wait, there's more!  Did you know the potato chips are gluten-free?  Yes, that's right!  Somehow they've managed to remove all the bread from potato chips, likely by the simple expedient of not adding any.

If that isn't enough to convince you, well did you know they are GMO-free?  Yes, potatoes are not genetically engineered, at least according to a company that certifies this to be so, after being paid by the potato chip company to obtain such certification (no doubt, they are ISO-9000 certified as well!).

Another bag described the potatoes as being "carefully sliced" which is better than haphazardly sliced or indeed, unsliced.    Again, translating from advertiseese to English, "carefully sliced" means merely "sliced", which indeed all potatoes in potato chips are.

Not mentioned on the bag are phrases like "fried in hot oil" or in the case of some "kettle" chips, fried in lard.   That certainly doesn't sound healthy, does it?

Other chips are described as "Dutch" or "Dutch Made" (or "maid" if they want to play on words).  We are lead to believe the Dutch invented the potato chip - once again, white people taking credit for a black man's invention!

It goes on and on.  Some chips were "created by a Mom!" or maybe a teacher, or a teacher who was a Mom.  Or they are "healthy" or "natural" or "fresh" or organic or whatever.  Or they have sprouts in them or something.  They are no longer junk food, they are part of a healthy diet!

What struck me about all of this, is that the language used, in most cases, was what my Contract Law Professor (thank you Professor Pock!) called "mere puffery".  It carries no legal weight and cannot be enforced as a contract term.  It is akin to saying a new car is "good" or "sexy", or even "fast" - these are all terms that are hard to quantify and yet resonate with prospective purchasers.

And it struck me that potato chip puffery is just an example of how bad deals are slathered in similar flowery language.  In order to sell you something that is a bad bargain, they use a lot of these meaningless words to make a bad deal seem like a good one - a dumb deal seem like a smart one.  Take car leases for example...

The next time you look at an advertisement, look at the wording and look to see what is merely "advertising puffery" and what is actual factual data.  Odds are, even the prices quoted (if any) are not really facts after all, but mere talking points.   So many things in life are simple and direct.  Why bother dealing with bargains that use elusive and evasive language?

Even on a bag of chips!