“Clearance: Up to 50 percent off!” “Lose up to 100 pounds!” “Cut energy costs by up to 30 percent!” So-called “up to” claims are ubiquitous in marketing. The industry assumes consumers understand the condition inherent in the claim: Buyers can save up to 30 percent, but that maximum savings is by no means the norm.
The scene is familiar: Teenagers throw a forbidden house party, overflowing with alcohol. They dance, they laugh. Maybe someone throws up, makes unwanted advances, or crashes the family car on the ride home, but everything turns out fine at the end.
The ticket stub always lies. A 9:15 p.m. movie? Make that 9:45 p.m. A 2:30 p.m. matinee? It’s really 3 p.m. No movie truly starts on time, because before the movies come the previews, and now, before the previews come the ads.
A Toyota Prius sends a message. It tells the other cars on the road that its driver probably shops at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s with reusable grocery bags, doesn’t have a hummer for a second car, is eco-conscious.