Truth in Advertising?

Didn’t there used to be a rule about that?

Jo An Fox-Wright Maddox
3 min readMay 9, 2022


Photo by R+R Medicinals on Unsplash

I do a lot of my shopping online. I did even before Covid made it a life saver. I recently bought a towel that was advertised as “the softest towel ever.” It also was supposed to just soak up the water from my skin like a magnet, better than any towel ever invented. It wasn’t terribly expensive, so I decided to get one. If I liked it, I might buy more.

It’s waffled. That alone makes it rough. It might dry me as well as most towels, but it certainly doesn’t attract the water off my body from a foot away. I will not be buying another towel from them. Don’t advertisers realize that when they claim something and we find it doesn’t work, we won’t be repeat customers? I could even have tried it, not liked it, and returned it. I don’t do that, because it’s a hassle, but I could have.

“This cream will reduce puffiness around your eyes, erasing years from your appearance.” By golly, I do have puffiness around my eyes, and I’d love to get rid of it. I’ll give it a try. Three weeks later, my eyes look exactly the way they did before. Didn’t they try the stuff themselves before they marketed it? It doesn’t work. At all.

“Let the buyer beware.” That’s the translation from Latin, showing the problem is as old as civilization. And I’m sure there’s a commission somewhere where five people try to investigate thousands of complaints a day, so they’re backlogged for the next hundred thousand years. Advertisers know that, so they don’t worry about being caught selling their snake oil. The sheriff is not going to throw them out of town.

And online products can get really tricky. In the small print, when you order one, you’ll get another one automatically next month and the month after that, until you jump through the hoops to get it stopped. “Don’t cancel! We’ll double your order for only $600 more, saving you an estimated million dollars over your lifetime!” I’m 70. I won’t get anywhere near a million dollars, and your product doesn’t work. Why would I want to double my order? Because I don’t want to hurt your feelings?

But they have my credit card number, so now I have to get a new card and close that account. My credit card happens to be a debit card that I can use as a credit card, so getting it replaced means a couple of weeks of no card, so I can’t buy anything for those weeks.

That’s probably a good thing.

Photo by Franco Antonio Giovanella on Unsplash

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Jo An Fox-Wright Maddox

Former English professor ponders life, love, and how to leap tall buildings in a single bound.