We are pretty good at detecting crap messages in TV commercials. “4 out of 5 dentists recommend Trident to their patients who chew gum.” That one hasn’t been believable for decades… how do they know? My dentist never asked me if I chewed gum, so maybe he was that one holdout that didn’t recommend sugarless gum or any other kind of gum. Comedians also had a field day pointing out that the word Trident actually translates to “three teeth.” Negative publicity works as good as positive publicity and any kind of recognition makes more money than no recommendation. Some commercial messages are not so outlandishly unbelievable, but the scientific “proof” offered is a little shaky. Have you ever noticed that there is an abundance of blue water that needs to be absorbed into something… diapers, paper towels, tampons? Blue is a friendlier, more neutral color than yellow, brown, or red.
Beyond these subtle but almost believable hints are those other messages that still use secret code to keep the truth from us. Things are not always as they seem. We are led to believe that inconveniences are for our own good.
- Help us to save our planet. Please reuse your towels – We have all seen these laminated signs hooked over the towel bars in hotel bathrooms. Translation: Sucker! We could care less about the planet. We are a low margin business that would close if it were not for the bar. Helping us save money on laundry costs may inconvenience you, but at least we won’t have to raise the rates high enough that you won’t come back. You don’t care about the planet either, just your wallet.
- Smaller Cap = Less Plastic – This notice on a water bottle goes on to say that it has a shorter cap as part of their ongoing effort to reduce impact on the environment. Translation: Idiot! You have already proved that you don’t care about the environment by drinking out of our plastic bottles, but the cap that is virtually impossible to remove does help reduce our costs. As further proof that this is crap, we have also printed a “Please Recycle” notice that means the size of the cap is irrelevant.
- There is a $2,000 fine or 5yrs imprisonment or both for interfering with the delivery of this letter. U.S. Mail Sec. 1708 – May be on the front or back of an envelope along with other messages such as “Intended for Addressee Only” or “Important Information Enclosed” and perhaps some other notation implying that it must be opened immediately due to an expiration date. Translation: This is junk mail. Shred before opening.
- AARP Membership Cards Enclosed – There will be some other warning not to bend or fold the envelope or those valuable cards [that they will send you over and over and over] might be damaged. Translation: Gotcha! This damn envelope is so thick you have to open it and shred the individual components. Forgive the subtle hint that you owe us money, but after all… you are old. You can’t remember that you never joined.
- Do not remove this tag under penalty of law – Pillows, mattresses, and other stuffed things apparently have to be identified at all times with its contents. Translation: Gullible! We have you so paranoid about Big Brother watching you that we put these labels on things as a joke and then laugh and laugh and laugh. Hey, our government agencies are too busy listening in to your telephone calls and reading your email to break into your bedroom to check for tags.
What other coded messages do you see around you? Seriously… I want to know if my cynical self has missed anything.
Image credit: bombaert / 123RF Stock Photo