Robert Walker’s Weekend Wondering | OPINION, April 15, 2017

This is the true story about how you can avoid telling the truth without actually lying.

I saw a TV ad for some sort of shower gel the other night. It repeated several times that you’d get “softer, smoother skin after one shower”.

I thought that sounded too good to be true but when you think about it, if you had a shower without any soap or gel at all, your skin would be softer and smoother just from the hot water – temporarily anyway.

That trick is called “faking the credit” – a bit like Belle Gibson’s cookbook only here, washing actually does improve your skin. Belle gets a C for trying, though.

Very similar is the technique of “calling the obvious unique”. Years ago a petrol company promised that their brand had a “detergent” action that cleaned your engine and basically got rid of muck where-ever it went; my mother said, “Pfft, welcome to my life.”

But everyone else thought: Wow, we wonder what they’ve added to achieve that!

Well, nothing – all petrol is a “detergent” so this company was just claiming to be special by claiming that the bleeding obvious was special.

Yesterday, my wife caught me reading the bleach bottle with a magnifying glass.

“Haven’t they made that into a movie yet?” she hilariously quipped.

I explained that my eagle eye had been drawn by the claim that it killed 99.99 per cent of germs and I was wondering what tough little bugger had escaped the slaughter.

Well, just about all of them as it turns out.

The claim of 99.99 per cent is, in fact, based on a trial involving only four types of germs.

Yes, they’re probably quite nasty ones but aren’t there hundreds of different germs?

It’s like saying that a bug spray kills 100 per cent of bugs meaning, “If you’re talking about dung beetles, that is”. 

This technique is called “Using the fine print” but no, if they make it into a movie it’ll be a dead-set bomb.

What not to do is to ever sing a piece of bogus information to someone so they’ll remember it.

You can check this by listening to radio ads which sing you the phone number of, say, a rat-catching business.

The idea is that you’ll hum this catchy little ditty for the next few weeks; instead, 30 seconds later you’re singing “67- 53- 69-, no... 53- double 6- 01- 3... um, something”.

And you’ve forgotten what the business was anyway.

If you’re serving a meal, the two best gimmicks are a): claim that it originally came from a kindly old grandmother, preferably an Italian one.

Since there is no such thing as an Italian grandmother who doesn’t have a secret recipe, that is the key to gimmick b): call some part of it, however inconsequential (like, half a glass of tap water), “secret”.

Your guests will spend the better part of the rest of the occasion trying to wheedle the secret out of you while you just give them smug winks.

If, of course, they were my guests, the first question would be, “Why would some old Nona tell a secret to a munce-head like you?”

The second would be “Is it the half a glass of water you were chortling about as you sneaked it out of the tap?”

To which I usually give a smug wink and say “Doh!”

Robert Walker


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