Funny what you can learn while mall-walking

Something lighter this time. As avid mall-walkers, my wife and I are becoming expert critics on something we all are bombarded with, but may not think about that much: store window advertising.

There’s lots to amuse us cynics, like the store-bucks, reward, and point systems to promote “loyalty.” (Opinion: loyalty should be earned with value and service, not bought with play money.) The BOGO stuff is also fun. BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) was quickly shortened to BOGO; no one BOGOFs anymore. The idea, of course, is to get you to buy stuff you wouldn’t have bought.

School math classes should work these kinds of problems. For example, which is the better unit price and by what percent: buy-one-get-one-50-percent-off, or buy-two-get-one-free? And, discuss what x would have to be in “BOGO x off” to entice you. One left- and one right-brain activity.

But the most fun are the advertising signs. Here’s some we found at a local mall:

One clothing store had two signs: “40% off entire store” and “All shorts 30% off.” Really?

Another store proclaimed: “Tops, $15 and up, select styles.” Apparently appealing to those not too keen on logic.

A window proclaimed “All Jeans, $29.99 and Up.” That just says I can’t buy a pair of that store’s jeans for less than 30 bucks.

Not to be outdone, another popular retailer declared in foot-high letters “40% OFF ENTIRE STORE!” followed by print appropriate to an eye-chart bottom line: “Except clearance and other items indicated in store.” They really want you to go into the store, even if only to find out why you didn’t want to go into the store.

Here’s a different type: The athletic shoe store that proclaims: “APPROVED! If it’s here it’s approved!” Well, duh!

One jewelry store allows you to “take up to five years to pay.” In five years a poor guy could get engaged, married, divorced and remarried … and his only remembrance of that engagement ring will be his monthly payment.

But an even more benevolent jewelry store says it can save me $1,000. I like saving money so much I went back three times. Now we can afford that cruise.

“Columbus Day Sale: Ends 10/8.” (Columbus Day is Oct. 11.) But we have to thank the stores; if it weren’t for their sales, no one would know about Columbus Day.

A fancy boutique had this one: “Entire Store is on Sale. YES, WE MEAN EVERYTHING!” and in tiny lettering those three little words again, “Excludes select styles. …”

I don’t know if marketing majors are taught this stuff, but if so they must have either low intelligence or a low opinion of ours. Or both.

On a related note, many small places have only one clerk. This necessitates short breaks, so the place is temporarily closed with an ambiguous sign: “Back in 10 minutes.” One even said “five minutes,” but you couldn’t even walk to the restroom in five. No matter: The five minutes doesn’t start until the last person to walk by reads it.

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David Shumway is one of our regular community contributors.

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