The Deception’s in the Detail


We received this coupon in the mail today, and I’m guessing if you were like me, the first thing that catches your attention is the 50% off ANY regular price item.

Now Michaels is not the type of store that is likely to have anything I would be interested in, but my wife likes going there, and so this seemed like a pretty good deal.

But then I started reading the fine print:

Not valid on: As Seen on TV, Silhouette & Cricut brands; special order custom floral arrangement custom frames & materials; services & package pricing; custom invitations, canvas prints & photo center purchases; Rainbow Loom products, 3Doodler 3D Printing Pen & accessories, Heidi Swapp Minc machine, sewing machines, books, magazines, CD/DVDs, gift cards & debit card products; Buy More, Save More offers; sale, clearance or buy & get items; online only products & specials; class, event, birthday party, shipping, delivery or installation fees… Limited to stock on hand… Exclusions subject to change.

It seems like it may have been easier to just list what IS valid.

The ad bothers me for a couple of reasons.

First, I think the fact that not everything is included in the 50% off sale needs to be noted in the same font size as the 50% text. My guess is that Michaels is hoping that many people will see the 50% off message and not bother to read the fine print, and then come to the store looking for a bargain. My guess is that some customers are going to be disappointed when they find out that something they have chosen to buy is not part of the 50% off deal.

The second thing that bothers me is why not just make it everything in the store that is eligible for the 50% off. This seems easier from an administrative standpoint (no need to put stickers on just certain items), from a customer service standpoint (no questions about whether an item is 50% off or not), and from a public relations standpoint:


That is a much simpler ad, a simpler message, and a more appealing message; no need for fine print.

I’m sure Michaels knows what it is doing, and it must work.

But it’s the classic situation of whether the ends justify the means. Just because the ad may work in getting paying customers in the store doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do things.

I’ve written about this “Truth in Advertising” type stuff before, and it bothers me, and it influences my purchasing decision.

I would rather do business with a company that is completely upfront with me, and doesn’t use fine print to hide some of the less appealing aspects of an offer.

I guess coming from a financial background where there are rules governing what and how firms must disclose financial information, I wish the same could be done in the marketing and advertising worlds.

I realize financial reporting is not perfect, but at least publicly traded firms are required to have their financial information audited by an independent public accounting firm to determine whether the information is presented fairly.

I wonder how many ads and direct mail pieces could pass such a test.


2 thoughts on “The Deception’s in the Detail

  1. Not many would pass. Nor would they pass the “truth in markdowns” since too many times they inflate the regular price to make the mark down seem even better. I know, they’re in it to make money. We’re all in it to show some kind of a profit. whether it’s bottom line or a few extra dollars in the bank at the end of the month.

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