Saturday, September 5, 2015

No, Virginia, There is No Santa Claus

Hokey TV commercials can elicit different reactions from people. They can be annoying, cloying, or charming and effective. In any case, the reality is that they are based on a lie. The reality of companies that can afford to heavily advertise on TV, is that they are sophisticated and very good at the formula that they have honed over many years.

Three companies in particular are very adept at portraying themselves as familiar, friendly and excellent value propositions. It may be that they are, and that is all to the credit of their marketing strategy that they create the illusion of small time or even underdog status in the marketplace.

Lumber Liquidators, Empire Today Carpet, and Bob's Discount Furniture all ply this method to their immense profit.

The commercials for Empire Today Carpet, with their earworm jingle and cartoon of a kindly grandfather figure laying carpet and other flooring makes you think some cuddly old guy is going to painlessly sell and install your carpet, and come to your home to sell it to you. In reality, Empire Today Carpet is a huge multi-state carpet distributor that is as far from it's commercial image as you can imagine. Little did you know that you were buying the grandfather cartoon image along with a few rooms of carpet.

Lumber Liquidators sells inexpensive flooring, and it's commercials imply that somehow they are "liquidating" their stock at closeout prices. Not quite. They are a huge company that imports it's stock from China, undercutting it's competitors. You may remember the recent news story about how the hardwood flooring they sell was found to be tainted with formaldehyde. Well, you buy cheap, you get cheap, as we've found from buying "Made in China" items produced with no consumer protection laws worth a damn. That "problem" has faded as their commercials are back on in full force.

Bob's Discount Furniture, along with Bob himself starring in his commercials, points out that his offerings are hundreds of dollars less than his competitors. He brags about "His" deals, and "His" stores, but though he started his company years ago, Bob is now just a hired hand at the company. It's been owned by various private equity companies for years, most recently by Mitt Romney's old friends, Bain and Co.

None of this may matter to customers looking for good deals on these products, and there may be good deals to be had from these companies. It just leaves a bad taste in one's mouth when the economic reality of these companies, and companies like them, are the opposite to how they portray themselves.     

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