The Guy Who Could Sell Anything to Anybody
I work at home. When I go down to the kitchen for lunch, I turn on the TV and go around the dials.
Certain movies hook me and I'm done for the next hour. Among them: "Casablanca," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "The Third Man," "Patton," "The Guns of Navarone" and any musical with Fred Astaire or Ray Bolger.
I am also helpless when it comes to Ronco—Ron Popeil's infomercial offering a set of 25 kitchen knives "for just 3 easy payments of $13.33!"
This is a family affair, starring entrepreneur Ron Popeil along with his two daughters, Lauren and Shannon. The other key player—and sheer delight—is Ron's cousin Arnold, an old fashioned carnival midway pitchman in the tradition of Sid Stone from the old Milton Berle show.
[See the first image in the media player at right.]
Wearing a high white chef's toque and a blue apron, cousin Arnold is reminiscent of comedian Buddy Hackett or maybe one of the Three Stooges. As the two Popeil daughters keep appearing with new knives, cousin Arnold delivers riveting patter as he effortlessly slices, dices, chops and carves before a wildly enthusiastic studio audience.
What's My Problem?
As an old-time mail order guy I used to sell discounted merchandise to my book club members and catalog buyers. Wired into my DNA are the "Federal Trade Commission Rules Against Deceptive Pricing."
If my copy said that an item normally sells at retail for $17.95, I must be able to prove at some point it was offered at that price somewhere.
I was terrified of lying to my customers, getting caught by the FTC and having to explain the mess to my management. I would have been out of a job.
The key paragraph:
(b) A former price is not necessarily fictitious merely because no sales at the advertised price were made. The advertiser should be especially careful, however, in such a case, that the price is one at which the product was openly and actively offered for sale, for a reasonably substantial period of time, in the recent, regular course of his business, honestly and in good faith—and, of course, not for the purpose of establishing a fictitious higher price on which a deceptive comparison might be based. And the advertiser should scrupulously avoid any implication that a former price is a selling, not an asking price (for example, by use of such language as, ("Formerly sold at $XXX''), unless substantial sales at that price were actually made.