Sunday, July 20, 2008

THE RIGHT THING: YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE?

I don't generally order pizza from Pizza Hut, but I do shop at IKEA, the massive furniture-store chain known for its low prices and for do-it-yourself furniture assembly.

About a year ago readers of my column responded to a reader's concern that Pizza Hut was sending the wrong message by airing a commercial in which a customer rejoices when he believes that he's taken advantage of a delivery boy who charged him too little for three pizzas.

"That's only 5 bucks each, right?" the customer asks the delivery boy.

"Yes sir," the delivery boy answers.

The man runs inside and shouts, "Oh yeah! Honey, the Pizza Hut kid made the same mistake again! I got three medium Pizza Hut pizzas for the same price as those other guys!"

Now IKEA seems to be getting in on the action as far as it concerns ads that condone taking advantage of other people's mistakes.

Christine Blouke of Orange County, Calif., tipped me off to an ad that my wife had been telling me for months I should address in my column. In the ad, set in an IKEA store, a woman checks out with several bags of goods, then takes a look at her receipt. Her pace to the exit quickens and, as soon as she is out the door, she shouts, "Start the car!" four times to her partner waiting in the car. The final scene shows the couple driving off and the woman shouting "Woooooo!" at the top of her lungs.

Amid the scenes of glee, two separate pieces of text appear: "It's not a mistake" and "We're having a sale."

Blouke finds the commercial annoying, and thus switches channels whenever it appears.

"Does IKEA really want its customers to run for the door if there is an error in their favor?" she asks. "Is this behavior to be commended?"

She certainly doesn't think so. (You can view the Pizza Hut and IKEA ads below.)

I have to admit that I find both the Pizza Hut ads and the IKEA ads amusing. They're deliberately meant to play on the ignorance of the customer who doesn't know about the advertiser's low prices. In each case it's the customer who comes off looking like a dope, not the business.

But do the ads send the wrong message, suggesting that it's OK to shortchange a store when a cashier makes a mistake? That's hardly a message that we want to send to our kids, and it's not one we should embrace ourselves.

As customers we expect stores to correct any mistakes that shortchange us, so by the same token the right thing is to correct a delivery person or cashier on his or her mistake, even if it's in our favor. It may turn out that there wasn't a mistake after all, but if you suspect that you've been undercharged or that not every item was rung up on checkout, the obligation falls on you to make the situation right.

What would either advertisement have looked like if, instead of depicting customers believing that they were getting away with something, it had featured a protracted argument during which the customer tried to convince the clerk that she must be wrong, when indeed she wasn't. Imagine the manager getting called in to confirm how low the prices are and then other customers chiming in. Chaos ensues, but no one takes glee in rushing to flee the scene of an assumed crime.

c.2008 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)



IKEA AD


PIZZA HUT AD

9 comments:

Charlie Seng said...

I think most consumners get the humor and purpose in stores and businesses having ads that poke fun at shoppers mistakenly thinking they are taking advantage of what are actually permanently lower prices. You'd have to be pretty dense not to pickup on it and your reader that was annoyed by the IKEA ad is a person looking to be annoyed. In fact, companies like Pizza Hut, which use this "we're getting away with something" idea to emphasize their low prices are using very inventive ideas and besides, the purpose of "The Right Thing" is not to air "annoyances" but to point out and comment on ethical lapses.

Anonymous said...

Your column in today's Columbus Dispatch (7/20/08) brings to my mind just one of many incidents of a similar nature in my life. This past week I purchased an insulated coffee mug at a gas/convenience store in our small town. When I apporoaced the salesclerk she said that would be $.79. I answered, "no, I am purchasing the cup." After giving me a strange look she rang the purchase again and replied, "$4.??." Then I answered, "no, the first fill-up is free." Again she gave me a strange look and re-rang the purchase to the correct price of $3.19. (The cup was $2.99.) I remarked that I knew the first fill-up was free because I have purchased at least a dozen of these cups and given them away. Did even the young clerk think I should have taken the cup and coffee for $.79?? Well, I don't live that way. I hope people will stop and think after reading your column. Thank you for writing it.

Virginia Daugherty
Delaware, OH

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about the Pizza Hut and IKEA ads where customers are shown thinking they received something for free due to the mistake of the sellers when, in fact, they were just benefiting from sales promotions.

In California in real life, it is a crime to take or keep something that doesn't belong to you.

Penal Code section 485 provides that any person who finds lost or misplaced property under circumstances which give him knowledge of or means of finding the owner, and who appropriates that property instead to his own use is guilty of theft.

While teaching Criminal Litigation nights for 14 years the question I always asked was "what would you do if you went to an ATM, tried to withdraw $100 and the machine instead gave you $1,000?" Almost universally my students said they would keep the money because it was the bank's "fault" and the money was theirs.

Guess what their response was when I rephrased the question to where they requested $100 and only received $10? None of them seemed to think the shortage was their "fault" for trying to use a machine and that the bank could keep the other $90 their account had been debited.

Bad TV ads for Pizza Hut and IKEA, but not surprising now that we live in an era of "relative morality" where the big question is not "what is right?", but "how do you feel about it?"


Burl Estes
Mission Viejo, CA

Peggy said...

I also find the ads offensive that depict people thrilled, thinking they have gotten away with cheating a company out of money. I believe in karma...good and bad, and nothing good can come from that. Recently I made a purchase at Target. When I got to my car, I realized they didn't charge me for a $20.00 item. Yes, I fought with myself about going back into the store to bring the mistake to their attention. I came up with a few reasonable excuses not to. But, in the end, it was just the right thing to do...I can't afford any bad karma and I believe in being honest and not cheating. It's a shame they don't show that on their ads.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Seglin,

I applaud your article this morning on bad behavior being promoted via the media. The IKEA commercial you refer to sets my blood boiling! My husband and I race to see who can turn if off quickest. Just a few weeks ago I wrote directly to IKEA expressing my feelings and telling them I believe the commercial promotes dishonesty. I suggested how the commercial could be powerful if presented in a positive and honest manner with the same annoying actors. No response........gee, I wonder why?

City Bank's commercial promoting their credit card is the other one that I find appalling. "I want it all, and I want it now"! Is it any wonder this nation has so many people up to their ears in debt with absolutely no way to get out? Just check with City Bank and see if you've got a little squeeze room on your credit card to buy something else you really can't afford! Such irresponsibility should shame these advertisers and their agencies but we know it never will.

You can bet it is certain I will not patronize any of these companies who continue to promote bad behavior through commercials to our entire nation and the rest of the planet. All things taken into consideration is it any wonder our wonderful country is no longer viewed as the most powerful nation in the world?

Sharon Thompson
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

Anonymous said...

Thank god for your article that I read in the Orange County Register. Both the Pizza Hut ad and the IKEA ad have annoyed, irritated and down right pissed me off over the past few months. I feel the same way you do, the ad certainly can't be a positive moral booster for kids or adults alike!!!!!! What can we do to further stop this insanity? If one believes in karma, which I do, especially on moral matter like screwing people over, one can only hope that the above two mentions companies get their fair share of that!!!! Thank you again for writing that article and please let me know what I can do to further the cause that you have initiated.

Sincerely, Joe Bantle

Anonymous said...

The Ikea ad has long been an irritant to me. First, it is annoyingly shrill. Second, it gives the impression that Ikea shoppers are stupid. Third, and most important, it says the shopper is dishonest. I have e-mailed the company twice about this. Both times I received a prompt, polite apology, but each time they have a sale, they drag out this ad again. I also contacted them about another ad that I considered more offensive: a series of homes is shown, with the voice-over stating, "We know your home is important to you, no matter where it is." The last part of this sentence is accompanied by a shot of a station wagon which has been converted into a dwelling with cardboard boxes. I told them I didn't see the humor in this and that I found it incredibly insensitive. Thankfully, I haven't seen this one in a while, so maybe they've retired it.
Another ad that celebrates unethical behavior is the one currently being run by Baskin-Robbins, where the soccer mom boots the ball and yells at a kid, "In your face!" I wonder what AYSO has to say about this incredible display of poor sportsmanship.
Kathy Kuczynski, El Toro CA
OC Register reader

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Seglin,

What would you think of ads that not only seem to promote bad behavior, but dangerous as well? Consider S. C. Johnson's ("a family
company") Windex commercials. They infer that it's funny to allow unaware people to walk into plate glass doors. The most recent scenario shows a man dozing off in an easy chair, his spouse cleans said door, then leaves the room. He awakens, thinks its open then proceeds to bounce off the glass, while magpies in a nearby tree laugh hysterically. Ask Della Reese, famed singer/actress if her experience was a laughing matter.
I'd like your opinion.

Sincerely,
Dan Kamikubo

Anonymous said...

Dear Prof. Seglin,

What would you think of ads that not only seem to promote bad behavior, but dangerous as well? Consider S. C. Johnson's ("a family
company") Windex commercials. They infer that it's funny to allow unaware people to walk into plate glass doors. The most recent scenario shows a man dozing off in an easy chair, his spouse cleans said door, then leaves the room. He awakens, thinks its open then proceeds to bounce off the glass, while magpies in a nearby tree laugh hysterically. Ask Della Reese, famed singer/actress if her experience was a laughing matter.
I'd like your opinion.

Sincerely,
Dan Kamikubo

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