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new featureAn Out of Country Experience-Part 23
(Please check the archives if you've missed previous installments)

Rebecca L. Morgan
Help! I'm Being Held Captive..
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Tales From The Barstool By: Clint Lien
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In My Opinion
By L.N.P.

Who's Fooling Who?

As I sat here this morning, deleting 90 of my first 93 emails of the day, I couldn't help but wonder why they bother. I mean, who in their right mind would respond to an email whose subject line reads: How would YOU like to make $75,000 each month? or: Wanted-anyone willing to lose 30 pounds fast! Day after day, pretty much the same four or five "offers" seem to repeat themselves in one form or another; there's the "get rich quick" schemes; the guaranteed approval notices (as in: You've already been approved! for everything from loans to credit cards to health insurance); the drug pushers (recently focused on increasing the size and/or performance of the male organ) and the amazing weight loss products.

Of course, they call it spam, which sounds a lot like scam, which is what 98% of it is. But then again, aside from the annoyance factor of having to delete them, how different really are they from the ads we see in print or the thirty-six commercials that assault our senses during any hour-long TV show. Production values aside, the majority of advertising is based on lies.

I'm not including commercials that promote cars, stores, fast food chains, soft drinks, or even beer. With those, the intention doesn't seem to be to mislead; you pay your money and you take your choice. Sure, most advertisers use whatever means they can-big name athletes, sex, rock stars, scantily clad women-to persuade you to choose their particular product, but that seems fair enough to me. There's a lot of competition out there, so they have to do something! (And just because some idiot may make the assumption that if he drinks the right beer he'll be surrounded by a bevy of beauties, that's not the advertiser's fault. They didn't create idiots; they're just glad they watch television).

Actually, the biggest offenders for me fall into two major categories: over-the-counter medications and health and beauty products. But before I get to my big two, I'd like to take a moment to ask a couple of random questions. The first is this: has anyone ever noticed a discernible difference in the brightness of their laundry due to using a particular brand of detergent? I mean, has any real person ever done the comparison test? I don't know about you, but I tend to buy whichever detergent is on special that week, and I've never once noticed the slightest degree of difference. If anyone has, I'd really like to know.

My second question is this: how do you know when you're old? And my answer: when you're absolutely positive that you will never be taking a picture with your cell phone and text messaging it to your friend. Personally, I'm grateful that I can occasionally see the numbers well enough to call someone. My daughter had to tell me I had caller ID on my phone, because when I look at that tiny little screen all I can make out is a blur. And, no one has to warn me about driving while using my cell phone; I need my distance glasses to drive, and my reading glasses to see the phone and if I tried to do both at the same time I'd wind up killing someone. So, I always get a kick out of those commercials showing a guy setting up the perfect shot and sending it to his girlfriend with a text message that says he loves her while he's simultaneously hurrying to catch a plane. Does anyone actually do that?

But back to my big two. I'll start with over-the-counter drugs. You know, like Excedrin or Advil. First of all, for those of you who don't remember a column I wrote about three years ago (and I imagine there might be a few who qualify) there are only four main pain relievers that you can buy without a prescription. Not fifty-seven, as the shelves in the pharmacy and their advertisers would have you believe. Just four. Aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxyn. That's it. Now, everyone knows what aspirin is, because that's what they call it. Except when they call it Bufferin or Anacin. But, it's still only aspirin. Acetaminophen is the generic name for Tylenol. And Motrin, Advil, Nuprin and whatever else they decide to call them are all ibuprofen. And finally, the "wonder drug" called Aleve is naproxyn, an anti-inflammatory like ibupofen. So, whichever one you want, buy the generic brand, because it's exactly the same thing and it costs about half as much. Don't let the commercials fool you.

Excedrin actually deserves its own paragraph, because it's the only one that combines two of the above-mentioned ingredients: 250 mgs of acetaminophen and 250 of aspirin (unless you prefer the aspirin-free Excedrin, of course, and then you get 500 mgs of acetaminophen: ie; Tylenol) plus a third ingredient. The third ingredient is caffeine, which is really why Excedrin works best on headaches. However, if you've been told to stay away from caffeine, then don't take Excedrin. Not that anyone has ever seen a commercial that tells you, the consumer, that there's caffeine in Excedrin. It's not something they brag about. But trust me, or get out your magnifying glass and read the label. Now the thing that really bugs me about Excedrin is the way they market it. A few years ago, they came out with a new product: Excedrin for Migraines. So, I'm standing at the pharmacy counter in Sav-on, and a woman is telling the pharmacist why she no longer needs her prescription migraine medication; she's been cured by Excedrin for Migraines. I smile. The pharmacist smiles. She then goes on to say that she could never take Excedrin before, because the caffeine kept her awake, but now that she's discovered Excedrin for Migraines, she's a new woman. She's migraine-free and sleeps like a baby. I lock eyes with the pharmacist, and we make a decision. Both of us know that Excedrin for Migraines and Excedrin are exactly the same formula. The ONLY difference is their label. Honest! But we don't want to rain on her parade; after all, she's been cured by an ad campaign. Who are we to argue with the genius who came up with THAT idea? (not surprisingly, I just checked out Excedrin's brand new, breakthrough product: Excedrin for Tension Headaches. That's right….Tylenol and caffeine just like the others.)

On to health and beauty products, because that's where deception is most decidedly the intention. And, I'm embarrassed to say it works. I don't know about you men, but I'd be willing to bet that there isn't a woman out there who hasn't bought a product because she hoped it would make her hair as shiny, or her eyelashes as thick, or her lipstick as long-lasting as the products shown in the commercial. I've bought them all. Some combination of vanity and hope springing eternal I suppose, but I probably have 17 used-once shampoos and conditioners in the cabinet, even though I know intellectually that the only women who have hair that looks so magnificently shiny already had that hair before using any product; they could wash their hair with dish-washing liquid and tap water and it would still be magnificently shiny and that's why they were hired in the first place. They had great hair!

And have you ever tried to wear lipstick that lasts for eight hours? It might last, but you sure don't want it to; it feels like cement. I have a couple of those in my drawer if you're interested. But my absolute favorites are the anti-wrinkle creams. In fact, anything to do with slowing down the aging process both intrigues and infuriates me. Obviously, I'm occasionally intrigued because I've tested a few myself. The under eye tightening oil was particularly disappointing. I put it on as directed and waited to see the results. Nothing. So I put on some more. Now I felt like my skin was being stretched tight. Excellent. Unfortunately, when I looked in the mirror, a thin film had formed under my eye, a film that couldn't be ignored. Putting makeup over it just made it worse; tiny pebbles began to form. Finally, I had to scrub the stuff off. It's in the drawer with the cement lipstick.

I do use moisturizer every day, because I know my skin needs it. But it really doesn't matter which brand. The fancy ones with Q10 and anti-oxidants that make the claims about erasing fine lines, removing age spots, and causing cellulite to disappear all have two things in common. They're ridiculously expensive and they don't work. Nothing can make you look younger or tighten your skin except surgery. If anyone figures out how to do it with a cream, they'll be deified. Right before the plastic surgeons association puts out a contract on their life.

Finally, there's the weight loss products. Among these are a zillion and one special diets, along with group programs like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, and an astonishing array of pills and appetite suppressants guaranteed to make you drop those pounds. All so that you can look like the AFTER photo instead of the BEFORE. Now on this one I'm lucky. I don't have a weight problem, so I can ignore these commercials. But I can't help noticing that they always say, in very small print, "results not typical." I'll bet they're not typical! How typical is it that a woman who is 80 lbs overweight not only loses the weight and keeps it off, but also has a finely toned and perfectly proportioned body afterwards? Where did all that extra skin go? I think the weight loss commercials must be among the most misleading of them all; certainly, they prey on the most vulnerable.

Now, although I don't have a weight problem, I'm not immune to commercials for long lean muscles, flat abs and tight butts. C'mon, what woman is perfectly satisfied with her body? Nevertheless, I've resisted every attempt made by the advertising industry to seduce me ever since I threw away my thigh master many years ago. I know I'm never going to be twenty-seven again, and fortunately, I have an aversion to anything that involves using a machine, going to a gym, or lacing up my jogging shoes. So, you might ask, why am I waiting for my Winsor Pilates DVD to be delivered? Well, one day I was channel surfing and came upon an infomercial. (Don't laugh; infomercials have gotten much better lately.) Anyway, there were all these fabulously fit looking women, with long gorgeous lean muscles, and they owed it ALL to Winsor Pilates. No machines, no running, just nice yoga-like exercises that they only had to do three times a week for twenty minutes. Boy, even I'd do that for those legs. I knew deep down inside that those women probably looked like that before they took pilates, just like the women with the shiny hair. But still, maybe this time it wasn't a lie. Maybe this product would deliver on its promise. I can't wait to find out.

And that's the incredible power of advertising; just like the woman who was "cured" by Excedrin for Migraines, we want it to be true.


Send me your opinions at Lynn@netlistings.com

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