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Everyday Lies

Repeatable offers

For a limited time only?

With monotonous regularity I receive via the internet allegedly time-limited offers of special subscription rates for various publications. A few days later, they warn me that the offers are about to expire, and that I should take advantage of them within the next 24 hours if I am not to lose them.

I now know from experience that the offer will be repeated within days of their supposed expiry. This happens so regularly that it conforms to an entirely predictable pattern. The designers of the offers know perfectly well that what they say is true only in a very restricted or pedantic sense. It would be more reasonable to call it a lie than to call it the truth.

That’s commerce for you, you might say, and certainly I can’t work myself up into a pleasant state of indignation about it. But the strange thing is that the untruthful offers, whose object is to hustle the person to whom it is made into a quick and panicked response, come from publications that advertise themselves as rare and fearless purveyors of the truth in this world of lies, often with the implication that such devotion to the truth is not to be found elsewhere. Among the organisations that resort to these tactics, the New York Times stands out. I have now received their time-limited offers for several years, which are time-limited only in the sense that everything is time-limited.

Does it matter that supposed truth-tellers sell their products untruthfully? The editorial and sales departments of the publications are, one would hope, separate, at least to a degree, so untruthfulness in selling is not necessarily the same as untruthfulness in content.

Still, all this hardly creates confidence in the organisation’s commitment to truth. And I am mildly irritated that the sales departments seem to imagine that I have not noticed the untruthfulness of their offers, in other words that I am stupid or at least very unobservant, with the attention span of a flea.

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