Terms and conditions should not apply

2012-07-02 07:49

Chris Moerdyk

One of these days some enterprising company is going to really start winning the hearts, minds and wallets of the consumer by advertising the fact that "absolutely no terms or conditions apply".

When you think about it, the "terms and conditions apply" fine print that appears on just about all advertisements these days is nothing more than a pretty stupid compromise deal struck between advertisers and our befuddled advertising regulators.

On radio, they don't even spell it out anymore, but just throw in a cursory "Ts & Cs apply" at the end of the commercial.

It’s a bit like spotting the woman of your dreams across a crowded room and after hours of fantasising about living forever with her, she comes across and flings herself into your arms talking about love at first sight and asking you to carry her away. And then you discover that she has been married 10 times, has halitosis to beat the band and thinks Brent Crude is the villain in Isidingo.

Looking for someone to trust

In this day and age consumers are desperately looking for someone or something to trust. And using a promise as bait and conditions as a hook might get some consumers to swallow what they're being offered but it hardly engenders any form of loyalty.

The whole idea behind it of course is that advertisers complained that it was far too expensive to spend time on TV, radio and in print actually spelling out every detail of the conditions  behind every offer, so they were allowed to just toss in a warning "terms and conditions" apply.

Because human nature is such that disappointment is the bedfellow of lowered expectations it is inevitable that when a consumer responds to ads with the Ts&Cs warning they are not going to get what the essence of the ad was offering in the first place.

So, who needs to keep dealing with someone who constantly disappoints you? Besides the Zimbabwean electorate that is.

Disappointment suppressed

What makes all this kind of marketing work some of the time in spite of annoying consumers all of the time, is that a sizeable chunk of the South African market so desperately wants to own things that disappointment is suppressed. It relies on advertising that appeals to our impulses and as everyone knows, impulses most often lead to regret.

Which in the short term is fine, but it's my bet that consumers are getting both weary and wary of the terms and conditions ploy and are now looking for someone who will sell them something without all those strings attached.

It is common knowledge that it costs 10 times as much to find new customers as it is to keep existing customers coming back for more.

And advertised promises riddled with terms and conditions very rarely bring people back for more.  Because when something involves or costs more than you expect, going ahead with the deal inevitably leaves a sour taste in your mouth. So sour that next time you'll try somewhere else first.

This sort of marketing is not only silly but also very expensive.

Not giving a toss

To me the "terms and conditions apply" option is the same as those companies that use call-centres to handle consumer complaints.

It's a compromise that smacks of not giving a toss about customers.

I would never advise any company to resort to this stupid cop-out.  
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  • judith.taylor.56 - 2012-07-02 08:34

    The thing that really concerns me is that balloon deals are again in the car market and there appear to be no options to avoid them. Many buyers forget that they will still owe 30 - 40% of the cost of their vehicle at the end of 5 years. The banks are coining it in interest out of this as well.

      Heinrich - 2012-07-02 16:43

      There I blame the consumer for just being plain stupid. Paying for 5 years on a car is already stupid. If you can't afford it in at the most 4 years then rather start looking for a cheaper second hand deal. Cars lose 50% of there value in 3 years(give or take) anyway.

      Vicker - 2012-07-03 07:47

      Author seems to be confusing T&C's with false advertising. It is a fact that many companies hide behind their T&C's to push through false advertising, but this is an issue to be dealt with seperately. No business can survive without T&C's as this forms the basis on how they manage their cash flow/expenses etc. - it is the manner in which the apply such that will differentiate them.

  • gray.vaneck - 2012-07-02 08:46

    Agree with you whole-heartedly, personally I avoid advertisers who use this "terms and conditions apply" ploy, it irritates the crap out of me.

  • pederjohn - 2012-07-02 09:04

    I Guess T&C's Apply because of people abusing non T&C's, which is also really irritating. Its like when you ride into makro, they say all liability is on you for your car, as if they don't care what happens to you but only your money...

  • ewald.westhuizen - 2012-07-02 10:31

    The only time you realize what the T&C's are is when it's too late. Nobody ever takes the time to read through it all. It would be great to have no T&C's!

  • Vicky - 2012-07-02 10:36

    Ts and Cs means that this offer is not for me. Lost a customer silly!

  • donn.edwards - 2012-07-02 10:58

    T&C's really mean "we're offering this product but not at the price advertised". Companies should stop LYING in their ads. I'm sick of shampoo commercials showing models whose hair has clearly been treated by professional products and not the glock being promoted; or gym models who are trying to get me to believe they use the slimming/exercise product being touted, when they clearly have spent all day in the gym. Another example: All Gold has lied to us for years about the number of tomatoes ("36") in their tomato sauce. It's actually closer to 8, with 35 spoons of sugar added. It should be called Tomato Syrup. The ad industry is paid to lie. They are all worse than lawyers.

  • colin.fryer.7 - 2012-07-02 11:47

    A founding conundrum. Companies, all companies doing commercial business for gain will have terms & conditions that govern the way & manner they run their business. An " internal meme " if you like as to how a company handles the many aspects required to go from offer to after sales activity. Its a legal requirement and comes into play when there is a legal challenge placed on their doorstep by a client/customer. However Chris, what an interesting opportunity for one bold set of chops to have a go at ANTIC ( Absolutely No Terms, Intentions or Conditions ). Mmmmn, I may just have my travel company have a go at this one.....

  • flysouth - 2012-07-03 10:44

    This nonsense has always irritated the hell out of me! Terms and Conditions apply? Of course they do, but this need not be stated in an ad, and in any case, that statement has no validity if later those Ts&Cs are to be used in litigation - they need to have been seen and read by all parties, not simply mentioned in passing! Also - is there any transaction that a human can engage in where there are not Terms and Conditions, even implicit ones? Of course not, every transaction is bound by some terms and some conditions, even if only by the laws of the land. Heck - life itself comes with Terms & Conditions!

  • Jonathan Simon - 2012-07-04 09:45

    Hahaha ... Even this article has a disclaimer ... Terms , conditions And protection

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