My daughters will tell you that one of my ‘favorite’ things to say is, “words have meanings.” I usually say it in the context of them trying to communicate something but not being able to find the right words to describe what they are trying to communicate. It can range from, ‘the thing you’re looking for is the drawer.” OK, which of the 42 drawers we have in the house is that thing in? You get the idea. My daughters are very bright but fall into the trap of thinking people know what they are thinking when they say something. We all do that.
On the flip side, we all tend to believe that we know what someone is saying because we think we know what they are trying to communicate. I was thinking about this as I watched a competing insurance company’s commercial claiming to save the average customer that switched from another company over $700 a year. I’ve seen these commercials from a lot of companies, all claiming to save people hundreds of dollars a year when they switched. My thought of course, is why doesn’t everyone switch to your company? The inference is that everyone saves or at least most people save.
Two of the largest property & casualty insurers bury in the fine print that the claim is based upon data that is several years old. In one case it was 6-7 years old, but both have updated to get within the last 3 years of data. Maybe you can save by switching now but why not use more recent data? Because it probably doesn’t support their claims.
There is one company however that does use very recent data. And it’s always bugged me because this company also has more liberal underwriting requirements meaning they take a lot of drivers with poorer driving records. How can they claim such a huge savings? Because they use a word trick; they claim a huge annual savings for those switched and save. Okay, I get it now. Those that switched and had to pay more aren’t included in your statistical data. Word tricks that are accurate and misleading. (Full disclosure: I write business to this company as well)
At this time of year many will be shopping, especially online. While there are laws to prevent sellers from making blatantly false claims, there are many more that will use word tricks that will fool those that aren’t carefully reading the fine print. Then you end up with something that you didn’t really want.
The same can be said for the political season we have already entered but will pick up speed very soon. Especially with Michael Bloomberg poised to enter the race. It’s incumbent upon all of us to listen intently to what they are saying, not what we think they are saying. Watch for those little nuances or word phrases that have meaning. It can change dramatically what you understand.