The Laziness Alibi: Legit Defense or a Clever Cover-Up for Fraud?

Last week, I watched the season premiere of The Middle, a sitcom about a middle-class American family living in middle America.

In the first episode of the second season, Frankie, played by Patricia Heaton, gets on a kick to be more punctual and proactive with her family.

Of course, based on her poor track record, her kids doubt she’ll be able to keep up her new “super mom” regimen. So in a last-ditch attempt to get her kids to believer her, she exclaims, “This isn’t like the juicer! We’re following through!”

As you may know, I’ve written about juicers before. I bought one for my wife last Christmas. Turns out, she hasn’t used it as much as she intended to — which is why I laughed when I heard Frankie’s defense.

I bet there are thousands of people across the country who have lightly-used juicers sitting in their kitchen cabinets. In hindsight, many of those people probably regret spending the money. They might even feel like it was a total waste.

But Should We Blame the Marketers for Selling Us Juicers?

It might sound like a silly question, but I think it’s one that needs to be asked… and answered. After all, the marketers sold us juicers that we’re not using. Isn’t it their fault for getting us excited about buying something that is now not being used? Shouldn’t I be able to claim that the marketers defrauded me?

I don’t think so, not on that basis alone. A customer’s lack of use doesn’t constitute fraud. So long as the juicer will create juice whenever I put fruit in it, then there hasn’t been any deception; I haven’t been defrauded.

So, without any other information, we certainly can’t blame anybody but ourselves. Buying a product that doesn’t get used is not the marketers’ fault. It’s their job to position their product in an appealing way. It’s our job to discern whether or not the product is a good fit for us.

If we fail to do our job as the consumer — to carefully consider each purchase we make — then we’re simply being negligent in our responsibilities.

The same thing applies not just to juicers, but to all products — including information products. If I buy an information product and fail to use it, that alone does not constitute fraud.┬áThe real question is, Does the product deliver on its promises?

There Are Two Sides to Every Sale

Naturally, the customer and the seller make up two sides to every sale, but in this case I’m referring to the advertising (A) and the product (P).

If you want to have an average (but successful) business, the equation you want is A=P. When A=P, you have a satisfied customer because you are meeting expectations.

On the other hand, if you want a wildly successful business… one that is far above average… then the equation you’re shooting for is this: A<P. Really, this is just another way of saying “underpromise, overdeliver.” When you deliver an A<P experience, you have a thrilled customer; one who, in time, may go on to become an evangelist.

But what happens if your marketing equation is A>P. This leads to unsatisfied customers. What’s more, if the disparity between your advertising and product is too great (big A, little p), then that’s when fraud is being committed. You are intentionally misleading customers through your advertising — also known as “bearing false witness.”

When A=P, Fraud Can’t Happen

I submit that fraud can’t happen when A=P. And it can’t happen when A<P either. That’s because to defraud is to deprive of by deceit. If there is no deception, there is no fraud.

Unfortunately, it seems many people within the Internet marketing community are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Their logic goes something like this:

  • Some marketers of high-priced products have committed fraud, therefore all high-priced products are fraudulent.
  • Some Internet marketers have committed fraud, therefore all Internet marketers are frauds.
  • And so forth.

I’m sure you can see the fallacy in the statements above. And yet, for some strange reason, the fallacy persists.

Now, lest you think I’m defending Internet marketers who use deception to make sales, I present…

The Laziness Alibi

In recent years, it’s become popular for marketers to accuse their own customers of laziness. If the customer complains that the product didn’t work, the marketer’s defense may sound something like, “Well, you didn’t take enough action. Or you didn’t follow the process correctly.”

This may or may not be true. But if fraud has occurred, then it is irrelevant whether the customer has taken action or not. If the marketer lied to sell the product, then the marketer is liable for committing fraud — even if the customer never opens the product!

To illustrate this point, imagine if a tire store sold some tires to a customer, and the customer took them home to install them himself. When the customer gets home and tries to mount the tires, he suddenly realizes that each of the tires has a slit in the sidewall; he can’t even air them up!

So he calls the tire store to explain the situation and the manager of the store says, “Have you actually used the tires yet?” The man replies, “Of course not! How can I drive on tires that won’t hold any air?”

You see the problem.

And a marketer who accuses you of not taking action — when the product you were sold doesn’t even work — is just as ridiculous as the imaginary scenario above.

In far too many cases, “The Laziness Alibi” just doesn’t hold up, especially in the upside-down world of Internet marketing.

Consumer Laziness Encourages Fraud

Here’s the bottom line:

Sometimes the problem is with the customers. Just because they haven’t used a perfectly good juicer doesn’t mean they’ve been defrauded.

Sometimes the problem is with the marketer. If he’s intentionally deceived a customer, fraud has been committed, regardless of whether or not the customer ever uses the product.

And, unfortunately, laziness on the part of consumers makes it all too easy for marketers to commit and perpetuate fraud. After all, if you never use a product you buy, you’ll never know you’ve been defrauded.

-Ryan M. Healy

Ryan M. Healy

Ryan Healy is a financial copywriter and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.

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