Walking by the KU Student Bookstore, my recently dispersed financial aid return heavy in my pocket, I stopped to read an advertisement: “Our educational pricing can save students up to 80%. Why pay more?!” Above that phrase, it says, “All your tech needs,” and encircling the text are pictures of laptops, video games, headphones, a printer, software, etc. I needed a laptop.
After comparing laptops sold by the bookstore to the same ones sold online, it became apparent that the prices are discounted nowhere near 80 percent as advertised.
In an email to The Keystone, KU Student Services Technology Manager Casey Moore said, “Students can receive up to an 80 percent discount on Adobe software and Microsoft Office software. With hardware such as computers and laptops, students can receive a discount of up to 5 percent depending on which vendor we are able to purchase from.”
Nowhere on the ad, however, is there any mention of receiving only a 5 percent discount for hardware. A phrase as simple as “can receive up to [whatever percentage] discount” is one of the legal loopholes that lets companies create deceptive ads. The keyword here, of course, is “can,” which implies that receiving the full-advertised discount is indefinite, and in this case, the 80 percent discount is totally indefinite. At best, students can receive 5 percent off.
Of course, a 5 percent discount is better than no discount, but that’s not the issue here. It’s that almost none of these items are discounted at the percentage advertised.
“We advertise that we have all of your technology needs because we sell all types of technology products,” Moore said. “…We also advertise that we can save the students ‘up to 80 percent’ because we have certain items that are 80 percent off to students with a valid KU Student ID. With some of the higher end products, we can provide around a 5 percent savings to students, which is still better than the alternative of purchasing the product elsewhere for more money.” (Note: Even with 5 percent off, many of the bookstore prices for laptops are still slightly more expensive than those online.)
It’s more than a little misleading to have an ad that says, “All your tech needs,” and also claims students can save 80 percent when in fact they cannot save more than 5 percent on most of the products pictured on it. Either it’s a lie, a marketing botch or a matter of perspective.
Moore said he and the marketing department will take a look at their marketing materials and advertisements and make changes if necessary, but neither he nor the marketing department has commented any further.
Ignorance and naivety of advertising practices answer the question, “Why pay more?” In one form or another, advertising has always been based on manipulation. This is no secret it never has been. Instead of blindly trusting companies to be upfront, be skeptical when offers are, cliché aside, look too good to be true.
By Jacob Seibel