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Never Needs Sharpening
"[I]t proudly proclaims itself as a no-iron shirt. But no-iron shirts always come out of the package wrinkled up like old pieces of Reynolds Wrap, and apart from sending them off to the cleanerís, the only option is to try to iron all of that out. But no-iron shirts resist ironing. Thatís what "no-iron" means, you know: not that the shirt doesnít need ironing, but that the shirt canít be ironed."

So you've invented a new product that does exactly what it's intended to do, but it has only one teeny tiny infinitesimal flaw: it doesn't do the one thing everyone expects it will. Or it can't be used in the one way everyone will assume it's meant to be used. So what do you do? You turn that frown upside down and spin that flaw into an asset!

Those thin, brittle serrated knives that can't be sharpened suddenly "never need sharpening". Those silicone oven mitts that fall apart in the washing machine "clean up with plain water - no detergent needed!" And so on. Allows the advertiser to show people Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket attempting to sharpen knives, etc. and failing miserably.

Compare Our Product Sucks, where product flaws are described more honestly and Good Bad Bugs which is (generally) a software and gaming trope when a bug makes its way into the game, isn't picked up or fixed by the developers, but eventually becomes useful for some reason. Also compare Asbestos-Free Cereal, when the advertisement is trying to sell the product on trumped-up claims that are technically true but also insignificant in the first place. See also Damned by Faint Praise.

Examples:

  • The granddaddy of all "Never Needs Sharpening" products was the Ginsu Knife, which was advertised as "never needs sharpening". The implication was that they never went dull, which was only technically true. Most Ginsus broke or rusted long before they dulled. Of course, if a Ginsu did last long enough to go dull (about a year) there wasn't much you could do, since Ginsus were thin, brittle, and so heavily serrated that they actually couldn't be sharpened.
  • Miracle Blade uses the same phrase for the same reason. They also spin the thinness of the blade in an attempt to muddle the concepts of sharpness and thinness in viewers' minds. Chef Tony can slice food more thinly than you can because he's more experienced and practiced doing that for the routine, not because his knife is thinner than yours. Thin blades wear out more quickly and can even snap during use, sending shards of sharp metal flying around the place and possibly into your food (if not worse places). Sure, thinness and sharpness actually are linked... but only for the actual cutting edge. One reason that obsidian has long been a favored material for cutting implements is the fact that it's relatively easy to make incredibly thin, sharp edges on it, and this is also the principle behind the common science-fiction concept of monomolecular blades. As mentioned above, the downside is that it's difficult for such a thin edge to actually remain sharp for long... and also as mentioned above, making the rest of the blade thin has entirely negative effects.
  • The Ove-Glove is mainly marketed using the Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket method, but they also claim that the glove "doesn't need washing - just rinse and go"! One review of the Ove-Glove on YouTube points out that if you get the glove dirty enough that it needs to be washed, there's not much you can do - water alone won't remove any grease stains, and the glove falls apart in the washing machine.
  • My Lil Reminder, a small voice recorder, says it's "inobtrusive" and "won't bother the people sitting around you" - likely because the volume on the product is so low that you probably won't hear it either.
  • The Pasta Pro, a big pasta pot with a lid that doubles as a colander, proudly advertises that the lid locks on tight so you won't scald yourself when the lid falls off. Sounds like a great idea—one less dish to wash—but some reviewers have reported that the lid sticks so badly that it won't come off when the pot is hot. Other manufacturers have improved upon the idea with better results.
  • Dyson vacuum cleaners. The last infomercial contained a testimonial from a young man who looked to be about thirty years old, stating that "every Dyson he'd ever owned" worked great. He was on his fifth Dyson and he loved it. Sounds like a great testimonial, but think about it for a moment: a thirty-year-old man who has owned five vacuums must be replacing his vacuum every two years. This is not a mobile phone or a laptop that needs to be upgraded regularly, it's a vacuum. All it does is suck up dirt. There is no reason to buy a new one unless the old one breaks down and can't be repaired. A vacuum costing what a Dyson does should last between twenty and thirty years. So why is this guy on his fifth vacuum?
    • This?
    • Dysons never lose suction — if you don't overfill them. But there is nothing but cyclones of air protecting the motor vents; if you overfill, then dirt will suction directly onto and into them.
    • Some models do have a filter between the cyclones and the motor (and another after the motor, presumably just in case of any dust managing to get that far). Said filters are fairly easily removable, since they do need cleaning, albeit much less frequently than you need to empty the dirt container.
  • Any kitchen implement that "cleans up in a snap - a quick rinse and you're ready to go!" is probably not dishwasher-safe. If it was, they'd say "just stick it in the dishwasher and you're ready to go!"
  • Eggies were designed to eliminate the difficult and time-consuming task of peeling hard-boiled eggs. It's true that pouring raw eggs into individual plastic molds and boiling those does eliminate peeling, but oiling and assembling each Eggie by hand (each is made up of four fiddly little pieces), getting the raw eggs through the small holes on the top of the Eggies, and cleaning them afterwards takes twice the time that peeling the eggs would have. Reviewers also found that the Eggies aren't really nonstick (you have to wipe each individual piece with an oil-soaked paper towel before assembling them), plus they leak egg white into the water, meaning the user has to scrub out the pot. Dang, if only eggs came in waterproof, individual cases...
  • A commercial for a brand of tea touts the health benefits of drinking more water, then lets its viewers know that women who drink their tea get more water than those who drink the leading brand. How one brand of tea can contain more water than another is left as an exercise to the reader. Perhaps anyone who drinks their tea feels the need to wash it down with water afterwards.
  • Commercials for the PSP Go touted "download-only" as a selling point. What this means is that the PSP Go lacks a UMD drive: if you "upgrade" to a Go, then your entire existing library is useless apart from whatever games you've already bought for download. In addition, the vast majority of PSP games are unavailable on PSN, with Square-Enix's entire library (with the exception of Dissidia) conspicuously absent, and judging from the PSN's notoriously unreliable update schedule, it's unlikely that the Go will ever have access to more than a tiny fraction of the PSP library.
  • Natural fiber yarns are dyed in "lots". Knitters have to be careful that all the yarn they buy for a specific project is from the same dye lot or there could be a noticeable difference in colour after washing. Manufacturers of cheap scratchy acrylic yarn are now advertising that their product is superior because it has no inconvenient dye lots. That's because acrylic isn't dyed per se: the manufacturers simply add the dye to the petrochemical goo they make the yarn from.
    • In some cases, no-dye-lot yarn is still dyed in lots: the manufacturer just doesn't bother to keep track of them. Hope you like your blue sweater with one green sleeve.
  • An urban legend goes that white salmon had a tough time competing in the marketplace against the more desirable pink salmon until one clever company started advertising its white salmon with the tagline "Guaranteed not to turn pink in the can". Not to be outdone, a just-as-clever pink salmon company started advertising with the tagline "No bleach added in processing."
  • Frank And Ernest occasionally has fun with this in Sunday strips, with Frank looking over an advertisement Ernie has written, pointing out issues or missed points regarding his advertised item along the way, and Ernie promptly explaining how his advertisement has spun these issues into alleged positives. For instance, a run-down theater whose roof is missing is referred to as "the place to see the stars" (because you can see stars through the open roof at night...).
  • Of course, estate agents have been doing this for years. No, that house isn't small, it's... cozy! That one isn't over a kebab shop on a main road with 24/7 traffic, it's "moments away from local amenities"! Basement suite? No, it's "bright"!
    Marge Simpson: It's dilapidated!
    Lionel Hutz: "Rustic."
    Marge Simpson: But that one's on fire!
    Lionel Hutz: ...Motivated seller!
    • Similarly, on Will and Grace, Grace was translating an apartment want ad: "Cozy" means "Tiny," "Chelsea-adjacent" meant "New Jersey," and "Regularly maintained" meant "The Super hoses blood off the sidewalk every morning."note 
    • "Freakonomics" also had a section comparing real positive features about houses and negative features described positively. In particular, if a house is described as being in a nice neighborhood it means that nearby houses are not as bad as it.
  • The advertising for MST 3 K-riffed Beginning of the End proclaimed loudly how "No stop motion animation was used to create the giant grasshopper effects!"... when zooming in on regular-sized grasshoppers climbing over photographs works about as well as you might expect.
  • In the world of software, you might hear the phrase "It's not a bug, it's a feature!" or "unintended feature." Though occasionally there are actual features which some people misinterpret as bugs. For instance, a clunky interface may be organized better in an update, which is good for most people but bad for the old-school types that already memorized the clunky version. The latter group may complain of a "bug" that changed the interface. Anyone who has ever worked in computer tech support can tell you stories of people complaining of bugs or "bad hardware" that was simply caused by one option incorrectly set in a program. Sometimes the "bug" you experience is the computer doing exactly what you told it to do but didn't understand precisely what you asked it to do.
  • Those commercials for Goldline that you see Fox News and Glenn Beck advertising insist that, since the entire world will soon be descending into poverty-driven madness, you should trade in all of your soon-to-be-worthless cash for their delicious, shiny gold. They don't bother mentioning that since they're taking in all the paper money, they're driving themselves into the future, gold-driven poorhouse. That's because actually, they're making money by pretending to be gold brokers, trading cash for gold near the current rate, when they're really selling gold at a huge markup. There's been some Senate inquiries into this. While the price of gold probably is going to go down and isn't that great an investment, if you wish to buy gold anyway, check the current price of gold online so when you go to buy it, you aren't suckered by someone offering it to you at three times what the market says it's worth.
    One has to wonder if they have a partnership with the exact opposite companies like "Cash 4 Gold" who are urging you to send in your unwanted gold, silver, platinum, or whatever jewelry and get cash in return... with, of course, the company you're sending your jewelry to deciding on exactly how much cash you get in return. It's actually quite hilarious on the occasions when commercials for these two types of companies air sequentially. South Park played that exact scenario in one episode. It also relies on people buying into the misconception that gold has an inherent value, so that in a potential post-apocalyptic scenario they will have reliably precious gold on hand instead of "worthless paper". In actuality, should civilization go belly-up, gold would be just as worthlessnote . Besides, everyone knows the universal currency of Post-Apocalyptia is bottlecaps.
  • The Orangina drink had an unfortunate habit of separating out into two unappealing looking layers. Hence its advertising slogan "Shake the bottle, wake the drink".
  • The Original Mattress Factory used to run ads accusing other mattress companies of doing this by advertising mattresses that "never needed turning" because they only worked in one orientation.
  • Dilbert lampshaded this by Dogbert borrowing the Selsun Blue catchphrase of "It tingles, so I know it's working" with his beer ad of "My head hurts, so I know it's working."
    • Similarly, one The Truth ad did a similar jab in their mockumercial for a pimple remover.
      "Guys, this burns."
      "That's how you know it's working."
      "No, I mean, it really burns" as the girl catches on fire.
    • Manufacturers add tingling agents to acne and dandruff medications mainly because consumers expect these products to tingle. Unfortunately, tingling is a sign that the product is irritating the skin and, in the process, making the underlying condition much worse. Menthol is by far the most common culprit.
  • Played with in Monty Python's string sketch, in which the product is string, precut into 3-inch-long segments: ""THE NOW STRING! READY CUT, EASY TO HANDLE, SIMPSON'S INDIVIDUAL EMPEROR STRINGETTES - JUST THE RIGHT LENGTH!"
  • Atlantic City casinos are advertised as 'the place where the most winning is done'. The odd wording intentionally masks that despite how much 'winning' is done, there isn't a margin of profit from the wins. And here's an alternative interpretation: they never say that the winning is being done by the customers.
  • Bowflex does this. Unlike an actual lifting weight, the resistance is not linear throughout the range of motion, which various people pointed out and slammed them over. So they started advertising it as featuring "progressive resistance".
  • After the Internet and news media exploded over a bad case of research failure on FOX's quiz show Million Dollar Money Drop, FOX promoted the show saying "the airwaves and Internet were on fire" and that it was "the most talked-about show of the season." They intentionally neglected to point out that most of that talk was either "How did your writers come up with the wrong answer to a question when it takes 60 seconds to look up the answer online?" or "Why are you stalling with 5 minutes of Padding to drag out The Reveal to a question when it takes 60 seconds to look up the answer online?"
  • The characteristic vibration of a Harley-Davidson engine. Harley claims that it's due to the power of the engine, and specifically calls for you to "feel the power" in their advertising. In reality, it's due to the fact that any v-twin with a v-angle less than 90į will vibrate a lot, with the effect increasing the narrower the angle.
  • In-universe example: There's a What's New? with Phil and Dixie comic-strip, with a full-page panel set in the dealer's room of a tabletop gaming convention. One of the booth staff is dismayed to discover that a box of gaming miniatures was left in a hot place and have partially melted; his co-worker says it's no problem, and puts out a sign advertising leper figures.
  • Some lotteries—namely scratch-offs higher than five dollars—advertize that winning is guaranteed. They fail to mention that the vast majority of the prizes are under the sales price of a ticket, so most "winners" make a net loss.
  • Some boxed chocolates come with the candies still in the plastic factory moulds. This is not announced on the packaging (nobody wants chocolates they have to squeeze out of moulds) but is touted as "stay-fresh" on the inside of the box. Very embarrassing if given as a gift.
  • Programming language semi-example: one of Lisp's biggest selling points is its macro system, which allows coders to "extend the language" by essentially writing code that rewrites itself into a more complicated form. When users of other languages ask what it's useful for that couldn't be done just as easily (or generally even more easily) in any programming language with support for functions, the stock answer is that macros can be used to construct logic operators such as "if" or "and", which functions can't do (except in lazily evaluated languages). What this pitch doesn't say is that other languages don't need to support something like this because "if" and "and" are fundamental concepts that are built in to just about every other language in existence already. The real reason macros are useful is that you can use them to implement syntax you've just invented (as long as you express it with Lots of Intrusive and Silly Parentheses). Unfortunately, because "if" and "and" are convenient examples of how to use macros, Fan Dumb treats the fact that they are implemented that way as an advantage, when (however philosophically satisfying some people find it) it is in practice an unimportant detail.
  • 3DFX marketed its Voodoo line of graphics cards as not requiring users to throw out their old graphics cards. In reality, the Voodoo had no 2D rendering support, and required a 2D card for that purpose, unless not being able to do any non-gaming task wasn't a problem for you. This was less of an issue than other examples, as most users already had suitable cards, and its 3D performance was world-class at the time.
  • A series of ads for speech-to-text software spouts how much more convenient it is than typing by showing actors doing chores or similar while dictating a document. Then one of the ads shows a man who's writing a saucy romance novel - then closes and hides it when his family comes home. The software frees your hands - just make sure you're alone first.
  • The television ad for the NES game Fester's Quest marketed it as "one tough video game", such that "if you make just one mistake, you start all over again!" While this may appeal to the Challenge Gamer, it's odd to market "you have only one life and go back to the beginning of the game if you die" as a feature.
  • Fictional Example: A couple wand makers in Delenda Est tell Harry that they sell their wands on the basis that people change over time and are no longer compatible with their old wand. They also claim that most of their costumers buy new wands every couple years with some replacing theirs every few months. This is because their wands are mass-produced crap that is liable to stop working within months. Compare Ollivander's wands which are expected (and usually do) last a lifetime.
  • Any fan-books, photo-guides, or biographies that proudly announce that it is "100% Unauthorized". Meant to imply that it'll have juicy details that celebrities don't want you to know, more likely it's that the publishers didn't want to pay any residuals that might allow them access to any information or pictures not available through a quick Google search, while at the same time, being inoffensive enough not to draw any actual legal action.
  • Similarly, a film advertised as "the unrated version" might have saucy material too risque for theaters... or it might have a couple of deleted scenes no more or less extreme than what was already in there tossed back in, but the distribution company didn't want to go to the trouble to send the new version back through the MPAA ratings process.
  • The mobile messenger app WhatsApp does not use usernames, instead requiring the user to add another user's phone number to their contacts list in order to IM them. The app description touts the lack of usernames as a feature, stating that it means the user doesn't need to add users by username since in-app friends are automatically synchronized with the user's contacts. However, this means you can't add other users without either giving away your own phone number or asking for other users' numbers, and some users may not be comfortable giving away their phone number for a variety of privacy-related reasons, at least compared to a proprietary username. Competing apps line LINE and KakaoTalk have usernames, but also allow contact syncing.
  • The circa-2013/2014 fad among jewelers for marketing "chocolate" or "candy-colored" diamonds, which prior to this marketing-gimmick would've been considered very much inferior in quality because of their color.

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