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 and contrast 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 ends up left in the game for some reason (usually because it's harmless and funny). 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. Deceptively Simple Demonstration is also an upside framed deceptively, only it doesn't tend to be an actual flaw. See also Deliberate Flaw Retcon, when the creator of an artistic work claims that flaws in the work were actually put in there intentionally. See also Polish the Turd and Damned by Faint Praise.
- The "Making Juice is Easy" ad went to great lengths to make the old juicing method of "buy produce, wash it, chop it up, put it in a juicer, enjoy your juice, and then clean the juicer" seem hopelessly difficult before introducing the simpler Juicero. This is because the Juicero was a "juice press" that could only produce juice from expensive ($5 USD at minimum) pre-made packets (you couldn't even use your own produce if you wanted to) that only last a few days and were demonstrated to be able to be squeezed out just as effectively by hand as with their $400 (originally $700) device.
- The device needs to connect to your wifi and sync with an app on your phone to read the QR code on the bag before you can put the pack in the machine and have it press your juice into your cup in minutes. Yes, they put DRM on juice. This annoying "feature" was described as practical and as a way to prevent using out-of-date or recalled packets, but in practice was simply forcing the use of the brand's subscription-based packet delivery, with the cheapest options (5 packets a week, using the cheapest flavors) still coming out at over $1600 a year and preventing use of any potential cheaper alternatives.
- Another commonly-mentioned claim was that the Juicero could press with up to four tons of force. This is because the Juicero had a pretty massive design flaw: the press it uses is very wide, and it distributes the force evenly across that press. If it pressed down over a smaller area, it would need only a fraction of the force to get similar results—hence why people found they could press juice out with their fingers. Essentially, they were advertising the fact that their device was so inefficient that they needed highly expensive custom-machined parts just to squeeze out a cup of juice.
- While not universal, a few "smart" appliances fall into this category. Computers have been finding their way into appliances since at least the nineties and electromechanical logic is as old as appliances themselves. However with some smart appliances, that logic, which was previously entirely self contained, is shifted to an app on your phone. This is mostly to make coding easier and so less processing/ logic has to be in the device itself. However, if the app stops being supported, it's entirely possible that the device will no longer work.
- An 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 because newer versions are explicitly faster and more powerful; it's a vacuum, the exact same model as the last one. 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 by the time he's hit 30?
- Dysons "never lose suction!" as long as you don't overfill them (which admittedly is user error, as the dirt tank is see-through for this very reason). There is nothing but "cyclones of air" protecting the motor vents; if you overfill, then dirt will suction directly onto and into them.
- The Cadbury Flake chocolate bar sold in Britain, Ireland, and Australia famously crumbles into flakes instead of melting like other bars. The company claims Flakes are produced using a 'closely guarded secret process', but food scientist Ann Reardon discovered in 2021 that the bar is very similar in texture to 'seized' chocolate, a state that usually arises from improper handling and ends in the chocolate having to be discarded.
- 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."
- 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. If it's bottled tea, as opposed to bags or an instant tea mix, it is presumably rather diluted.
- 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".
- 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.
- Some cheaper beers have begun to market the fact that they use clear glass bottles and countless more certainly exploit the aesthetic without making any claims about its superiority. After all, liquors are usually stored in a clear bottle, and doesn't that clear glass look so nice? Except beer can be damaged by ultraviolet rays, to the point it will eventually smell like a skunk. As neat as clear glass looks, it's actually cheaper than colored glass that can block out those rays. Thus most decent manufactures will use brown or, if they feel fancy, green glass, but it doesn't stop cheap beer manufacturers from marketing the pure clear glass their product is contained in.
- A flyer for Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches proudly touts that they only deliver within five minutes of the store as a feature to keep your food fresh and get it to you fast, but what this claim actually means is that the only people who can get delivery are the ones for whom in-store carry-out would be the most convenient.
- As pointed out by The Nostalgia Critic, a line of Kool-aid juice boxes were prominently advertised as having "20% juice", as if that were a positive.
- 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. If they are merely boasting exceptionally high player traffic, it may also be accurate to say those casinos are the place where the most losing is done. And here's an alternative interpretation: they never say that the winning is being done by the customers.
- Some lotteries — namely scratch-offs higher than five dollars — advertise 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.
- The UK's Premium Bonds scheme — a combination of bonds and lotteries, where instead of a small but regular dividend, the reward is the chance to win a (possibly huge) prize each month — was once advertised as "you never lose your stake". Some commentators pointed out that this was false, since your "stake" is not the money you paid for the bond (which indeed you can regain by cashing-in the bond at any time) but the dividend you would have earned if it had been a regular investment bond.
- 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 were, they'd say "just stick it in the dishwasher and you're ready to go!" One review on YouTube of the Ove-Glove specifically 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.
- 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 due to the lid falling off. Sounds like a great idea — one less dish to wash — but some reviewers have reported that the lid isn't "locking on" so much as it's warping. It sticks so badly that it won't come off when the pot is hot. Of course, attempting to pry the lid off carries a very high risk of burns. Other manufacturers have improved upon the idea with better results.
- 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...note
- Another device that was trying to get funded at the time of the Juicero disaster, was "SMALT - The World's First Interactive Centerpiece and Smart Salt Dispenser". No, your eyes are not deceiving you. An internet-connected salt shaker/dispenser with companion smart phone app. Rather than play the Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket route, they instead take it in the opposite direction by bragging about all the neat features it has compared to your average container of table salt. The average container of table salt that most people can use to season their food in less time than it takes to pull out their phone, turn on the app, select the dispenser setting and amount, set the mood lighting color, and have a conversation about the device that the company behind it advertises that it wants you to have with your dinner guests. Yes, really. Now we don't have much room to talk here, but if this device is the highlight of your dinner table conversations, then you may want to re-examine the choices in this life that you've made that has brought you to holding a riveting conversation about a freaking salt shaker. Keep in mind that Internet-connected appliances that have no real need to connect to the Internet often exist primarily to obtain and sell customers' personal information. The real purpose of the SMALT wasn't to grind salt; it was to collect data the parent company could profit from. Same with the Juicero (there's a reason Google gave them tens of millions in venture capital); same with all other similar devices.
- The granddaddy of all such 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. And if they did last long enough to go dull (about a year), they were so heavily serrated that they literally couldn't be sharpened, or at least not without much more difficulty and expense than simply buying a new knife.
- 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. Thinness matters, but only at the actual edge that's doing the cutting - blades that are thin all throughout 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).
- Ceramic kitchen knives also fall under this category. Depending on the quality of the ceramic used, they can very easily shatter, especially when attempting to flatten something using the blade turned sideways (garlic cloves are often prepared this way), though the packaging and/or the care instructions usually mention that you really shouldn't be using it for tasks that require lots of bending (like cutting cheese or smashing garlic cloves) or going through bone. The cutting edge can also be easily chipped and nicked. It's not that they never need sharpening, but that they can't be sharpened, at least not without a diamond-impregnated grinding wheel that's difficult to find outside of a machine shop, though better manufacturers will provide sharpening services on their blades for a small fee (usually shipping plus a minuscule labor charge).
- For cheap pocket and/or utility knives, it's not uncommon to see "surgical steel" used as a selling point. Obviously, the intended takeaway is that the knife is great because it's made from the same type of steel as a surgeon's scalpel, but savvy buyers know to steer clear of these knives because a scalpel is strictly used for the low-torque job of cutting soft tissue, and most modern scalpel blades are designed to be single-use and disposable. As such, they use very inexpensive, brittle steel; not the sort you'd want any practical utility knife to be made from.
- As a result of the 1973 oil crisis making new petroleum much harder to come by, record manufacturers tried to find various workarounds to avoid paying excessive amounts of money on raw materials. Most companies simply recycled scrap vinyl from old batches and made their records thinner and more lightweight, but RCA Records took this to a particularly strange extreme: using softer, lower-quality (though fresh) vinyl and making the records so thin that they could outright be bended in half with little effort. RCA decided to brand these "Dynaflex" records, and claimed that their light weight and flexibility would make them more durable in storage and shipping. What RCA didn't mention is that they were flimsy enough to warp under the weight of their own packaging, sometimes to the point of unplayability. Audiophiles nicknamed these records "Dynawarp." An odd side effect of both the use of recycled vinyl and the Dynaflex scandal was that kids growing up in the 70s abandoned vinyl like rats fleeing a sinking ship. The popularity of cassette tapes and, later, compact discs is directly linked to the fact that there was a time when you couldn't buy a vinyl record that didnt either skip or warp right out of the sleeve. Even today vinyl acceptance is at its lowest among older Gen Xers.
- 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 one minute to look up the answer online?" or "Why are you stalling with five minutes of padding when it takes one minute to look up the answer online?"
- Murder mystery reality show Whodunnit did something similar, proclaiming in its finale that it had generated a lot of internet buzz. But that buzz centered around viewers that thought the show was actually killing contestants instead of just fake-killing them, and the show was unremarkable otherwise.
- The advertising for the MST3K-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.
- 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 stock photo companies, while at the same time being inoffensive enough not to draw any actual legal action.
- Similarly, a film advertised as "the Unrated Edition" or "the Director's Cut" might have saucy material too risque for theaters... or it might have five minutes' worth 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 almost-identical new version back through the MPAA ratings process.
- For that matter a film that advertises that it is the "#1 film in theaters" is selling the film based on the number of ticket sales, not necessarily on its critical reception. Even if a film advertises that it "has all the critics talking", the film often has critics talking negatively of it.
- The makers of the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis tout a version for daily use, "so you can be ready when the moment is right". Ads for rival ED drug Viagra responded to this by saying "you only take Viagra when you need it".
- 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."
- One The Truth ad did a similar jab in their mockumercial for a pimple remover.
Girl #1: It burns a little.
Girl #2: It's just doing its job.
Girl #1: Guys, it's really burning! (falls over, promptly catches fire as the other two flee the room)
- 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.
- Many Snake Oil Salesmen and well-intentioned-but-ignorant alternative practitioners claim that the unpleasant side effects of their ineffective "treatments" are signs that the body is healing itself. The former group will even pick treatments that actively make the person sick to exploit this.
- Some generic pills boast that their bottles have "easy-to-open caps". This is basically a fancier way to say that they couldn't afford to give their bottles the child-proof caps (which need to be pushed down at the same time as they are turned, making it harder for unsupervised kids to get the bottle open and potentially overdose on the drugs inside) that brand-name versions often have. This is a legitimate benefit, however, for a medically impaired consumer without small children in the home (e.g. senior citizens or sufferers of arthritis), who would otherwise have an extremely difficult time opening a childproof cap.
- Sellers of leather product often advertise their products as having "genuine leather." It's easy to believe that genuine leather is a mark of quality indicating the product is made from real leather. However, genuine leather is a specific grade of leather, and it's actually the lowest quality of all animal leathers, apart from bonded leather. They make it by artificially finishing the top of low-quality leather to make it look and feel like high-quality leather.
- The term "top-grain leather" can be confusing to some. One might assume that "top" means "best", but it actually means it only uses the top of the hide (the other half is turned into suede). While top-grain is still higher quality than the aforementioned "genuine leather," the highest quality grade of leather is full-grain leather, which uses the entire hide.
- 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. Also, 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.
- Of course, real 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"! Wrong Side of the Tracks? Up-and-coming neighborhood!
Marge Simpson: It's dilapidated!
Lionel Hutz: "Rustic."
Marge Simpson: But that one's on fire!
Lionel Hutz: ...Motivated seller!
- Similarly, on Will & 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 well maintained, that means it has a history of needing a lot of maintenance, probably because it is badly built.
- There was an extended sequence of this running over 3 full strips in Ow, my sanity where protagonist Dave and Eldritch Abomination Nancy are looking for a place to stay.
Nancy: What about this one?
Dave: No good. See this here? Easy access to basement? Means there's a hole in the floor.
Nancy: Close to the woods?
Dave: Bats roost in the attic.
Nancy: Easy heating and cooling?
Dave: Removed the asbestos. Didn't put in new insulation.
Nancy: Private atrium?
Dave: Hole in the ceiling.
Nancy: Rustic scenery?
Dave: In Dunwich.
- The Highland Titles website assures potential buyers of a "souvenir plot" in the Scottish Highlands that their purchase does not need to be registered. It doesn't say that this is because the Scottish Land Registry does not consider this to be a genuine sale of land, and that legally, the plot remains with Highland Titles.
- The Laphroaig distillery does a similar gimmick, but are cheekily up-front about the purpose: After "registering" your plot, customers are welcomed to visit the distillery and claim their "ground rent" of a free dram of whiskey.
- The International Star Registry runs a similar scam, offering to name a star for your loved one and record the name in the Library of Congress for posterity. They really will do that for you, because the Library of Congress couldn't care less either way; so long as you pay the requisite fee, you could rename every star in the galaxy "Soiled Underpants" and register it with them if you wanted, but it would have no bearing on what the International Astronomical Union officially designates as a star's name. To their credit, the Star Registry website does admit as much if you poke around in their FAQ.
- Timeshares. Many an infomercial will tell you that the way to get rich is to buy and resell timeshares. What they don't tell you is, having a timeshare isn't exactly like owning real estate. What you're literally buying is time at a resort (touted as a "share" of the property), not anything tangible - think of it less as having a vacation home and more as having a guaranteed reservation at a resort. So they don't appreciate in value the way that homes do; if you later resell that timeshare you bought, you will almost certainly do so at a loss. Also, you may not get to choose the week you want, depending on the resort, and if you fail to keep up with the maintenance fees (which are set by the resort, and not subject to any caps or restrictions, meaning they can go up at any time), you could be on the hook for the entire cost of the unit as if you were actually buying it as a condo or house. That's not to say don't ever buy one; they can be a good investment in the kind of things money can't buy, such as happy memories and time spent with people you love at a place you love, and they can be good for people who would like to have a vacation home but don't want to deal with the expense of actually buying and maintaining a second or third home. But they are not a good monetary investment, and they have a lot of fine print you need to be aware of before you buy one.
- Any game that claims "X Hours of Gameplay!" but falls under Fake Longevity under closer scrutiny. Parodied on the box of some versions of Earthworm Jim (one playthrough of which is about the length of a feature film in a bid to avoid that problem) which claims some overly specific three-digit number of hours of gameplay.
- Open-world games that make a big deal in advertising about how big their sandbox is also usually fall under this. The implication they want you to take away is something like "we had so many ideas to put in the game that the map can't possibly be any smaller than this". What more often seems to be the case is that the size of the map was set in stone in the first meeting, simply to one-up whatever game from last year had the previously-largest playable area, before actually thinking up anything to fill it with ending up with an impressively-massive game world that's a chore to navigate and, outside of the city you begin in and some pre-placed enemy encampments, is almost entirely boring and lifeless.
This problem goes back to at least 1984, and Xavior on the Spectrum; the blurb boasted "4,096 screens" and "32 great level designs", carefully omitting to mention that these two combined meant that (1) all those screens looked pretty much the same and (2) slogging through them rapidly became a chore. It thus took over 20 years for the game to finally be completed and for it to be discovered that the end-game routine doesn't work.
- 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 PSP library is useless, apart from whatever games you've already bought for download. In addition to forcing you to buy your physical games a second time, the vast majority of PSP titles never became available as downloads, leaving... unauthorized firmware as your only option to play them on a Go.
- Compounded by the use of Memory Stick Micro (M2) which only went up to 16 GB max in cards released, same as the internal storage of the console, despite theoretically able to have up to 2 TB with the XC standard used elsewhere in the Memory Stick range, which would limit the amount of games you could store on it and the console, meaning that even if you got games ripped from UMD as implied above, you may not be able to store your whole library on both console and card.
- 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 without understanding precisely what you asked it to do.
- Procedural generation in general gets a lot of this. For instance, some games tout that their levels are procedurally-generated from playthrough to playthrough, meaning that every time you play the game again, you'll have a new level to explore that's unique to you. What this actually means most of the time is "this game's levels were created by a random number generator, meaning either that they're so bland and samey that even a computer couldn't screw up making them, or the computer did screw up and the game is now unwinnable." Most often, it refers to survival games that randomize the locations of their resources this is technically a new experience, yes, but the only real effect it has on gameplay is that you can't look up where to find specific items online (but can still look up where items will appear in general). Two specific examples:
- A big fuss was made about Spore before its release regarding it "always having something new" so you can "play it forever" because of its procedurally generated worlds and player-made content. In the released version, the procedural generation does not have any tangible effect on gameplay, so "playing forever" really just entails doing the same things over and over again as you would in any other game, but with different models and a lot less depth than others like it so as not to risk doing anything with those models that the spline system couldn't handle well. Yes, you could play it forever and always see new things but they never promised that doing so would be fun.
- A similar can of worms was opened with No Man's Sky touting the exact same thing and having the exact same result.
- A trailer for Rise of the Robots boasts about the game's allegedly complex AI. All the points it made about the AI learning and adapting to its opponent turned out to be Blatant Lies, but the mention of the computer "reading your moves" turned out to mean "On hard mode The Computer Is A Button-Reading Bastard."
- One of Nintendo's revisions of the Nintendo 3DS is cheaper than the standard version, but at the cost of not having the 3D capability that the system is named for. Nintendo compensated by advertising the "2DS" as for children, as the 3D effect of the regular 3DS could damage young eyes and the 2DS carries no risk of that. Fortunately for them this totally worked, though more so due to the lower cost making 3DS games available to people who didn't want or care about the titular aspect.
- 3DFX marketed its Voodoo line of graphics cards as not requiring users to throw out their old graphics cards. In reality, this was because 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 (such as actually starting those games) 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. Most recognized the technique as a "piggyback" card, similar to MPEG-2 DVD and VideoCD accelerators at the time (the late '90s). As the technology caught up, single cards capable of doing both 2D and 3D competently including 3dfx's own Voodoo3 line and beyond started appearing.
- 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.
- Upsillon Circuit takes the harshness of Fester's Quest one step further: You can only play once. EVER. When you die, you are never allowed to play again! And this is marketed as the ultimate hardcore challenge. An indie game You Only Live Once also made this a feature.
- 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 like LINE and KakaoTalk have usernames, but also allow contact syncing.
- A lot of smartphone games use an ad that has some variant of "NOOB", showing a player doing unimpressively, and "PRO", which shows a player doing very impressively. The implication is that these are games that reward skill in reality, most of the time, the "PRO" is doing impressively because they're higher level, and higher level in these games requires nothing more than Level Grinding (or, more realistically, spending lots of real-world currency). They did tell you there's a big difference between someone who's been playing for five minutes and someone who's been playing for five years, but they didn't say that difference was actual skill This is especially obvious in ads for Idle Games, where the "PRO" literally isn't even doing anything (since by the higher levels in such games, the only thing the player can do most of the time is watch their cash accumulate until they can buy something).
- Fallout 76 was heavily advertised with the statement "Every character you talk to is a real person!" This is a very polite way of saying "this game has absolutely no human NPCs in it." Sure enough, by far the most common criticism of the game was that twelve-year-olds in voicechat shouting racial slurs didn't offer much in the way of interesting character work.
- Fallout 4 advertised itself as having over 240 perks: an impressive accomplishment, when 3 had only 61 standard perks in its base game and New Vegas had 90. However, this advertisement left out two facts. First, the above listing included every individual rank of perks that could be upgraded; without that qualifier, it clocks in at a much less impressive 70. And second, in the prior games, Boring, but Practical abilities like flat increases in weapon damage or healing item efficiency were governed by skills rather than perks, but in 4, the skill system was effectively gutted and merged (more properly replaced wholesale) with the perk system meaning that this number was now bolstered by perks that were less "neat tricks your character can do" and more "things you have to pick up to ensure your character is competent." The intended message is "just imagine what kind of amazing tricks you can pull with so many perks at your disposal!"; in practice, between the small number of genuinely unique perks and the need for them to pull double duty, you won't be doing much you couldn't do in earlier games.
- Apple's "new" Liquid Retina display. It's just their new term for the liquid crystal display (LCD) that was in every iPhone before the iPhone X, and it's inferior to the newer OLED technology also used by Apple.
- In the early 1980s, a high-end and expensive graphics card offered the "feature" of "hardware anti-aliasing", which consisted of pixels wobbling in place. Users of the ZX Spectrum were familiar with this effect, only they called it "dot-crawl".
- The NES's Aladdin Deck Enhancer advertised itself as upgrading the game experience with more RAM and graphical power. What it didn't let on was that it was only compatible with a handful of games, and in the case of said handful, the Aladdin basically was their RAM and graphical power. Compatible games don't function in a standard NES without the Aladdin, due to it containing those components, and nearly all of them were also available as regular NES games no different from their Aladdin-compatible counterparts. It's less like upgrading cartridges, and more like breaking them in two and selling the parts separately. It's technically an upgrade, but in the sense that a functional but average game is an upgrade over a game that's missing its parts and doesn't fit in your NES. The actual reason was that the Aladdin was an attempt to keep costs down by taking shared components of their cartridges (including one to bypass NES copy-protection) and selling them as a separate part that consumers would only have to buy once.
- PC games sometimes advertise themselves on how hefty their filesize is, with the implication that they're insanely powerful or expansive, suitable for letting the strongest rigs show off what they can do. Most of the time, this actually owes to their files not being coded well, and the parts that deal with actual gameplay make up a small fraction of that while everything else is just random audio files that haven't been compressed properly and textures comparable to earlier games bloated out to 4K resolutions for its own sake. RAM requirements are a frequent sign of this; if the recommended amount is, as of 2020, anything higher than 8 gigabytes, then the game is probably forcing your system to pick up the slack for poor optimization on the developer's part.
- Fate/Grand Order is known to do "rateup" campaigns dedicated to a specific character, showing them off on a big banner with something like "JEANNE 5☆ RATE UP!" emblazoned next to them. What this leaves out is the mechanics of rateup; it's not that five-star characters become more common, it's that if the lottery decides you'll get a five-star, it is more likely to be that character. It's technically true that you're more likely to get that character on that campaign, but that's because the odds beforehand were basically zilch the odds of getting any five-star is 1%. The rateup just means you have a pretty good feeling of which five-star you'll get, assuming you get one of those 1% instances. Needless to say, "RATE-UP IS A LIE" remains a fairly popular curse in the community.
- The infamous "What Can You Do With A Terabyte?" commercial by Comcast, which came in the wake of their adding a 1TB cap to their service. The video focuses on how many cool things you can fit in one terabyte of data, ignoring that a) most of those "cool things" are things like photos or snippets of text that don't eat up much bandwidth, as opposed to actually consumptive things like games or streaming, and b) you could do all this already; Comcast is just declaring that you now have to pay them extra if you want to do anything else.
- The Atari Jaguar's system architecture is notorious for having been a convoluted mess, most notably a pair of 32-bit chips and various 64-bit parts that took a lot of work to rig together properly and would end up missing basic features because of it (many Jaguar games didn't have music, for instance, because the co-processor with sound hardware in it couldn't reliably handle that while also acting as a math co-processor for the "main" CPU, which most developers used it for). This was spun by Atari's marketing department as the two chips actually making it a 64-bit system, far outclassing others on the market. In theory, the Jaguar did indeed have some pretty impressive tech for the time, but most developers couldn't or didn't access its full potential, using alternative methods that left its games lagging behind even 16-bit titles. Other than the Nintendo 64, which fell into a lesser instance of a similar problem,note other console developers would altogether abandon using their consoles' bit sizes as indicators of how "powerful" their systems were in part because of this.
- In an infamous statement, John Romero claimed that Daikatana was supposed to be an "expert-level FPS", and that the difficulties players were having with it came down to being used to games where the only real objectives were shooting and dodging, while Daikatana required the player to be more mindful and challenged them in different ways. Which is true, but only if you consider "figuring out which of the guns in the game won't accidentally kill you when you fire it in a given situation", "knowing speedrunning techniques, much less when to use them to avoid unfairly-placed enemies, ahead of time", "trying to coax your AI partners to walk across a room without getting stuck on nearby scenery", and "being forced to take damage in a long fall to proceed" to be different kinds of legitimate challenges.
- Former prepaid cellular service Virgin Mobile USA bragged that it did not impose roaming charges. The reason was that, at least at the time, it did not offer roaming.
- Some internet sellers of (usually non-official) Transformers toys will advertise that they include "conversion" packaging. Sounds pretty cool, considering the toys themselves are built around the idea of converting (the official term for changing from robot to vehicle and back). However, conversion packaging is a euphemism for "not having the original packaging and instead shipping the toy in whatever they have to cut down on shipping costs." Depending on the consumer, this could either be a boon ("yay, less packaging that I need to throw out and it lowers shipping") or a deal-breaker ("boo, I can't display the toy mint in box").
- The Ford GT90, an actual built concept super car made in 1995 was powered with a 720 hp quad-turbocharged V12 DOHC engine with the idea being it would re-kindle the glory days of the GT40 in a then modern version, and be a test bed for new technology. It also had a slight problem in that the heat from the engine exhaust could damage the body of the car, thus requiring ceramic tiles to protect it, much like those used for the heat shielding for re-entry into Earth's atmosphere on the NASA space shuttles. Ford actually bragged about this "feature" by citing its need with that powerful of an engine, and the use of space-flight technology.
- Used cars have had owners and car lot salesman come up with so many excuses to sugar coat various issues, that it's become a joke to genre savvy buyers and the cynical and sarcastic among us. Examples: "This car is hot!"note , "Minor water damage"note , "Project Car"note , and "One of a kind!" note Some of these and more have been used (and illustrated) in Carfax commercials to highlight their service—which is to help provide actual vehicle histories to reveal which ads are cases of this trope (or other deceptions), and which really are good deals. This deceptive terminology was parodied in the Garfield and Friends episode "Rolling Romance" with the following exchange:note
Used Car Salesman: This car is a steal!
Garfield: (to the audience) Stolen car.
Used Car Salesman: It's a very clean car.
Garfield: We just fished it out of a lake.
Jon: How much do you want for it?
Garfield: Take my wallet; I'm a sucker.
- The characteristic vibration of a Harley-Davidson V-Twin 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 90° will vibrate a lot, with the effect increasing the narrower the angle. This also incorporates a bit of The Coconut Effect. Some Japanese-made motorcycles are faster and/or more powerful than Harley-Davidson ones, but because they don't roar as loud or vibrate as much, they're seen as the "inferior" products. For their part, the non-Harley-Davidson portion of the market have a popular reply: "Harley-Davidson, the most efficient way of converting gasoline into noise without the side effect of horsepower."
- Various micro-car manufactures have made adds about how deceptively strong the frames of their cars are. SMART ran an add where an SUV was placed on top of a SMART car doing very little cosmetic damage. The SMART car was then placed on top of the SUV and did serious damage to the roof. However, few manufacturers mention that this wouldn't really be a good thing in a standard sized car, the modern theory of accident survivability being geared toward introducing weak points in the car frame to decrease deceleration. The problem with micro-cars are that there is very little, if any, room for these crumple zones. As a consequence, micro cars have to be sturdier in order to bounce off impacts rather than be crushed. Normally, bouncing is really bad, as it results in a lot of trauma to the body, but it's better than being outright crushed in this case. Still, a driver of an SUV can often walk away from a crash that sends a micro car driver to the hospital, or worse.
- On the other end of the spectrum, purveyors of the classical Hummer Dinger-style SUV tend to cite its safety for the driver, due to its giant land-tank status conveniently leaving out that this also makes them much more dangerous for anyone else on the road, due to the fact that they're so much larger and heavier that they pretty much flatten smaller cars and pedestrians where a sedan would leave a few dents.
- When first issued to troops in Vietnam, the original M16 was described as a 'self-cleaning' weapon (this only actually applied to the gas system) which led to its notorious unreliability, until the military introduced the improved M16A1, issued cleaning kits for it, trained the soldiers how to maintain the rifle like they should have done in the first place, and made modifications to the powder used in the cartridges (to help prevent undue fouling) and the rifle itself (to resist fouling and actually facilitate cleaning and maintenance; the earliest version could only fix issues via near-complete disassembly). It didn't help that several features that made the M16A1 more reliable, like the chrome-plated bore, were already in the prototype weapons but then eliminated to reduce cost.
- In a rare version to come out of a communist country, recruiting posters before WWII advertised how easy to use the Red Army's new toy, the SVT-38, was. They especially mentioned how easy it was to disassemble, ignoring that this claim was because the gun could actually come apart on its own. Worse, "easy to disassemble" does not necessarily mean "easy to put back together". After the Cold War, some gun shops advertised that the SVT-38's successor, the SVT-40, used a nifty pinless disassembly system. They of course neglected to mention how much easier the gun would be to take apart if it was held together by pins rather than spring pressure. Red Army grunts who were lucky enough to be issued onenote joked that if you needed to take the thing apart, you needed to find a willing comrade to help you.
- Be wary of any cheap sword or fantasy weapon made with "historically accurate practices." Usually it will only be some historical practices, like the use of lower quality metal (and minus the tempering to fix that) or the lack of modern techniques like quality control.
- A sub-example of this is "folded steel." Yes, it was used to make katanas but that's because it's a technique to remove impurities from and increase the durability of low-quality metal. Simply using good-quality metal would have the same effect, so the maker is either knowingly using bad steel, using unnecessary forging methods, or flat-out lying, none of which bode well.
- Claims to be made of "stainless steel", when dealing with medieval weapons. It sure sounds high-quality, but stainless steel isn't just "regular steel but better", nor is it more expensive than regular steel. It has a number of downsides that make it really unfavorable for the purpose of being a weapon, including being far less flexible and resistant to wear compared to, say, carbon steel. It does have advantages, mainly the fact that you don't need to really worry about rust, advantages that come into play if you just want something to hang on your wall and look nice, and there are cases like armor or short blades where stainless steel does have its place. But in the case of swords, the big-ticket item, try to use it like an actual weapon or even just swing it around experimentally, and there's a not unlikely chance it'll fall apart. But then, "MADE OF HIGH-GRADE CHROMIUM STAINLESS STEEL" sounds a lot more appealing than "FOR DISPLAY PURPOSES ONLY".
- Knives (or even worse, swords) that can store somethingnote in the hilt. This means that implement does not have a tang, the part of the blade that sits within the hilt and keeps the visible part of the blade connected to it. Such blades are extremely likely to break off their handle, and are often derided as "knife-like objects." More often than not, the storage compartment is just the cavity left by the injection molding process, itself another mark of a cheap knife. Putting a lid on this cavity and labeling it as a storage compartment makes it seem elite, and can often be sold for much more than an actual utility knife with a storage compartment in its sheath.
- In the rifle market, many manufacturers sell guns advertised to be as close to military-grade as possible while still being legal. Few mention that this isn't really a good thing unless you happen to be a collector. Military rifles have loads of features that are basically useless for civilians (bayonet lugs, for example - if they aren't illegal on their own where you live, actually attaching a bayonet to them very likely is) and often lack features civilians would find handy (cheek rests, adjustable stocks, higher and more consistent accuracy). This is because they are either making the guns from the same machines they use for military orders or building them from surplus parts, slapping in a semi-auto-only trigger group, then jacking up the price on the assumption that the buyer won't know better. Back in the day when stocks of military surplus rifles were high, it was common for them sell about half the price of civilian rifles of similar capabilities. Now it's common to find military style rifles that sell for twice as much as a "sporterized" version of the same platform. Keep in mind as well that these are weapons designed for use by the military - the military that wants to save as much money as possible when they're buying weapons to arm hundreds of thousands of soldiers. There's an important distinction to be made here: something built to military spec means, if all else fails, you can buy individual parts from several different manufacturers and build a gun out of them without worrying whether they fit together properly, since they're designed to do so to make replacement parts easier to get and painless to use; something built to military grade means it was made by the lowest bidder, and so probably won't be good for anything other than as a display item.
- Several weapons based on designs from the "Combloc"note are advertised as made from genuine parts kits. This is even worse than the above "military grade" guns, as it's a fancy way to say "used" (and to downplay just how used they are). It means not only are the guns assembled from random parts from actual militaries, it also generally means that these parts are from the guns these countries don't want anymore, usually because they are worn out from being in constant use since the '50s and '60s. If a manufacture does take the time to make sure it's using quality second-hand parts, they will usually advertise the weapon as being made from refurbished parts, and their efforts will generally be visible even to an untrained eye.
- My Lil Reminder, a small voice recorder, says it's "unobtrusive" 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.
- 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 who are 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 could be just as worthlessnote . Besides, everyone knows the universal currency of Post-Apocalyptia will be bottlecaps and AK bullets.
- Some manufacturers of alternative wedding rings (particularly tungsten rings) boast that their products are more robust or "tougher" than gold. Unfortunately, this 'toughness' means that if you need to have the ring cut off in the emergency room - not an uncommon occurrence, especially for pregnant women - it will shatter. A gold ring that's been cut off can be repaired in a few minutes.
- This is a common feature of State News, where political and economic blunders are presented as a good thing. For example, whenever Russia does something other countries find deplorable and gets slapped with economic sanctions, the media is quick to point out how this is actually a good thing because it will help grow Russia's native industries. They neglect to mention that while some local industries might grow, it's probable that more will wither away because their international market becomes reduced and they can't obtain raw materials as cheaply. Taking an economic hit that puts hundreds of thousands of people out of work in exchange for a few thousand new jobs is a net loss. Note that if sanctions were good for any country, they would be the ones the imposing the sanctions, not having them imposed upon. (Of course, countries sometimes do this regardless, like Russia itself with "counter-sanctions".)
- 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.
- 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!" Originally a sketch from a Lost Episode of At Last the 1948 Show.note
- 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".
- In most diamond mines, alongside the select few diamonds that are the most desirable colors (clear, yellow, pink, green and blue) there tends to be a large number of undesirable diamonds that are only able to be sold as industrial diamonds (such as for diamond-tipped power tools) because they have a dirty brown color to them. Industrial diamonds are far cheaper than diamonds for jewelry, so to try to push them into the more lucrative jewelry market, there's been a push to marketing them as "chocolate diamonds." This had been done once before, in the '70s, when they were marketed as "cognac diamonds" and pushed as the more masculine alternative to white diamonds and better suited for men's jewelry. Now the target audience is women, and anything called chocolate supposedly feels more feminine. The irony is, brown diamonds can be quite lovely◊ even without the marketing spin.
- With the rise of artificial diamonds, the current marketing spin for natural diamonds is essentially the All-Natural Snake Oil angle: you don't want something artificial for your future spouse, you want something that was dug out of the ground. It's an odd angle to take "our product was made available through what is essentially modern slavery in terrible conditions while yours was grown in a lab at no real harm to anyone" and make out the latter as the one who should feel guilty.
- Overlapping with Snake Oil Salesman, some jewelry stores sell hematite rings and other forms of jewelry, claiming that they "absorb negative energy" and will break when they've had too much of it. What they don't tell you is that while hematite is quite hard, it's also naturally quite brittle, and doesn't stand up well to stress at all, especially when shaped into a thin ring band. Consequently, people take the fact that their metal ring just snapped in half after less than a month of wear as a sign that the effect is working, and go back to the store to buy more rings.
- Auction sites such as QuiBids that advertise fantastically low prices on goods either leave out or bury in the fine print that you have to pay x amount of money for each bid, and that you have to place numerous bids to keep from being edged out. So yes, you can get that high-end laptop or big-screen TV for $98, but only after you've spent several hundred dollars bidding to win it. Lose the auction? Don't worry, you can still get the item by applying the money you spent on bids toward retail price and paying the difference. Can't afford the full MSRP? Well, then you're boned.
- Sonichu is infamous for its poorly-drawn art style and use of the cheapest equipment possible (ballpoint pens and Crayola markers). When defending the style, the creator claims the "hand-drawn" style is superior to other comics simply because it was not drawn on a computer.
- One of the downsides to brine shrimp as pets is that they're so small and transparent as to be almost invisible. Because of this, the makers of Sea-Monkeys sell two packets: one is a "water purifier", to be added a day before, and the other is "instant life eggs." In reality, the eggs are in the first packet as well, while the second contains dye. The "instant life" effect is just the already-hatched brine shrimp being made visible by the dye in the water.
- Cheap LCD drawing boards advertise themselves as easier to erase than a regular chalkboard, since it only takes one button. What that means, of course, is that you have to erase the entire board if you make a mistake, since they lack a "reverse" feature higher quality ones do.
- Martial arts:
- Many a McDojo will claim that instead of teaching a typical martial art like karate or taekwondo, they instead use the teacher's personal variant, which innovates on the old standards. The implication is obviously that their version is the superior one, but usually what this actually means is that even the teacher recognizes that they haven't really mastered the martial art in question, and their "innovations" are just the things they're ignoring, taking shortcuts with, or teaching inadequately. Keep in mind: most modern martial arts are, for all intents and purposes, sports and exercise methods. Would you broadcast that you teach people how to play your "personal variant" of baseball?
- A common claim by these dojos is that they offer an "advanced" course that can let you reach black belt rank in a matter of months. The intended meaning of this is that the training program is so intense and masterful that it will make you into an expert fighter. More typically, what this means is that it's about the same training as the standard course, only the teacher bumps you up a rank every couple of weeks, regardless of how well you're doing. The only significant difference ends up being that it costs five times more than the standard course.
- Many lamps and lights are advertised as having "no more lightbulbs to change", because as soon as the integrated LEDs fail, you have to replace the entire fixture instead of changing a bulb.
- 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.
- 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 customers 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 to (and usually do) last a lifetime.
- In Alien: Isolation, Seegson constantly touts the advantages of its android line, "the working Joe." Compared to the Weyland-Yutani androids we see in other material, the working Joe has a really creepy crash-test-dummy appearance as opposed to looking completely human, is hooked up to a central mainframe (which can be hacked or corrupted) rather than being self-contained, and seems to have no sense of morality or doubts about following even the most murderous orders as opposed to requiring modification to even consider taking a life. The advertisements instead claim that this inhuman appearance is obviously better because it (supposedly) avoids the Uncanny Valley or fears of androids disguised as humans, and their total lack of morality, independence, or decision making is better because it means it'll always do what you tell it. Needless to say, it has nothing to do with both of these things being far cheaper than the alternative.
- 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).
- In one random event in Civilization: Beyond Earth, the Seawater Refinery works way too well. The player can choose to send the excess to farms for boosted food production, or to the town reservoir for free upkeep. Either way, this becomes "A feature, not a bug."
- In Deltora Quest, a huckster advertises a kind of "wheel of fortune" game called Beat the Bird. The wheel has a 50-50 shot of giving the player no money back, with an effectively worthless wooden figurine of a bird as consolation, and a few options that do give the player money only let them break even (and on top of that, the game is fixed). To cover this up, he proudly declares that "every player wins a prize!", even though a comparatively small percentage will get a prize that isn't a ripoff.