Consumers From Another Planet

TO WIT

May 26, 1991|By Dave Barry

Recently I was watching TV, and a commercial came on, and the announcer, in a tone of voice usually reserved for major developments in the Persian Gulf, said, "Now consumers can ask Angela Lansbury their questions about Bufferin!"

As a normal human, your natural reaction to this announcement is: "Huh?" Meaning: "What does Angela Lansbury have to do with Bufferin?" But this commercial featured several consumers who apparently had been stopped at random on the street, and every one of them had a question for Angela Lansbury about Bufferin. Basically what they asked was, "Miss Lansbury, is Bufferin a good product that I should purchase, or what?"

What we are seeing here is yet another example of a worsening problem that has been swept under the rug for too long in this nation: the invasion of Consumers From Mars. They look like humans, but they don't act like humans, and they are taking over. Don't laugh. We know that Mars can support life. We know this because Vice President For Now Dan Quayle, who is the administration's No. 1 man in the space program, once made the following famous statement:

"Mars is essentially in the same orbit . . . somewhat the same distance from the sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe."

You cannot argue with that kind of logic. You can only carry it to its logical conclusion, which is that if there are canals, that means there are boats, and if there are boats, that means there are consumers, and apparently they are invading the Earth and getting on TV commercials.

I saw another commercial recently wherein a middle-age man gets off an airplane and is greeted by his wife, who says something like: "What did you bring back from your trip?" And the man replies: "Diarrhea." Yes. He probably hasn't seen his wife in a week, and the first thing out of his mouth, so to speak, is "Diarrhea." Is this the behavior of a regular (Ha ha!) human? Of course not.

The worst thing is that, as Martian consumers take over, they're starting to influence the way businesses think. I received chilling evidence of this recently from alert reader Rick Johansen, who sent me an Associated Press article by David Kalish about food manufacturers who are putting less food into packages, but not reducing prices. One example was Knorr brand leek soup and recipe mix: The old box contained four 8-ounce servings, but the new box, which is slightly larger, contains only three 8-ounce servings. The story quotes a representative of the manufacturer, CPC International, as saying that this change was made because there were "a lot of complaints from American consumers that we were giving them too much in the box."

Sure! We believe that! We believe that all over America, consumers were sitting around their dinner tables, saying, "You know, Ralph, I am sick and tired of getting so much soup in a box. I'm going to write in and demand that they put less in without lowering the price."

"Good idea!" Ralph would answer, pounding his fist on the table.

No, those were not American consumers who complained to CPC International; those were Martians. Also, most product instructions are now written for Martians. Alert reader Mark Lindsay sent me the instructions for the Sunbeam Dental Water Jet; under the heading Important Safeguards is the statement -- I am still not making this up -- "Never use while sleeping." Don't try to tell me that's for earthlings.

And how about all those manufacturers' coupons featuring Exciting Offers wherein it turns out, when you read the fine print, that you have to send in the coupon plus proof of purchase plus your complete dental records by registered mail to Greenland and allow at least 18 months for them to send you another coupon that will entitle you to 29 cents off your next purchase of a product you don't really want? Do you think anybody besides extraterrestrials ever actually does that?

I have here a package sent in by alert reader Roger Lyons, who purchased a Revlon Pedi-Care Toe Nail Clip device for $2.19 at a Giant supermarket in Washington, D.C. On the package is Revlon's Full Lifetime Guarantee, which states that if you find any defects, you should follow this procedure:

"Wrap securely in a box or mailing tube. . . . Mail insured and postage paid. . . . Notify us within six months if implement is not returned. . . . guarantee is not applicable if implement has been serviced by other than Revlon, has been abused or allowed to rust. Keep lightly oiled in a dry place to avoid rusting. . . ."

And so on. Who would do this? Only Martians! Face it, human consumers: They have taken over. It's too late to do anything about it. Your best bet is to stay calm, remain indoors, maybe oil your toenail clippers. Me, I have to set up the landing lights on my lawn. Zorkon is bringing in a new group tonight. *

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