The Journal Times is up to its old tricks, running a deceptive ad aimed at taking advantage of unsuspecting readers.
Remember last January, when the JT ran a full-page ad selling an over-priced "Amish man's miracle idea" for cutting heating costs? We headlined our report Caveat Emptor, Journal Times' Amish Edition.
Well, that was then -- Wisconsin was in the ad's "frigid zone" -- and this is now, when Wisconsin is in the new ad's "sizzling zone."
The new ad is remarkably similar in all respects to last January's selling dressed up Chinese-made electric space heaters. The new ad, appearing for the first time in today's Journal Times -- and in other newspapers as well -- took up a full page (we've printed here the two-page version of the same ad we found on the 'net, since the JT didn't put theirs online). It touts a portable "air cooling breakthrough," also Chinese-made, that uses "the same electricity as a 60-watt light bulb."
The ad spends most of its copy and graphics playing up the $50 gas card purchasers will receive as a bonus. The biggest picture, as you can see above, is of a crowded gas station -- totally irrelevant to the product being sold. In fact, there's just brief mention in the ad of the price of this wonder: it's $228. Plus, what you don't find until you click through the ad's website and go to check out, an optional $28 for a two-year warranty. Plus $49 for shipping.
And then there's the cooler itself, "a work of engineering genius," the ad says, that uses "the extra cooling power of the the reusable glacier ice blocks." Translation: put these liquid-filled plastic containers in your freezer until they freeze solid, and then place them where the fan will blow air over them, lowering the air temperature by "up to 10 degrees."
Did we mention the price: $305? For a FAN! But hurry: You have just 48 hours to call our toll-free numbers and receive your FREE $50 gas card.
As a poster put it on the Consumer Reports website, "What ever happened to truth in advertising?" What, indeed. Or for newspaper ad departments showing a little common sense, rejecting the fast buck and exercising respect for their own readers.
Interestingly enough, the post referred to above is one of only a few I found on the internet specifically about the Cool Surge "eco-friendly cooler." Another, on Regruntled.com, pointed out: "Since the whole system (fan + refrigerator to freeze the glacier ice blocks) is ventless, it makes your house warmer, not cooler. That is, the fan blows cool air in your face, while your refrigerator makes the kitchen warmer. On average, the house gets warmer."
But if there was not much online about the Cool Surge, there was plenty about the company behind the ad: Universal Techtronics of Canton, Ohio, sometimes referred to as Universal TechTronics.
A July 3 post on the New York Times' technology blog, Bits, headlined A sucker is converted every minute, reinforced my own doubts about this product. It pointed out, "The Cool Surge will cool you — if you stick your head next to the vents." But the Times' piece wasn't about the Cool Surge at all; rather, it was about yet another deceptive product ad from the company, for a "free" digital TV converter box. "The gimmick: the box is free, as long as you pay $88 for a five-year warranty, plus $9.30 shipping."
Oh, and you don't need it at all if you have cable. And, "Given that government-approved converter boxes sell for $60 or less, and a government-issued $40 rebate coupon is available for the asking, this deal obviously makes no sense."
The Better Business Bureau has called Universal TechTronics’ business practices “unsatisfactory,” and "a bait-and-switch tactic" preying "on consumers' lack of knowledge" with regard to the TV converter. MSNBC had a similar report on June 23. So did The Consumerist. And the Los Angeles Times.
So consider yourself forewarned when we see this next ad in the Journal Times!