Counterpoint by Scott Freeman Two little words are a big smokescreen


Two little words make all the difference. No, I don’t mean ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – that’s three words anyway – but the marketing man’s smokescreen: ‘up to’.

It’s years now since I have fallen for the January Sales when shop windows are obscured by posters promising ‘50% OFF’ in lettering three feet high with the sucker-punch ‘up to’ scarcely taller than a cockroach in its stockinged feet.

We all know that the chances are that, even if we are tempted inside, we find a single rail of sorry-looking garments pattern-cut for an obese dwarf or a rake-thin giant.

And the price reduction is always more modest than the promised half price – sometimes barely a bargain at all.

Presumably they are able get away with this blatant confidence trick by ensuring one item, perhaps a Paisley-print posing pouch, is the requisite half original price.

This week internet provider BT has taken this charade one step further. With a fanfare of news headlines, the firm has said consumers will be able to get ‘superfast’ broadband speeds of UP TO (my italics) 300Mbs by next spring.

The news release – dutifully parroted by TV radio and newspapers – says its current speeds are allegedly closer to 40Mbs (megabits a second).

I sometimes wonder how stupid they think we are.

I currently pay for a service, which claims to offer ‘up to’ 20 Mbs. But the reality is that all I get is between 1 and 5Mbs. That’s right, as little as a twentieth of what I am paying for.

Why do we put up with this?

If Sainsbury’s were selling boxes stating ‘up to’ 24 biscuits with a miserable couple rattling around in the bottom of the packet or ‘up to’ 144 teabags when in reality there were half a dozen they would, quite rightly, be brought to book.

BT – once a nationalised industry – has recently announced profits up 18 per cent to £628m.

That would be considerably less if its customers were able to pay ‘up to’ the £13 a month it charges for its services in line with what is delivered.