Not undersold

Sometimes I hear the line, "We will not be undersold" to advertise a sale. For instance, I might hear an ad for a carpet store, and they'll say what types of carpets they have, the discounts, etc., then they will proudly declare: "We will not be undersold."

I've never really understand this statement. What does it mean, exactly? They want to get rid of their inventory, but why do they have to phrase it like that? It sounds like some kind of legalese. Do they think that we really care whether or not they'll be undersold? All we care about are good prices for quality products--it's the company's problem if they have to get rid of their products.

Maybe, a long time ago, someone once came up with that line and said, "That sounds Important--let's use it" and then other companies decided to say the same thing because they wanted to sound important, too.

Well, they're just selling stuff--they're declarations are not for posterity.


Jon Konrath said...

When I worked at Monkey Ward a million years ago, the slogan was something to the effect of a price guarantee, like if you bought something, and then brought in a Sears ad that was a lower price, they would open up the cash till and hand over the difference.

After that, I remember there was this price guarantee war, where people were offering 150% the difference, then 151%, and so on. But it seems like that stopped. I wonder if it was for some legal reason. I know now that using the word 'guarantee' can be a dangerous thing. Maybe there was some legal falling-out that made then use the undersold line instead. Besides, if you say 'we will not be undersold', you are not contractually saying that you can't be undersold, or that you'll do anything if you are. It's like saying a product is "high quality". That's a qualitative statement, and you can't say "I bought this table and it was of a quality level 8 which isn't that high, so give me my money back."

It's also shorter to say 'we will not be undersold' than 'We offer this weird guarantee where if you bring in an ad from a competitor, we'll refund the difference', which probably matters if you're making radio and TV ads of a short duration.

Anonymous said...

So you're saying that it refers to a guarantee rather than the amount of inventory they have? If so, then they're not effectively getting their message across.

Jon Konrath said...

Oh, I missed what you were asking I think. Undersold in this usage would refer to selling at a lower price than any of their competitors. It was my speculation that this is commonly used based on the fact that using other words like guarantee would possibly open you up for some legal problem.

Another issue with price-match guarantees is now you can almost always find a lower price on the web, so places have to add some legalese prohibiting that.

I thought these things were dead and gone, but it looks like some stores still do it, like Staples.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing that up, but it's still strange--it sounds like a serious declaration. And I wonder if people understand it anyway.