A Chinese tourist looks at a pack of crickets named HiSo snacks at a supermarket in Bangkok, Thailand. Picture: AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit
A Chinese tourist looks at a pack of crickets named HiSo snacks at a supermarket in Bangkok, Thailand. Picture: AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

We’ve become hoodwinked by meaningless stats

By David Biggs Time of article published Apr 28, 2021

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I think we have become so used to being hoodwinked by our leaders that we take hoodwinking for granted. It’s become a natural part of daily life in this country.

A full-page advertisement for a local supermarket offered my usual breakfast cereal at a reduced price recently and the offer included “a chance to win a car”.

I bought the cereal because it was on my shopping list anyway. I think the offer of a chance to win a car was just a scam.

For one thing, they had no record of my name or contact number. The teller simply scanned the box and took my money. So if my purchase had won the car they wouldn’t have been able to tell me.

Another frequently used scam involves un-checkable statistics. “Clinically proven to provide relief in 98.7% of cases,” they tell us, knowing perfectly well nobody’s going to question that number.

How do you measure “relief” for a start? And which clinic proved it?

A toothpaste brand promises “whiter teeth in 14 days”, but is there a measurable scale of tooth whiteness? And what can you do if your teeth are no whiter after 15 days? Who cares?

We suckers just accept the claims and part with our money. We are told daily how much we “save” when we buy our groceries at this or that store. “Now only R39.99. Save R 7.56!” But that’s complete nonsense.

Does it mean the price at other shops is R7.56 more than this price, or that last week’s price was inflated in this store by R7.56? They’re just meaningless numbers.

Fake statistics have become an industry. But those fake statistics must obviously work, or people wouldn’t bother to invent them.

Maybe there’s a whole new professional field out there, just waiting to be exploited. Universities could offer degree courses in hoodwinking techniques and offer successful candidates a Bachelor of Arts degree in imaginative marketing.

Graduates would be entitled to append add the letters BA BS after their signatures.

But I’m obviously behind the times. It seems certain prominent politicians have already added their own fake degrees to their names without even bothering to complete the imaginative marketing curriculum. To them I can only say, “Well done sir! You’re way ahead of your time.”

Last Laugh

At an international agricultural convention farmers from all over the world gathered to share their knowledge.

During a break an Irish farmer got chatting to a Texas rancher. “Do you know,” bragged the Texan, “my farm is so big I can get in my truck in the morning and drive in one direction until sunset and still not reach my other boundary.”

“Ah, to be sure,” said the Irish farmer. “I once had a truck like that too.”

* "Tavern of the Seas" is a column written in the Cape Argus by David Biggs. Biggs can be contacted at [email protected]

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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