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Just calling a shovel a price increase

“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.” [David Ogilvy, British advertising tycoon].

In the last week or so, I have received two similar emailed letters from different providers/services.

It is probably more tasteful for me to paraphrase the correspondence so paraphrase it I shall.

Paraphrasing will also give me the opportunity to employ a little hyperbole, irony, euphemism and parody. As well I shall create fictitious names for the businesses because that can be loads of fun. The first example is from Acme Big Fun Leisure Supplies [wink, wink].

Kia Ora Wyn,

We’re writing to you not only because we care about you but also because we want to tell you about some upcoming changes to your Acme account.

Prices for Big Fun Leisure Supplies [always delivered in plain wrappers] have not changed since, let me think, possibly even the 1950s, so in order for us to continue offering you the best leisure supplies the market can provide, we are going to raise them. The prices, that is.

For your convenience, this change will start next month. If you pay by direct debit, you will have to give your bank authority to raise the amount but the good news is that, because you are paying in twelve monthly installments, the change will hardly be discernible when divided by twelve. It will certainly be a piffling amount.

If, on the other hand, you pay one lump sum annually, the increase is going to look rather bigger so we recommend trialling the monthly method.

We are certainly very happy to be able to continue supplying you with your requisites and if you stay with us long enough you could well receive another letter just like this one.

Yours faithfully,
Acme Big Fun Leisure Supplies

The second, from Big Value Marketplace [not its real name], looks like this.

Kia Ora Wyn,

We are, hand on heart, absolutely committed to helping you enjoy great and meaningful experiences in the marketplace. We do this by being good at what we do and striving to offer you the best value service we can.

The purpose of this email is to inform you that, in order to keep offering you the best value service we can, we are going to have to raise our prices.

This is not our fault; we are driven by greater forces.

These new prices will apply as from next month and the transition will be seamless and possibly even pleasant.

We are delighted to continue offering you our wonderful service.

Big Value Marketplace

Now, are those letters examples of verbal pussyfooting or what! Hasn’t history already taught us the horrors of painting the language lily, of going over the top, of over-egging the pudding, of not calling a shovel a shovel?

Because fine words butter no parsnips, I have decided to step in and design a simple price-rise letter which businesses are free to use to send to their customers.

In a world where businesses seem to beat about the bush, I would like to be one who walks straight through the middle without the drama.

I feel my version successfully eschews obfuscation, it doesn’t add unnecessary bells and whistles and it doesn’t dress up the truth. Nor does it call a shovel a curved spatulous device for excavating the soil. It is forthright but sincere.

Dear Customer/User,

This is to inform you that, as of the first of next month, all our prices will rise by 10 per cent.

Thank you.

There! Job done!


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Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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