Thursday, November 8, 2018

Can You Do The Math?

Everyone needs a few good items of clothing, so, although the bulk of my haberdashery comes from Walmart, I occasionally purchase more respectable habiliments from Charles Tyrwhitt, a fine English supplier with offices in the U.S. Consequently I am on their e-mail list and periodically receive advertisements.

Last week their ad announced “three shirts for $99.95”. (These are very good shirts, so this would be a bargain if I needed shirts.) And the advertisement also displayed, below the price, a large circular insertion that said, “That’s only $33.32 per shirt”. Yes, it really said that.

My mind yet boggles. It would surely be reasonable for Charles Tyrwhitt to posit that their clients have at least completed grade school. Nonetheless, the company feels it advisable to tell prospective customers that ninety-nine divided by three is thirty-three.

We hear about the ‘dumbing-down’ of life. How bad is it? Have we reached the point where companies selling fairly high-end products think we are all idiots? Could they not assume that even mathematically-untalented people--such as me--can handle elementary arithmetic?

O tempora! O mores! (What times! What customs!) as Cicero said (although he was referring to the conspiracy of Catiline rather than advertisements for togas). Indeed, one could continue quoting from the First Catilinian: Quo usque tandem abutere patientia nostra? (How long will you continue to abuse our patience?). Companies will perhaps sell more products if they do not insult the intelligence of their patrons.

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