Thursday, 23 January 2014


I watched a very silly advert on the telly today for a funny little red pill, which is meant to be really good for us in some inexplicable way. I can't remember the name of the pill. No doubt we'll soon see Carol Vorderman advertising it, saying it's got all the benefits of cod liver oil without the fishy taste. Anyway, what struck me as rather tragic about the advert was its pathetic and completely unnecessary use of quasi-scientific terminology. This pill, we're told, is full of EPA and DHA. What we're NOT told is what these letters stand for, or why we'd want to find them in a red tablet! A similar thing used to happen with Danone yoghurt and it's "Bifidus Digestivums". We never knew what Bifidus Digestivums were, but we wanted them because the woman's voice made them sound appealing. I think I'm right in saying that Danone actually invented the term to describe a sub-species of Bifidobacterium Animalis.

So there we have it: another less than subtle example of profiteers attempting to make us spend money we don't have. It's an age-old thing, of course. In World War One, emotional blackmail become de rigueur; "if you care about the soldiers in France you'll buy them foot salve, Zambuck and lice-killer."

We're more subtle these days. I recently saw a programme about the way that smell can affect our shopping habits. In one particular experiment, the same pair of trainers was shown to two groups of people, one of which was in a room which smelt of vanilla, and the other in a room with no scent whatsoever. Both groups were asked to say how much they thought the shoes were worth. Those in the vanilla-infused room valued the trainers at twice the cost as those in the same space after it had been well-ventilated. We all like to think we're somewhat impervious to these sorts of things, but when it comes to the sense of smell, all bets are off.

I bought a loaf of bread in Mark's and Spencer's in Wakefield just before Christmas, which I genuinely didn't need, simply because the woman in charge of the bakery had been instructed to leave the oven doors open to allow the extraordinary smell of freshly-baked bread to waft across the store.

This evening I went to the corner shop to buy a bottle of Ribena which I found in the corner in an upright fridge. I'm not sure the shop owners know that Ribena, as a cordial, really doesn't need to be chilled, but there we go.

Anyway, as I took the Ribena from the shelf, a terrible chain reaction occurred, which seemed to involve every single bottle in the fridge making a bid for freedom. I immediately ascertained what was happening and slammed the fridge door shut, which caused more bottles to roll off the shelves and end up leaning against the door, ready to create an astonishing avalanche of Tizer, Lucozade, tonic water and bottles of lime essence the next time someone opened the fridge. I apologised profusely to the shop owner, who was very laid back about things and said he'd deal with it. But there was really no hope. The moment that door opened, those bottles were coming out, and they were coming out en masse!

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