Thursday, January 3, 2008

Massachusetts' auto dealers lose their right to use the asterisk

Massachusetts’ auto dealers have had their right to use an asterisk taken away. Eight Massachusetts’ auto dealers have been slapped with fines for abusive asterisk pricing. While the auto industry does rely heavily on the asterisk they are not the only industry to use the now defamed typographical symbol. Asterisk pricing can be deceptive to the uniformed consumer, but is it so harmful that consumers in Massachusetts need their state to dedicate resources to crafting its demise? And isn’t it a bit short sighted to regulate the asterisk within only one industry? Asterisk pricing allows a company to show their best price, even though some restrictions might apply. It helps to create a competitive advantage over competing ads in like-ad saturated circulars. While you could argue that the asterisk is the lazy marketers’ attempt at price competitiveness, it does serve a purpose when used correctly. And shouldn’t we trust that the consumers we are speaking to are educated enough to know that an asterisk denotes that there is more information to read. Of course after writing that last sentence I realize that we don’t have enough trust in consumers to not use a hair dryer in the shower without directive. So perhaps the regulation of the asterisk is just one more nail in Darwin’s coffin.

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