I sometimes wonder whether we are, as a species, as stupid as marketers think we are. We may be.

I first noticed this more years ago than I care to count when I saw that prices of various goods were invariably rendered a penny less than a round dollar. You know, $3.99 instead of $4, the implication being that we’re paying $3 rather than $4. But we are obviously paying $4, and we all see through that little ruse. Right?

I don’t know. This has been going on so long, and is so universal, that I suspect it works.

Here’s another one: I have never yet, it turns out, purchased a losing ticket from the Nebraska Lottery. Radio ads repeatedly ask me to send “non-winning” tickets in for some consolation drawing.

“Non-winning,” as in “losing.”

I can just hear the guru at the marketing convention in Acapulco: “Whatever you do, don’t say ‘losing!’ That’s negative! People will feel better if you say ‘non-winning.’” Genius at this level can be expensive.

Have you noticed that people who want you to attend their seminars always have “limited” seating? The point, obviously, is to panic you into reserving your opportunity to buy a timeshare or jump into a house-flipping scheme before all the “seats” are gone. Here’s a promise: If you call the 800 number there will always be a seat. Besides, what does “limited” mean? If they had a million seats then the seminar would be “limited” to a million people.

Here’s the latest one: I see a large builder of new homes in the metro area, who shall remain nameless, has initiated a marketing campaign urging people to buy new homes (like the ones it sells) instead of “used” homes (like the ones most real estate agents sell).

Apparently, “used” conjures an undesirable image, which is very useful for people who build new things. For a while there, car dealerships took this phobia to memorable heights by describing used cars as “pre-loved.” This, of course, did not make the cars any less used. It just made us laugh at the dealerships. Real estate agents have long deployed crucifixes and garlic against the word “used.” Instead, their listings live in the comfortable universe of “existing construction.”

And so it goes.

I tire of radio broadcasters assuring us that “their friends” at such and such a place do the greatest job ever at this, that or the other thing, and that they’re delighted to recommend that we avail ourselves of their unique services.

Now we know, do we not, that the moment “their friends” stop sending in their payments is the moment we stop hearing about these unparalleled opportunities.

I like wry honesty in commercials, like the Omaha CPA whose radio ad plays off the Dos Equis campaign by describing himself as “the most uninteresting man in the world,” boringly and monotonously concerned only with your financial health. “Stay boring, my friends,” he very boringly says.

There’s my man: wry, and not stupidly manipulative.

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