Translating the Full Costs of the “Language Professors Hate Him” Ad
May 15th, 2012
The only thing that can be “absolutely guaranteed” is that there is no way to learn a new language in only 10 days. This ad links to a language-software website called the Pimsleur Approach, which advertises its courses at $9.95 with free shipping. People who purchase the software at this price, however, then have to make four additional monthly payments of $64, or $256 in total. Not only that, they are then automatically sent the next level, which leads to another $256 charge. For more information on this sneaky marketing tactic, see our section on negative-option offers.
Another red flag to note: In May 2013, the National Advertising Division recommended that Pimsleur discontinue or modify claims in its advertising. In particular, the NAD objected to the phrase “learn a language in 10 days.” The NAD found after 10 days consumers who followed the program could expect to have learned enough of a language to engage in basic conversation, but could not expect to be fluent. The NAD also recommended Pimsleur discontinue any ads that imply the language program is “Quick and Simple” and “requires no effort.”
Update: The company selling Pimsleur, Internet Order LLC, entered into a $1 million multi-state settlement with the office of the New York State Attorney General requiring it to reform its negative option marketing practices.
This story was updated several times, most recently on 9/1/15.
The National Advertising Division, or NAD, is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. NAD asks advertisers to substantiate or change their claims in advertisements. As part of a voluntary system of self-regulation, however, its recommendations can be ignored by the offending advertisers. In those instances, NAD refers the offender to federal consumer protection agencies.