You can call me lots of things — but gullible is not one of them. I have never assumed that new products work as magically as the late pitchman Billy Mays said they did.

One adage I’ve long taken to heart: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

TV-pushed products, through 60-second ads or 30-minute infomercials, probably vary in quality. (Don’t think I’ve ever order one.) But there is one aspect that always turns me away — aside from the announcer’s intensity.

It’s the added: “And that’s not all.” After making great claims for a new product, an offer of another great product “for free” is thrown in. The “bonus” always makes me think the primary product must come up short of its claims.

One approach to being a wise consumer involves references. We find out what kind of experiences others have had with a product or service.

The emergence of the Internet widened the circle for feedback. Various forums allow for a wide range of individuals to offer praise or condemnation of just about anything being offered for sale.

But now this:

A recent article in Parade magazine (if you can believe them!) claims that companies now pay about $1.6 billion a year to get persons to post positive views about their products in online forums.

You mean the guy in Jersey who just put the best set of tires he has ever owned on his Mustang may have been paid by the tire manufacturer for saying so? You mean the cruise line may have paid the well-traveled couple to claim that their ship surpasses the competition by many knots?

Social websites like Facebook are also formats where paid-endorsers readily sing the praises of particular products and services, according to the article. The Federal Trade Commission is considering its regulation options.

“When you’re being paid to promote a product, you usually have to disclose the relationship between you and the advertiser,” an FTC official is quoted as saying.

Hmmm. That must be why infomercials put “paid endorser” on the bottom of the screen when an aging TV or movie star pumps their goods.

Oh, well. Even in the more trivial aspects of life, belief is not so easy.

Belief is an important part of our lives. The challenge is in the discernment — making wise choices about what to believe.

[PS: Travel through Israel with Tony here.]

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