Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sucker Punched

Even though I'm retired, I still look through many press releases that show up in my email inbox. And it's still possible, after all my years of cynically looking at PR, to be sucker punched. It happened today.

A seemingly sincere item was sent out on the PRNewswire under the following title: "New Survey Reveals Effects of Current Economic Conditions on Americans' Relationships." The subheadline was, "Expert Shares Advice for Putting the 'Spark' Back into Your Relationships."

I read with interest how the economic downturn had put a strain on personal relationships. That "78% of (the 1,001) adults surveyed said they now spend about the same or less time and effort maintaining their relationships with their significant other compared to before the economy turned."

On the heels of a New York Times article on Sunday that reported findings of a similar survey by Rutgers University of 1,200 unemployed—that 58% admitted to strains in family relations and 52% said they avoid social situations with friends and acquaintances—I was intrigued to find out more.

And then the worm turned. The PR story continued by saying that aside from unions with their significant others, "consumers spend a large portion of their lives in relationships with valued objects, like the ones they have with their cars," and those relationships are deteriorating as well from less scheduled maintenance and lower tire pressure.

Aha! Though the release offered tips to reinvigorate relations with one's partner from Dr. Robi Ludwig, a relationship expert and psychotherapist who hosts the reality TV show, "One Week to Save Your Marriage," it really turned out to be no more than a shill for an oil company trying to sell more of the gasoline it claims can help a car run "younger and longer."

Upon further review of the press release I should have been quicker to realize the fix was in. The name of the survey was, "Renew Your Vows and Valves Survey."

Perhaps retirement really does slow down your mental reflexes.