Service of Inflation II

October 7th, 2010

Categories: Audacity, Cheating, Deception, Inflation, Information, Lies, Manipulation, Manner of Speech

This is the second in an inflation series. The first came closer to the standard meaning of the word, addressing rising prices in light of government assurances that they weren’t. The inflation in today’s post is about overstuffed promises.

Ethan Smith covered a story in The Wall Street Journal, “Live Nation’s Diller Resigns as Chairman Amid Turmoil,” in which early in the article he described a PowerPoint presentation given by Live Nation’s chief executive Michael Rapino at a summer investor conference that Smith described as “disastrous.”

Smith wrote: “One slide in a Powerpoint [sic] presentation implied that with the help of Live Nation it would take a contemporary recording artist just three months to vault from obscurity to selling out concert arenas.” Smith continued, “Most in the music business believe a more realistic timeline to be on the order of two years.”

No wonder Barry Diller resigned. More people should discourage this kind of fact-bloating behavior.

You may have read posts and comments here that illustrate claims as outrageous as Rapino’s. The reaction of too many is to shrug and think, “Business is business.”

No it isn’t.

On the one had we have specialization to the nth degree in everything from medicine and law [people who help select juries] to sports [the left handed pitcher who shows up to throw to the left handed batter and returns to the bench for the duration].

At the other end of the spectrum are the people who know nothing about a subject and babble on about it with overstated claims. I’m not referring to the face cream marketing and sales types who assure that their glop will remove your wrinkles or the pill pushers who claim theirs will slim a person by 20 lbs in a month. I think they know better.

I am referring to the people you’ve worked with and/or observed in action who attract business with Rapino-like outrageous claims and they don’t know what they are talking about. Do they keep the customer or client? Do they sleep at night? Do they care?

Checking out services and claims is so easy today with easy access to online information and linking in with knowledgeable people around the country without having to move from a chair. How come so many of us still appear numb–even mesmerized–by inflated claims?

Is it because we can’t get over the bigger is–or must be–better syndrome from huge tasteless strawberries, enormous restaurant portions, gargantuan boxes of snack foods and cups of soda, humongous houses and ginormous hedge fund and entertainment [star and sports figure] salaries?

So I repeat: good for Mr. Diller.

Can you share examples of inflated promises that tick you off or of high profile people who put their foot down and refuse to be associated with the verbal inflation approach to business?

4 Responses to “Service of Inflation II”

  1. ASK Said:

    “Inflated promises,” “inflated claims,” “don’t know what they’re talking about,” “verbal inflation,” not to mention bald-faced lies…sounds like you’re writing more about politicians here.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    ….any snake oil salesperson fits your descriptions although I admit as I wrote this I also thought of pols.

    But blah blah artists come in all shapes and sizes and in every industry. My Mom had a friend whose eye specialist refused to operate on her eyes and explained why doing so would accelerate her condition 10 fold. She went to two other specialists and they agreed with the first doctor. The fourth doctor did the deed and she went blind in record time as warned. You can always find someone to sell you what you want to hear and take your money.

  3. Zacheria Said:

    Interesting. I don’t usually think of inflation in the sense of exaggeration, but your idea makes a lot of sense.

    I can recall from when I was active in business, practical ways in which this “inflation” business wrecked havoc with the way my employer did business.

    Like most companies, we had an annual budget process that required us to submit for approval pro forma budgets for the coming year. Implicit in the process was the need, impressed on us by senior management, to “do better” each year regardless of reality, and the certainty that management would increase your revenue goals and decrease your expense goals during the budget revue process. Of course, if you inflated your goals to make management happy, and then didn’t make them, you risked being fired, or at least losing your bonus.

    Consequently, my approach to the exercise was totally at odds with what senior management told us to do which was to plan “bottom up.” I would, sharing what I was doing with only my most trusted subordinates, secretly figure out, before we started the planning process, how we would probably do the next year taking everything into account. Then I would start the “bottom up” planning just as we had been told to do. When we had our review sessions within our division, I made sure, regardless of all the data that the vastly elaborate and time consuming process had generated, that the expense and personnel goals were inflated at least 10% and our revenue goals were even more understated. Then I worked out elaborate reasons to defend why we had the goals we did.

    When I met with senior management, it would change my numbers back to reality, sure that we would never be able to make their “stretch” goals. We almost always did, and I did great at bonus time.

    Then, one year, my boss, who I liked a lot, tripped me up. He talked the chairman into approving my plan without any changes. Was my face red! We exceeded revenue goals by 20%, while people count was 15% below what I had asked for. He and I had a good laugh about it, but my bonus wasn’t any bigger than it had been the year before.

    The trouble with this is that inflation is basically another form of lying. How on earth can a company chairman be expected to manage his or her company competently if s/he isn’t told the truth?

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    If management requires the senseless yearly revenue increases-which is something I don’t agree with because so many times doing this results in increasingly lousy service and quality–it gets what it deserves from staff. It all becomes a silly game of inflation. It was this kind of mentality that egged on the current financial crises…the push for bigger and bigger and bigger, more, and more and more until the whole thing went splat.

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