A friend of a friend called the other day after learning that I work for Bourke Accounting. She wanted to know why she only received $1,200 as her stimulus payment and not $2,400. As a single mother of a 25-year-old son (with a family of his own), Facebook told her that she’s entitled to double the money. She didn’t believe me when I told her that this simply wasn’t the case. I invited her to visit IRS.gov for information. She snorted, said, “Who believes the IRS?” and hung up. Rude.
I trust the IRS website more than Facebook, but I, too, have been guilty of believing rumors. For example, when I was a kid, my friends and I heard we shouldn’t drink Snapple because the company was owned by the Ku Klux Klan. Need proof? Look at that little “K” in the circle on the label! When I admonished a friend for drinking the stuff, she stared at me like I was a mentally damaged puppy and carefully (and slowly) explained what that little “K” actually meant. You know that subtle and awful symbol of hate? Yeah, well, it actually means that Snapple is kosher. I like the Peach Tea.
While the rumor mill didn’t topple Snapple, the same sort of smear campaign almost destroyed Brooklyn Bottling in 1991. Eric Miller, who inherited the small company from his father, decided that the only way to compete with the Big Cola Boys was to offer a good, cheaper priced drink. So, Miller created Tropical Fantasy, increased the bottle size to 20 ounces and sold the stuff for the low, low price of 49 cents. Within a few months, this barely known company enjoyed a 50% rise in sales and netted 12 million dollars (LATimes.com).
Things were going great! That is, until the pamphlets started mysteriously showing up all over New York City. These pamphlets advised consumers in lower income areas that Tropical Fantasy was manufactured by the KKK and included “stimulants to sterilize” minorities (Snopes.com). In no time, sales plummeted by 70%, delivery vans were attacked, stores that carried Tropical Fantasy were vandalized and store owners were brutalized (Snopes.com). The rumor was so widely believed that one of the leaders of the KKK told a magazine that they were “not in the bottling business” (LATimes.com). As an aside and answer for anyone wanting to know who could possibly believe a random flyer: The Tuskegee Study was a real thing.
Eric Miller was mad. He hired a private investigator to find out where the rumor came from. No dice. He gave Tropical Fantasy to the FDA for testing; when they released their findings that Tropical Fantasy was safe, people still weren’t buying. Finally, Mayor David Dinkins, NYC’s first Black mayor, drank a bottle on television (Newsone.com) and the company rebounded. Dinkins, a respected and trusted figure, saved Tropical Fantasy with 20 ounces.
So where did this rumor start? Pepsi and Coke denied any involvement. Social psychologists maintain that not only had they never heard of a “commercial rumor being started by a competitor,” but that the repercussions wouldn’t be worth it if it were ever discovered (LATimes.com). Miller finally conceded that it may have been started by a disgruntled ex-employee (Snopes.com). That is some nuclear revenge and I never want to be on the wrong side of that guy.
It’s very important not to believe everything we hear. If we happen to hear something that’s totally Crazy Town, it also very important to talk to professionals to learn the facts. Let’s face it, most of us would not be described as the leading minds of the world, so talk to the people who are.
Bourke Accounting doesn’t start rumors about our competitors. At Bourke Accounting, our experts want you to know how great they are the old-fashioned way: by showing you. So, the next time you hear a too good to be true financial rumor, pop open a Tropical Fantasy Cherry Blue Lemonade and call your knowledgeable Bourke Accounting tax preparer or bookkeeper.
Written by Sue H.