This morning I saw a new commercial for Ally bank, which you can view here. If you haven’t seen it, please watch it now so I don’t have to describe it below. It only takes 30 seconds.
Normally, I actually like the Ally bank commercials, using simple situations with children to show that some things banks do are wrong and Ally doesn’t do them. They’re funny and they make their point cleverly. (That they have to use children to make their point makes me wonder how stupid they think people are, but that’s a whole other issue…)
Ally is saying it’s unfair to give the new kid ice cream, and if you’re the less new kid you sympathize with him. Most of us went through it with cell phone companies at one point before they started equalizing the promos for new and existing customers. When new customers get a bonus that existing customers don’t get, that just doesn’t seem fair, right? We should all be treated equally, right?
It sounds great, but you have to see how treating everyone equally will actually play out in the market. In this case, credit card companies offer teaser rates to convince people to open up new lines of credit or transfer existing lines. I’ve done it — transferring higher balances to 0% for a year, knowing full well the rate will go up after that year, but in the meantime I’ve saved hundreds of dollars. If Ally is going to treat everyone equally, they either have to give everyone a year at a really low interest rate or give nobody that year. As the commercial makes clear, Ally doesn’t give anybody teaser rates.
The commercial is cute, but it plays on our notions of fairness in a twisted way. If Kid A is getting ice cream but Kid B isn’t, most of us think the fair solution is that both kids should get ice cream. But if you actually take this commercial to its logical extension, nobody’s getting ice cream. An honest commercial would have both kids going up to the ice cream cart and the man saying, “Sorry, new kid — since I can’t give him a scoop, I can’t give you a scoop. Nobody gets ice cream here.”
I always tell my students that when I grade their exams and homeworks, it’s not an exact science. I try to be consistent, but when you’re giving partial credit, sometimes you give one student 8/10 for an answer and another student 8.5/10 for a very similar answer. Usually there’s a slight difference, but sometimes after a long night of grading the words start to blur and I just make a mistake. I tell students to compare their grades with their friends’ to see if the grading on each question is consistent. And if they find a situation where their answers appear to be the same but their grades are different, they should bring their exams up to me. My remedy for the situation: I will either explain how their answers are different and why that resulted in a difference in their scores or, if the answers are basically the same, I will mark the 8.5 down to an 8 so that everything is fair. I say that as a joke, and they all laugh because it’s so obviously unfair to the student who received the 8.5
But that’s exactly what Ally is so proudly doing here.