"Before taking advice, consider the source."

The author, a salesman/consultant, wants us to discern deceptive sales pitches in all areas of life and understand why we are susceptible to such pitches. Once our basic human needs are met, we pursue our wants; that makes us the willing dupes of every kind of “pitch”—for material goods to religion to a political party. And in symbiosis with our gullibility is our ability to convince, deceive, and manipulate others into buying what we’re selling. Garland shows us how, as babies, we soon develop a pitch for attention and basic needs—the scream. Later, confronted with the word “no,” we develop more subtle pitches to overcome resistance. Growing up, we learn to pitch ourselves in order to be members of a group and find a mate. A successful sales pitch nearly always involves “a misrepresented truth,” so Garland asks us to consider: what is truth? What we take as truth is actually only true “circumstantially.” Advertisers know this, and manipulate facts to make us feel that we need something that enhances our image of ourselves, making us feel we need it now.

Garland’s logical narration keeps the reader’s interest by injecting humor as well as by posing thought-provoking ideas designed to make us question our usual decision-making. He deals with standard advertising ploys for various products—women’s clothing, wine, and entertainment—as well as deception and manipulation inherent in religion and politics. His text is practical, forcing us to think seriously about why we visit a store or a web page and how we can overcome those habits. The author concludes with some sensible “universal maxims” urging us to take charge of our choices. In a time when deception seems to loom in all forms of media, Garland offers a sane guidebook to thinking beyond the hype.

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