Virgin Wines doctor voucher again, apologists enjoy humble pie

14 December 2009

Last week we told you how a marketing company called The Customer Club was already picking at the carcass of Borders - the book chain is yet to close down, but The Customer Club has acquired Borders' mailing list and is spamming addresses with requests to join their loyalty scheme. The bait to sign up? A £40 voucher for Virgin Wines.

We suggested the Virgin Wines voucher was confusing at best, because the minimum spend in the small print read more like "£19.99" than "£79.99" - although the amount is clarified before the voucher is processed, the point is that some customers wouldn't proceed that far if the amount was displayed correctly.

As usual, after publishing an article in the best interests of the consumer we were promptly savaged for criticising the company in question. Here's what avid Bitterwallet reader Steve had to say in the comments:

Please…the font they have written the £79.99 in says 7 not 1. If you look at the rest of the numbers in the text, they are all the same font. Why would a Virgin branded company actually try to dupe customers. “deliberately cut and paste the “79″ from a different font so that the “7″ looks like the “1″ in the font used for the rest of the voucher” – Are you frickin kidding me!

Why don’t you write about what a shame it is these poor people are losing their jobs at Borders just before Xmas, or the sorry state of of our debt ridden country rather than an attack on Virgin Wines who actually sell some lovely wines, at great prices with award winning customer service! I know this because I’m a customer.

A couple of points straight off the bat - at no point did we attack the quality, pricing or service of Virgin Wines, and in fact there were plenty of comments both for and against the company in that respect. In terms of why a Virgin branded company might actually try to dupe customers; we don't know the answer, only that they've tried it in the past - as we pointed out in the previous article, a near-identical promotion was banned by the Advertising Standards Agency a year ago.

However, Steve's comments did prompt us to revisit the story in case we'd been too hasty in damning Virgin Wines. Was it only us who thought the "£79.99" price had been doctored to read as "£19.99"? Here again is the voucher in question (you can click here to see it full size):

Bitterwallet - Virgin Wines voucher
Look at the "£19.99" typeface. Just look at it. With your eyes. At first glance it reads "£19.99". Yes it bloody does. Has it been fiddled with? Well, there's that gap between the £ and the 1 that isn't wide enough to be a space. And then there's that 7. It's wrong. You simply don't see Arial-style fonts where the 7 has a vertical stalk while the rest of typeface is curved or angled.

So it was just us who had a problem with the voucher, then? Absolutely not, as we discovered when we decided to double-check the voucher last night (large version here):

Bitterwallet - Virgin Wines voucher - updated
Spot the difference?

Bitterwallet - Virgin Wines voucher - before and after

Obviously somebody else felt the voucher might confuse the customer because somebody in the past couple of days has thoughtfully inserted a 7 from a typeface that actually exists. Not very well, though. So was it a genuine-but-completely-improbable mistake or a deliberate fiddle?

TOPICS:   Advertising

25 comments

  • xman
    Whyo does avid bitterwallet reader steve work for I wonder?
  • Steve
    Virgin have now sacked me over this so I am free to tell you the truth.
  • Chris H.
    I'm convinced that's a 'narrow' version of Century Gothic (the lowercase 't' is quite distinctive and different from most other Sans Serif fonts). If that's the case, the original 7 has absolutely been doctored.
  • The C.
    [...] Virgin Wines doctor voucher again, apologists enjoy humble pie … [...]
  • Warwick H.
    Virgin trying to fidddle the customer - Well I never !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • bob
    @Chris Hill, the font used is definitely not Century Gothic (or a narrow version), all the numbers are different. Look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_Gothic IMO, the short top of the 7 could just be how the image has been resized poorly. The bottom 2 rows of text show signs of this, not just the 7.
  • Aran
    I work as a graphic designer at an agency. By consumer law any small print has to be atleast 6 point and be 100% clear to read. There are only a handful of font's that have 7's that look like 1's, and this is precisely why it's been used. Misleading and intended to be!
  • Bored
    "Well, the gap between the £ and the 1 that doesn’t wide enough to be a space." Er,,, "The first 9 is a different shape to the second two." No, it isn't.
  • Kez
    I beileve the '7' was a 7 done in Gill Sans Ext Condensed Bold. But why did someone use it when the '7' can be confused for a '1'? Someone needs shooting!
  • blagga
    Sweet mother Jesus. An interesting story has unleashed a tedious swarm (I think that's the collective noun) of nerds. You've killed the scoop for me, kids.
  • Aran
    Blagga, The Breakfast Club called they want John Bender's attitude back.
  • ScottC
    "So was it a genuine-but-completely-improbable mistake or a deliberate fiddle?" Completely improbable? Perhaps in the world of BW, but not for the rest of the populace. The reason you guys generally get "promptly savaged" is because 90% of the articles here are either non-stories, or (as in this case) blown out of all proportion, combined with some kind of "conspiracy theory". Your website, you are entitled to write what you think - obviously! But the reason you get slated so often is as above. Lets be totally honest, if you werent constantly linked from HUKD, I doubt thered be more than a couple of hits a day. Moral of the story - dont slate your readers and commenters, you only serve to alienate more.
  • andy y.
    I'm sorry that's arse. This is a shiny example of corporate scamming. Kudos to BW for sticking it to the beardy man.
  • Paul N.
    @ScottC - I'd stand by this story as the very reason Bitterwallet is here. I think this is a perfect example of large companies playing fast and loose with grey marketing tactics. That you stand by them shows how deep the corporate brainwashing goes. Same story with apologists for the barely a deal yellow labels....
  • The B.
    Did I mention that Virgin Wines are shit?
  • ScottC
    Paul - I dont "stand by" Virgin Wines. At all. Virgin are a horrendous company. what I am trying to drive at is that this site can be (and often is) the consumer equivalent of alien abductees in terms of their conspiracy theories, and the making of tiny areas into massive deals. I am however pleased that SOMEONE finds a reason for Bitterwallet to be here....
  • Junkyard
    Seems like a reasonable story to me Scott. Perhaps not the most earth-shattering topic BW has ever tackled, but it really gets on my wick when companies get away with tactics like this, and it's great to see someone pick them up on it.
  • ScottC
    " Perhaps not the most earth-shattering topic BW has ever tackled" My point being that it probably is.
  • ScottC
    Paul has asked me personally if I have any gripes with this site generally, and just to answer publicly as well as privately - I do not. I would however, like to apologise if my posts have been perhaps aimed unfairly at the site, as opposed to my personal disagreement regarding this specific blog entry. I do however, stand by my opinion that it is a stretch to say this was delibrately misleading - that is just my opinion, and obviously others will differ :) However, my opinion of the site has been changed (slightly) on the back of Paul going out of his way to see if I had any genuine concerns, and I feel it would be unfair on him and the site to just apologise for any unconstructive posts privately rather than publicly also - hence this post :)
  • Euan
    When it's in the context of a case of 12 bottles, what sort of gnat piss would it have to be, to be £19.99? Even if you think it's a funny looking 7, it doesn't exactly take a genius to work out that 19.99 is the wrong size of number there.
  • -]
    The BW comments section is full of astorturfers/corporate stooges doing their very best at guerilla marketing. They fail, very very badly though. This is a pro-consumer blog, they stand out like spare pricks at a wedding.
  • @
    I think I speak on behalf of the team when I say that this is exactly why we want to avoid out-sourcing work... It was a poor font choice really.
  • Customer B.
    [...] in December, we stumbled upon a company called Customer Club - we’d begun receiving newsletters from them on behalf of Borders, shortly before the [...]
  • Virgin B.
    [...] Difficult to know what else to call it, really. If we buy a box of Merlot, will Virgin Wine stop spamming us? Can they tell we only joined to keep an eye on their shady flyers? [...]
  • Vance W.
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