Annoying (Insulting? Predatory, even?) H&R Block Advertising in Atlanta

I am easily annoyed. The thing that is currently annoying me most? The two H&R Block signs I have seen up in my neighborhood. I live in the East Atlanta area. One sign is located at Flat Shoals and Bouldercrest. It reads, “I got people.” Am I the only one who finds this really insulting?

I wonder if only an English major might find this insulting, or do all well-educated people see this as condescending? What about the not-so-well-educated? Do they even realize the condescension inherent in the statement? To me, it reads: “We think you are uneducated and incapable of understanding proper grammar.”

This guy thinks it is a great advertising campaign. He writes: “You could argue this is condescending or exploitative, but we think not.” Count me as one who finds it condescending, exploitative, and throw in an “offensive,” while you are at it.

The other sign is located on a billboard at Fayetteville Rd. I can’t remember the exact wording, but it is selling a “Refund Anticipation Loan.” Boy, that sounds great; I need to get me one of them. This one is so predatory, that I am not alone in questioning the ethics of it. To be fair, it is not only H&R Block taking advantage of the ignorant; This is evidently a pretty widespread business practice.

I guess if meeting your bottom line at the expense of the ignorant is great, then yes, the H&R Block ads are serving their purpose, and are therefore successful. That, however, does not make the campaign great, and certainly doesn’t make it right. As a Libertarian, I think people should be free to advertise in whatever way they see fit. I just know that I would not want my name associated with a campaign like this.

My final thoughts on the ads? Are they popping up all over Atlanta, or is H&R Block targeting only the poorer, less-educated areas of the metro Atlanta area?

15 Comments so far

  1. Cap'n Ken (unregistered) on February 28th, 2007 @ 7:46 am

    It’s probably the English major in you that’s offended by H&R Block. If they’re using it in TV commercials, it probably indicates it’s a broader campaign not just trying to target “urban” areas like the malt liquor companies do.

    Tax refund loans are indeed not smart things to get yourself into. I think they take advantage of two things: 1) lack of understanding among the customer base and 2) the fact that a large majority of these “refunds” are actually federal subsidies in the form of Earned Income Tax Credits. So the loan user may view this as “free money” in a sense and wants to get it as quickly as possible. If somebody waiting on a EITC really needs cash quickly, I could see how they would go for this, especially if they’re not particularly savvy about their finances.

    “Predatory” is a loaded word, though. At some point you have to let consumers make bad choices. I think the IRS could do a better job of educating EITC people about these practices and the impact on their “refunds”, though.

    Biggest “predatory” scheme out there is the Lottery, by the way. The government seems fine with that.

    And something here in Atlanta that really does disgust me is “Free At Last” bail bonds (they advertise on buses). They clearly target blacks, and using that iconic MLK phrase in Atlanta for a bail bond company marketed to the black community is just offensive and I don’t know why the SCLC and others stand for it.

  2. Annie (unregistered) on February 28th, 2007 @ 8:14 am

    Agreed that consumers have to make their own mistakes, and being pretty Libertarian, I don’t think this should be regulated or anything, but as I said before, I just don’t think it is right. It disgusts me. I wonder at the lengths people will go to for a dollar.

    You are right, also, about the lottery. However, the lottery funds education, so I don’t see it as being as bad. Also, it is a game. If people take that game seriously and throw away all their money on it, that is their stupidity. H&R Block is separating people from their money to put money in the company’s own pocket.

    Agreed about the Free At Last campaign – It is disgusting to me.

    Concerning the TV ads – Has anyone seen the ads? I have not seen one of them. I would be curious to hear if people saw the TV ads, and on what stations.

    Thanks for the comments Cap’n.

  3. tiffany (unregistered) on February 28th, 2007 @ 9:07 am

    the TV spots are all over the place. it’s pretty hard to miss if you watch much tv. i believe i’ve seen them on wsb a few times.

  4. D (unregistered) on February 28th, 2007 @ 9:59 am

    The H&R Block commercials bother me much less than others…

    The Nextel Direct Connect commercials drive me crazy. “Where you at?” There is no verb in that sentence! You shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition! I find that to be much more offensive than “I got people.” But that’s just me.

    Another grammatically incorrect commercial is the one for HPV vaccinations. “I wanna be one less.” You do not want to be one less: you would like to be one fewer person with HPV.

  5. BTI (unregistered) on February 28th, 2007 @ 10:47 am

    There is one on the platform at the Ga State Marta station. I think it is an attempt to be hip/edgy and I agree that it is predatory towards a certain demographic.

  6. james (unregistered) on February 28th, 2007 @ 11:20 am

    still better than donald trump glaring at me from the highway….

  7. Me (unregistered) on February 28th, 2007 @ 11:21 am

    I’ve seen the TV ad too. I didn’t take offense at it — if anything, it sounds like something a stereotypical New Jersey mobster might say. Besides, if it were really targeting the folks in your neighborhood, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say “I gots people”?

  8. manunderstress (unregistered) on February 28th, 2007 @ 11:59 am

    Eat Mor Chikin’

  9. Annie (unregistered) on February 28th, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

    Tiffany, I’m going to take that as a sign that I am not watching too much t.v. – OR, maybe it’s the Tivo.

    D – Where should we meet over drinks to discuss our hatred for murder of the English language?

    BTI – I guess I’m a stuffy old woman for being so picky about grammar. . . so much for the “hip mama” thing I thought I had going on.

    Me – You are right. They are definitely targeting mobsters.

    Stress – Point taken, but cows cannot be expected to uphold the rules of grammar, so that one actually works without being offensive.

  10. Deb (unregistered) on March 1st, 2007 @ 10:20 am

    I work for H&R Block during the tax season. As for the RALs, I always take time out to explain to people how they work and that they are a loan. Do we take advantage of people? To a degree, yes we do. What we take advantage of is their impatience, their lack of planning. They want their money now and are willing to pay for it. So we provide the service. They could save that money and just get a check but they want/need it now. I have never, nor anyone I know of, pushed a RAL on someone. If anything, I try to talk them out of it but the people know what they want when they walk in the door. But this year we have offered to put their refund loan on a prepaid debit card. This is actually a great benefit for them because it saves them check cashing fees and they can put their paycheck on it as well, thus saving even more fees. Plus it is safer to walk out of Block with a card then with a big check.

    As for the “I got people”, yeah the grammer of it bugs me too but it has been very effective. I have my parents (who live in DE) and my sister (who lives in NJ) mentioning to me, as well as others. So no, it isn’t be targeted at one region or type of people.

  11. Annie (unregistered) on March 1st, 2007 @ 10:52 am

    Deb, I definitely wouldn’t blame the employees of H&R Block for this. . I know you are just doing your job. I do think it is interesting that you admit that it is “taking advantage of people” to a degree. Thanks for the “insider’s” point of view.

  12. havemycake (unregistered) on March 17th, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

    i think it’s catchier to use “got.” i’m an english major, and i can write technically (mostly i freelance for a living), but when i copywrite for ad agencies, sometimes i use colloquial grammar. i respect well-crafted paragraphs, but i also like choppy, zine-like writing (like michelle tea, who never attained a college degree…or jim carroll, or henry miller)… i bet it’s killing you that i’m not using proper capitalization right now….

  13. james (unregistered) on March 18th, 2007 @ 7:47 am

    people who write in all lower-case rule…we are destined to inherit the earth.

  14. Annie (unregistered) on March 18th, 2007 @ 3:31 pm

    Boy, HaveMyCake, you really got me with all those LC letters. I do think that it can be “catchier,” but it still annoys me, and it would still be really offensive if it was aimed only at the less affluent and less educated.

    James, we know you like doing it e.e. cummings style and without the spell and grammar check safety net. We would expect nothing less of you.

  15. james (unregistered) on March 19th, 2007 @ 9:25 am

    he’s my hero…pity this busy monster manunkind….

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