Stating you've done more sales than you actually have...Ethical? Legal?

Is it illegal to post on your site you’ve done more sales than you actually have? i.e. “Thousands of customers have enjoyed…” Is this a legality issue, an ethical issue, or no way to prove?

Hi mrp8001. Welcome to the forums. :slight_smile:

I can’t comment on the legality, but personally, from the point of view of propriety, I don’t think bending the truth is a good idea, and you may regret it later. Better not to have to look over your should and wonder if you’re going to be caught out.

I’d prefer something like “Many customers have enjoyed …” It still gives a sense of abundance without being dishonest. :slight_smile:

My 2c.

With my luck the tax man would want to know why I haven’t been paying up my due.

I would go with something like ralph.m suggested. Nothing that’s outright false, but something lightly suggestive of more.

I guess it depends on your conscious. I would feel wrong being dishonest or misleading. But that doesn’t mean you need to cut your own throat in the process by being brutally honest and generously revealing.

This is basically false advertising, so probably not legal in your country.

Serious question: Can you not think of any other way to market your product other than lying about its sales numbers? Does it have no competitive strengths? What reasons will people have to buy it? How important do you think potential customers rate ‘product popularity’ compared to product features, benefits, pricing and after sales support?

Depending on your local laws you could find yourself in trouble.
It may be false advertising, and if a new client signs up with you because they believe you “long history” then you have misrepresented your business to them and it may give them a way out of contracts. All in all not a good idea really and certainly morally dubious.

I would go with Ralph’s “many clients” instead - it implies lots of customers but could be any number from 2 upwards.

I still don’t see why there should be a need to imply anything. Why is it so important to deceive people into thinking the product is more popular than it is? There must be so many ways they could market the product/service without having to rely on implying something that is clearly not true. If that’s the best they can do to convince people to buy, there must be something seriously wrong with the product in the first place.

Also talk is cheap, for the very reasons highlighted in this topic! If you can’t actually back up claims/implications, no one is going to place any value in them.

This all reminds me of freelancers who try to imply they are actually a big company, rather than focus on turning their apparent weaknesses into strengths (e.g. one-to-one support, direct contact with the developer, personal touch, highly motivated etc).

It’s not illegal, it’s common practice to lie and exaggerate in business.

There is a grey-area somewhere in the middle where many can decieve, and get away with it on a daily bases. Ever seen those buses advertising ‘1 GBP’ for a flight? Only to find out that the taxes cost 50GBP alone, and having the intention to keep you stranded there with no bags, food or place of stay. In their defence they would say this is not included in the price.

Have you also seen those advertising internet connections with FREE games console (PS3, xBox etc.), only to tie you into a 12-month contract without any chance of leaving them beforehand. They make out that you can download as much as you like, only to find out there is a fair-usage policy.

Hiding the obvious truth is not illegal, unethical yes, illegal no! If lying and exaggeration was illegal most salespeople would behind bars. :stuck_out_tongue:

I personally don’t agree with it, and it’s best to be honest in order to have long term business.


This is why I never sought a career in business, and why I loathe many (not all) business people. The mindset of “do whatever you can get away with,” “it’s only wrong if you get caught,” etc makes me ill.

I am not too fond of it at the moment :frowning:

I’ve been in business situations when people lie constantly as it’s part of their job, often selling thin air, only caring about figures and never about the client. It’s all wrong! Personally I don’t feel such practices would help you in the long run, as eventually people would suss you out eventually if dubbed enough times. You might win some money, but you’d easily loose double that on return business going elsewhere.

We need to improve the world of business, helping one another and helping each other rather than fighting. Only when you’re well informed would you know how to handle touch situations in a pleasant way.

Probably illegal, but I guess it depends on your country.

But is that really a good idea in any case?

Sales are built on trust, and starting with sensationalism and lies isn’t the way to build viewers/users/customers who trust what you have to say.

And the worst thing would be to start off with a tactic like that and get marked with a bad reputation that you can’t live down later when you’re in a better position.

Not if you expect to stay in business. Businesses where it’s common practice to lie and exaggerate eventuaally become known for the scams that they are.

Successful businesses have built up a relationship with their customers/clients that involves trust.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always true any longer. Businesses which have lied their way to success now find themselves at the point where they control the “free” market to the point where their lies go unchallenged in any meaningful sense (i.e. my angry blog post vs. their multimillion-dollar PR campaign). Certainly not all businesses or corporations operate in this manner, but enough do to render the common wisdom of “the market will eventually root out the bad guys” as often obsolete and non-functional.

This concludes my irregularly scheduled rant. :slight_smile:

Actually I’d argue we’re moving the exact opposite way. Yes bigger companies have the benefit of massive marketing and PR teams but the information age has changed business putting much more control into the hands of the every day customer. We all know people research their new car but these days they also look for comments on a gym, apartment, even toothpaste and since everyone can post, it’s very difficult to hide backlash and very important to build actual authenticity.

Working as a brand marketer I’ve talked “social” for years but have shifted my own thinking from make awareness to make quality or at least something people consider to be quality for them.

Examples of this exist at almost every level but the big ones paint the picture oh so well… United Airlines Breaks Guitar, Kryptonite Locks vs Ball Point Pen, Dominos Pizza “extra toppings” the first two of which came from every day customers, the last which shows the power of an individual employee gone wrong.


I do agree with you completely, and this is the way I operate as I hate scamming people. It’s not nice and it’s not needed. The money earned will only be short lived. Having said many do constantly deceive in business and do stay in operation depending on their client market. A classic example of this is fast/trash food, no good in them, but people eat them because they are hungry. Those handy burgers pack enough MSG in them to make dirt tasty, only issue is MSG is quite harmful. Customers are non the wiser and persist in making more money for the big chains.

In web design however, I’ve seen many business here locally selling sub-standard websites, and many are making double, triple, heck even quadruple more than I am. The customers are never happy, but considering they want an eCommerce site for 300 dollars pretty hits the mark for what they are paying.

Both the courts and the FTC have actually ruled on this issue. The legal term is “puffery” - advertising a subjective feature that really cannot be quantified. On the FTC web site they give a good example:

Simply the Best?
What is the “best” video game, the “coolest” kind of shoe, the “hippest” mp3 player?

Your answers may be different than your best friend’s, and from someone your age who lives a few states away. Those words mean something different to everyone, and advertisers use words like these to sell their product.

It’s known as “puffery,” because these terms “puff up” products. Puffery usually isn’t considered misleading, because it’s a pretty obvious exaggeration.

When a company gets into facts that can be checked, though, the claims have to be true. Consider these two statements:
(a) “The best-tasting juice in America!”
(b) “75% of people prefer our juice.”

Which one would require proof? If you said (b), you’re right. The company would have to be able to show the survey that they took to
make the claim.

Therefore, misleading potential customers about your sales volume is not “puffery”. It is a quantifiable fact and subject to verification.

Hi Andrew,

Would ‘Many of our customers have …’ be considered misleading. To me this works even with two of three customers having enjoyed it; although it is clearly trying to influence (puffery?) the idea of more?


Many companies try to tell half truth and they were successful because of it. And many people hate them.
Hard to prove and definitely unethical. Whether it is legal…let your solicitor deal with it as it may come your way.

Hey, Steve. I’m not Andrew, but I think that it would be okay, since you’re just talking about an estimated portion of the total amount. Yes, “thousands” is also an estimation, but if you’re going to look at it, the advertisement using a specific number would be the misleading message because people can quickly assume that you’ve had thousands of customers. What if you fail to deliver and they start looking for those thousands of clients that you’ve served? If you just said “many”, some would understand it as something like a huge fraction out of a hundred customers, or even less.

Well, I hope that helps.

I don’t think it would be misleading, but it suggests “not all of them” which would most likely lose whatever marketing benefit a quantified amount like thousands would provide. In my mind, what I just said sums up that this would not be an ethical statement. You’re using a false quantity for a benefit. Legal or not, once you start putting numbers down that aren’t justifiable, it shouldn’t be done. And as “attorney jaffe” pointed out they need to be verifiable.

Steve - I think “Many of our customers” would be OK.