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Caveat Emptor

In March of 1970, New York Attorney General Louis J.Lefkowitz, in an address to the Bronx, New York County Bar Association said:

"Another incongruous principle which has outlived its purpose is that of caveat emptor [let the buyer beware]. The principle should be changed so that the seller of the merchandise is charged with the responsibility of making fair and full disclosure to the public."

This statement reflects a strong belief in the consumer movement of the 1960's. Many government programs date from a statement made on March 15,1962 by President John F. Kennedy where he declared that every consumer has four basic rights - the right to be informed, the right to safety, the right to choose, and the right to be heard. The Chamber of Commerce of the United States later added a fifth right for consumers - the right to quality and integrity in the marketplace.

A.W. Clausen, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bank of America said on December 2, 1969 that "consumerism stems from incredible changes in the characteristics of the American population." Of all the changes in 20th century America, the consumer movement may be the best reflection of how much we change. Significant factors include:

  1. Changing education levels. The G.I. Bill helped to create the most highly educated American population ever.
  2. Growing national affluence. We have more discretionary money to spend.
  3. Changing demographics show an increasingly young population. "This young, affluent, and highly educated population is - by its very nature - a discerning and questioning one." Clausen

Examine your effectiveness as a modern consumer by completing the following survey.

  1. List three kinds of information found on a typical cereal box.
  2. Where is the milk or dairy section located in the average supermarket? Why is it there?
  3. What color most attracts your attention when you are shopping? How does color influence your buying habits?
  4. Estimate how many ads are shown in an average one hour television program, {watch tonight and see how close your answer is.} Do you watch them all? Which ones do you watch? Why? How influenced are you by the power of advertising?
  5. Do you assume that all the food you eat is safe? Explain your answer.