Can anyone explain to me ….

… the logic behind the apostrophes in the following piece of text?

You cannot return newspapers and magazines, video’s, dvds, cd’s, tapes or computer games if the security seal has been broken unless such items are faulty.

It comes from Asda On-line’s terms and conditions. (Yes I know Asda are evil but it’s a choice between them and Tesco who are equally evil. Asda have their head office in the north of England, so better the devil that’s local).

A couple of other things amused me about them:

We know it’s a lot of legal stuff, but its been written by top lawyers at huge expense to us, to protect You,

Yeah. Right. And who pays your wages? That’s right. Us, the (capitalised) Customer.

It is easy to tell the bits written by marketing from the bits written by lawyers:

You may also write to us at or fax us on, but this is the slowest and most expensive way for us to deal with Your changes so please try and help us keep costs down and prices low by visiting Our Site or using our order helpline.

Written by Marketing presumably, though it is unforgivably careless to leave out the address and fax number.

Or:

A legally binding contract with You will only arise once We have completed delivering the products to You. At this time You become the owner of the products.. This means that You will have no legal liability in connection with Your order until delivery is completed.

I like to think that anyone writing consumer-friendly text would have avoided the phrases “a legally binding contract … will only arise” and “completed delivering”. In fact, why not just cut to the chase and skip everything until the last sentence? And note the double full stop.

All in all it reads like an un-proof-read and poorly translated parody of one of Wagner’s operas, with random acts of capitalisation which would only be acceptable if you were a God translated from the German. And lost, at that.

They have a minimum order value of 25 quid and since the point is to save money by cutting down the chances to impulse buy, I think I’ll go for those soft southern jessies at Tesco after all. Besides which, I’d hate to get into a legal dispute with Asda, surreally entertaining though such a thing would be.

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6 responses to “Can anyone explain to me ….

  1. I loathe a misplaced apostrophe. It makes my skin crawl. I become more trussed up than Lynne Truss herself. I guess what’s happening here is an exponential version of the grocer’s apostrophe (“apple’s, pear’s and carrot’s”) since it’s Asda. What would it cost them to copy-edit their letters to the public?

  2. Two things worry me about this.

    The first is that no-one who read it, and it is the company’s terms and conditions for online trading and so was presumably checked by people with some level of education, no-one (as I was ranting) who read it was sufficiently literate to spot the low flying apostrophes. Or apostrophe’s, if you prefer.

    The second is that no-one who read it was competent enough to spot the missing address and fax numbers.

    Which suggests that no-one read it.

    Which worries me about a company which sells food and employs people.

    I cannot decide whether to content myself with ridicule, or whether to get out my pot of green ink and write to them. I’d have to move to Tunbridge Wells first.

    I wonder. Is http://www.tunbridgewells.com snaffled. If not, how satisfying to have an email address of angry@tunbridgewells.com.

    *wanders off to another part of the intenet to check domain names*

    Aphra

  3. http://www.tunbridgewells.me.uk is available.

    I am not going to do it. I am not. I am not…

    (It would be somewhere to post rants).

    No. I am NOT.

  4. Oh go on. You know you want to.

    You could sell people the opportunity to use it, too. I’d be a customer.

  5. Take it Sol, and welcome, if it’s not gone in the meantime. I decided that my New Year’s (ahem) resolution of thinking only beatiful fluffy thoughts meant that I couldn’t really get an email account just for bile.

    Aphra.

  6. Oh no – too much bad kama if I actually owned it. Too much temptation too. I think you should take the fall for the good of the, er, group…

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