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Mixed Blessings

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Sometimes the false statistics are the revealing ones. In a CBS News/New York Times poll fielded this month, 7 percent of adults said the victims of Sept. 11 included someone "close to them." But simple arithmetic tells us many of these respondents had to be lying. Even if each victim had 100 people who were close to them, the total of such friends and relatives would be well under half a million. Writing in The Washington Post, columnist Robert Samuelson noted a similar oddity in a poll by the Pew Center for the People & the Press: Its respondents' claims to know individuals killed or injured that day could be true only if each victim had a circle of about 10,000 acquaintances. Why do millions of Americans feel impelled to assert a nonexistent link to 9/11? In part, it's just a morbid variant of the age-old need for self-aggrandizement. But there may be something newer at work, too. We've had it drummed into us in the "Just do it" age that we should be participants in events, not mere spectators. As such, there's a weird reluctance by many people to admit they were distant bystanders to the biggest event of recent decades.

We're in for a future in which women's faces look younger than the rest of their bodies. A Self poll of women finds 62 percent use over-the-counter face creams that resist signs of aging. But the magazine quotes a dermatologist who notes that most women neglect other potentially wrinkly areas, including legs, arms, chest and neck. Among other skin-care lapses, 48 percent indulge in frequent washing to prevent "breakouts," though this makes their skin dry and invites the problem they're trying to avoid.

Who says ads don't ask the big questions? A clever spot for Kelly Tires certainly does. As we get an aerial view of a parking lot, a deadpan voiceover inquires: "Are the cars with expensive tires hugging the parking lot any tighter? Are they sitting there any smoother?" The answer: "No, but they are sitting there being more expensive." For drivers whose cars spend more time being parked than hurtling through S-curves—i.e., 99 percent of the spot's audience—the economical Kelly product is "all the tire you need." Time will tell whether consumers appreciate such unwonted candor or would just as soon pay a premium for their open-road fantasies. Marcus Thomas of Cleveland created the commercial.

Of all the places Americans don't want to end up, nursing homes are near the top of the list. But people don't want to move in with their children, either. These attitudes are documented in a Zogby poll of parents with offspring age 34-plus. Forty-seven percent said it's unlikely that they'll ever live in a nursing home or assisted-living facility. At the same time, though, 64 percent said they wouldn't want to move in with their adult children if they can't live on their own. We can surmise that people wishfully envision themselves leading independent lives until they suddenly expire, though the fact of the matter (as Zogby notes) is that "six out of every 10 Americans who reach age 65 will need long-term care services."

If women felt this way in the produce aisle, the U.S. diet would be healthier. A poll by The Integer Group asked women to say which area of the supermarket makes them feel "romantic." Sweets (18 percent) and baked goods (10 percent) won the most votes. But more women feel "sensual" when shopping for shampoo/personal items (18 percent) than when buying baked goods (10 percent). One percent said shopping for canned goods makes them "excited," while 24 percent said ogling the ice cream has this effect.

While public officials argue about a prescription-drug subsidy for old folks, many Americans doubt the utility of these medicines. In an Ipsos-Reid poll, a less-than-overwhelming 64 percent said the "benefits of modern pharmaceutical drugs in treating illness far outweigh the risk of side effects." Of course, one side effect of such drugs is the way they empty people's wallets. Fewer than half the respondents (47 percent) said they feel pharmaceutical prices are justified by research-and-development costs.

What's the difference between heterosexuals and gays? The former are less apt to fret over their lousy investments. In a Witeck-Combs Communications/Harris Interactive poll, 26 percent of heterosexual respondents agreed with the statement, "I worry about bad investment decisions I have made in the past." The same was true for 39 percent of gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (GLBT) respondents. Perhaps gays feel worse when a stock tanks because they're more apt to think themselves savvy in such matters: 42 percent of GLBTs conceded they're "not very knowledgeable about the stock market," vs. 51 percent of heteros.

We'll assume no gazelles were actually devoured in the making of an ad for Litespeed bikes. Nonetheless, serious cyclists will be glad to know where this brand would put them on the two-wheeled food chain. Playing off the visual, the copy speaks darkly of "go-for-the-jugular speed." The Johnson Group of Chattanooga, Tenn., created the ad.

This week's Agency Least Likely Ever to Win a Kansas-based Sushi Account is Boone/Oakley of Charlotte, N.C. It disparaged prairie fish in an ad stressing the scariness of a "Haunted" festival next month at a Charlotte amusement park called Carowinds. Other scary things featured in the billboard campaign: "Seeing your parents naked" and "Anne Nicole Smith."

If you were Regis Philbin, you might feel insulted by the results of a Family Circle poll. It asked women to say which of four famous women they'd most like to trade places with for a day—Laura Bush, Katie Couric, Kelly Ripa or Julia Roberts. Roberts was the top choice, pulling 43 percent of the vote, while Bush and Couric drew 22 percent apiece. Ripa finished a distant last, with 12 percent.

When car buyers choose between models, what leads them to reject those they finally don't purchase? A study of "escaped shoppers" by J.D. Power and Associates says the chief reason is price. Predictably, people "usually end up buying the less expensive model." Some other deal-breakers: "didn't like style/design of exterior," "limited availability on dealer lots" and "salespeople didn't act professionally." Elsewhere on the vehicular front, a Market Facts Motoresearch study finds people more open to vehicles with unusual fuel technologies. The number of consumers who would consider an ethanol-fueled car rose from 14 percent last year to 20 percent this year. There were similar rises in the number who'd consider natural gas (from 19 percent to 25 percent) and electricity (from 24 percent to 31 percent).