Saturday, March 2, 2013

How Would You Really Know?

Trey Smith

Every now and then I think to myself that, instead of publishing a blog that discusses the Taoist philosophy, I should have focused this blog on analyzing television commercials. While my television viewership is far below that of the average American, I still watch a bit of it most days, particularly in the wee hours of the morning.

The other day I saw an ad for a cold remedy called Cold-Eeze. What struck me as odd was the company's guarantee. It stated that, if Cold-Eeze didn't shorten a consumer's cold, the price of the product would be refunded. Here's my question: How in the hell would anyone know if Cold-Eeze shortened any particular cold?

Cold viruses don't have a definitive shelf life. If my head starts to clog up and I can't seem to breathe very well through my nasal passages, this might signal a cold...or an allergy. As my symptoms worsen and I become convinced that I indeed have contracted a cold, I have no way of knowing the duration of this particular cold virus. Some colds last for a few days and some can hang on for weeks. I may take no medicine for my cold and yet it doesn't last very long. At other times, I may load up on over-the-counter meds and yet the cold persists.

Since one never knows if the present cold is a short-lived one or one that will last a good long time, how could one determine if Cold-Eeze or any other supposed remedy made any difference? It would be one thing if, upon contracting a cold virus, a person KNEW it would last x number of days. In that case, if the worst symptoms lasted fewer days, then you could theorize that this or that remedy proved beneficial. But a cold doesn't come with a little sticker that lets you know how long it's supposed to last!

From my perspective, about the only way a person might be able to figure out if a particular remedy shortened colds is to do a study on the various cold viruses contracted over many years. If an individual consistently utilized a particular remedy and the average cold virus appeared to last less time than expected, then a person might believe that this particular remedy was everything it was advertised to be. This belief, however, could easily be incorrect because there might be a plethora of other variables that more directly accounted for the result.

I'm not saying one way or the other whether or not Cold-Eeze is effective at fighting cold viruses. It may or may not. All I am saying is: How would you really know?

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