Tone it downKoreans like to exaggerate and be catered to. Marketing serves to feed their egos. Movies are not just released. Audiences are invited to “grand openings.” VIP somehow does not seem to important enough, so VVIP (Very Very Important Person), which does not exist in the English dictionary, has become commonly used in Korea. Owners of small and mid-sized companies like to call themselves chairmen instead of CEOs. They claim that title makes them feel more important. Such language inflation has led to the excessive grading of consumer products, which often translates into higher prices.
The grading of eggs and milk is a good example. Eggs are graded by their shell, yolk and blood spots or other defects. Over 93 percent of eggs on shop shelves claim to have been certified with the 1+ grading on a four-grade scale. Additionally, size now matters. There are “supersize”, “king-size”, and “large-size.” It is hard to tell which is bigger. King-size refers to weight of 68 grams or bigger, super-size 60 to 67g, and large-size 52-59g.
Grading is superfluous with milk as well. Few are rated below Grade A. The top grade breaks down into 1A and 1B according to the bacterial count in pasteurized milk before it is processed. Although they come from the same standard source, each brand claims theirs is the highest grade.
Beef grading is even more ridiculous. Two more grades exist above Grade A. About 72 percent of Korean-produced beef is between the Grade A and AA level. The national livestock produce assessment authority plans to come up with upgraded scoring system next year.
Hotels also have been liberal with stars. Some claim they are six-star hotel, which is obviously granted by themselves, as the domestic scale only goes up to five stars.
Service and product grading can help to improve standards. It would motivate vendors to come up with better-quality products and services. It also helps consumers make choices. But when every product is the best, it can send the wrong message to manufacturers and consumers. Vendors will no longer try to perfect their products and consumers won’t be able to find products at a reasonable price.
The grading system must be revised to better meet market trends and needs. Only then, all of the overexaggerated language that marketers use may come back down to earth.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 19, Page 30