Guaranteed to be a total fraud

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The Independent Online
There is a case going on in the High Court at the moment that will be of interest to anyone who has ever tried to get their money back and failed. Charles Goodbred, the man who has pioneered the modern guarantee in Britain, is up on a charge of conspiring to defraud a customer of rightful compensation. Here is part of yesterday's proceedings, when Goodbred took the stand to explain exactly how guarantees work.

Counsel: Your name is Charles Goodbred?

Goodbred: That is the name under which I was registered.

Counsel: By your parents?

Goodbred: By two people who claimed to be my parents.

Counsel: But they were your parents, were they not?

Goodbred: Nobody else ever came forward to claim me.

Judge: Excuse me for interjecting, Mr Goodbred, but is this not an over- cautious attitude to your parentage? Should we not take it on trust that the two people who tell us they are our father and mother probably are our father and mother?

Goodbred: My work has taught me not to take anyone on trust, m'lord, least of all myself.

Judge: I see. Carry on.

Counsel: Now, Mr Goodbred, you are, I believe, the originator of the so-called "lifetime guarantee".

Goodbred: That is so.

Counsel: Could you explain to the court how this works?

Goodbred: Certainly. What we do for certain classes of object, such as videotapes, is give them a lifetime guarantee. When the object wears out, as it is bound to, the purchaser feels aggrieved and wants his money back.

Counsel: Do you then recompense him?

Goodbred: No. We point out that the video has worn out because it has come to the end of its lifetime. A lifetime guarantee is only valid until the end of the lifetime. After that, it is worthless. "Lifetime" does not mean "eternity". Almost the opposite, in fact.

Counsel: So the guarantee is only valid while the videotape still works?

Goodbred: Yes.

Counsel: And as soon as it expires, the guarantee expires also?

Goodbred: Yes.

Counsel: Surely the guarantee is therefore worthless?

Goodbred: Not to those who issue it.

Judge: So how do you know that I am the judge, Mr Goodbred?

Goodbred: I am sorry, m'lord?

Judge: You said earlier that you took nobody on trust, even your parents. How do you know I am the judge?

Goodbred: I don't. I only have your word for it. I am working on the assumption that nobody voluntarily would want to wear those ridiculous clothes, do that ridiculous job and talk in that ridiculous kind of language.

Judge: To which kind of language do you refer, pray?

Goodbred: To the kind of language in which people say: "To which kind of language do you refer, pray?"

Judge: Fair enough. Carry on.

Counsel: Could you give us an idea of some of the other guarantees you have invented?

Goodbred: Certainly. I devised the "Cleaned While You Wait" guarantee. People assumed that this meant things would be cleaned quickly. Not at all. People can wait for hours, days, even weeks. I devised the "Same day cleaning" guarantee ...

Counsel: But surely that cannot be used deceptively! That means what it says - that goods will be cleaned the same day they are handed in?

Goodbred: Not at all. It can mean that they are cleaned the same day they are returned. Very often we actually give a "Some day cleaning" guarantee, and people misread it as "Same day cleaning".

Counsel: Any other examples of this iniquitous approach to language?

Goodbred: Certainly. I was the first to issue a "24-hour service" promise. People always thought that meant 24 hours from when the service was requested or when the goods were handed in. Not so. I was also the first to point out that "Round the clock service" was not the same as being always open.

Counsel: But surely being open round the clock means being open all the time?

Goodbred: I think not. How many hours are there on the clock?

Counsel: Twelve.

Goodbred: So round-the-clock service guarantees being open a maximum of 12 hours, not 24.

Judge: I think he's got you there, Jim!

The case continues.