"Up to" — what does it mean? Absolutely nothing

Published March 3, 2012

File this under “say nothing, but sound like you’re saying something.” In other words, pure marketing fluff.

I noticed this on a bottle of Febreze:


“Now eliminates up to 2X as many odors,” it proclaims. Which made me think about what that meant (after I thought “So you used to only eliminate half?”)

“Up to 2X” could mean it doesn’t eliminate any more whatsoever. “Up to” means “between 0 and 2X.” It’s like one of those promotions that say you’ve won a gift card worth up to $500. You know it’s only going to be worth $2.00, but it sure sounds enticing.

I think we should add “up to” everywhere.

  • If elected, I promise to create up to 50 million new jobs!
  • Andrew’s Lawn-o-Matic will make your grass up to 6X greener!
  • Wearing a propeller beanie will make you up to 4.6% more attractive!

It’s almost as powerful as “As Seen on TV”!

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