Herald Journal Columns
Oct. 24, 2005, Herald Journal

Leaving well enough alone

By LIZ HELLMANN

I recently wrote about the frustration of sugarcoating, or the practice of using intelligent-sounding words to convey basic meaning.

My last example came from resumés and job seekers, who make skills and positions sound intricately important when they are, in reality, basically mundane.

My frustration mounts as I am catapulted into the world of wedding planning.

Ads and magazines alike quickly grab attention by boasting superior services and rattling off impressive lists of must-have products.

Thankfully, with a little bit of searching, most of my wedding-day “necessities” have been taken care of. All of my vendors, so far, have come from small-town companies.

I did not plan it that way, nor am I implying their services are better than that of large companies or chains. But they all seemed to offer good products, at sometimes drastically lower prices than “the other guys,” and are all fairly good at listening to what I want.

And let’s face it, when it comes to wedding planning, isn’t it all about what the bride wants?

My recent task has been to find a suitable place to vacation after the wedding.

My fiancé has been quite helpful, and we have secured a travel agent who is helping us look into various options.

We have narrowed down our choices, and just as I started to think we were getting somewhere, I am given reason to doubt our list of finalists.

I realize that when you are selling something, and particularly trying to vie for a large amount of vacation money to be spent at your resort and not your competitor’s, the picture you paint will be rose-colored.

Naturally concerned that we get the best value for our money, I decided to read reviews online about some of the places we were considering.

Most of the reviews were good, overall, with a few negatives, but there was one thing in particular that bothered me.

It wasn’t the fancy language and flowery description of services. Luckily, those things are easy to dissect. No matter how many adjectives are used, the meaning cannot completely be covered up.

For example, a stunning, sprawling, powdery, secluded half-mile beach, is still a half-mile beach. Not to be mistaken for a seven-mile beach.

However, in one of the reviews, a man pointed out that there were several rundown houses next to his room, which were not visible in the photos for the resort.

The man concluded that the houses had been air-brushed out of the pictures.

Additionally, there were areas in the resort and beyond it that he believed had been made to look greener than they actually were.

Besides adding vegetation, high-rise hotels had also been air-brushed out of the photos, leaving the viewer to believe the resort is more secluded and relaxing than it is.

I share his opinion, which is that this should be illegal.

I’m not sure what the advertising laws are, or how easy they are to enforce.

I suppose the resort could claim the pictures were taken before the other resorts were built, or during a time when it was that green.

But it is particularly troublesome to know you are spending hard-earned money on a vacation, and have no idea if what you know about the location is true or not.

Rating scales are subjective, and while service and food can be rated, it is hard to get a clear picture of the place unless you go there.

I am not expecting a garden of Eden, but I also am not expecting to get conned out of a five-star amount of money in exchange for a two-star disappointment.

I would think that vacation destinations would want to honestly represent themselves, or risk falling victim to the most dangerous marketing tool – being bad-mouthed by dissatisfied customers.

I am fairly certain the place we end up going will be acceptable, but having read that review, I am more skeptical.

Many of the opinions I have developed thus far have been based, to some extent, on photos.

In a world where it is becoming increasingly hard to find reality – even though the TV claims to portray it in a variety of over-extended plots – I am tired of the masks.

People, consumers, and advertisers alike, need to find a way to buy and sell their products without sugar-coating them.

No good can come of these photographic lies. Disappointment will always reign, once the real thing has been revealed.

Haven’t we learned enough from airbrushed supermodels, who, in many opinions, have led to eating disorders and body-image unhappiness in many men and women?

Models are naturally beautiful people who deserve the respect of being portrayed as they are, not merely canvases at the mercy of the air-brushing and cropping tools.

Likewise, resort owners should take pride in their resorts and let the true beauty of their property come through in the picture, or risk disappointed customers who will not be telling their friends to visit anytime soon.

I realize all of these people are just trying to sell something, but honestly, is integrity such a lost concept?

As for me, I am fairly confident I will enjoy wherever I go, as long as I don’t step off the plane and realize they airbrushed in the entire ocean.