I minored in Political Science at the University of Alberta.
False Advertising or Understandable?
A Closed Pool Because of COVID
I booked a hotel room not long ago that was in Regina, Saskatchewan. However, it really could have been anywhere when it comes to making the point that I want to make about COVID and how some businesses, in my opinion, are actually using the pandemic to rip people off. In writing this article, I certainly don't wish to paint all businesses with one brush but I think a lot of them could be painted in that manner.
The hotel I booked featured a swimming pool that was central to their marketing. At a time about a month ago, when restrictions were starting to ease before the Canadian fourth wave took over, I actually believed for a moment that the pool would be open. Then, I found out at the front desk when I checked in that it was, in fact, closed.
The reason for the closure was COVID.
News From Earlier This Summer About Easing Restrictions, Delta Variant
Should I Have Expected Anything Different? Yes, I Think So.
Most readers, I think, will retort: what did I expect?
Writing in September 2021, I honestly think we as consumers can expect a lot more from businesses, whether from hotels or from any other customer-service businesses even during the current pandemic. The reason is that COVID is actually old news.
You might say that I should therefore have been prepared for disappointment and, to be honest, I was. But that doesn't detract from the point I want to make. I would argue that consumers should demand that businesses have modified their communications by this point to state what they can offer during the pandemic. That way we know what we are paying for. I know they can do it, because I used to be a business manager, specifically a hotel manager, in fact.
In Canada, COVID culture took over in March of 2020. Maybe in April of 2020, if your old advertisement was up it was understandable but I actually think it should not have been. That debate aside, why is it that in the summer of 2021 there are businesses still advertising services that they haven't offered for months?
Is it because they think the end of COVID is just around the corner? I think maybe you, the sleazeball business manager, could have used that excuse for a little while. But a year and a half later, you shouldn't be advertising a pool that no one has swum in for 18 months as central to your services. Furthermore, the pool closure should be reducing the fee you charge.
There's No Excuse for False Advertising
The text you read at booking engines for property descriptions is under the direct control of hotel staff. It does not take that long to switch it up. The laggy part of the process often has to do with the updates taking a while to take effect, however, any manager could modify the booking engine description in a timely manner.
The point that I would like to make is simple. While I find it hard to believe that a hotel manager couldn't find ten minutes to tweak his/her marketing material between now and March 15th, 2020, I don't find the following hard to believe at all. I think businesses are misdescribing their services deliberately, accepting payments or reservations, and then holding back part of the service to increase their profits while blaming COVID for their sleazeball behavior.
I'm talking to the hotels that tell you that the pool is closed at the front desk even when the pictures during the reservations process suggested it was open. I'm also talking to the hotels that say breakfast is included and then tell you it's not when you get there -- because of COVID. At this point, that's tantamount to false advertising and that's one thing that I think is going on in the business world these days in Canada: false advertising cloaked as COVID culture.
If your pool is closed, then a pool shouldn't feature front and center in your advertising. Take the picture down or put a big and bold "CLOSED" overlying communication to make it clear it's closed. Stop saying breakfast is included and then tell your guests that it's not at the front desk unless you've got a $20 voucher for them for a restaurant. If you don't want to do that because it might reduce your reservations, then you've got the mens rea that I'm talking about.
There are, for sure, other countless examples of businesses using COVID to rip people off but hotels are the ones I've noticed lately. Honestly, only sleazeball management does crap like that. If you, the readers, see things my way, start handing the one and two-star reviews out to such companies because there is no reason why they can't take ten minutes to modify their communications.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Shane Lambert
Shane Lambert (author) from Richmond, British Columbia on September 03, 2021:
Some places are advertising the free breakfast and not even giving the boxed version. I had a hotel like that and I don't think it's acceptable but anyone that argues in that situation comes across as a COVID denier as opposed to someone that wants what's advertised and paid for.
MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on September 03, 2021:
You have some very good points. It's understandable, considering the seriousness of this virus, however, they should have mentioned in their advertising that the pool would be closed, etc. One hotel where my husband and I stayed a few months ago still offered breakfast, but it was boxed, and we had to take it back to our room to eat it. It wasn't very good, so we went to a local restaurant for take out.
Denise McGill from Fresno CA on September 03, 2021:
Very good points. It has been around long enough for those businesses to change advertising. I'm glad you made these points because I wouldn't have thought of it that way. I (and most customers) have no idea how long it takes to change advertising from the many different venues they are sent to but surely it doesn't take 18 months.
John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 02, 2021:
This is a good article, and I agree with all the points you make. If hotels cannot provide certain services because of COVID, or otherwise, they should not advertise those services as being available. It is false advertising. Thanks for sharing.
Liz Westwood from UK on September 02, 2021:
I agree completely. A few years back we used points to book a hotel. The attraction was the pool. I was disappointed to find a notice about its temporary closure when we checked in. After politely registering our disappointment, we were refunded some points and the hotel apologised for not putting it on the website. I got used to pools and gyms being out of action last year. Recently I have taken to ringing up before we go, as often we have to book to use them.
Don't get me started on breakfasts. In the UK the included all you could eat breakfast buffet became, in most cases, a very poor breakfast in a paper bag. I wrote about a hotel stay during COVID in an article around a year ago.
If breakfast is no longer provided, I think prices should be reduced to reflect this and it should be made clear before you book.
I used to enjoy picking up a free newspaper in hotels. The newspapers went due to COVID. i would be surprised if they return.
Another issue is housekeeping. Last summer no one entered guestrooms during your stay. There are still some hotel chains in the UK that do not routinely offer housekeeping during a stay.
I could go on and on. Broadening the subject. What about excuses given generally for poor service and slow pick up times in call centers/help lines? COVID has become a convenient excuse for cutbacks.