Truth in Advertising

In my ethics class, we like to keep things relevant and not too obscure at the start. We debate everyday issues that affect millions of people like political integrity, the ramifications of cloning, and truth in advertising. There is probably no person in this country who hasn’t made a decision based on promotion. Most of us read what the media has to say about products and don’t want to be taken in by false claims. We want to belief in the morality of companies selling their wares and expect them to be honest about the features and benefits of their items or service. It is a huge ethical problem if companies misrepresent their wares.

I asked the class to assist me in evaluating the material on vacuum cleaners with a focus on the Internet using web sites like The Vacuum Challenge. To make the assignment more meaningful, I told them that I intend to buy the selected machine based on their research. The students on their own made a list of the best brands and what each has to offer. They insist that I get a cordless, lightweight, compact, and easily movable cleaner. The latest designs are state of the art and there is no more bumping into furniture or wall baseboards. It is never a chore to go from room to room. Oddly enough, price was not the biggest factor. Easy to clean was tops on the list. No more leaky, dusty bags.

In looking at the ads, the kids read all the reviews. They tossed out the lowest one and added up the rest to come up with an average rating. If the reviewers repeated the same problems, they would move on to the next vacuum model. Truth in advertising benefits a great deal from customer rankings and it has been one of the great outcomes of online commerce. Buying something is much more transparent now.

After some deliberation, and without the old-fashioned demonstration that the door-to-door salesman would offer, the students came up with choice number one. I dutifully ordered it and waited for delivery. It looked as illustrated and operation was easy and painless. So far so good. I tackled all the usual chores and made a video for the class of some of the attachments and special equipment. I gave a little speech about how it was an excellent model that fulfilled all of our expectations. Apparently the advertising was completely accurate.

The students enjoyed helping me out as an exercise and soon moved on to other ethical matters of concern in modern society. There is no lack of topics such as world hunger, the shortage of clean water, our government scandals, and so much more. It is a rewarding class and a more than satisfactory career. Each year with new students, I get new insights into common issues that open my eyes to a new way of thinking. Meanwhile, I have a very tidy home!