Pools have been taking a beating in the press lately. Whether it’s a particularly tragic drowning, VGB publicity or just a random rant, there have been a number of reports denigrating the product and, in some cases, the industry as well. (See our story.)
Pools are not perfect. If they are improperly equipped or used in an irresponsible fashion, people can die. That is a deeply disturbing fact, and I’m in no way discounting the horror of childhood drowning. But just like skateboards, table saws and a host of other potentially dangerous products, a swimming pool, if handled correctly, can bring great joy.
I believe that when weighing the positives and negatives over the past 60 years, pools emerge squarely on the plus side of the equation. I also believe most people would agree with me.
But today, all too often journalists are depicting pools solely as death traps, never mentioning the millions of Americans who truly love taking dips in their private backyard vacation spots. I’m certainly in favor of the media educating consumers on water safety, but this is getting ridiculous.
Recently, The Boston Globe published a piece called “Backyard Bauble Loses its Sparkle.” The article was nothing short of a hatchet job. Amazingly, the writer even went so far as to imply that the reason pool sales have slowed in recent years is due to consumer fears about the product rather than a historic recession and devastating credit crunch.
The worst part? The article wasn’t even an editorial, like this column, which is designed to endorse a particular opinion. “Backyard Bauble” was actually marketed as “news,” meaning the story was sold to consumers as being unbiased.
But the columns are really no better. In mid-August, journalist Brett Arends wrote a piece on pool ownership for TheWall Street Journal as part of his regular column called “ROI.”
Arends spoke with a number of Certified Financial Planners who all agreed that pools are a bad investment. He concluded by saying, “If your pool costs $30,000 to install, say $3,000 a year in total running, maintenance and repairs, and you don't get much back when you sell it, how much has it really cost you? Remember you could have invested that $30,000 and earned a return on the money. If you borrowed it, you have to pay interest.”
First of all, using that logic, no one should buy a new car, take a vacation or even purchase clothes from anywhere other than thrift stores. No, it’s much smarter to invest that money for a higher return and be sure to never spend a dime on family fun or pleasure.
Secondly, who says the value of pool ownership should be determined solely by financial planners? Last time I checked, CFPs were long on knowledge of portfolio performance and short on backyard planning. Arends’ argument lacked evidence and reeked of some bizarre personal vendetta. But you’d almost have to be a satisfied pool owner or part of the industry to know that. Most consumers will read this piece and accept it unquestioningly as truth. (Luckily, “Taking a Bath on Your Pool” received more than 100 readers’ comments, most of them from pool owners who disagreed with Arends’ position.)
It’s critically important that the industry fight this type of uninformed, biased journalism. If you see a report that inaccurately shows pools in an unfavorable light, write a note voicing your displeasure. Better yet, contact an industry association about publicity campaigns that show the positives in pool ownership, or start a campaign yourself.
Our future depends on it.