By Jim McCloskey
I’ve been around watershapes on a professional basis since 1986, and I can recall more than a few times when something has crossed my desk that made me cringe.
Often it was studies released by the National Association of Realtors about what adding a pool does to a home’s value. On too many occasions it was news about a particularly horrific drowning incident or diving accident in a pool or pond. Sometimes it was just a big newspaper or magazine story in which pools, fountains, ponds and other watershapes played a part where I thought the wrong questions had been asked – and then were poorly answered.
In that context, imagine the first thoughts that ran through my mind when the current issue of the Angie’s List magazine for Los Angeles area reached me with the cover headline, “Dream Pool or Money Pit?”
Angie’s List itself may be well grounded in a range of consumer-oriented issues, but the magazine has the limitation that all such periodicals do: They only cover specific topics infrequently, so when they do, it doesn’t tend to reflect expertise or exhaustive research on the part of the author – in this case a staff writer for the magazine.
So I was already in something of a defensive crouch when I cracked the cover – and then, much to my relief, I saw the article’s subhead: “Test the waters before hiring a pool installer or repairman.” Common sense: What a good place to start!
Of course there were horror stories of work not completed, failed inspections, suspended licenses – the sorts of stories that have long dogged the industry. But about halfway through, the good advice starts to flow: do your homework, be wary of the low bid, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples with different contractors, communicate constantly – the sort of advice that has radiated between the lines of just about every article WaterShapes has ever published, whether in print or online.
On balance, not bad. But I will say one thing: People in watershaping seem to be a bit too willing to throw other companies in their industry under the proverbial bus. I can’t disagree that some watershaping professionals behave a bit like village idiots (as one of those interviewed by Angie’s List volunteered), but I would suggest that all operations are tarred by the same indiscriminate brush when such comments appear in print in a vehicle such as this one.
The risk, of course, is that consumers who read the magazine will be filled with doubts of the sort that lead them to spend their discretionary dollars in other ways – not a desirable outcome, even among the A-rated construction and service companies that stand to benefit most from positive exposure in regional editions of Angie’s List.
Being given a forum to speak your mind is one thing; using it productively can be quite another.