COMMENTARY | Shame on Skechers for taking advantage of gullible consumers who believe everything they see on TV. Alleged misleading advertisements by Skechers cost the shoe manufacturer approximately $45 million in refunds to states and customers, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Shady claims concerning the health and weight-loss benefits that stem from wearing Skechers Shape-Ups, Resistence Runners and Tone-Ups models were apparently greatly exaggerated. Skechers should not have claimed an independent study proved the toning aspects of the athletic shoes. Reasonably intelligent buyers also should have known a panacea for a stellar physique does not exist.
No pair of athletic shoes will help people lose weight if the wearer chooses to don the shoes while walking to the fridge for a cupcake instead of hitting the treadmill. The company also claimed Skechers improve circulation. It is doubtful any athletic shoe is better than another, yet advertisements routinely tout their impressive ability to make wearers run fast and jump higher.
Skechers probably would have stayed out of the courtroom if the company stuck to the status quo of sports gear advertising instead of twisting the truth about a nonexistent study by an independent chiropractor. The Plain Dealer reports Steven Gautreau was anything but independent.
According to court documents from the Federal Trade Commission lawsuit, Gautrea was paid for his endorsement and is married to a company marketing executive. Although the case was settled out of court, consumer backlash is likely to be fierce. It is one thing to claim your shoe is the best, but the lying about conducting an independent study will likely leave consumers sore.
An editorial by Forbes journalist Matthew Herper depicts the potentially expensive and unreasonable changes that could be pushed into law by the FTC in light of the Skechers fiasco. Herper believes America does not have enough clinical trials for any products other than medications. Trials for running shoes would not only be subjective but would create an added expense which would undoubtedly be passed onto consumers. If every boastful sentence in an advertisement must first be cleared through a clinical trial, costs for all products will increase.