Last week, CNN reported on an FTC case that brought me to tears: Sunday Riley, my favorite skincare line, was outed for posting fake positive reviews of their products, and “disliking” negative ones.
Detailed instructions were distributed to employees, outlining what to write and how to cover their VPN tracks. Employees who struggled to come up with an “authentic-sounding” review were
encouraged to consult with the company’s CEO. Sadly, even after emails proving their guilt surfaced, the company still wouldn’t admit to any wrongdoing. Their excuse? That their fake reviews were legitimately used to “push back” against negative reviews posted by their competitors. In other words, “everyone else is doing it, so we did too.”
I hate it when people justify their actions by pointing fingers at others. First, wrongdoers tend to view the world through their own skewed lens, assuming that “everyone else” is as crooked as them. Second – and I’m going to channel my mother here for a moment – just because “everyone else is jumping off a cliff doesn’t mean you should too.” Third, all of us are responsible for changing culture.
Kris Vallotton recently spoke about our power to be “cultural architects.” Every individual, company, community, church, and nation is responsible for leveraging our authority for the good of the whole. And at any moment, any of us can change the way things have “always been done,” by choosing to do the better thing.
In this case, the “better thing” would be to end deceptive marketing practices. But as I stewed over this story, it dawned on me that I should focus, instead, on the only deception I could control: my own.
You see, there was a time, not that long ago, that I, too, posted “fake glowing reviews.” But instead of products, I posted about my life. This inclination stemmed from a lack of identity and maturity, as well as a spirit of comparison. FOMO, YOLO, and every other "-O" fueled my desire to do, taste, and experience everything the world had to offer. As I did, I posted pictures of a glamorous version of my life that didn’t really exist.
My life, on Facebook, was the ultimate “deceptive marketing practice.” I never lied, but I emphasized the positive, deemphasized the negative, and projected an image that was better than reality. So I get what Sunday Riley did, and why. It doesn’t make them a bad company, it just makes them look pathetic. I still love their products. I’m just a little embarrassed for them - and me.
While I’ve come a long way, I still wrestle with a few recurring deceptions. Like when I’m with church people, and I feel the need to sound extra spiritual. Or when I’m with political people, and I feel the need to be extra “in the know.” Or when I’m working, and I feel the need to be extra right. God still has some refining to do in my heart, but the more confident I grow in my identity in Him, the less “extra” I feel the need to be.
I don’t know what will happen to Sunday Riley. It seems like they don't think they've done anything wrong. I get that - I didn't either. But I do know their PR nightmare could easily be resolved with a sincere apology and a commitment to setting a new industry standard in truth and integrity. I doubt it will happen in time to save the company’s reputation, but I’m hopeful. And in the meantime, I’m just grateful for the reminder to stop faking it, and just be me.