Altered photos may set travelers up for disappointment - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Altered photos may set travelers up for disappointment

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(WMC-TV) - If you are planning a summer vacation, those pictures on the hotel website might not be what's waiting for you.

In the age of Photoshop, finding your way to the right hotel can be tricky.  Laura Bloch found out the hard way.

"I wasn't expecting a five-star resort," said Bloch.  "I wasn't trying to pay for a five-star resort."

She booked a stay at a hotel that looked great on the website, but when Bloch arrived to check in, another guest was on a tirade.

"She was not happy with her room, and hearing her rant and rave about two other rooms they tried to put her in gave us reason to pause and ask to see the room before we checked in," said Bloch.

She said what she found was not a brochure room.

"Must have been a different building," she said, "because it looked just like it hadn't been scrubbed recently.  But it was the actual smell permeating through everything in the room.  It was a bit too much."

Bloch immediately turned around and got her money back.

On travel website, you can find a slideshow of hotels pushing the envelope of how far hotels can go when advertising an experience.  In one picture, a surfer appears to be hanging out in a pool that, in reality, you would have a hard time even swimming in.

One hotel found the building on the right side too obtrusive.  With the help of Photoshop, they made it disappear.

"None of that is true," said attorney Christian Stegmaier.  "You've got a building here that appears to be another hotel that is obviously obscuring all these views."

Stegmaier said photographing a room in the right light is one thing, but wiping out high rises is another.

"Where you really get yourself into a problem, what I've seen is where buildings have been Photoshopped out," said Stegmaier.  "Or the circumstances are in fact not what they really are."

Stegmaier said there are state and federal regulations in place to keep hotels from seriously altering reality.  Unless you are a large convention with dozens of rooms and thousands of dollars on the line, finding lawyer to take your case would be difficult.

Stegmaier said what hotels really need to fear is word of mouth.

"Bad word goes around," said Stegmaier.  "You're not necessarily afraid of getting sued, but again, a negative review on Google can multiply and can drive away a lot of business."

Bloch said customer reviews now play a much bigger part in her vacation planning.  She said she has learned the pictures don't always tell the real story.

"Kind of like online dating," said Bloch.

If you feel like you have been misled by a hotel, you can file a complaint with Consumer Affairs.  If you are going to try to get your money back, experts said the sooner the better.  Hotels will be more willing to give you a refund soon after you arrive as opposed to three nights into your stay.

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