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The Quest for Reliable Spa Ratings

By: Todd Selese, Consumer's Review Digest
August 2002
Updated January 2008

The question that reverberates through the minds of thousands of potential spa customers is a simple one: Where can I go to find out consumer ratings for hot tubs? This may seem like a rather simple question, but one could spend countless hours searching the web for information and come up empty. Although several private firms do publish spa ratings, they do not serve the public in a way that may prove useful to the potential spa buyer. These ratings do not offer the public complete wide-ranging analysis. As industry competition increases and several manufacturers begin to advertise nationally, the pressure becomes even more intense to focus on a way to sort through all the information, which bombards the consumer from every possible media source.

Third Party Studies

Most consumer reporting magazines have never focused on the spa industry as a subject of study. But this could all change, as consumer demand a third-party source to legitimize the claims that each manufacturer is making in the highly competitive marketplace. Even the manufacturers themselves agree that an independent assessment could be beneficial to the whole spa industry. Today's consumers are more informed when they set out to make a purchase. Being armed with credible information could be a tremendous boost, as consumers need not only to rely on salesperson claims of their product, but could also use this valuable information to substantiate the manufacturers assertions.

Continued Pressure

As the industry grows and the number of manufacturers steadily increases, the demand to grab the consumer's attention rises. A family who's interested in purchasing a spa today has many options when researching for a purchase. A typical beginning could start with surfing the Internet in order to get some ideas and model types, which may suit their needs. This could lead to only more confusion, as a typical spa search could result in up to 50 different manufacturers being listed. This vast amount of information could be beneficial, but often times results in confusion and an overwhelming sense of information overload. Each manufacturer represents claims to their products superiority. Such claims should be taken lightly. Several consumer-based magazines can also offer help. Such magazines as Pool & Spa Living, SpaSearch, Better Homes & Gardens, Consumer Digest's "Best Buy" section and Robb Report occasionally offer their recommendations on spas and spa features. This can prove beneficial, but many industry insiders say that money can play a huge part in how a company stacks up.  It is fairly common knowledge that many of these companies may sell their "seal of approval" for a price.

One Company's Answer

One company that has developed its own Buyer's Guide and posted it on the Internet is Poolandspa.com. The Las Vegas, NV  based company has been posting its popular Spa Buyer's page since 1996. "It is one of the most popular visited sections of our website" says Dan Harrison, president and CEO. "Most sites will sell spas, so they are always going to be skewed toward the spa they are selling," he says. "We sold spas for years, but we don't now.  We list the top quality spas in all classes and at all price points offered in the spa industry.  We have checked out the brands that we recommend.  It is a great place for consumers to get information before they start to go spa shopping". 

That may be true, but Harrison does not hide the fact that he accepts advertising money from some spa manufacturers as well.  "Poolandspa.com is by far, the most visited pool & spa web site and it is a great cost effective place for both pool & spa manufacturers to advertise." He adds that "Just because a spa company places advertising with us does not necessarily guarantee a high rating on our site.  As a matter of fact we have turned away manufacturers who did not measure up."

Do Your Own Research

Armed with this information, consumers should feel that the information available will help to steer them in the right direction. Even with the help of the internet, the new spa buyer should research his spa purchase in other ways as well (visit spa stores, request brochures, ask friends and family for recommendations, etc.).

With all the consumer information that is available, spa shoppers should continue to carefully assess all the information they gather. Several visits to their local spa dealer will also prove invaluable. To actually see the spas will help one to decide if the spa will "fit" the family. A first hand trial is still the best way to determine whether a spa best suites your needs. The "wet test" is still the most convincing factor when planning to make a spa purchase. To actually get in and try it may be the deciding factor when finalizing your purchase!

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