What Make a Company Trustworthy or Biased?

Yesterday, a tanning salon from Canada happened upon my blog post about the possible health benefits of tanning. When I first saw the string of comments, I feared they were spam. After seeing they were honest comment (if a little biased), I decided to leave them published. Those comments got the response I thought they would – doubt. Of course a tanning salon would fight  for the idea tanning was a safe and healthy activity. That said, it left me wondering, regardless of the bias, who better to discuss tanning than a tanning salon?

A lot of businesses have taken to social media and blogging spread their message. That’s my day job, after all. While we may be immediately suspicious of the information a company puts out there, who better than them to discuss their own services? Everybody has blogs these days, from insurance companies to lawyers. They’re all trying to be expert sources for the public in the hopes that public will turn to them when they find themselves in need of their services.  Whether or not that happens hinges on their ability to convince the public they are honest and know what they are talking about.

As I reflected on those comments from the tanning salon, which argued that tanning wasn’t as bad as Big Pharma claimed and that Big Pharma was also biased in its assessment of tanning, I wondered what causes us to trust one more than the other. What makes us think Big Pharma is less biased than the tanning salon or that one knows more than the other about tanning? We’ve all heard that tanning in a salon is bad for you. We know the increase in the use of tanning bed has happened during the same period where there was an increase in skin cancer (correlation, not causation). That’s enough to be wary, but is that enough to confirm the health benefits or detriments as fact?

Now, let me be clear: I have no idea where that particular tanning salon gets its information. I know the tanning salon I went to knew enough about how to get tan, but didn’t have much to say on the risks involved. As such, I am also immediately suspicious of a tanning salon claiming tanning is 100% healthy without some kind of study to back up that idea.

This photo, “Side effects may include skin cancer.” is copyright (c) 2014 Nina J. G. and made available under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license
This photo, “Side effects may include skin cancer.” is copyright (c) 2014 Nina J. G. and made available under an Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license

With that out of the way, I am also suspicious of pharmaceutical companies, knowing full well they’d rather we all take pills to treat the symptoms of our illnesses instead of actually curing or preventing illnesses. A lot of those pills also cause harm to health as they do their job soothing our symptoms.

This is all beside the fact, though. What I really mean to point out is how we decide to trust a company. Who better to inform us about insurance than an insurance company? Would someone who studies insurance, but never actually provides insurance, be a better informant than the actual company? Would someone who studies construction but has never actually constructed anything be a more reliable source than a construction company?

Maybe our trust in a company has nothing to do with their business. Perhaps it has more to do with how the interact with us. One of the reasons why social media has become so important is because people want to know companies they hire like they know their close friends on Facebook. If they interact with us, are honest about their skills and equally honest in their apologies when they make a mistake, we’re more likely to like them.

Of course, that doesn’t really explain why people are automatically suspicious of certain companies. It does not surprise me that those who talked to me about the tanning salon’s comments were unmoved. Tanning has a similar reputation to cigarette and tobacco companies. That said, I can search ‘how many cigarettes do you have to smoke to get lung cancer,’ and find a significant amount of information. People have looked into this, finding it has a lot to do with your genes, the age you start smoking and how many cigarettes you smoke in a day. Unfortunate people may develop issues within six months while others may spend their whole lives cancer free. Since every link I clicked on referenced studies, I have no doubt I could find them to do more in-depth research.

Maybe the answer is that people are already convinced tanning is bad. People smoked cigarettes for a long time, so there had to be a significant effort to show people how unhealthy the behavior is. However, since everyone readily accepts tanning is bad for you, there’s no motivation to invest in more studies.

Do you have any idea how much one session of tanning increases risk of cancer? Do you think someone has asked that question before. What makes you trust a company? Would you ever read a company blog to learn more about the company and industry? What sort of assumptions do you have about the information shared on a company blog?


17 thoughts on “What Make a Company Trustworthy or Biased?”

  1. All information on a companies blog is taken with a grain of salt. That said same goes for all those claimed studies.
    We stare ourselves blind on studies. Soon as it said that a scientific study has been performed we already assume it is good. (tele-shopping anyone)

    Studies are just that and never complete. A cigarette company claimed smoking was okay at least so was the study. Than studies claimed it CAUSES lung cancer. I am more like it CAN.
    A study is no guarantee. same as we all have our favourite brand of TV, one always seem to work better fro a personal reason.

    A study is just that, no matter how much you read we can never be sure. use your own smart, it can be as bad as it can be good. And vice versa. All we can truly rely on is our own body’s reaction. Whether it is to late or not you made an assessment on risk so live it.

    Just last week a 17 million was it was given to a widow of someone who smoked a lot. because the cigarette company never warned them. Take some responsibility as one kept smoking even though in the years claimed it was said to be bad for you. I do not think we have a brain to assume studies are always right.

    There was a time when we went over to our clients instead of letting clients come to us. Service has shifted in a weird way sometimes.

    oh well just me raving lol

    1. On some level, I do think we have to be smart and make our own choices, but I think we also have the right to know about all the different studies. I’m sure it wasn’t the case, but for arguments sake, say no studies were published on the effects of smoking. No ads warned about the potentially harmful effects. THEN, his widow might have had a case because he didn’t know he was harming himself. However, if all that stuff was available and he willfully choose to be ignorant, the fault is his alone.

      1. Well it would be his fault indeed and yet she is 17 million richer. for now.

        It is okay those studies come out but they, and this is a personal opinion are pretty much one sided.

        These days the same goes for all those studies about meat, egg whites, eggs in general. years it has been said to much is no good and now all of a sudden it is said we need those. it is up to us to find a middle ground.

        Studies only take place over a period and the outcome is an average. You and I are far from average so smoking will have a different effect on each of us. same for meat and or eggs and what not.

        SO yeah we should be smart but the one thing studies do not mention is that conclusion does not apply on every one.

        1. They usually give, as you say, an average. They say – here are your chances, given this study. I’m not saying studies are the holy grail, but I think they are worthy. People just need to remember to ask how the study was done.

  2. I have been in the exact same situation with Psoriasis. I spent a year seeing a dermatologist who prescribed one thing after another. None of them worked. Many were very expensive ($160 5 oz bottle of shampoo). I lost my insurance when I was laid off and still suffering from psoriasis bad enough that I grew out facial hair just to hide it. A year later a friend of mine opened a tanning salon and I was able to try it for the first time. Within seven visits my face and head were drastically improved and I was able to shave without the shaming redness and flaking I usually dealt with. I now have insurance again but refuse to see a dermatologist after their inability to treat me before. I need to go back to the tanning beds but will have to pay for them now, but it is an investment in my mental health. I won’t have to worry about my skin nor will I have to buy the newest medicine that doesn’t work. I don’t trust any company as a general rule, (except Gouletpens.com, they are awesome) and I expect most of them care as much for my well being and happiness as any other random stranger. My biggest concern now is the other effect of psoriasis. early arthritis in the joints. The pharmaceutical companies are just now acting as though they have the answers for this in a handy pill form with only thirty-five side effects. Basically, my long-winded tirade breaks down to, I trust what I find that works and use it as little as is needed to get the job done. I hope you find the same results that I have and enjoy the benefits.

    1. What I had was similar to that. I spent a lot of money on creams and vitamins in a vain attempt to find something that worked. I just didn’t buy the doctor’s words that there was nothing I could do. Tanning was the last thing I tried because I don’t want skin cancer. As the weeks went by, though, I stopped caring about risk because it was just horrible. Three sessions in one week and it was gone. Just like that. I can’t imagine that was any more harmful than a pill they would have created. Not when I only went three times for less than 10 minutes each session.

  3. “Would someone who studies construction but has never actually constructed anything be a more reliable source than a construction company?” I think the answer to this is neither. There are people in the construction company or in the topic company who may not have studied or know anything behind the topic but have the physical experience same as the person who studies the topics may know the background behind it but may not have the physical experience in it. The real answer is, people are looking for someone who has both. Someone is reliably both informed about the background behind a topic but also has the physical experience doing it. Theory is great but is nothing without practice. Both combined make it complete.

    1. I think that’s true in most cases. Maybe some companies are just bad at showing they have both. And, of course, people always suspect a company that has something to gain from sharing information.

  4. Ok, first I would like to say that I love your use of correlation, not causation. I don’t see that used enough but when I do it reminds me how much I love the English language.
    As someone who does read company blogs to learn more about what that company has to offer as well as running a blog for my company that I hope people use to learn more about us, I’m going to give my peers the benefit of the doubt.
    I’m going to assume that like me they are only putting facts about their business and what they offer as well as provide upon request any information pertaining to services and goods. The reason I feel this way is because I know the internet is not a lying free zone, if you lie to a customer and they find out, you can kiss all your positive reviews goodbye. So what’s the point in lying? Just tell them the truth, or as much of it as you know, and hope you provided to them what they need to decide that you’re the company they want to go with.

    1. That’s how I see it, but then, we’re in the same boat in terms of our jobs. We know what’s happening behind the scenes.

  5. I don’t know anything about tanning, so I’ll answer the other questions:
    >What makes you trust a company?

    I don’t trust companies so much as products. I don’t purchase anything without researching and reading reviews about it — and that goes for everything from goods to services. I will never assume a product is good just because a company I like makes it.

    It can be tedious and painful to spend so much time being a conscientious consumer in that regard, but it ensures that whatever I buy is high quality.

    >Would you ever read a company blog to learn more about the company and industry? What sort of assumptions do you have about the information shared on a company blog?

    I sometimes read company blogs for the fun of it, but the fact is that all company blogs are pure propaganda. Sometimes they’ll show us something nifty, like OK Cupid’s online dating research on OK Trends, but at the end of the day, it’s just an advertisement. Having a well-curated blog is not going to change my opinion about a product.

    Also, you mentioned offhand that you are suspicious of Big Pharma because they would “rather treat symptoms than actually cure illness,” so I will mention offhand that this is a common but unsubstantiated conspiracy theory about the industry. [1] It is the kind of thinking that is espoused by the anti-vaccination camp. There are things Big Pharma is arguably guilty of, such as providing treatments for mild “conditions” that people used to just cope with. However, the idea that they profit from leaving diseases uncured on purpose calls to mind the broken window fallacy. [2] You can’t make a long term profit by causing destruction, no matter what.

    The diseases remain uncured because they are exceedingly complex. Doctors today know more about the human body now than at any time in history, but they are still just getting scratching the surface.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Pharma_conspiracy_theory#Reception
    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_window_fallacy

    1. Yes, I am suspicious of big pharma. They are for profit and that comes first before people. I’m saying they’re causing destruction, though. Keeping people alive benefits them, but keeping people healthy doesn’t. If there is a something out there that isn’t profitable, it won’t matter what good it does, they won’t make it. I mean, we have male birth control at this point, but they refuse to provide it to the public because they don’t think they’d make a large enough profit. If all they cared about was the well being of others, people who couldn’t afford proper health care wouldn’t be left to suffer.

      That said, I am not saying I am 100% never ever pay attention to big pharma. They do a good enough job. When someone is dealing with an emergency, they provide many answers. It’s not all their fault that we’ve become a pill popping culture. I think a lot of my distrust comes from getting help from other sources the medical industry would have us believe is a joke.

      So, I’m at the point now where I take everything from my doctor’s advice to the words of a tanning salon with a grain of salt. They and everyone in between want us to believe they are the only ones who have the answer when, in reality, it’s probably a happy combination of many things.

  6. I’m glad you made a response to my comments, as for my sources:
    2)www.Mercola.com (Dr. Joesph Mercola)
    4)Statistics on melanoma mortality rates: the National Cancer Institute of Canada

    Plus many other sources including reputable doctors and dermatologists (yes, dermatologists against their own advice!) If you would like these sources, I will gladly provide them.

    Yes of course I am backing the services I provide to the public and I am doing so because we have come under so much scrutiny mainly because of the big pharma & sunscreen companies. These companies have been lying to the general public for decades (to add to their bottom line) and I am trying to suggest to people not to listen to them, not even to listen to me, but to find the truth and do the research themselves.

  7. Also, do you think the cancer societies are actually trying to help people with cancer? They claim so, but they are a MULTI BILLION DOLLAR BUSINESS (they are also sponsored by many dermatologists, big pharma and sunscreen companies. MANY sunscreens have something called Oxybenzone in it, a KNOWN carcinogen). If the majority of the population are able to prevent cancer by living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining proper vitamin d levels (as humans have evolved to do), their business would cease to exist and that is NOT in their best interest.

  8. The tanning question is one that I would love an answer to – several years ago, when my husband was stationed in Alaska (and I having always lived in Texas, Ghana, California and China) I tanned daily sometimes because it helped my mood. UV rays are better than depression drugs (or so I thought anyway) and I was far from the only one who did it. The cold and dark of Alaska……

    So what is the answer? Honestly at the time, a little raised risk to deal with the darkness seemed worth it. Now I am not sure. But I would love to know the actual answer!

    1. I was the same way. In that moment, I thought a little risk was worth the benefit. I’d love to see a risk vs. benefits comparison between moderate tanning and depression drugs. We don’t know enough about the brain yet to pinpoint exactly what the problem is when it comes to depression, so those medications end up affecting parts of the brain that don’t have issues. I don’t know what the short and long term side effects are, but given some of the crazy things I hear on pharmaceutical commercials, I’d probably be willing to go tanning a bit instead. Someone really needs to do this. I propose a study comparing 100 people who don’t tan at all, 100 people who tan outside three times a week and 100 people who go indoor tanning three times a week. It’d take forever, because they’d probably have to follow the people for a few decades, but I’d like to see the outcome.

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