Back during the Thanksgiving holiday, Gwyneth Paltrow was one of several big-name celebrities to make a paid appearance at a boutique opening in Marrakesh, Morocco. No one really thought anything of it, besides “random” and “Gwyneth’s dress is pretty.” Then, a few weeks later, Gwyneth snotted out a very special Goop newsletter, all about her guided tour of Marrakesh and how we should all travel there in spare time. This could be a big problem for Goopy! This is because Gwyneth probably didn’t have to pay for any of the crap she was writing about in her Goop newsletter – she likely received all of that stuff for free, and if that’s the case (probably), Gwyneth violated new guidelines for bloggers and paid endorsements set down by the Federal Trade Commission. Jezebel explains it better:
Gwyneth’s latest GOOP, published yesterday, concerns her “very impromptu” trip to Marrakesh, Morocco. But since it’s very unlikely she paid for her accommodations there, she may have run afoul of new Federal Trade Commission guidelines concerning endorsements.
Gwyneth describes her stay at “the revamped historic La Mamounia Hotel,” where she enjoyed “a daily Hammam treatment at the hotel’s spa. Get this: 15 minutes in a steam room, a full-body lather in Black Soap, an exfoliating rub down, a Ghassoul (Moroccan clay) body masque, and then a warm shower… Ridiculously lavish!” So did she pay for the privilege of getting steamed and lathered? Not likely, says Jeff Bercovici of Daily Finance. Apparently Gwyneth was one of several celebrity guests at the hotel’s gala reopening after its most recent renovation. According to the Daily Beast, the party included a procession led by architect Jacques Garcia: “As a phalanx of security stood guard, Garcia led La Mamounia’s red-carpet march, flanked by his outlandishly coiffed muse, Tess, and quickly followed by a succession of Arabian/American/Iberian/Anglo/Gallic celebrities.”
Throughout the night, said celebrities offered gushing sound bites like “I’ve had a longtime love affair with Morocco” (Juliette Binoche) and “those beautiful gardens, the attention to detail – La Mamounia has a tremendous sense of the past” (Adrien Brody). Gwyneth apparently retreated into a private “palace of privilege” right after her red carpet appearance, and had to deliver her praise via the web instead.
Therein lies the problem. An anonymous booker tells Bercovici that there’s “not a chance in hell” Gwyneth paid her own way at La Mamounia. The booker continues, “I’m sure they were comped the entire thing. If you’re going to go on a holiday over Thanksgiving, you don’t go somewhere you know there are going to be photographers if you’re paying.”
And, according to new FTC guidelines issued last month, both celebrities and rank-and-file bloggers are supposed to disclose any free goods they received if they make endorsements via online media. Some have argued that this disclosure rule isn’t enforced for print journalists, and that bloggers are being unfairly targeted. Others are concerned that trolls will take this opportunity to report blogs they don’t like. There’s also the issue of enforcement. Back in June, Caroline McCarthy of CNET wrote, “[D]oes the FTC realize just how many small-time bloggers are out there? Championing business ethics is a worthy goal, but, um, good luck getting much done when there are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there and new ones popping up more or less daily. Ever heard of the expression “herding cats”?”
Of course, Gwyneth is a very big cat indeed, and the FTC might send a louder message by fining her (the penalty for undisclosed freebies is up to $11,000) than it would by targeting smaller bloggers. Bercovici says the big fines are meant mainly for advertisers — “still,” he writes, “I contacted an FTC spokeswoman to ask how it would determine whether Paltrow violated the guidelines — and what, if any, steps it would take in the event that she had.”
No response yet — but in a world where the richest people sometimes seem to get the most free shit, it would be nice if Gwyneth, Brody, et al had to disclose the motivations behind their praise. Regular readers of GOOP probably understand that the newsletter promulgates a lifestyle that’s unattainable for most people — after all, Gwynnie “can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year.” Still, it might be nice if we all got an explicit disclosure that her “life is good because [she's] not passive about it” — and because companies aren’t passive about courting her favor with freebies. And while we’re at it, could someone teach her the difference between “it’s” and “its?”
Yeah, I’m actually kind of “meh” on this. If Gwyneth did receive all of this crap for free, then wrote about it glowingly on Goop, recommending we pay for these services, then she’s a total fraud (which wouldn’t be a surprise to most of us). On the off-chance that she did pay for these services, then who cares? She paid for some crap and then recommended we live the same pampered, exotic life.
I’m sorry to hear that I could be fined on the off chance some studio might send me something cool. Which they never do. But just because I might accept a “gift” (say, Gerard Butler with a festive bow on his wang), doesn’t mean I’ll rave or endorse anything. I wonder if you can still be fined for taking free sh-t and then bashing it?