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Very False Advertising

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"If that's the Happiness Hotel, I'd hate to see what the sad one looks like."

A gag in comedy. The characters go on vacation, but they find out the brochure pretty much lied about... well, everything. It promised them that the "Ultra Cool Inn" would be a luxury four-star hotel, but instead they find a crumbling cottage with a dangling, faded sign reading "Ultra Cool Inn", which is filled with cobwebs and has roaches living inside the refrigerator.

Sometimes you'll see the characters holding up the advert, and then revealing the actual place behind it. The elements will correspond, but will be very different. So the swimming pool will be in the same place, but the real one will be dirty brown, with stink lines coming off it.

Unfortunately, sometimes Truth in Television. Not just for vacations, either.



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  • Played with in the old "Joe Isuzu" ads run by Isuzu in the 1980's, where Joe would make outlandish and frequently impossible claims about Isuzu vehicles, with subtitles giving actual information. "It has as many seats as the Astrodome!" "(Note: actually seats six.)"
  • A commercial for a British travel agency during The '90s played with this to warn prospective travellers to be careful when booking a holiday. A couple checks into a hotel are dismayed to find themselves several miles from the nearest beach when the brochure stated that it was a stone's throw from the beach. When they complain to the owner, he brings them up to the roof where he has a catapult set up and is using it to launch boulders several miles to the ocean.

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Beach Episode in Magical Pokaan starts with the girls holding an ad for a sunny, crowded beach. Cut to the same beach in the middle of a typhoon.
  • The second Hot Springs Episode of Wagaya No Oinarisama has Noboru realize that the brochure for the inn he went to used this. The place is cheap and broken-down, but Kuu loves it regardless.
  • The protagonist of Ranma ½ fell prey to this due to vague language, not to deliberate malice. When the prize for a good performance as Romeo was "Win a trip to see China!" he was excited at the chance to return to the Jusenkyo springs to cure his curse. As it turns out, "China" was the first name of Furinkan High's Romeo & Juliet producer. And Ranma got to see him. In the Swedish translation, they told him he could win "en resa till Kina" (a trip to China), but later Ranma found out that what he really won was the homophonic Enres Atiltjina, the producer of the Furinkan High play. Atiltjina's comment? "Thank you for winning me."

  • The mid-eighties Robin Williams vehicle Club Paradise involved the protagonists intentionally opening such a hotel. Hilarity Ensues.
  • The Great Muppet Caper, quoted above. To the hotel's credit, though, the people living in the hotel are indeed happy... Although this says more about the Muppets than the the hotel. They cheerfully admit this:
    If you don't mind friendly animals and can learn to stand the smell, you'll fit right in to Happiness Hotel.
  • In National Lampoon's European Vacation, the Griswolds discover their London accommodations to be... less than what the Pig In A Poke producers had promised.
  • In Carry On Abroad the gang is off for a packaged holiday in Els Bells. However, the hotel they stay at is not even completed, and eventually is completely destroyed by a big rain storm.


    Live-Action TV 
  • In Dharma & Greg, a bed'n'breakfast which promised a stately veranda, a breathtaking view of the sunset, and a whole host of other things, turned out to be a trailer behind a guy's house.
  • Happens in a 3rd Rock from the Sun episode, involving a timeshare.
  • Lane's honeymoon in Mexico in Gilmore Girls turned out like this. So did the rest of her marriage.
  • In the Dinosaurs series, when the Sinclair family visits Wesaysoland.
  • One Are You Being Served? episode had the entire staff forced to take their vacation time simultaneously and at a Grace Brothers approved resort. As Mr. Rumboldt read off the tourist descriptions, he showed a slide show of the resort's features; the first one matched the hype, but none of the rest did. ("The beach is only twenty minutes away." "By jet?")
  • The "holding up the advert" variant is used with Todd's much-crappier-than-expected apartment in The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret .
  • In Absolutely Fabulous Eddie and Patsy go to France and make the best of a tiny, dirty little cabin, ignoring, or more accurately not understanding, the suggestion of the groundskeeper that they should move up to the mansion where rooms are waiting for them.
  • A flock of priests go to have a drink at their local "Tea Bar". The half-broken neon marquee reveals that the building is actually a "Striptease Cabaret", and the priests are quite (pleasantly) shocked with their visit. Such is The Benny Hill Show.
  • An episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody that saw Maddie temporarily Put on a Bus had Sister Dominique showing her a camp brochure with a waterfall and various other natural wonders...then the camp turns out to be horrible (they once had leech cobbler as a meal and are across the road from a slaughterhouse).
  • In the Victorious special "Locked Up", Yerba is this. For clarification, the Yerba website depicts a beautiful country with white sandy beaches, but this turns out to be a scan of a picture hanging on the wall in a local hotel. The actual Yerba is a 3rd world hellhole with a easily angered dictator for a ruler.
  • In Bewitched, Darrin and Samantha go on holiday to a "beautiful cabin" Larry has in the hills... which turns out to be a decaying, crumbling mess. When a storm sets in, Sam magics it into the cabin that was described. Trouble starts when Larry then shows up...
  • Happens on Martin with Martin and Gina's vacation getaway. To make matters worse, they fell out with their best friends, Beta Couple Tommy and Pam, who ended up staying there too. They made up just in time to fight a dog-sized rat.
  • One episode from I Love Lucy's Hollywood story arc places the Ricardos and the Mertzes in rural Ohio; after making a pitstop at a rundown roadside diner where the lone proprietor only serves stale cheese sandwiches, they leave. Afterwards, Lucy drives down the road, while Ricky, Fred, and Ethel sleep, finding a billboard, promising good accommodations and wonderful food if you turn left onto the next road - Lucy does so, only to take everyone right back to the same rundown diner, where the proprietor admits he was waiting for them, saying that he put up that billboard himself to make everyone travel in circles. Not surprisingly, his only cabin is bare-bones, the full bed's mattress dips down to the floor, and passing trains shake the entire cabin violently.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Dilbert and Dogbert went on a trip to Clyde Canyon, which turned out to be a ditch. Subverted when, as they left, another hiker asked them, "Why were you hanging out in that ditch? Beautiful Clyde Canyon is just over that ridge."
  • FoxTrot has Andrea swearing that next time, she's gonna be the one in charge of vacation plans. This comes after the revelation that there's going to be a mock hurricane ("I wondered why everything was velcroed to the walls"). Roger is still clueless: "Uh, honey, your eye twitches like that when you're happy, right?"
    • Technically more of a subversion, as the dialogue implies that the brochure was pretty much honest; Roger's just that stupid.
    • And to be fair, everyone else had a good time.
  • A private version happens in an early story in For Better or for Worse when the family uses a friend's cottage and finds it a wreck, but they make the best of it. When they get back from their comically unpleasant stay, their friend asks how they liked the TV and the jacuzzi, which were definitely not at the cottage they used. To that, Elly roars at John "You idiot! We went to the wrong cabin!!"
  • A running gag in Frank and Ernest involves the guys, in one form or another, advertising something. Frank will point out that the ad is entirely false, and Ernest will explain how all the supposedly good stuff he wrote about is really bad.

    Video Games 
  • The beginning of Luigi's Mansion, pictured above. The picture shows a nice inviting house complete with the sun in the sky, pleasant scenery and even rainbows. The actual mansion is a menacing looking Haunted House complete with tombstones on the lawn and Dramatic Thunder.

    Web Original 
  • As featured on Not Always Right, there's a bar out there that advertises "Free beer, topless bartenders, & false advertising."
  • Homestar Runner
    • Seen on the post cards in the Strong Bad Email "vacation". Strong Bad claims that there's nothing great about "The Great Mound", remarks that "Fabulous Downtown Pantsburg" isn't as fabulous as it appears on the postcard, and discovers "That Clock (Look at it Go!)" doesn't actually run and is stuck at 2:55. Inverted with the postcard of "Historic Over There", which Strong Bad claims actually appears in real-life to be painted entirely in sepia tones, complete with brown sky and pavement.
    • In "extra plug", Strong Bad orders a pair of "'Lectric Boots" that are allegedly "solid state" and "whisper quiet". The boots are actually covered in energy-sucking incandescent bulbs which are definitely not "solid state", and the cooling fans produce "an obnoxiously loud hum" that is anything but "whisper quiet".

    Western Animation 
  • Garfield and Friends:
    • In episode 34: "Housebreak Hotel", a pet hotel promised a luxury stay. When Jon left, Garfield discovered that the sleeping accommodations were stacked cages in rooms, and the food was worse than raisins.
    • In episode 53: "Wonderful World", the titular amusement park is discovered to have fallen into disrepair... much to the eventual ire of the founder...
    • In episode 73: "Rainy Day Robot", a robot, advertised as being able to bring about any weather on command, never actually causes rain to fall from the sky, although a number of other things do... including 27 pianos.
    • Earlier, in the Garfield in Paradise special, their accommodations fail to live up to expectations:
      Jon: "Beach. You know — sand... with water along it... this is the Seaside Motel, isn't it?"
      Desk Clerk: "Mr. Arbuckle... what's in a name?"
  • There's a flashback scene in Arthur in which the titular character recalls D.W. wanting to go to a place called "Santa's Igloo," among seeing a billboard and a commercial advertising "Santa's Igloo: Share a sundae with Santa and his friendly reindeer!" The commercial showed Santa and his reindeer flying over a sunny igloo beach. When the family actually arrives at that location, they find a completely mundane house decorated with a fake igloo facade, with a man partially wearing a low-quality Santa Claus suit who demands to know whether they brought any sundaes to share with him. "How can you share a sundae with Santa, if you don't bring a sundae to Santa?"
    • Another episode had the new Dark Bunny video game, being hyped as the state of the art. It turn out to be a very crappy Super Mario demake.
  • Futurama:
    • Hermes and his wife go on a holiday to "the spa planet", which turns out to be a forced labour camp, complete with perky fitness instructor/slave driver.
    • Somewhat inverted in "The Series Has Landed"- Fry is eager to visit the moon for the first time, only to end up visiting a large theme park with cheesy attractions. He hijacks a lunar rover to break out and see the "real" moon, which ends up almost killing him.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The 'Sleep Eazy Motel', which due to light failure seemed to be called 'Sleazy Motel'.
    • Also from The Simpsons is Kamp Krusty.
    • The Simpsons Movie seemed like it might be heading for this when the Simpsons head for Alaska and found it filled with oil rigs, Homer's idea of a map is to plaster the poster advertising Alaska to the car windshield. When they get there Alaska is great and actually has the exact same view as the poster.
    • The wine-making estate when Bart visits France.
    • Bart and his classmates took a spring break trip to visit the World's Fair based on a 14-year-old brochure.
    • Lionel Hutz' advertising as a lawyer. His business cards say "Works on contingency — No money down". When confronted with this by Bart, seeking his legal counsel, Hutz hastily claims that it is just a typo, "correcting" the card with a red marker to say "Works on contingency? — No, money down!" At which point Hutz also notices that the bar association logo on the card is no longer valid, so he quickly tears it off and eats it.
  • The contestants on Total Drama were told that they would be staying at a luxury resort, not at an abandoned campground in Northern Ontario. Subverted when we see that they do eventually go to the resort — after they're voted off.
  • This happens to the Scooby gang in The Secret of Shark Island. Not only did the brochure fail to mention the run-down hotel and general dereliction of the island, it also forgot to talk about the shark-infested waters. Appropriately, as it turns out.
  • A mild example from Family Guy: Don Knotts in Too Many Ostriches.
    "There's way too many ostriches! Why are there so many ostriches? The brochure said there would only be a few ostriches. This is a terrible vacation!"
  • Played with in the Rocko's Modern Life episode, "Snow Balls", where Rocko and Heffer are lured into visiting a ski resort. The signs and billboards for the resort say that everything is only $5; Rocko and Heffer believe this means that everything (ski rentals, accommodations, etc.) is $5, but soon learn that every thing is $5 (meaning everything they do or use is $5 each).
    • One episode had Rocko buying a new vacuum cleaner he saw on TV. When he gets it, the vacuum cleaner delivered to him looks nothing like what was shown in the commercial, which is huge as a truck and has a mind of its own.
  • In the Rugrats episode, "Grandpa Moves Out", Roberto Mazatlan advertises a retirement home called Flushing Waters. In the commercial, Roberto claims Flushing Waters to have gourmet food and wonderful on-site fishing, and Lou decides to move there when he feels unappreciated by Stu, Didi, and Tommy when he inadvertently interferes with their dinner. It is later revealed that Flushing Waters is a lot more run-down than advertised, with the "gourmet" food looking like something one would expect from a public school cafeteria, and the fishing creek revealed to be a large fountain stocked with fish that the residents are supposed to catch with nets and put back when they're done. Lou soon finds out that Flushing Waters isn't as luxurious as advertised, but he refuses to admit it to his family until Tommy and Angelica cause a series of mishaps that make him realize that they're the most important things in his life.
  • In Gravity Falls, this trope is how Grunkle Stan does business. It's not that his products or services are good in anyway, it's just that he's skilled at selling himself.
    • In "Headhunters" Stan advertised free pizza in attending the grand opening of his wax museum, which there wasn't.
    • In "A Tale Of Two Stans", we see how Grunkle Stan's first hokey scams went. The first was a stain towel that would supposedly clean stains instantly, but instead the cheap dye he colored them with made stains worse. Next was a brand of band-aids called "The Rip Off".
    Past Stan: The Rip-Off won't give you rashes. I repeat, it won't give you rashes.
    Present Stan: It gave you rashes.
  • In Cartoon Network's What A Cartoon! Show short "Podunk Possum: One Step Beyond", the toon opens on a picture of a marble-columned chicken coop from a deed that Podunk purchased. He lowers the deed and the actual property includes a run-down wood shacky chicken coop with holes, and weird things going on...

    Real Life 
  • In a real-life example, a British leisure park in the New Forest advertised a "British Lapland" complete with real log cabins, huskies, reindeer, a Christmas market, nativity scene and a tunnel of light. In reality, once visitors paid the £25 entry fee, they found that the log cabins were B&Q garden sheds, the nativity scene was a poster on a billboard in a field of mud, and the tunnel of light was actually a handful of lights stung across some dead trees. Stallholders in the "market" weren't paid, and Santa was reportedly beaten up by angry visitors.
  • The majority of frozen meals, complete with the opportunity to compare the tantalizing gourmet repast on the box picture with the puny, viscous, nuked mess on the inside. This blog that does just that.
    • Advertising laws require any food being sold be something that's actually in the package. The solution? Get a couple truckloads of the food product, find the best bits from thousands of packages, and doctor them: additives are a big no-no, but using a charcoal lighter to burn grill marks is fine. (It should be added that one of the reasons this is legal is because some degree of it actually has to be done in order to get good quality photographs, because these shoots can easily take hours to get right; for example, under studio lighting, milk can curdle by the time everything is arranged, so any photos involving "milk" usually usually use glue (or some other similar substitute) instead.)
    • This may vary depending on the country, in the US, for example, it appears to be perfectly legal (based on the fact that everyone does it) to show things that aren't actually included in the package as long as you put "serving suggestion" on the label somewhere in small print. This is also the case for some European countries, like Germany.
    • Fortunately not the case with the Weight Watchers-endorsed SmartOnes line. Apparently, when you're selling a meal as a dietary aid, you have to stick closer to what's on the box.
  • Meccano had a model blocksetter crane pictured on the box lid of every set. However, not even the massive Set 10 (the largest) came with all the parts required to build the model (it was missing some gears), to say nothing of the tiny Set 1 (the smallest)—which also pictured the model.
  • The DVD set for the first two seasons of Ren & Stimpy claimed to be uncut right on the cover, but it actually wasn't. Paramount wasn't aware of this, though. They just used what Spike TV gave them (this set was released around the time that Adult Party Cartoon aired on Spike, then known as TNN. Because of this, TNN aired earlier episodes as well, and their masters were utilized for the DVD, instead of the originals by Nickelodeon. Due to this, the episodes not only contained edits made by Nickelodeon, but extra cuts for commercials too). Complaints caused them to lose the word 'uncut' from the later sets.
    • Humorously averted with a recent repackaging of the three box sets of the show, which labels it The Almost Complete Collection.
    • While we're on the subject of Viacom-owned programming on DVD…
      • The Season 1 DVD for SpongeBob SquarePants, despite claiming to be complete, was actually missing the pilot episode, Help Wanted, due to music licensing issues with the song that plays when SpongeBob makes Krabby Patties, Livin' in the Sunlight by Tiny Tim. Nickelodeon did, however, rectify this by including the episode on future releases of the show, most prominently the Season 3 DVD as a bonus feature, and with the song included.
      • The complete series of ChalkZone was released in October 2014 as an Amazon-exclusive Manufacture-On-Demand DVD. However, the set actually omitted one eleven-minute segment, The Smooch, for the same reasons as Help Wanted (in this case, the Baha Men's cover of the song Coconut got in the way). The episode and music video it was paired with, Power Play and All the Way to the Top, were included, and the credits of the episode were untouched, acknowledging the missing episode. Unlike the SpongeBob episode, Nickelodeon does not plan to go back and clear the rights for the song.
      • A DVD set was released on Valentines Day 2017, claiming to be "The Complete Collection" of Beavis and Butt-Head. The problem? The discs are identical to the three "Mike Judge Collection" sets, the separately-branded "Volume 4", which contained every episode of the brief 2011 revival, and The Movie. In total, that only makes for under 70% of the series, losing music video segments, certain banned episodes, and segments that Judge himself dislikes, to the extent that he prevents MTV from releasing them.
  • The Roblox 2011 TV commercial was widely criticized because of this. Most of the places shown and one user, TimmyMcPwnage, do not exist. Some of the gimmicks displayed, such as the mad veichle chase and the rave party, weren't possible to program at that time. Finally, "IT'S FREEEEEE!" is shouted, yet Builder's Club and the Robux mumbo jumbo weren't mentioned at all. Here's a nice video which analyzes the commercial and points out the lies.
  • One of the print ads for the Super NES game Power Moves featured screenshots that weren't even from the game, and looked more hand-drawn. Ironically, this was the wrong way to go (not just for moral reasons), as the hand-drawn stills looked much worse than the actual gameplay shots, which were actually pretty impressive for the system. Later ads featured the actual gameplay screenshots.
  • Renting an "ocean side" beach house on North Carolina's Outer Banks? Hope you weren't expecting a view of the water — "ocean side" just means the house is on the east (ocean) side of the main road. Getting a view means spending far more for an ocean-front place.
  • This is reputedly what Erik the Red did to convince people to come populate his new settlement. "It's called Greenland! It's very green. Oh yes, there's lots of green in Greenland, yes."
  • Evony popularized the very sleazy tactic of marketing browser games using pictures of scantily clad women who typically are nowhere to be found in the actual game and trying very hard to convince the viewer that the game is pornographic even when it's anything but.
  • The cover art of Hyper Street Fighter II: the Anniversary Edition claims that it includes the animated Street Fighter II movie "in it's entirety". While it does include the movie, it is obviously not the full product, notably cutting the Chun-Li shower scene in such a poor way that you can clearly tell certain parts have been removed. The jumps in the music are VERY blatant.
  • Where to even begin with this motherlode of All-Natural Snake Oil? (Unusually for Himalayan salt, this isn't even on the label or in the images.)
    • Non-GMO: Of course salt wouldn't be genetically modified; you can't genetically modify it because there's no genetic material whatsoever because it's not a living thing.
    • Organic: Salt isn't livestock or crops. You can't deprive it of antibiotics or weedkiller because it's not a living thing. This wasn't raised on a farm; this was dug out of a Pakistani salt mine.
    • No Chemicals: What? Just what? Salt in itself is a chemical - sodium chloride. Plus, Himalayan salt contains several impurities, some of which (polonium, chromium, lead) make it unsuitable for human consumption without purification, and many of which are considered toxic even in harmless amounts by one woo-meister who sells his own brand of Himalayan salt. On what planet does this have no chemicals?
  • Fyre Festival was billed as a luxury music festival, and patrons shelled out thousands for tickets that included housing in private villas and gourmet meals. When attendees arrived none of the luxury accommodations were anywhere to be found, the booked bands cancelled, and the best organizers could come up with for guests were disaster-relief tents and cheese sandwiches.
  • The loudness of cheap speakers is sometimes advertised using a measurement called PMPO, a representation of the maximum power output the speakers are capable of. Problem is, Exact Words is very much in play here, as PMPO stands for Peak Momentary Performance Output - the power measured as the PMPO is a level speakers can't actually maintain for more than a momentary peak without suffering serious damage, rendering the measurement nonsensical in terms of actually using the device. One enthusiast compared it to throwing a toddler-sized toy car off a cliff and claiming its maximum speed was what it reached before it hit the ground.
  • The "Aladdin Deck Enhancer" was an add-on for the NES that claimed to add 64 kilobytes of memory to enhance the quality of special games developed for it. In truth, the device did not add any memory, and was instead a housing unit for a lock-out chip that would allow developer Camerica to more cheaply manufacture unlicensed games by selling more compact cartridges that worked with the "Deck Enhancer" to bypasss Nintendo's anti-piracy technology. The unlicensed version of Micro Machines made for the Aladdin is, in fact, the exact same game as was previously released on the NES before the Aladdin's release.
  • A classic example is the ads for Sea-Monkeys, which depicted them as full-blown Fish People and boasted of the procedure allowing you to create "instant life." Some even implied that Sea-Monkeys were intelligent enough to do tricks. In reality, Sea-Monkeys are simply a breed of brine shrimp whose eggs have been freeze-dried, and once the "special powder" (read: eggs) has been put in water and they're done hatching, they won't do much more than swim around in circles.
  • The ads for Homescapes and Gardenscapes have been hit with this. While the ads show it as games where you have to select the right tool to fix something, the games are actually match-3 games.


Example of: