Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Negative Review of Product Reviews

Question: How do you know if a blogger doesn't like something he/she got for free?
Answer: Because he/she didn't review it. 

Question: How do you know whether they didn't review it because they never saw one before OR if it's because this thing is trash you shouldn't waste your money on?
Answer: That's the rub, isn't it.

I was recently invited to be part of a VIP group of Mom bloggers affiliated with a larger blog. One of the perks of membership would be the opportunity to get free stuff to review. Hey, who doesn't like free stuff!

But then the leader emphasized that this blog does NOT do negative reviews. I have heard this before from many bloggers. And it rubs me the wrong way.

Maybe it's the term review. Maybe it should be called, as Husband said, I got something for free and here's my blog about it.

Because when you look at the concept of review, it's that you, as a member of the target audience for said product, tried it out and now have opinions to share. So when I read on your blog that you like EVERYTHING that you have EVER SEEN. You start to seem disingenuous to me.

But others think that's part of the deal. Company provides Product and Blogger writes sing-songy post. Blogger gets paid and/or swag. Company gets testimonial. That's the social (and sometimes very formal) contract.

So I guess that seeing blog after blog of favorable reviews tells you something to the affirmative about a product. But what about the bad products. How do you learn about them?

Last week I tried six different Target stores looking for a Disney Princess digital camera. When I posted on Facebook that I was desperately trying to find one, several people who had bought similar cameras warned that you get what you pay for and that they had a terrible experience.

Then I started looking for product reviews online. I finally found reviews of the Cars version of the same camera--and people hated it. And you know where those reviews came from. People who had already wasted their money. Judging by the scarcity of the Princess camera, it doesn't matter if it's any good or not. By the time people open these things in a month and think to write a review--Target will already have gotten their money!

My point in all this is that there are some really great-looking things for kids, for the home, for women--that suck. But we'll never know it by reading blogs. And come on, let's face it, even the very worst products can get some favorable reviews, if the price is right.

There are some blogs that are sunny all the time. They never have a gripe with anyone. Others, don't mind taking a shot at a product that they've tried on their own--but not ones where they've accepted payment.

I don't do many reviews. But I always write what I want and many times I'm sure that I gave their marketing people something a little outside of what was expected--but no one has ever complained.

See some examples:

So what if I got something that was really a clunker, that I thought I would love (and I haven't yet). Would I do a negative review, a mixed review? Call and politely decline? I really think I would want to warn people not to waste their money.

I have been wavering on my personal policy, even as I have drafted this, but I think I have it clear now: I will review things that fit with my life and my family that I anticipate that I will like. If it turns out that I don't like a product, I will be honest but not cruel.

I think this fits my personality and sense of direction for this blog. Back to the camera example, it would fit my criteria for something I would anticipate liking, but may have disappointed me in the end.

If you blog, what's YOUR policy? If you don't blog, did you realize that many blogs have positive-only policies?


  1. I do product reviews on my blog. I can see how it may seem strange to have mostly positive reviews, but I honestly have been pretty lucky to really love most of what I have been given the opportunity to review. If I don't like something, I say so, but I also give companies the chance (behind the scenes) to "make it right". Often if they make it right, I will mention what I didn't like and also mention how it was fixed, as I believe customer service of a company should be mentioned in a review of a product as it is an important point in an all-encompassing review. There have been items that I could not get a solution to "make it right" because it was something like the way something tasted etc, and the company has taken my feedback privately and I didn't post a review. My personal policy is to be 100% honest on what I do review because of personal integrity and the FTC guidelines. I always try to post negative feedback in a professional and constructive way, however. Getting the product for free does not influence my review positively or negatively. I know people want to hear the good and the bad, so I make it a point to say if I had a problem.

  2. Christine, Thanks for taking time to read my post and for your thoughtful reply. I'm confused about your policy, because it looks like on one hand that you don't run anything but positive reviews (prefer to handle "privately") but then you also talk about being 100% honest and offering constructive negative feedback.

    If they haven't already, I predict most blog reviews will fade into irrelevance, as people turn to the more uncensored comments on sites like Amazon and Yelp. I do think that blogger opinions on products will still be a good way to queue up a giveaway.

  3. There are some blogs that are sunny all the time. They never have a gripe with anyone. Others, don't mind taking a shot at a product that they've tried on their own--but not ones where they've accepted payment.

    Public Relations

  4. I have heard this before from many bloggers. And it rubs me the wrong way.Mark R. Smith

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