13 August 2011

On Honest Reviews

In the last few weeks, my friend Janssen posted about a rather lousy customer service experience she had with an online retailer. She then wrote a follow-up post in which she detailed why the first experience was so frustrating and why she felt compelled to write about it. In short:
  • She had only heard very good things about this retailer, primarily through several blog posts written by many different bloggers.
  • Yet when she wrote her bad review for the retailer, several people commented that they had also had bad experiences with the retailer, namely that their clothing was poor quality and also fit poorly.
As Janssen and I chatted online about this incident and the way she handled, I learned that this retailer frequently gives away free clothing to people who are willing to blog about them. The retailer will also sponsor giveaways for the readers of those blogs to have a chance to win a dress. (Apparently the merchant sells mostly dresses.)

I had, somehow, NEVER heard of this retailer until Janssen's post. I'd not read any blogs with rave reviews nor ever had the opportunity to comment on a blog post in an attempt to win a free dress. But apparently I was very much in the minority in that regard.

Still, the whole situation was quite frustrating to me. If that many people find these dresses to be cheaply and poorly made, then why are so many people saying good things about them? Do bloggers not realize that it is bad for their own credibility to endorse a product that isn't particularly good?

Everyone likes free stuff. I get that. But even if you are a person who likes free stuff, you have to see what bad business it is to promote something that isn't any good. First of all, it makes you look like you don't actually care about your readers. If you did, you wouldn't be encouraging them to spend their hard-earned money on garbage. Second, it undermines your credibility as a real-life person. If you endorse something that your readers find out later on is terrible, why should they believe you the next time you endorse another product?

Here are a few guidelines that I follow in my blogging reviews. (And, to be fair, I haven't really been given anything for free in exchange for a blogging review, but maybe I will have the opportunity to implement these guidelines in the future.)
  • If the product was given to me for free in exchange for a review, I will always tell my readers such.
  • If I don't like a product, or if I think the product is over-priced, I will be upfront about that.
  • If I ever say that I like a product, I will say it sincerely. If there are caveats (such as "I like this but I would never pay full price for it.), I will make sure those caveats are clear in my review(s) of the product.
Are there other guidelines I should add? Is it really that hard to give honest opinions of products, even if the products aren't that great?


Ana said...

I think with some products you have to give them a bit of a trial period to see how they go.

For instance, I bought a pair of glasses online from Zennioptical after reading Angela's glowing review. However when I initially go them everything looked pink and concave through them. I also found that I was constantly having to go and clean them as they got dirty very quickly. Rather frustrating. Also when ordering them I was annoyed that it didn't mention that it was an American site and hence the prices were in US currency. Also, I came into problems with the checkout process - for some reason that I can't remember now I couldn't get through checkout because it required some irrelevant info and each time I tried to get through it say I couldn't and prob about 3 times it lost all my info (cos I couldn't provide the irrelevant info it required) and I had to fill everything out and find the glasses I wanted ALL. OVER. AGAIN. Thing is though that in the end the good outweighed the bad so I counted it as a "win". Yes the site and their irrelevant info gathering was FRUSTRATING. YES, the glasses initially made me dizzy and paranoid over my pink concave vision. BUT it was dirt cheap. Even with extras and postage included. And the glasses just needed getting used to and now they don't alter my vision - thankfully (well in a way they shouldn't that is!). So for me - more pros than cons = win!

On all the other counts I'm totally with ya. Off to read Janssen's review! I'm intrigued!!

Brianne said...

But you might hurt that product's feelings...

Packrat said...

One thing that would worry me is that the item sent for me to try would be really good, but the product that is available to the general public isn't exactly the same. (Although, our retail business sends samples for companies to try. We do this for feedback on whether or not to carry the item.)

The advice I've received over the years, is that if you try out something in a store or at home (door to door sales person or product parties) - say a sewing machine, vacuum cleaner, even a mattress or a chair or sofa - and you really like it, buy the one you tried out. Chances are there will be a switch made or a different machine won't be "tweaked" quite the same.
Don't feel bad about not having heard about Shabby Apple, neither my daughter (your age) or I had heard of them either.

Janssen said...

Doesn't a free dress seem like a high price to pay for your credibility?