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Seller Beware - On Reviews and This Blog

Recently, I've started getting offers to review stuff on my blog. While this is very flattering indeed, I have mixed feelings about reviewing things that I have been somehow compensated for. My issue is that I believe that most people, when given something for free (or paid for something), will be more inclined to write a favourable review even when it isn't merited. This has been proven in sociological studies; when someone does something nice for us, we tend to want to reciprocate. Welcome to human nature.

I polled some of my blogging mommy peers on the matter, and the general consensus (from those who replied) was that they either didn't review things anymore, or if they did, they would give the companies who comp'ed them the "right of refusal" to not publish a post if it was negative.

My wonky-eyed ugly face, because I'm honest like that.

This is where it gets tricky, because I can't just do what everyone else does. My stupid convictions and strong opinions get in the way! In this case, it is this: I cannot in good conscience write a favourable review when something isn't favourable, and I also cannot self-censor a review or allow it to be censored when it is negative, simply because this skews online content and doesn't allow for an open and honest examination of products. It also undermines my credibility if I only post glowing write-ups, and never allow myself to be critical about anything.

I mean, I'm a consumer who likes to Google stuff before I buy. I love that I can read up on a product on Amazon, or check out TripAdvisor reviews before I book my hotels, or consult Urbanspoon and Yelp for my dinner reservations. In all of these cases, I am so grateful for the folks who took their time to write about their experiences, good bad and ugly. It helps inform my choices, and I trust that if an overwhelming 480 voters tell me that a restaurant only has 38% approval, I'm probably better off eating elsewhere. Likewise, the hotels we've stayed at that are often very highly ranked on TripAdvisor always turn out to be a good choice.

What happens, then, when bloggers who have been provided with free "stuff" only post the glowing reviews? I would never know about the allergic reactions, the faulty parts that break off easily, or that something is a total waste of my money. I would never discover that the upholstery makes my kid overheat or itch, or that the snacks actually taste like styrofoam or contain questionable ingredients, or that the hotels are actually very filthy and the service is crap. The right of refusal would mean that these kinds of reviews simply aren't posted, since what business is going to want the blogger to go ahead and slam their stuff? And to be honest, I'm fairly certain that most folks who have received something for free simply don't want to post any negative reviews anyway.

So here's my policy for this blog:

1) Reviews on items (books, cosmetics, baby gear, etc) that I have purchased on my own have not been vetted by any affiliated companies. They don't even know that I exist. The reviews are 100% my own, good bad and ugly! And usually, they are favourable, simply because I'm blogging about it out of a passion to share what I've discovered with others.

2) If I do receive any compensation for my opinions, either in discount or free product or whatever, I will fully disclose this. Readers deserve to know exactly how much wooing I've been subjected to.

3) In cases of comp'ed reviews (like my recent series on the Clek FLLO), I will provide "sneak peek" access to my post to any affiliated companies upon request, but will not give them right of refusal. This means that I will still post my opinions, even if they are bad and ugly, even though I may have been given the product at a discount or for free. The only editing I will honour will be for factual discrepancies (e.g. weight or measurements, how a technology works, etc). Therefore, companies who wish to approach me to write a review will understand and accept the risk that their product may be negatively promoted on this blog.

Sellers beware! I'm going to be honest on my blog because I want my opinions to be considered trustworthy and credible. If a product or service is sh!t, then that deserves to be noted online just as much as if it is amazing. Therefore, unless you are absolutely convinced that your shizz is gold, I would advise against approaching me to review it. You might be sorry (but I won't be).


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