My stand (and rant) on product reviews

If you’ve been reading this blog for quite a while now, you’ll see that I have been doing product reviews in the past including a baby carrier (product provided by company), a smartphone (product provided by company), a cool kitchen gadget (product I won from a contest), a netbook (product I won from another contest), a restaurant, books and much more. I also hosted giveaways, giving away items and stuffs provided by companies but mostly from the US, not here.

Lately, I’ve been contacted by a few PR companies here in the UAE for product reviews and I’m honored to be ‘visible’ out there that they got in touch but whoa, product reviews here is a different ball game. There is no compensation for bloggers: they expect us to work pro bono. Worst, they ask bloggers to return the product sample after the review is up on the blog.

You know a rant is about to come up, do you?

Let me get this straight: PR companies are paid by brands -> they hire bloggers to help them with exposure -> they send out the product sample -> blogger accepts and reviews, posts them on his/her blog -> PR companies take back the product. Do you not see anything wrong with the picture here?

Now this blog is not a payola site (I got that exotic term from the Kristin Luna). I do not/will not receive compensation for product reviews (see my PRODUCT REVIEW POLICY) but I feel cheated when PR people demand that I return the product used for review. Why? Because I can’t see how this kind of review policy is beneficial for me or most importantly, for my readers.

Brands get publicity and exposure, not to mention Google juice from my review blog post. What do I get? PR companies will insist: “But you get to test out the awesome product before anybody else!” Hmmm, sorry but:

  • I am not that gadget crazy
  • I am not good with putting back things in boxes along with styro-foams (I almost always miss a teeny weeny part)
  • I don’t have time to call your driver to pick up said item, set up time, wait, wait, wait
  • I can’t afford to be nervous while the item is being transported back to you – what if the driver drops it and damages it?
  • I can’t afford to pay for something I didn’t even need in the first place or want and if I am desperate to have your product, I will buy it for myself
  • I am okay not to be the first to test out anything, unless it’s a space trip.

Reviews take time, a lot of time, and a blog’s real estate is valuable. Add in the value of a blogger’s influential reach and I absolutely think that review bloggers should be compensated, either by giving them the product sample to keep or offer one as giveaway for their readers.

That said, I hope bloggers in this region don’t accept product reviews if the condition is to return the item after reviewing it. It is not fair.

With brands/PR people and bloggers it should be a win-win game.  Simply put, if companies can afford to pay PR people, they certainly can afford to pay bloggers! A blog partnership should be treated as any other brand partnership within the marketing mix with an appropriate budget. But maybe, that’s just me and the PR world goes on – they will just find another blogger who’ll work for free.

Are you a blogger in the UAE? Have you reviewed an item and returned it? What is your product review policy?

19 thoughts on “My stand (and rant) on product reviews

  1. As a blogger/writer you’re not supposed accept freebies in return for reviews. True it takes time to write a review but you’re forgetting something and that is the review is providing your blog with content. So it is a win win. If you were to keep the items you reviewed that would be unethical since it’s as if you’re getting paid to review the item.

    Do you think car reviewers get to keep the cars they review? Even extremely popular blogs like Engadget and Gizmodo have to return the items after review. Not only is it against their policy to keep the items they review but its also against the policy of companies to pay (or give items) to reviewers.

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now and this post has actually changed my impression on you 180. A blogger who wants to get paid to review is not a blogger I can trust.

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    • I did not say I want to get paid. And of course, my review policy about not returning the product/item has exception. I do not expect to receive the car if I am asked to review it and IF I accept to review it.

      I do not like to keep everything as a freebie (I am not a full time product reviewer in the first place) but at least what I’m saying is, the product sent should not be returned and at least be offered as a giveaway to my readers. Brands get exposure, I get content, readers get perks.

      If you are a blogger doing reviews and returning everything sent to you for review, that’s you and I respect it especially if you have time to do it and enjoying what you do.

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    • If you’re going to leave a comment on this blog, please at least leave a correct email address so I can reply to you properly. Thank you. The email reply I sent just bounced back.

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    • “As a blogger/writer you?re not supposed (to) accept freebies in return for reviews.”

      AND WHY is that?

      I have a feeling Mr./Ms. Moey, that you are one of those PR companies who don’t compensate bloggers. 🙂

      “True it takes time to write a review but you?re forgetting something and that is the review is providing your blog with content. So it is a win win.”

      Content? As if this blog or any other blog would be empty without that! Where’s the win-win there?

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  2. “I did not say I want to get paid.”

    You didn’t say you wanted to get paid money but you did say:

    “I feel cheated when PR people demand that I return the product used for review. Why? Because I can?t see how this kind of review policy is beneficial for me”

    and

    “I absolutely think that review bloggers should be compensated”

    which basically means you want something in return for a review.

    “what I?m saying is, the product sent should not be returned and at least be offered as a giveaway to my readers.”

    Why does a review have to turn into a raffle? It’s just a review! If they’re so difficult for you to do just don’t do them. No one is forcing you to! Does every car magazine giveaway the cars they review? Does Gizmodo and Engadget giveaway the products they review? Can you name one blog where they give away the items they review? The only time I’ve seen a blog do that is when they’ve purchased the item themselves and once they were done with the review they gave it away.

    I’m really puzzled why you’re insisting companies should treat your blog differently from the rest and give you freebies for a review. I miss the old Grace.

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    • If you do a simple search with keywords “product review policy”, you will see that A LOT of blogs have the same review policy as I have so I am not insisting companies to treat my blog differently.

      But yes, you are right, if it’s difficult for me, I will just choose not to do it. And in actuality, I have declined product review proposals due to this reason.

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    • So let me get your point of view straight Moey – you think it’s in her best interest to receive a product for review (perhaps kids fall in love with it), spend her time writing a well thought out post and then package it back up, remove it from the home where it might have become used daily and then use more of her time to ship it back to the company? In the name of content on her blog that she created with her own personal content which is why the PR company reached out to her in the first place? Get real and get over yourself if you think people’s time and opinions are so invaluable on a grand scale.

      ps. Using a car for an example is a ridiculous comparison. When a car company wants a review they approach a blogger with an offer for a short-term test drive. This isn’t the Oprah show! Also, I have a newsflash for you – companies write off promotions no matter where they’re located on the planet so what’s the big deal about giving the product to the blogger permanently and ensuring a long-lasting word of mouth promotional campaign? Isn’t that the point of the review in the first place?

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      • Hello…thank you so much for weighing in on this issue! The social media scene here in this region is so outdated. And I am surprised with the comments and tweets I’ve been receiving after this post, after I declared that I don’t want to work for free anymore!

        Some PR people even told me companies don’t treat bloggers here as online influencers or would bring ROI so they don’t give away free products to review. I say, BS. They do treat bloggers as online influencers and ROI sources that’s why they approach them, right?

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  3. Hi Grace let me weigh in,

    You see I work with brands and bloggers every day but in another part of the world, not in the UAE, as part of my day job in a network of North American bloggers.

    I connect great brands with great bloggers for reviews, giveaways and brand ambassadorships, on this side of the stream you give the blogger the item for review which must be fully disclosed on the blog.
    What PR companies in the UAE are not seeing the value in the the relationships that get built after giving a blogger said item. I have OFTEN seen bloggers go above and beyond just a mere post. I have often seen bloggers talk about said items well beyond any contractual obligations and I have seen these same bloggers who get introduced to a product engage on twitter, facebook and Pinterest with the brands they have reviewed.

    Here in Canada depending on the face value of said item, a blogger may just keep the item, or they can also be paid for the review: average payment for review in Canada, that depends on readership but my company when reaching out expects to pay no less then $50 for the review plus item. Metric and reporting back to said PR company the hard facts that they can take to the brands helps to grow the opportunities. You are on the cutting edge over there, and have taken a stand. I think it is a very smart stand.

    By the way the big players on this side of the stream like Engadget and Gizmodo get PAID for the reviews or keep items that cost over here hundreds of dollars ie tablets phones etc! I know as a blogger I reviewed a tablet and kept it, value $500.

    Some bloggers on this side of the stream, get paid hundreds if not thousands as they enter into a relationship with a brand, all is done with full disclosure, those are the rules here.

    As well PR companies in the UAE should note you have a international readership so if the are trying to grow into a global brand, well, your blog is one I would want to be featured on.

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  4. By the way Gizmodo is over half PAID sponsored posts. Engadget gives the reviewed product to readers or returns it, they make money on site via online store, and ads.

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    • Hollie has a great point, especially in response to your first commenter. Having worked on staff for a half dozen major magazines over the years, I know that very rarely do magazines return samples that are sent (unless, say, it is a $25,000 diamond necklace), and many–even if they don’t disclose such–DO charge for “editorial” reviews.

      You better believe the PR/marketing firm reaching out to you isn’t doing their “job” for “free,” so why should you? These companies have a very hefty advertising budget and they pay their third-party firms generously, so I always find it suspect when someone tries to get me to do something for free (I won’t…end of story), and then says “well, we don’t have a budget” when I tell them I’m not a free source of labor.

      Well done you for saying what you did. The UAE needs to take a page out of the advertising book of the US/Canada/UK/Australia, countries whose entities are beginning to understand the power of Internet influence and the value of working with bloggers.

      I actually don’t do product reviews, because that’s not what my blog is about, but I’ve been on both sides of the fence–a magazine editor, whose company had a relationship with the product of note (meaning, everyone was getting paid for services) and a blogger who companies want to exploit for free–and I hate to see anyone taken advantage of.

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      • >> The UAE needs to take a page out of the advertising book of the US/Canada/UK/Australia, countries whose entities are beginning to understand the power of Internet influence and the value of working with bloggers.

        Honestly, I don’t know when that would happen.

        Yesterday, I tweeted that in the US, bloggers receive compensation in the form of review item or even money for reviewing products (and just add a disclosure clause at the end of the post) and a PR person in replied to my tweet saying”because in the US, companies treat the bloggers as they are – online influencers. It’s a struggle here” — if the companies don’t feel and think that bloggers are online influencers, they wouldn’t approach them would they?

        Anyway, thank you very much for your precious comment. People here need to know how it works there in the US.

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      • Hi, I’m Joy food and travel blogger in Manila. I wish I have the courage to tell the PR outright what you just said. But you see, competition here in Manila can and will get in the way, sometimes, we needed to be reached out or sought out by PR companies, also to get the message out there about what you are doing (and working hard for), but yes, you get to that point where you think, these PR companies see you as just a free-loader or gullible, someone easily deceived. Sad…

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  5. I think it depends on the value/ product of the item you’re reviewing. In my case, it’s beauty products, dresses, etc so obviously it would be ridiculous for them to ask me to return them. They either gift it to me (and I’m free to mention this in my review) or I have a give away.
    The bf is a geek blogger though and they usually give him a gadget for a week or two to use and review (and then pass it on to another blogger I think). It’s understandable then, especially if it’s an expensive gadget. In return he gets the benefits of content, SEO, and becomes a resource for reviews. etc. He also establishes a relationship with the brand and they sponsor giveaways for other products or even his events, which I think is a win- win.
    It doesn’t always have to be a monetary compensation,sure, but I think these brands could think of creative ways to repay the blogger the favor because he/ she is doing them a favor not the other way around. We have a trusting audience and work hard on maintaining a relationship with our audience.
    And I’m so over folks judging bloggers for getting paid, we invest so much money in our blog, why shouldn’t others? especially big brands with big budgets. As long as there is transparency, there is nothing wrong with it.

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    • Yes, I reckon the return the review product policy in place by PR companies depend on the value and the blog – specialist blogs like your bf’s, they get the gadgets, review it so they can have the content, SEO and reputation as a review blogger is normal. Companies would then build a relationship with the blogger and sponsor items for giveaway as incentive for more readership, etc.

      Once I agreed to loaner product review because of that “relationship” I thought I would build with the company but after I wrote a review and posted it in my blog (which still comes up in Google for the related keywords), they have not contacted me at all. It’s been almost 2 years. That’s why, I have decided not to do free work anymore, end of story.

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  6. I mostly review clothing and beauty products. In my review guidelines I tell them I do not return items. I have turned down companies in the past. Book reviewers have received free books for decades. If something is used and worn it should not be returned. Correct me if I am wrong in terms of car reviews mentioned above but they don’t drop off a new car at your home they pay for a rental do they not? Sometimes even gas? Anyway I have only had one person say they were not interested because of my policy. I have no problem saying no and will not feel guilty for it. People often change their tune when you say you are not interesred in working with them. If they don’t there pfff. Also, over here the government does consider gifts a form of payment so we must claim it the value.

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  7. Honestly, I’m with you on this one Grace. While I’m not in the UAE and I don’t know their policies on PR and reviewing things, I personally think what we bloggers do is very valuable! Our time and effort is put into every blog post we write and every item we review and that’s definitely worth something. To assume that we will invest our time into something for free is basically taking advantage of us.

    It doesn’t always have to be money or a product either-Like Weesha said, companies can get creative, just as long as they value what we do.

    This is our jobs! Full time or part time, we view this as work and so should they.

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  8. Stay strong Grace! I’m glad to see you writing about this. Honestly, I’m part of a few blogger networks over here and they are always wanting us to post for “a chance” to win. That’s like entering a sweepstakes for “a chance” to win. And while I’ll gladly fill out a form for a sweepstakes I will NOT hawk my blog for a chance to win. And it’s usually something piddly like a $25-$50 gift card.
    Like you said, I don’t work for free!
    PS. I find it highly ironic that you’re featured in a British magazine and then this… you obviously have influence! 😉

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    • The PR companies sends a lot of mediocre offers. The social media scene here (incl blogging) is at least 2 years lagging behind the US/Canada!

      They need to study more and possibly read on how to do these kind of stuff!

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