One of the biggest perks of blogging—for me, anyway—is getting to do product reviews. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to receive more goodies than I ever thought possible: food, games, beauty, supplements, clothes, books, kid’s stuff, Judaica, decor, etc. (Honestly, the list is wild!)
Because I’m often stuck at home due to chronic pain and other health problems, finding a package waiting on the door step is quite often the high point of my day. In fact, there are days when I feel so crummy, it may be the only good thing!
I know that some bloggers become very apathetic over time, so used to the freebies that they start to feel entitled. I’ve always been the exact opposite. Every single time I open a surprise, I feel such excitement! Sure, it’s nothing earth shattering, but I enjoy it and I feel blessed by it.
Not every item I receive, of course, is wonderful. Most are decent, and when they’re not, I have made it a rule not to write negative reviews and trash companies for no reason. Just because the product isn’t to my liking doesn’t mean it’s bad for everyone, after all.
This week, I had two reviews, which I expected to be 5-star, end up being a complete disaster.
The first involved a meal delivery service that focuses on weight loss. They send out a month’s worth of frozen food that is supposed to produce great results. Obviously, free food is hugely popular and gaggles of bloggers applied. I felt so honored to be included and had already started outlining my blog posts and some recipes that would work. When the box actually showed up, it was not what I expected. I always communicate carefully with food companies about my dietary restrictions. Most will immediately let me know if it’s a problem. I hadn’t heard anything, so it was pretty surprising when an assortment of pork ribs, pork sausage, bacon, cheesy chicken, and shrimp arrived!
Aside from the frozen veggies, plain eggs, and some plain fish fillets, I didn’t find any of it appealing. Mind you, this box was the size of a small coffin and retailed for over $300.00. I felt so horribly guilty for not wanting it and also for not being able to review it. The company, to their credit, was extremely gracious and took the blame. I’m not sure where the error was along the line, but it’s not cheap for them to send out food boxes that don’t generate good publicity.
So, that made me feel terrible….
Then, there was the scarf incident. How can a scarf review possibly go wrong, you might ask? When the company presumes you will wear it as a head covering rather than as a fashion accessory! I have no problem with ladies who want to cover their hair, but that is something I will not do, nor is it something I advocate. I come from a Reform Jewish background and nobody in my community wears scarfs, or wigs, or hats for religious reasons. Evidently, the sender mistakenly thought I was Orthodox, maybe because she is Orthodox. I am not. After 5 very contentious emails with the scarf’s creator, she not only criticized me for showing my hair, she also was upset that I wouldn’t wear it just for a promotional picture.
Could I have taken the picture to please her? Sure, but it wouldn’t be authentic and my readers know that. I have spent years discussing my beliefs and habits and building up trust with my audience. I talk about coloring my hair, what I’ll pay for a hair cut, and constantly feature hair care items I buy with coupons. None of that would make sense if I head covered!
I don’t like to disappoint anyone. I don’t feel happy when a company regrets sending me a sample. I truly want every product review to be good. But if I’m being honest, I can’t make wild claims about stuff I don’t like, won’t use, or find inferior. That’s not helpful for me, for my readers, or the makers.
Better communication might’ve prevented such misunderstandings. I will try to do better in the future. I don’t claim to be perfect, but I do try to be authentic.
If you’re a blogger who’s been in a similar situation, how did you handle it?