Recently, I received 4 DVDs to review (one of which I really enjoyed. In fact, I am giving away FIVE copies of it, go comment here to enter because it would make a great holiday gift this season.)
Yes, it was fun getting things in the mail. However, it quickly got awkward when it became obvious several of the videos were stinkers. Oops. So, yes, I did not care for two of the videos I watched and I could not even get my own children to finish them with me. You see, during this entire process, I had been corresponding with a particular PR gal and I had to get it out of my thick melon that giving a bad review was a personal affront to her. Because, of course, it is not. Still, I had to decide how to manage the contact with her - this was my first negative review experience.
In the end, I just sent the links to the reviews and said nothing else.
It made me sit back and really ponder what I am setting out to accomplish with doing reviews of products I receive for free. Oh sure, it works out grand if you like the product, it is then worth the work of scheduling the receipt of product, using the product, writing a quality review, conducting correspondence with the PR person. And in the past, for me, it has worked precisely as it should have worked - I reviewed a Build-A-Bear monkey earlier in the year and was so impressed with the quality of the product, that I have taken my kids back several times to purchase products from them. Before my review, I shrugged off Build-A-Bear as simply overpriced, but as a direct result of my review experience with them, I have become a paying customer (which is why I am even able to mention them here - now that I have actually paid for a product myself, I can mention them and not violate my contract with BlogHer.)
When X and I were discussing the recent FTC act that requires bloggers to disclose freebies received if the product is reviewed, he had trouble understanding why it was such a big deal. And sadly, I had to explain to him that many folks were simply doing the reviews without revealing they did not actually pay for the item. In theory, it sounds straightforward and simple. But it is not. And I found out recently why this is so. Forming a relationship with a PR person is a tricky business and a blogger can easily find herself in a Biting The Hand That Feeds You scenario.
I firmly believe that not only do I have a responsibility to you, but that I do have a very real responsibility to myself, as a person. I could not, in good conscience, give a good review of something that I did not appreciate and would not fork over my own cash to purchase. And that, my friends, is my solemn promise to you.