Friday, October 15, 2010

Part 19: Everything must go! (Back)

Arriving in my side like a thorn, sorry make that a bloody big spear; having to return the Café Retro surely marked the end of my quest. In two weeks I had been asked to return everything from Puma, and now this, my most expensive freebie to date was being torn from my hands. Was there really anything to stop other companies from demanding stuff back?

Annoyed, I explained that the site is called Freebie-Man and that my original email had stated we would review “anything we were given for free” and then it hit me. For me that meant I would review any free gifts, whilst obviously for Kenwood it meant I would review a product without charging money.

This worried me for two reasons, the first being that I could theoretically have to return the other products and secondly it implied that there are some reviewers out there who review a product for money…

Now whilst my loyalty often comes under question (“if you got it for free, how can you be honest”) I fail to see how someone who was being paid by a company to write a review could actually be truthful. I mean isn’t that the role of PR companies, to write news articles in the best interests of the company and get paid for it. I’d like to think that corporate pay cheques aren’t massaging the reviews we read. But we have already discussed the reviews that are changed due to advertiser pressure and corporate phone calls, so who knows perhaps this practice does go on.

I have on more than one occasion been asked how much I charge per review, or what the catch is with my site. Small companies especially have almost always assumed some sort of cost will be associated in my reviews of their products. Now perhaps I am being naive but I assumed the only catch was that the review might tell everyone the product is crap.

Can we really trust the reviews we read in magazines, or online if this is the case? Perhaps we’re all just better off reading public reviews on the likes of Amazon.co.uk. What’s that you say? Companies write their own positive reviews on there…

I have my own experience of this too. In the past I used to have a team of reviewers and they too seemed truthful and loyal. After a while we started to receive free games and I passed these around to them hoping to get more reviews.

Unfortunately I have every suspicion that this may have corrupted them. They seemed driven by this power to get more and more free games. One reviewer started giving every game 8 or 9 out of 10, even games that were ranked as 3 or 4 everywhere else.

He then asked me why he had so few games were sent to him and proceeded to email companies himself asking for stuff. Meanwhile another reviewer got sent free games and copied and pasted his reviews from somewhere else.

Do free samples corrupt? I sure hope not but it doesn’t look good. But let me get down from my soapbox and my ramblethon and return to the issue. Kenwood wanted their Café Retro back and wanted it bad.

Realising that I had no leg to stand on, (other than being an arsey git and hoping they’d go away) I agreed to return the sample, and on the condition they would come and collect it.

They obliged, as did Puma, so at least I saved myself a few quid on return delivery. So I packed the samples up and waited for the courier to arrive.

On arrival I grabbed the Kenwood Café Retro, walked down to the courier and handed it over. Not the end of the world, I figured given that I hate coffee, but as the driver drove away I had a horrible thought. Was he here to collect the Puma or the Kenwood samples?

I ran after the van and out of the gate, dashed by a nearby rabble of students and started to gather pace. As I turned a corner after the van, I stumbled, looked up and saw as the van descended on to a busy road. Gasping for air I wondered if I had just made a terrible mistake…

My instinct was to call Kenwood and ask if they had sent a courier for today, but there was no answer. I fired off an email; no reply and thus I had to wait it out.

Days passed and no reply from either Puma or Kenwood. Surely I hadn’t made a rookie mistae?

After a week another courier arrived, once again asking for a parcel. This time I decided to do the normal smart thing, and ask who the parcel was being returned too. Annoyingly his job was simply to collect parcels and return them to a depot where they would then later be redirected. Sounded a bit more like a drug smuggling operation than professional couriers, but never the less I passed on the Puma parcel, figuring that I still had a 50/50 chance of not ending up with egg on my face.

So just like that five freebies had wandered out of my life and my counter was down to a paltry 42. An eventual email from Puma confirmed that I hadn’t been a total idiot and that they had received their parcel, as had Kenwood so all the lose ends seemed to be tied up. Well the Kenwood PR rep did later send me some felt tips, but it’s hardly the same.

That was until I received a call from BBC News.

‘Mike, we’d love to feature you on the news. Could we come down some time and see your freebies? The Café Retro and Puma stuff looks great!’

… Oh dear

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My Policy

Every product on this site has been received for free, and given to me by the product manufacturer or their associated PR organisation in return for a review.

I have no other personal or business association with these companies, and all reviews are written truthfully and based on my own experience. If I hate a product I will say so (and have done on many occasions!).