Word of warning, this is a rant. A rant of a somehow entitled person, who isn’t affected by any real troubles in life (I’d love to keep it this way), therefore, small annoyances replace all the real conundrums of life. While hurricanes are in a high season, I complain about tech from a cozy, but moist British Island. The only thing I’m missing to make me feel 100% decadent about my problems is avocado on toast.
The Reviewer’s bias
For some time now, I have been reviewing consumer electronics. Initially, I approached it like any normal (non-professional) human would when asked to review a gadget for free. Yes, please! Sharing an opinion in exchange for a product? What could go wrong? If you are not careful, probably plenty.
Let’s say I liked the product. This is the most desired scenario. Everybody wins, case closed. The marketing dept. is happy, as they get to show off a good review to their bosses. They are more likely to play the ball with me in the future which means more good reviews – the circle of (consumer) life is complete. The readers are happy, they have been assured, that the product in question is a great choice. They can make a more informed call. I’m happy, as I might get another product to take a look at, I might generate some pennies from my affiliate links, and plus all that sweet moolah from the ad revenue will pay for my next sandwich. Lastly, I get to keep a pretty good product, which in many cases replaces not so good product that I already own.
What if I don’t like it, or product does not meet my expectations? I actually declined to post a review in the past based on the fact, that the product never worked as advertised, and the PR has proven to be really difficult about it. I will admit this is a cowardly way out, however, the alternatives are probably worse. What should I do with a really bad review? I already wasted my time testing the device. I don’t feel like spending few more hours writing about it is actually worth it. The readers are likely to check the ‘star’ rating and pick another one, no one sane would use my affiliate links, the PR people could (some are more professional) throw a hissy fit over it. And the ad revenue? Well… what revenue?
And The Ugly
What’s sounds like a good idea at first, turns into a roulette. It’s no longer an Amazon review. I have responsibilities to my readers and believe me when I say that, I would want to like the product. When I review a third ‘same type’ of product in a row, the novelty of it wears off very quickly and all I’m left with is time management calls. An average review item is in the range of $20-$50 to buy, but it won’t pay your bills nor buy you food. Depending on the use case, it takes several hours to play with it, then another 2-3h to write something coherent about it.
On the other hand, I get a decent overtime pay at work, and it would take me a quarter of that time to earn enough to pay for the reviewed item instead. Giveaways are great, but unless you got a quote from your DHLs of this world – you will never know the true cost international postage of a Bluetooth speaker that weighs more than an elephant, contains a battery, and it’s a subject to many more tax related regulations.
fun fact: Raspberry Pi ZeroW giveaway cost breakdown: £9.40+£2.40 shipping to me, £8.35 shipping the US – that’s $25 to get a board which is on sale today for $5
If the product is good enough, I may save it as a Xmas gift. (providing my friend won’t know I reviewed it or I will do it in March and plan ahead) There is no way I would ever use it as my wife’s gift as she would call me out on it! I’m pretty sure of that! Craig’s lists or GumTrees of this world cause more hassle than it’s worth with all these offers at 15% of the RPP. Giveaways are often an expensive way to ‘promote’ my website. Even if someone offers to cover the shipping costs, the last thing I want to spend my time on is a ‘lost parcel’ case, regardless how honest the claim may be. (humans, in general, are not to be trusted)
None of this applies to the items I don’t like or don’t work as expected. So what should I do? The only idea I have is to grow some balls and mock the flaws of the product in a humorous attempt to keep my readers engaged. Maybe you would consider this as a reward for all the trust and support you put in me? Would this encourage future companies to work with me? I have my doubts about it.
I’m nowhere close to the reach I would like to have in the future. I keep dreaming that one day, what I write will matter more and this dream of mine keeps me posting. It keeps the hobby afloat and some of you entertained by my discoveries and mistakes. I start to understand the paid for reviews. It even makes sense from the reader’s perspective, providing you trust the outlet or person that writes the piece.
I hope this gives you a small insight into the process and my reviewer’s bias. I prefer to be transparent about the things I do, or opinions I form. Right now, I better get back to testing. I have two more reviews coming up soon. Feel free to keep in touch via Facebook, Twitter or Google+.