A Product Reviewer’s Integrity

I do not remember when or what was the first product I was asked to review for this blog, but it certainly goes back more than a decade.  From the very beginning, I decided that I needed to balance my integrity with a life of positivity.  As such, I have told every company, large and small, that if they are sending me a product to review, I will do the following:

  1. I will try their product, and see that it performs as it is supposed to perform.
  2. I will write the product up, however:
  3. If I do not like the product, I will not publish it.  I will send the negative review to them, and let them either fix the product, or give them the option of not posting the review.  In the years I have been doing this, I have never posted a negative review on my blog.  I have, on one occasion that I can remember, removed a positive review of a product after a subsequent negative experience (which the company would not make good on).  However, I did not go back and badmouth the product.  I want to keep my blog as positive as possible.
  4. If I like the product, of course, I will publish the review.

There have been a number of occasions when I have liked most of a product, but was not comfortable with one or two aspects of it.  If I like the vast majority of a product, I have written reviews like this: “I really like this product, I just wish this aspect of the product was different or better.”  Huge positive, slight negative.  No company has ever complained.

There is a big difference between reviews on my personal blogs (both The World According to Mitch and Passion For Cigars, and a review on Amazon.  On Amazon, I am not being given a product to review, I am buying a product at full price, and writing it.  At the same time, it is extremely common for the product vendors to send me e-mails asking me to review their products.  Unlike on my blog, I have paid for this product, so really I do not owe the company anything.  I will not lie, but if I do not like a product, I will be clear about it.

I mention this for a reason.

ear budsA few weeks ago, I purchased a pair of wireless earbuds from Amazon.  No, I did not buy the Apple Ear Pods, nor did I buy the Boss whatever.  When I typed ‘Bluetooth Earbuds’ into Amazon, I got a whole list, including what I can only assume is a Chinese company, which shall remain nameless.  I got them, I tried them… I hated them.  They were big, bulky, clunky, and did not hold a connection to my phone.  I returned them within a day, and bought a different pair (which I also eventually returned, before settling on the pair I liked).

A few days later, the company sent me an e-mail asking for a product review.  Note to companies: If I have already returned your product, there is a very good chance you will not like what I have to say.  Seeing as this review was for Amazon and not for my blog, I did not feel the need to follow the same practice.  I wrote an honest review.  That was two weeks ago.

This morning when I woke up there was an email in my box from the company, which I have only cleaned up a little bit for grammar, clarity, and to remove different coloured text:

Dear Mitch,

Thank you for buying from our store. We understand that you are not happy with the wireless earbuds you bought from us recently. What you received might be a defective item, we do apologize for this issue.

We will make things right immediately and would really appreciate it if you could give us a chance.

We have the following options for your reference to choose:

If you agree, how about sending a new pair set (higher version) totally for free? And the previous item does not need to be returned.

Or if necessary, how about providing you a gift card in order to satisfy you again.

Would it be possible for you to remove your previous rating/re-view please? So that I can use it as a strong justification to management team to apply the offer for you.

Thank you so much! We sincerely hope we could make you happy again. And your review certainly reflects the quality of our service.

Your satisfaction is always our goal!

Looking forward to your kind reply, thank you.

Well wasn’t that nice of them?  They are willing to send me a free product (and a better one than the one I had originally purchased and returned) in exchange for deleting my negative review.

I had to give this some thought.  Would deleting my review ruin my integrity?  If so, I did not want to do it.  However, there is a big difference between changing a negative review to a positive for money/free stuff, versus deleting a negative review for money/free stuff, isn’t there?  Also, this review is not on my blog.  People come to The World According to Mitch because they trust me, and they want my honest opinions.  Amazon works differently.

I have written very negative reviews on Amazon a handful of times.  The first that I can think of was because I ordered liquid soap, and the poor packaging caused a huge mess when I opened it up.  I ended the review with ‘If this is what I’m going to get, next time I will just buy from CVS.’  Although I wrote the review, I was notified that because I named a brick and mortar store in it, the review was not published.  Kinda petty if you ask me, but they didn’t ask me.  The second time I opened a package that was terribly packaged as well… a cheap cardboard box was not put into a standard Amazon box, rather into an oversized envelope.  Somewhere along the way it got wet… when I opened it up, the structure of the box had disintegrated, the contents were mouldy, and I had to throw it out.  When I tried to resolve the issue with the vendor, they told me to just call Amazon because it was not his problem to deal with, but theirs.  That got a scathing review as well.  He just didn’t care, and I ate the cost of the product.  If he were to call me tomorrow and try to make things right, I would still not alter my review.

This case is different.  After I returned the product after I received a refund, the company reached out to me to make it right.  I never said to them ‘Hey, if you give me something for free I’ll delete my review.’  I would never do that.

I hate when I am in a restaurant and I hear someone behind me say ‘I’m a Yelp reviewer, so if you don’t give me something extra I’m trashing your establishment on-line.’ Every time I hear something like that (and it has happened more often than one might think!) I want to tell them to sit down, shut up, and either be honest or go somewhere else.  I don’t, of course… it is not my place.  I am a Yelp reviewer too… and either I like a place and give them a good review, or I do not, and I am honest… but unless it is warranted, I am never scathing.

So let’s look at a restaurant equivalence: I give a bad review.  I’m not going back.  The restaurant owner then calls me up and says ‘Mitch, you came in for a burger and you didn’t like it.  I understand.  We are refunding your credit card right now.  Please come in and have a steak, on the house.  Oh, and if you wouldn’t mind deleting the negative review, we would appreciate it.’  Completely unnecessary, completely unexpected, completely appreciated.  You know what?  Yeah, I’m going to delete the review, and go back to try their steak.  If I do not like the meal again, I will still give extra consideration before posting a negative review… they tried!  In fact, they went above and beyond what they needed to.  Even if I don’t love their meal in the end, I still love the effort and customer service they are putting into this.  Really, unless they screw up so badly – cockroaches, mean or even abusive service, that sort of thing – I am going to give them a pass… I won’t write them up well, but I will not give them a negative review, because they really did their best… excellent customer service goes a long way to my satisfaction with a product and with a company.

So I sent the following response:

Thank you for reaching out to me.  I appreciate that you are going to great lengths to make this situation right; I appreciate that, and am willing to remove the negative review when I have received the upgraded version.  Please let me know if you need my shipping address.

I know you want to keep only positive reviews, and will be happy to remove this one once I have received the new product.

It is now noon Monday, about two hours after I wrote my response to them. and I have not heard back from them yet… nor would I have expected to, as if they are in China, it is the middle of the night.  In all likelihood, I will receive a response tomorrow morning, or the following day.  I am not in a rush, because I have nothing to lose.  What you will note in my response though is that I will remove the negative review once I have received the new product.  If this is a quid pro quo, then I want my quid before I give them my pro!


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