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!

customer-service

Juiced Again!

About 2.5 years ago, I wrote an article called I’m Juiced… Because my Surface Pro 3 Got Juiced!  It was a play on words because I had won an adapter for my Surface Pro from Juiced Systems that was a 4-in-1 adapter custom-fitted to the Surface Pro 3, with two USB 3.0 ports, an SD Card reader, and a Micro-SD Card reader. I loved it, and was disappointed that when I upgraded to my Surface Pro 4 it did not fit (see article).

Fast-forward a couple of years, I started working at Cistel Technologies in Ottawa with one of the hosts of the show on which I won the adapter (The Universal Windows Podcast, previously known as SurfaceSmiths).  Colin and I were taking one day, and I lamented that it was too bad that I could no longer use the 4-in-1.  He told me that the company had started making them for the Surface Pro 4… and more than that, there were now several versions of it.  I got on that right away, because I seem to go overboard on these things… especially when the devices are so useful!

Surface Pro 4 4 in 1 Adapter

According to the company website, this adapter is “…a beautifully constructed adapter designed specifically for your Surface Pro 4. The adapter will not block or impair any ports or charging inputs. Extend your Surface Pro 4 capabilities with a low profile, travel ready, USB 3.0 hub.”  It has two USB 3.0 ports, one Micro SD input, and one Micro USB input to provide power to the adapter.  It measures 63×32.5×9.8mm, making it small enough to travel in whatever sleeve you carry your Surface Pro in, and yes… it also works with the Surface Pro 3.

Juiced 4in1This device works for me in a pinch, when I just need an extra USB slot, or I need to read from (or write to) a Micro SD card.  The Micro USB input allows me to boost the power to the adapter, so I can quickly and confidently charge two smart phones simultaneously.  It actually provides enough power to run a USB 2.0 docking station… but that dock would make the adapter redundant.

As you can see, just like with the previous iteration, it is angled properly to meld perfectly to the device.  Definitely a worthwhile investment.

Surface Pro 4 Multifunction Adapter

Juiced MFAIf you work in wired environments where you need an RJ-45 connection, this is the perfect adapter for you.

The Juiced Systems Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Multifunction adapter gives you two USB 3.0 ports, as well as an Ethernet input so you can connect to a wired network.  I do not spend a lot of time on wired networks, but there are a few places where I need to connect, and WiFi is not an option.  This device stays in my sleeve for that very reason.

Universal USB 3.0 Media Adapter

Juiced MediaThe USB 3.0 Media adapter is not contoured to specifically fit to the Surface Pro, rather it will work with any device with a USB port.  Its body is aluminum, unlike most such adapters which are usually cheap plastic.  You can feel this device is stronger and more durable than most.  According to the product page: “The adapter is designed for on the go productivity for all of your laptops media needs.”  I don’t know about that, but with two USB 3.0 ports, an SD Memory Card reader, a Micro SD Memory Card reader, and a Micro USB input to add power, it certainly does extend the functionality of my Surface.  This one includes a Micro USB cable to plug in so you can boost the ports.  While this device is not designed specifically for the Surface Pro 4 like the other ones, I definitely look to this one as my go-to adapter.  If I have to choose between the three that I am reviewing, this is the one I go to.  No, it does not have the Ethernet port… but I usually don’t need it, and the multiple USB ports plus the full-size and Micro-SD card readers make my life as a photographer much simpler.

Juiced Media 2

All three of these adapters – along with dozens more – are available online from Juiced Systems, and are definitely worth the investment.  In this day and age where our devices – and especially our tablets – are offering fewer and fewer ports, and we have more and more devices, then having the ability to add the ports we need this easily can make our lives easier.

All three devices retail for $29.99, and ship pretty quickly.  I strongly recommend you try them out.  You will not be disappointed!

Tapplock: Leave the Combinations & Keys At Home

Over the course of the last three years or so, I have gone through more padlocks than I care to admit.  Even when I am careful, I write down the combinations, I label the keys… they always seem to get lost.  Even when I do remember them, on two occasions I have had to throw locks out because the mechanics were not working right.  When finally got fed up, I looked online for ‘Fingerprint Padlocks‘.  There were a couple results, but the number one result that kept coming back was for Tapplock.

Now that I am not living in a building with locker facilities, I have two places where I use padlocks: The gym, and my travel humidor.  I ordered two of them, but I did that for a couple of reasons:

  1. I genuinely have a need for two of them; and
  2. With multiple locks connected to multiple phones, I wanted to make sure that the security was not as easily bypassed as I thought it might be.

They arrived, shipped abroad (even though the company is Canadian), so I had to pay Customs fees.  Okay, in for a penny, right?  The locks are not inexpensive, so the extra $20 for Revenue Canada was not the worst thing to happen to me.

They arrived, and the boxes they come in are impressive… as solid as some padlocks I have had! Tapplock Box

Even though I was chomping at the bit to get going using them, I knew that before I did, I had to charge them up.  If I have anything negative to say about the device, it is actually about the cable.  I understand that any ‘invasive’ cable would make use in inclement weather less than ideal, so I appreciate the proprietary magnetic-touch connection of both the cable and the lock.  The only thing I wish is that the magnet would be stronger… the cable stays connected just fine while sitting on a desk, but the magnet is not strong enough to use it in field conditions.  For example, if the padlock was securing my long-term storage facility, I would have to bring a charger, unlock the padlock, and place it on a flat surface to charge it.  Really, that is not the end of the world.

The lock is solid.  It weighs significantly more than any inexpensive padlock I have purchased.  There are higher-grade padlocks that are bigger and heavier, but the Tapplock One is definitely heavy.  That is by no means a drawback – it is solid, and it feels solid and rugged.  I am quite happy by the feel.

While the phones were charging up, I downloaded the app to my phones.  I wanted to make sure I could manage both locks from two phones.  Also, the phones are different platforms – one iPhone, one Android.  I was easily able to pair both locks to both devices, but there was one thing I noticed – they both had the same name.  Each was listed as TL104A.  Fortunately you can rename them, which I did (TL104A (black) and TL104A (gun metal)).  It makes it easier to identify.  I actually do not know any other way they could have made that simpler – someone who only buys black locks would have more of an issue.

(On the last note, they do come in three colours: Midnight Black, Sterling Silver, and Gun Metal.  I picked up two, so my third would have to be the Silver! 🙂 )

Tapplock

I am told that the locks can register up to 500 fingerprints each, but I only have ten fingers, and I only registered four of them.  It was pretty easy, although being daft as I am, I accidentally cross-registered fingers, and had to start over.  Remember kids, when registering your left thumb, it is important that you place your LEFT THUMB on the sensor, and not your RIGHT INDEX FINGER.  That was all on me.

It took me a while to sit down and write this article, but that was for a couple of reasons.  Firstly yes, I was busier than usual; secondly, I wanted to see if I felt the same way two months into using them as I did on Day 1.  I had been warned that they would not work in extreme cold; Ottawa is pretty cold, and this winter has been quite extreme.  Both of the locks spent much of January through March in the trunk of my car – that is where my gym bag and travel humidor live.  There were plenty of cold days this winter, but one particular extreme was -35º Celsius.  A bottle of wine that I had picked up at the store froze solid in my trunk that day.  I got to my friend’s house, pulled out the humidor, and it opened up no problem.  Granted, we were in the heated garage, where it was probably a balmy -15º Celsius.  Either way, the lock worked like a champ!

I have been told, speaking of weather, that the lock (out of the box) does not react well to rain.  This is to be expected of an electronic device.  Tapplock will provide a solution for that when asked.  As I do not have an outdoor shed, I don’t need it.

By the way, the Tapplock One is not just a bio metric (fingerprint) lock.  There are actually three ways to open them:

  1. Fingerprint
  2. Bluetooth (from phone)
  3. Morse Code (tap in the right combination of dots and dashes)

I have not tried the Morse Code… with my luck, I would accidentally pick a combination that spelled a naughty word.  A buddy tried it, and he said it was a bit cumbersome.  I think that is because he really was trying to spell something out, rather than picking a combination of six or eight dots and dashes.  The fingerprint works well every time, as does the Bluetooth.

There is one nitpicking thing I would mention… the Tapplock One opens on the opposite side of most padlocks I have had.  This is not a problem so much as a bit of a pet peeve.  I was used to popping the lock into my locker one way, and I have to remember to do it the other way.  No big deal.

A colleague and friend, who got one of these locks for Christmas, thought it would be interesting to see how easy it would be to ‘hack’ them.  He mentioned several methods, but to the best of my understanding, none of them worked.  Another friend who is a locksmith said he could pick it in seconds, the way he could pick any padlock.  I did not give him the opportunity to try, but I suspect that the mechanism is sufficiently different from the traditional padlock that he would not have as easy a go of it as he thinks.

In other words, in this blogger’s opinion, the Tapplock One provides great security to your stuff.  is it possible to get through it with bolt cutters?  Sure.  but for the average user who is worried that someone will be able to hack it and get at their stuff, I would not be concerned.

Yes, because the company is Canadian I feel a bit better giving it a good review, but I would not promote a mediocre Canadian product.  This is a top notch device, and I give it two thumbs up!

All in all, this is a spectacular padlock.  As I mentioned, it is a little pricey at USD$99 plus shipping… but if you subscribe to their feed, sales come along all the time.  As well, if you buy multiple locks, the price per unit drops.  It doesn’t become cheap, but you get what you pay for.  These locks are worth the price!