One consequence of writing an even slightly popular blog (and trust me, The Engine Room is only slightly popular) is that manufacturers ask you to review their products in the hope of a favourable write-up and some cheap publicity. In return, you get to keep the copies or samples of whatever it is you review, and – hopefully – give your readers some valuable information.
In my time with this blog, I've been asked to review a few unusual things, including a pair of pinhole glasses and an e-book about facial tics.
I did say yes to reviewing the pinhole glasses – not least because they were said to help with eyestrain, which is something that subs can suffer from – but when they arrived, I so utterly failed to get on with them that I could only attribute it to my short-sightedness (literal, not metaphorical). As a result, I felt it unfair to review the product.
I said no to the e-book about facial tics because I've never had a facial tic and know no one with a facial tic. Unsurprisingly, I felt unqualified to review the book.
I've also said no a couple of times to manufacturers asking me to review their products in return for a payment. This seems to me tantamount to bribery.
Recently, however, I was given the opportunity to review some bigger-name products through Fuelmyblog. I said yes to this, and received my first sample late last week (more on that in another post).
I'd like to take a moment to explain why I said yes to reviewing products that will often have no direct connection to language use, publishing or the media.
Firstly, I like free stuff. There, I admit it. And it's not like I get paid for writing this blog. However I'm sure you like free stuff too, so I'm hoping to give away as many of my product samples as possible to readers of The Engine Room – and I'm thinking of possible competitions as I write this.
Editrix gives away mugs to readers who spot mistakes on her blog, but I'm not brave enough to do that...
Secondly, I'm fascinated by this whole 'blogger product review' business and want to find out more about it. What's the best thing I can be sent for review? What's the strangest? And if I write negative reviews, will I be sent fewer products? In short, can blog reviews be trusted?
Thirdly, most products come with packaging and that means marketing. Could be some fun there.
The only thing left to say is that I'll try to review products fairly, if somewhat idiosyncratically. And I'll never take cash for a product review (cheques are fine).
The ambiguous Oxford comma
1 week ago