Nov 8, 2010

The Other End of Things: Review Backlash!

I have another blog, and that blog is a blog devoted to Gluten-Free and Kosher products, most of which I purchase myself and review -- honestly, to the core. More recently, companies have jumped on the bandwagon of sending me products to review, and I'm waiting to get some of those in the mail and/or try them, but I'm stoked. If I can preach the gospel of good gluten-free and kosher nosh, then color me happy.

But with the reviewing of products comes that fateful issue of angry product makers with a keyboard and an email account. Listen. Someone commented to me that my review of Susie Fishbein's cookbook was "honest," which was enlightening or refreshing or something like that. My policy in all reviews -- be they hair coverings or cookbooks or delicious gluten-free raisin bread -- is to be completely honest. I touch the highs and the lows. That is, if there are lows. Sometimes there isn't, and sometimes those lows are simply things that can't be controlled -- price at the supermarket or packaging and design. But I go for it all, from the calorie count all the way up to the way the pages of a book or the outside of a package look. I'm detailed, I'm thorough, and Technorati's recent study on the State of the Blogsphere says people trust other bloggers when it comes to product reviews. So here I am.

I recently reviewed a product on my Gluten-Free and Kosher Critic blog called Slurpin' Good Soup -- a product that is homegrown right here in Teaneck. I'm not sure if it's because of that or because of an unprofessional devotion to a my product is amazing everyone tells me so kind of mentality, but the chef behind these soup sent me a, well, backhanded "thanks" for mentioning his product by saying that "Needlessly trashing my product so you can feel better about yourself is hardly the way to go." Need I repeat myself? The chef then went on to tell me about a 7-year-old who calls him Chili and how everyone loves his product. My attempts to explain a review to this man were returned with "It was not a review, it was the comments of a student who trashed a product and company." You be the judge. I'm just a student. Pshaw.

Listen, that's super. Everyone thinks their product or creation or book are amazing. That's the nature of things. If you didn't think that, you wouldn't be making/cooking/writing it. But the nature of reviews is honesty. I went out of my way to give this guy press -- and at the end of the day, even bad press is press. Your name is out there, people will see the product and wonder "wait, how do I know that name?"

Am I wrong? Do those of you out there in the Blogosphere sing praises to every product you purchase in the hopes that, I dunno, maybe you'll get something for free? What's the point? How do you handle such individuals, when it's clear that they're, in a word, unprofessional?


Lily said...

As someone who works in an upscale (kosher, of course) restaurant, I can honestly tell you that chefs that care about their food and care about improving will ALWAYS listen to constructive criticism. Your review wasn't in any way nasty, but rather informative about what you thought of the product and what could have been better. A chef creates food for the enjoyment of his/her audience, not for their own personal enjoyment. The head chef of our restaurant has repeatedly changed menu items based on what the guests prefer even if it goes against what he specifically prefers for the dish. How could he possible expect to fill seats in a restaurant if he whined and yelled every time he had a negative review or any sort of criticism? You surely can't please everyone, but you can use criticism to your advantage to improve your product.

The Chef for the product you reviewed would be wise to consider all criticism received as an opportunity to get better, to make an even more fantastic product that truly can compete with the already big kosher names out there like Tabatchnik.

Anonymous said...

I work in PR/communications and I've seen first-hand that the easiest way to make yourself and your company look really (really, really) small and petty before potential customers is to argue with a review and trash a reviewer. It makes it sound like you don't take criticism well. And THAT makes people wonder whether you're so out of touch with your own product that, perhaps, the reviewer is right about it. There was a better way to respond to you and "Chili" definitely didn't choose that way. And that is to the detriment of his brand.

Batya said...

I'm always honest not pc. I put a lot of constructive criticism in my review of the kbd book.

some people are rediculously myopic.

Your opinion is your opinion and shouldn't get them so upset.

Gorski said...

It may have been that fifty years ago there was a distinct line between reviewer and just a student (or just a whatever...). But everybody can publish now. Your opinion may carry less weight to him than somebody with a regular job at a regular paper whose job it is to review food every week, and that's not *entirely* wrong--unless you're already famous, few people's blogs have the circulation of a newspaper; you've been on both ends of that, so you know this far better than I. But it's not the case that the opinion of 'just some guy' can be dismissed anymore, either--you've got your readership; it's not just one purchase in the store, it's everybody who follows you, for whatever reason.

And some people are going to see any press as good press, and some people are going to gracefully accept criticism as a fact of life, and some--well, some won't do either one, and some of those might be difficult to get along with. Can't please everybody. You clearly weren't a fan of the product, but you didn't go out of your way to trash him either. And you even went out of your way to explain where you were coming from, which is good! As long as you're charitable and honest, if he doesn't like you I'm not sure you need to worry too much about it.

So I'll leave you with one thought:

If you sang the praises of everything you ever reviewed, why would I bother to read your reviews?

pax et bonum

Daniel Saunders said...

I write book reviews on both my blogs, and movie and TV reviews on my Livejournal (but no one's ever given me any freebies to review - I have to buy my books!). I aim to be honest and on three occasions authors have commented on my reviews to put their side of the story (all were polite, one admitted to having made some mistakes that I had pointed out). I have never experienced anything like you relate here.

I certainly feel one should be honest in writing reviews, otherwise what's the point? I remember seeing some discussion on a frum blog a while back as to whether one can write a negative review or if it's lashon hara. I feel that an honest, critical review is permitted to tell other people of your experiences. In any case, the readers should know that it's just one person's view.

Miriam said...

I received one item to review on my blog and was very excited about it until it came time to write the review. The product was nice and a fun thing for my kids but I wasn't thrilled with it and it wasn't something I'd spend my money on. I felt very bad writing that and focussed instead on how fun the girls found it, it tasted good and my girls were already asking for more. After that I stopped accepting freebies.

I find thatI put more faith in reviewers who either purchase or donate the items they receive for review.

The soup chef seems a bit behind the times in his opinion of blog reviews. Especially for such a niche market as kosher-GF. With most print media consolidating and cutting back you aren't going to find reviews for most of these products in traditional media. IMO you are doing a wonderful job in your reviews and i encourage you to keep it up. :)

Anonymous said...

It's most unfortunate, but when one puts one's self into the public eye, one should be prepared to be target of the evil eye. Protect thyself, girlfriend. Yes, the truth is supposed to set us free, but our world is in a backwards tailspin at this time.

All the best to you and yours. And thanks for what you do!

Sheva said...

can i just say that your website is called the "critic" hello isnt that what a critic does, tell there own honest opinion, because if you just wrote a happy little critique of everyone then the blog would be called the The Gluten-Free Kosher ill say what you want about your product blog. BTW i am also Gluten Free and i would not have many good things to say about a lot of the products out there.

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Y'all have affirmed for me that I'm *not* nuts, so thank you. Let's hope this fella figures out his stuff so that he can be a productive and lucrative businessman. If I ever encounter him in Teaneck, however, I'll probably run the other way ...

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett said...

Wow. This guy even posted my review on his Facebook page to try and get his followers to set me "straight." Wow. What chutzpah!

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