Blogging, free products and "value"

This might lose me followers, but this is something that has been eating at me today. Like a fair few bloggers I woke up to the slowly unfolding firestorm that was the aftermath of the interaction between a food blogger and a Kensington Patisserie.

I've phrased that sentence so very awkwardly for a reason. I'm not going to start this by showing my bias flat out one way or another, although my opinion will become apparent. The undisputed events are this - a food blogger contacted a patisserie offering to write something about the place in return for trying a few things on the house. What happened next is disputed, but heres a potted version. 

The patisserie's version doing the rounds is what most of us woke up to.  She says they made up a small treat bag for the blogger, one each of a few things. When the blogger came in that wasn't good enough, and wanted what amounted to around £100. When that wasn't given, she left in a huff insinuating she would give a bad review, only to come back a few moments later and buy two items.  Photos showed up on instagram commenting bitchily about the place and she assumed the insinuated review was coming, so she shot first.

By the time I had read that post and tried to look up the instagram in question the photos had been deleted, as (it would seem from lingering half complete conversations) some twitter posts referencing the events. Then, mid morning, a response came. In it the blogger admits she put up instagram posts and intended to leave a scathing review, but claims that she needed that amount of product to do a proper review. Her time is worth that amount of product and that is what she is used to from other brands she has worked with. She has value and deserves it in way of payment. 

Ok, so where I'm coming from on this is a complex one. I work for a brand that is a blogger favourite, and do deal with the odd request for freebies (thou honestly, never from people because they want to put it on their blog). I also know people in publishing, reviewers, freelance writers and small business owners in a social setting. I know how small margins can be, how hard it can be getting the value that your hard work and creativity deserve. and I know how protective people can be of their creations - be they written or baked. I'm a blogger who sells her own handcrafted bits from time to time, so I know the hard work that can go into posts and into making something you feel worthy of other people's hard earned money. 

So far, with the exception of my Lush Spa Treatment I have never reviewed a product I got for free. Some I have purchased with a staff discount - but I'm not made of money and to not use it would be going too far to prove a point in my opinion. I still review items, I still take lovely photos on my fantastically expensive camera and spend time getting the right ones. I take time over my words, get the other half to proof read, schedule and so on. I do this on products I like, and products I think are a bit lacking, so people can get an honest opinion. I blog because I like it, and in certain ways like sidebar ads, it gives back to me. So maybe my time, my value, isn't as much as some bloggers. But then having a fancy camera and making a huge effort with photos and so on isn't something that is actually needed if you have good content. Don't believe me? Jack Monroe started typing out her posts on a dodgy mobile phone, now she manages to raise her son and have a good income, all on the back of the content typed up on an old nokia.

This is not an argument over value, its an argument over entitlement. A food blogger is the modern food critic. There is an old trope of the food critic making the reservation using a pseudonym so as to get the same treatment as a customer. What customer is going to actually eat more than an eight piece selection box of macarons and marshmallows? I mean I'll be blunt, I'm a bit hefty, but even I might draw the line at that much sugar. Yes, if I was reviewing a restaurant I would do what I do when I go and eat. which yes would likely be 3 courses and drinks. I wouldn't eat three boxes of patisserie, again even I have limits. As far as communication goes I'm taking the middle and believing both sides - it could have been better all round, more open about what was on offer, staff knowing she was coming in and so on. But that is honest mistake as far as I'm concerned.

 What was totally unreasonable was expecting £100 worth of product. 

I've asked friends who blog, friends who run business' who give things to bloggers review, and friends who work in publishing and have dealt with PR samples for years and that is the consensus. It was my knee jerk reaction too, and I stick with it. Again, playing the middle, Reshmi could have reacted to the instagram comments better, but those were removed so NO ONE can judge if she went OTT or just reacted to protect herself. Things maybe were not phrased as well as if she had spent time and wasn't reacting to save herself from an unjustified bad review she saw coming.

What I think is totally and utterly disgusting is the response by some bloggers to the whole thing. The entitlement coming out of some people just amplifies the problem that made this whole thing happen. Again I'm trying to be fair and say that on the two sides of this tempers may have been frayed, so they get let off. The reactions of others, however, show me something very horrible lurking underneath all the gleaming white backdrops and shopping hauls. A sense that just because you are a blogger, you can get the things you want for free. 

Today I did a bit of shopping for myself. I went and got some tea and some beer, both from small artisan shops. Two days ago, I wrote a blog post about Bluebird Tea Company, and today I went in to get some of the tea they generously gave me small cups of to try. I actually intend to write a bit more about their teas because I like them, and I'm lucky enough that, from time to time because of where I work I've gotten a few pennies off or a free tea. I picked my tea, we spoke about Friday's event and my post (they liked it!) and I paid full price. I could have been cheeky and asked for a bit off, and I might next time or I might not. If I had been told no I would have accepted it - don't ask don't get. But honestly, I wondered had they seen the twitter thing and it made me embarrassed to ask for discount where I have had it before, because that sense of entitlement horrifies me. The same in the beer shop, I've had discount before, but today I was to shy to ask.

But then, both are great is worth full price. Some people might balk at £13 odd for tea, but its good tea in wonderful blends. The same with the patisserie, those people saying they were cheap, it costs nothing to make, let me give you a lesson in reality. The ingredients might cost pennies but you also have overheads, wages, tax, rent and everything else. It costs your employer roughly double what you get paid to employ you. There is a reason things can't be given for free sometimes. 

Bloggers should get recognition by brands, but then bloggers should realise they don't deserve companies to give them things for free just because they offer to write a blog post. My friend who works in publishing tells me PR samples get sent to them, they use them or they don't. But they would never solicit a product to test. I'm all for a cheeky ask, but expecting it because you are in some way professional just makes no sense to me. 

I often serve Zoella, Alfie and other Brighton based big vloggers/bloggers at work. Yes, they get a shedload of free product to talk about, but they actually pay where I work. The products they buy always end up being talked about on the channels, getting loads of hits for them, and feet in the door for us. None of those products are given to them because they say they will promote us, they pay. Think about that next time you think you deserve something free simply because you'll talk about it on the internet 

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