If you’ve not been keeping up to date with the latest debacles in the food and drink blogging world this week, then you missed a corker. It was called #BloggerBlackmail and was about a blogger seemingly blackmailing a shop. Does what it says on the tin. Bosh.

What happened was some woman asked if she should come in to review the shop, which sells macarons and marshmallow and other grown up sweets, and the owners had the bloody nerve to only give her eight samples, the bastards. The blogger wanted more (about £100 worth) and the owners said no because that is MENTAL.

The blogger moaned about it on social media and slated the shop for good measure, because if anything shows shops that your services are valuable enough to warrant giving you £100 worth of their product it’s being totally unprofessional about not getting your way.

The shop didn’t respond on the social media posts, but published a blog defending themselves to their own customers/readers. Fair enough.

The blogger then did what she does best and blogged about being blogged about. She seemed a bit surprised that people would publicly defend themselves after being publicly stropped on.

Anyway, it got me thinking about what I do as a beer blogger, and my response/expectation regarding free samples.

My expectation is exactly zero, and my response would be pleasantly surprised.

I would be thankful for samples, because I appreciate the opportunity to have my say, and I would review them fairly. That’s what the point in giving away samples is – honest feedback. If the product is crap but gets a good review, you’ll have loads of people through your door and they’ll all receive crap. That’s not good for business.

Let’s look at what happened:

  • The blogger reached out to the bakery.

The blogger herself admits this, but then confuses it for an “invitation”. She invited herself, the bakery said ok and then she turned up. She wasn’t invited to test a new product, the company didn’t actively seek her endorsement or publicity services – she just asked if she could come in and they said “of course, we’re a shop, anyone can come in.”

If I emailed a brewery and said “Hi, I’m a blogger. Can I come check out your brewery?”, and they said “Hi, Sure thing!”, I would not regard that as an invitation.

  • She expected to receive more than she was given.

The shop gave her a selection of free samples. That is way more than most shops give you. This was not the bits of bread and dipping oils you get in Holland and Barrett, this was a freakin’ goody bag.

If I emailed a brewery and said “Hi, I’m a blogger. Can I come check out your brewery?”, and they said “Hi, Sure thing!” and I turned up and they gave me a free bottle of beer or eight, I’d say “Bloody hell, thanks. That’s very kind of you. I’ll be sure to let you know what I think of them. Mind if I have a look around like I was going to do anyway?” I would not ask for a couple of kegs of their strongest beer.

  • She reacted like a child.

The instagram posts show how unprofessional and spiteful she is. If you can’t get the disappointment at not getting a load of free shit out of your work, then it can’t be regarded as work. If your haul of free stuff is the reason you’re blogging then you’re doing it wrong and should stop, you miserable freeloading scrounger. Pay people for their hard work. If you should be lucky enough to be given any freebies or discounts at all, no matter how small, be thankful and pay for it with an unbiased, fair review of the product.

#bloggerblackmail

If I emailed a brewery and said “Hi, I’m a blogger. Can I come check out your brewery?”, and they said “Hi, Sure thing!” and they provided a smorgasbord of free shit, I’d say “Guys, this is too much. No one reads my blog anyway. I do this for me, for the fun and experience. Thank you so much, that’s very generous. I can’t wait to try your product, that’s the reason I’m here.”

Throwing a strop and criticising the quality of the product is a little dishonest. If you’re not happy with what was provided, don’t review the place. Don’t let the entitlement rage cloud your review. You’ve just slandered one business and devalued your reviews of other products.

  • She posted a reaction blog that made her seem even MORE unreasonable.

She name dropped other businesses that she’s worked with as if she’s the queen of great PR (sorry love, I’ve never heard of half of them. You can’t be all that.) The admission that she contacted the bakery first makes me unsure if she’s ever truly been “invited” to review anywhere. The statement that she usually receives more valuable freebies contains the phrase “pre-defined”. Nothing was pre-defined with the bakery so you should probably be more than happy with what you get given.

There was a lot to do with the “value” of her work. Yes she’s bought a camera, yes she travels to and from the venue and spends time there and yes the write-up takes planning and writing. But the company did not buy that service. They did not offer compensation for services rendered. They said “sure you can come in and we’ll know who you are because you emailed ahead.” They were open for business and open for every other bugger with a DSLR camera. They were simply a shop. If you want to go in and write about the place, go for it. Do that. But expect to pay for what you review.

I suggest that the individual in question has been spoilt by free dinners and gift bags from companies who can a) afford to give those things away and b) are seeking to buy favourable reviews, backlinks and word-of-mouth marketing. A blogger spoilt by these companies cannot assume that all businesses are the same.

In conclusion, inviting yourself to a place for a review expecting a load of freebies and then having the goddamn nerve to feel you can negotiate the offer you didn’t even mention was obligatory when you contacted them isn’t really cricket. Review what you get given. If you don’t get given anything, or not enough, buy some stuff to review. This isn’t your job. If you want to make it your job, make it your job, but you have to tell people that it’s your job, and tell them exactly what they’ll get by investing in your services and do so before you bloody turn up and start eating their stuff.

Now for the beer part:

I love beer. It’s my passion. I buy a lot of it, and I like reading about it. I was learning a lot and drinking really great beers, but I was spending a bit of money and most of it was, in my girlfriend’s words, “literally going down the toilet”. So I thought I’d try and get a bit more out of it, by reviewing them.

beer carbonated

I didn’t start reviewing them in the hope or expectation of getting freebies. I though it would help me get more out of the experience of drinking them. I would accept freebies, as it states in my About page, but only if the provider wanted a fair review of it. Most producers like getting feedback on their product. It helps them improve. Most recently I have provided this small bit of help, along with dozens of other people, to Asterly Bros., for their Amaro.

I just can’t imagine the mindset of expecting what I review to be free. Assuming that the whole thing is up for negotiation is one step further.

It defeats the whole purpose of a collaborative, supportive community. If a new brewery really wanted some feedback, and could get a little exposure along the way, then they might offer free samples. I’m not going to phone up the newest Bermondsey railway arch and ask for some of their stock. “But literally dozens of people will see it guys!” Even if that worked, it wouldn’t be fair to them. It has to be their call to make.

And I don’t think I’d make any friends in the industry by slating them online when they say “sorry mate, we don’t produce much and margins are pretty tight. We can’t afford to give the stuff away.”

If you care about an industry, and you’re eager to be a critical voice within it, the best thing you can do is support that industry as a consumer. You can champion it all you like in your own time and get other people excited about it, but if you’re not willing to spend your own money, why should anybody else? How can you be genuinely excited by something that is only worth it if it’s free? That’s literally worthless. Why would anybody want a worthless opinion?

Anyway, I hope that the slagging match continues and that I’ve added fuel to the fire because that’s what readers love and it does us and our reader stats wonders. I’m a bit late to the party so I need to light this mother up again.

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Niall

Niall is the editor, chief writer and head drinker of The Missing Drink. Not a single drink goes untasted by this man. He likes unusual beers and sweet cocktails, and hates writing author biographies.

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