When is it Appropriate to Post a Negative Product Review? – A Discussion

A free knife I received to review

“When’s the last time you read a bad product review on a blog?” This was the question asked by Chris Wallace on Twitter yesterday. It is a subject of quite a bit of concern. Bloggers have motivation to post positive reviews. For one, companies like to send us free stuff if we will write about it. I have thought, as I’m sure several bloggers have, “if I write a negative review, companies wont want to send me free stuff anymore.”

So the question is: are any blog reviews worth anything? I certainly hope so. Here at MyLifeOutdoors I make it my duty to only post honest reviews. In other words, I won’t say I like something if I really thought it was crap. But most of the reviews I have written have been positive, mainly because I think twice before posting a negative review. I admit (as does Brian at Brian’s Backpacking Blog) I have been guilty of not posting a product review because I didn’t like the product. A sort of “if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” But this could be unfair to my readers. After all, I honestly want to know if a product is crap before I buy. I’m sure you do too. So the question becomes… when is it appropriate to post a negative review?

Free gloves I received to review

My first response was to look at the company producing the product. Is the company in its early stages (an upstart) with everything on the line. A negative review could sink such a company. On the other hand, a huge company (with deep pockets)…a negative review wont even phase them. I have a harder time giving the former a negative review, and will easily give the latter what they deserve.

But the latter don’t need reviews, at least not often. They have made a name for themselves and will sell products with or without blog reviews. Only once have I been offered a product by a well known manufacture. And then the never sent it anyway.

Most of the products I am offered to review are from companies who are trying to get their name out into the outdoor community. They have spent their life’s savings on a small production run and are offering a handful to bloggers in hopes we can help publicize their product. Most of these offers I don’t even respond to, because I know they won’t like what I have to say.

But Chris brings up a good point. Are we doing the company a disservice by allowing them to go to market with a crummy product? Maybe what we bloggers should do is review the product and then send it to the manufacture for consideration before posting it publicly on our blogs. This would, hopefully, allow the company to make needed changes before a large production is made. I don’t know. Would a company even listen…I would say most are sold on their product the way it is. They might even become defensive.

But what I really want to know is what you think? After all you (my readers) are my first obligation.

When is it appropriate to post a negative review?

Should I post all reviews, even if they are negative?

And what I would really like to know from you…

Should I accept all products offered to me, no matter how small or silly, no matter how I think I might feel about them, and review them for you all to read?

I would really like to know what you think.

To see the whole twitter discussion please visit the Storify created by Tookie Bunten

Did you like this post? Please share it with your friends!

31 thoughts on “When is it Appropriate to Post a Negative Product Review? – A Discussion”

  1. Good stuff. I have an article/post on this queued up as well, but it will likely be posted on a larger site than my own (huge audience) and won't happen immediately.

  2. It certainly has stirred a few people myself included into some serious thought. I've only been up until know been approached twice to review products. I was free to choose from within a range and I picked what I wanted to review. One has been posted and the other is in the pipeline. So I'm not an authority or have the experience of others. Personally, now, I would feel that I would post a negative review but I would hope that people understand that the review was about ME and how I felt about the piece of gear. If that makes sense. I think all reviews are subjective in that what I find bad/negative another person might not. I can only review it for me and not you and I try to make that clear. Hopefully it comes across. I would also hope that readers would do some research and not trust only one review or source. It is after all an opinion and we are all entitled to our own.

  3. I think if it were an upstart company and you had a negative review, I think it would be a great service to email them personally or the person who contacted you with your information. Let them know in advance your thoughts and let them know how you are going to explain it on your blog.

  4. Like I said in the post…most of the stuff I am offered isn't worth reviewing in my opinion. Which is why I wonder if my readers would like to see it anyway…even if I think its crap from the first product image I see.

  5. But that then raises the question why should you treat an upstart company different from an established company? Should they not get the chance to respond as well?

  6. I haven't reviewed many items, but all have been positive. I don't feel guilty about it. They're all items I bought with my own funds. It's important to list any concerns along with the positive thoughts and to warn people if the item is very specialized. The truth is that I haven't wanted to promote any company that I haven't been pleased with. Only to give opinions to potential users. You know, to answer questions before they're asked. Sure, I could just say things like,"XXXX item is junk, too fragile…" but telling a hiker that a blade is too skimpy(for example) is too broad of a generalization. They may think a razor blade is sufficient. I'm thinking of simply posting what worked and didn't work on each trip report. That way it reminds the reader that the opinion is based solely on MY experience and product needs.

  7. I think a few bad reviews add credibility to both a product and the site reviewing the products. Not all reviews can be good. As a company director myself, negative feedback is the absolute best kind of feedback because it allows you to address issues.

    However, just slagging off a product because you don't much like the brand is not ok, especially on some sites where their reviews (not previews) are made by not even testing the product as it should be used.

  8. New to your blog (found this from Storify post). Negative or Positive, I just would like the reviews to be honest and informative. I've read so many milquetoast reviews (out of the box /hardly tested reviews) of products. I like Hendrik's (Hiking in Finland) idea of a living review as well but ultimately it's up to you what you (have time) to review.

  9. I agree. I will only review after I have used the product thoroughly. Out of the box reviews are annoying. I find them all the time when searching for gear I want to buy

  10. I have reviewed a few products that seemed promising on paper and then didn't live up to my expectations in testing. From small companies struggling to sell their humble product. I chose not to post rather then hurt the company. Yet other bloggers loved the product. I wonder if they were being honest?

  11. Great topic. It seems as though gear reviews in outdoor blogs are an up-and-coming industry of sorts, and it's so important for review readers to both get something out of the reviews (i.e. that the writing isn't just a regurgitation of specs) and trust that they're truthful.

    To me, knowing that a product has been thoroughly tested is key, and I use that as one of my review guidelines. As a fellow outdoor blogger, I haven't yet posted a completely negative review. I do make it a point to find specific things I'd change about products I review and have certainly found flaws in some of them. But sometimes, there simply aren't any! I'll go back and update mine if I find issues, or positive qualities, through further testing.

    I honestly haven't been offered products to test that I don't like…yet…though I have received items that didn't fit. I did receive a package of items from a company and was given discretion to review any of the items I wanted to, or none at all. I really liked that approach; it means reviewers don't feel pressured by the company, and I could choose the items I thought my readers would actually care about.

    In general, I think negative feedback or constructive criticism is best delivered through an analytical lens. Don't be overly negative and critical, ("this jacket sucks"), instead, address specific flaws and suggest improvements. A negative review can certainly be delivered in a way that's constructive.

  12. Very interesting topic.
    I think we outdoor blogger owe it to the community to post the good and the bad reviews. If we all just posted positive reviews than it would no only be boring, but it would be a disservice to the company/product and our readers.

    That being said, we can try to find the positive, but I disagree with some comments when they say look at the positive and post about that. All gear does not work the same in ALL climates, situations, etc. I have posted many reviews and have had only a couple fall short, but I posted about them.

    I have had other reviews that I am working on that may have a slight defect or in the beginning stage of production. With those, I share my findings with the company to see if they can/will resolve the issue before my review is posted. This not only builds a stronger relationship with the company, but you can see how well their customer service is and if the product has indeed been improved.

    I don't think anyone should accept ALL items provided for a giveaway. If you can utilize it and can share with your readers, then great! If it's just a review to do a review then it's taking up your time and your readers may not care to read about it. I have turned away quite a few products in this manner. Some companies have sent me the product anyway.

    Most companies will state that you are not obligated to do a review on a product, unless you sign a contract. That way, if you deem it unworthy, you don't have to post a negative review.

    Just my 2 cents. Good discussion!

  13. Good points. I can't believe you haven't been offered products you don't like. I get at least one e-mail a week from someone who has developed a "new" product that looks completely worthless to me. All are looking for a little publicity for a unheard of brand name.

  14. I find a lot of people come to my blog specifically for the gear reviews. I think it would be a disservice to my readers and a violation of their trust if I was in anyway less than honest about the gear I was reviewing, or if I chose not to post a review simply because the product was terrible. People want to know because outdoor gear is expensive and there are almost unlimited choices… And more importantly, tons of gear is purchased online. When you are buying gear online you can't try it on to see how it fits. You rely on the gear reviews. I can honestly say that I've bought several high priced items in store at REI or Eddie Bauer or whatever, that I'd never heard anything about. But I never buy expensive items online until I've done a fair amount of research into the item, and that's where an outdoor blog comes in. I think that's especially true for these smaller companies that aren't selling products in REI or Mountain Gear or Cabelas, such as Six Moon Designs or Gossamer Gear or even Western Mountaineering. You go to there sites and you try and read reviews and there just aren't any there, but as someone interested in the product you want to hear what others are saying before you drop two, three, four hundred dollars on a shelter or a pack or something since you can't just walk into a store and use your own judgement…

  15. First- I'm feeling jealous that my blog, with all of 13 followers, doesn't get any free gear offers!! (joking, of course). I think there isalot of credibility to be gained from posting negative reviews. Ken Rockwell comes to mind. He has avery well respected photography web-site, and he holds nothing back. I think for that reason he has a very loyal following.

  16. All valid points…as I said in the post….I want to know about the quality of a product before I buy…so not posting does seem to be a disservice to my readers.

  17. I guess you'd declare that you've been given the gear and try and be honest. Is it any more technical than that?! A negative review is acceptable if you can say why the product is rubbish. I've had hiking gear that I think for myself is crap, but it may not have suited me and it could be perfect for someone else. I think being sent gear for a try out is a nice problem to have. It would force me out the door more often! As such, the only thing offered to me in a couple of years of blogging is some soap powder. I guess someone looked at my blog and thought I needed to have a wash?!

  18. funny stuff. I didn't get my first gear review offer until I started reviewing gear I already owned and bought myself. I guess you have to seed your blog so companies thing…"oh he does reviews." I don't know for sure…just a guess.

  19. I don't think there is a problem posting a negative review as long as the review is fairly balanced. Most items have there good and bad points and if the bad outweigh the good then so be it.

    I ALWAYS try to give a fair review of any item I review but I guess there are times when I have it in the back of my mind that a negative review, may affect me getting another review item.

    Personally I only take on reviews of things I like the look of, or would buy myself. I think that if you do take an item to review and find its not to your liking, you should still post a review as this is more detrimental to getting review item than posting a negative one.

  20. I think the only difference that the stage of the company should only determine how we present the negative review, not if.

    The benefit of tagging a company in a tweet or email a PR contact is that we're letting them know how we feel. A young company is going to take that on board and hopefully make some changes.

    My biggest question is whether it is better to update a review if you find defects with it or write a long term review.

  21. I look for blogs and reviews that show and tell how a product is used, stands up and quality. Take for instance the Gerber you have above is it great out of the box and cool in a demo then you take out fishing and can not get it open very good or pull out a hook? Gerber for instance makes some good and bad products as of late. We need to get vendors to get this idea in their head that stuff made in china is getting worse in quality and not living up to claims. They continue to make in china to keep price low but I would rather spend more if I know the product is worth it. So on your questions

    When is it appropriate to post a negative review? Anytime you check out a product we want the real world and honest thoughts. No all products are good.

    Should I post all reviews, even if they are negative? Yes because I as a reader want your honest opinion. Too many reviews on product sites, rei, amazon or you pick the place, people only post if they like the product right off the bat or if they had bad service or do not like the product.

    Should I accept all products offered to me, no matter how small or silly, no matter how I think I might feel about them, and review them for you all to read? If it is something you think it would be something you would use or be used hiking, camping or outdoors.

  22. Recording & stating observations help others understand how it works in the real world. The more facts a review has the more credit I give it. I love to see parameters established and an overall number rating given at the end so one can see the reviewer's point of view. Sometimes what does not work for one person may actually aid in a purchase for another if given enough information and written tactfully.

  23. Good points indeed. Maybe I need to start giving a rating system at the end of my reviews. Do you use a rating system? 1-10? 5 stars? I wonder what would be best.

Comments are closed.