Negative Reviews & Feedback on Companies


Image by PerfidiousGoddess

Blogger accountability.  Which is to say, what do you owe your readership & audience?  What do you owe to shoppers or people searching through the internet for reviews on designers and sites?  Do you owe them anything?  If you have information, do you owe them an honest post about your experiences?  Or do you choose to stay silent?

 

This week I was reminded of an ongoing problem I've personally faced, when Suze/Miss Vinyl Ahoy posted, Who's Screwing Who? In this post, she notes how Modcloth & F21, two very different fashion stores, have carried identical products.  While the comments disintegrated a bit (a great example of how to handle off-topic comments and name calling), Suze's post made a valuable point:  how would you feel seeing a product at F21 for $20, only to see it at Modcloth for $60? Does Modcloth KNOW about the price difference & the fact they're selling the same products? And in the end, who is getting screwed– the companies or the customers?

 

Suze's post is a great example of a blogger taking accountability for her readership and asking questions that she wants to know as a customer of both stores.

 

In my own past, I've questioned:

 

  • Whether to share negative experiences with shopping from an online company (of a small business, but still corporate set-up),
  • Whether to share information about independent sellers (of the Etsy & custom-made areas) who have stolen customer money, moved internationally, only to set up new shops.  This mostly happened when I would see other bloggers posting about the shop (as I couldn't support that behavior on my site), and
  • Whether to share shopping experiences with new, start-up businesses who have had poor customer service and communication.

 

When handling these situations, I approached and managed each other in various ways:

 

  • In scenario 1, I posted my friend's experiences with the shop, in an effort to help other shoppers avoid being screwed out of their money.
  • In number 2, I would email bloggers individually who posted about the new etsy shop, advising them of what was going on and leaving it to their discretion as to whether the pull the post & information or leave it.
  • Is still up in the air.  As we speak, I've still waiting, nearly 3 months for a product that was promised in a 2-3 week turnaround.  Do I say something about them? Do I see how it all pans out?

 

I think we'll all agree that we strive to post honest and factual information on our sites, especially when reviewing a product or company.

 

Do you feel that there is a difference between pointing out disadvantages or dislikes and minor errors and posting something solely negative? Even if you don't have a strong relationship with the company or product?

 

How do you feel about a blogger who may make a post that exposes the negative side of: the retail experience; the fashion industry; company policies, procedures, and practices?  How do you feel as a fashion blogger when you encounter these types of situation– do you rush forward to talk about them, despite the controversy they may create?  Do you tread lightly?  Or do you keep your opinions to yourself?

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35 Responses

  1. Kate

    I honestly think that when you post something negative about a company without researching the matter first it just comes across as being terribly ignorant on your part. Sure independent sellers are different because on Esty most make their own products, but in the retail world it differs greatly. If Miss Vinyl Ahoy would have done her research as many of us were saying on the blog she would have learned the issue is nothing new. It comes down to brands having to compete with fast fashion like Forever21 and then having to negotiate deals with manufacturers in China. The problem is in China most of the manufacturers will in deed take to dirty dealings because it’s legal over there. It isn’t because the brands want to buy the same product that forever21 had and mark it up it’s because they don’t know and quiet honestly the retail industry is so large that researching it would take up more resources than necessary. Though to be fair the plaid dress had a different print chances are the fashion house that created the one for modcloth changed the fabrication and the print order and re-sold it. No one in fashion is blind to this happening, but those who don’t work in fashion don’t know about it. I will state I work for a brand that produces it’s own clothing and deals with manufacturers in China and what made me mad is even though I said this directly people still chose to be ignorant to the facts and are too fast to claim mutiny. It’s sad because Modcloth is a fantastic brand and though it wasn’t called out directly it still got negative feedback. One must realize their actions have consequences. This is why magazines and tabloids get sued. If you print something false or negative without research in the non-online world you get sued. In the mean time sorry about the Etsy sellers personally I have more issues with buyers on eBay than sellers. They always claim they don’t get the product even when tracking shows they did and then eBay is impossible to get a hold of. Err still mad about that.

    Reply
    • AsheMischief

      “If Miss Vinyl Ahoy would have done her research as many of us were saying on the blog she would have learned the issue is nothing new. ”

      Not all readers are bloggers, Kate. A substantial portion of readers are merely people who love fashion. Many of them DON’T KNOW about these issues in the fashion industry. Therefore, Suze was doing THEM a great service, by shedding light to a topic that they didn’t know anything about.

      “No one in fashion is blind to this happening, but those who don’t work in fashion don’t know about it. I will state I work for a brand that produces it’s own clothing and deals with manufacturers in China and what made me mad is even though I said this directly people still chose to be ignorant to the facts and are too fast to claim mutiny.”

      The more we talk about it, the more we share it and put in it their faces, the less they can claim they don’t know– or they really ARE choosing to be ignorant, because they’re choosing to ignore the subject matter. Not all bloggers work in fashion. Most readers don’t work in fashion. She’s not spreading slander about the company–she’s asking an honest question about the process, the way any fashion loving consumer might if they came across the findings themselves.

      I’m sorry that you don’t see it that way.

      Reply
    • AsheMischief

      While I’m glad you also shared your feelings on Suze’s post, it would have been more beneficial to the community if, instead of admonishing the way she handled it, you provide some examples as to better handle these sorts of situations.

      What do you do if the blogger DOES have facts? What if it’s their experience with a brand? What then?

      Reply
    • Suze

      I believe there were only three people on my blog telling me to “do research.”

      I DID my research, and besides, I do not work in fashion, nor am I saying “OMG-they marked this one up, ugh.” I was bringing up the point of things that had been sold through Forever 21 LAST year that are now being sold at Modcloth.
      I wrote the post to ask the question of “why?” Does Modcloth know that these products were sold last year, etc, etc.

      As I said on my blog, I could’ve used nearly any retailer as my example, but chose Modcloth because I had visuals I could show.

      The majority of the people who read the post saw it for what it was- not a rip on Modcloth, but an observation of something that we don’t always see. Unless you’ve worked retail or in the fashion industry somewhere, you’re not aware of these subtle prices changes or suppliers.

      Many people commented that they were unaware of things like this happening.

      I’m sorry that you feel like I “didn’t do my research,” but that’s not what this post was about. Nor was it slanderous or spreading rumors. I’ve worked for newspapers before- I know what’s appropriate to write and what’s not appropriate to write. I was very, VERY careful to stay objective and not place the blame on anyone or on any store. I was very polite and calm when I wrote that post, as everyone who read it could tell.

      I honestly don’t think Modcloth is getting negative feedback through my post. If anything they’re getting positive feedback because their response showed they cared enough about this issue to search through their inventory, call suppliers and even pull an item when they couldn’t verify it. They come out winners, not losers, in this scenario.

      Reply
  2. Madeleine Gallay

    Specificity and then detailing why there will be a negative review. Frankly, personal opinion pieces without a reason somewhere the reader can grasp are more common (alas).

    One would think, especially me as a former retailer, that a 20. and 60. pricetag would indicate an error, not something deliberate. Unless one was marked down and not the other. I would check with each to see why. I carried Dolce & Gabbana in its early days and some pieces were available in different qualities of silk with differing prices. So … verifying just like magazine editors is a good practice.

    I think writing minimally and honestly with a fact check is wonderful. It’s sometimes slightly uncomfortable to post a negative review but handled well the store/product/blog/whatever might even be grateful for realizing there are issues.

    Reply
    • AsheMischief

      I agree that an opinion without reasons are too common– I tend not to trust those kind of reviews, myself!

      “I would check with each to see why. I carried Dolce & Gabbana in its early days and some pieces were available in different qualities of silk with differing prices. So … verifying just like magazine editors is a good practice.”

      Definitely good practice! Though sadly there is that debate as to whether bloggers need to be held to that same degree of accountability…

      Reply
  3. Suze

    Since you mention me by name, I feel like I need to comment 🙂
    I felt compelled to write my post, because I know many people who shop at the stores I mention. I was very, very careful to remain objective.
    I think there is a positive way to react to any negative situation and also how to write about it. If you’re angry/upset, your post will reflect that.
    I think a negative review (or post) can actually be helpful. In the case with my post, Modcloth commented, letting me (and the readers) know that they don’t repackage any items. They even removed one dress until they could verify it, which is amazing. It’s nice to see a store listening to the little guy. 🙂
    So, I guess my point is to remain as positive as possible, write your negative review, and something good could possibly come out of it. (And when I was called names in my comments section, I just ran with it. It was obviously done on purpose, so why act like I care?)

    Reply
    • AsheMischief

      I think Modcloth’s response was incredible… and I think you did try to remain positive and fair to both companies (is it their ignorance). But you also kept an eye out for your readers, because you know they both love those companies!

      Reply
  4. Mikelle S

    I’ve dealt with this decision recently and it’s a sticky one. At first I felt that I had to call it the way that I saw it and if the latest collection from this designer looked like the one I saw 4 years ago except for with cheaper materials, I owed it to my readers to say it in the oh so biting tongue that I’d become known for in some circles.
    well recently I spoke with someone who I now call an advisor and at the end of the day, if you plan on using your blog as a launching pad, you don’t want to burn bridges before you even make it to that bridge. Now I’m not against saying something isn’t visionary but I highly discourage a post that is entirely negative and then whenn negative things are mentioned I attempt to emphasize the positive.
    in reviews if there was more negative than positive I’ll just not review it. And I’ve also started sending the brands my constructive comments that include things I thought but didn’t want to print. Hope this helps someone

    Reply
    • AsheMischief

      “in reviews if there was more negative than positive I’ll just not review it. And I’ve also started sending the brands my constructive comments that include things I thought but didn’t want to print. Hope this helps someone”

      Yes! I’ve had to do this a few times myself when reviewing products… it makes things a lot easier at the end of the day to communicate your disappointments to the company and not broadcast them…

      Reply
  5. birdie

    “If Miss Vinyl Ahoy would have done her research as many of us were saying on the blog she would have learned the issue is nothing new.”

    Oh god, seriously?

    Did you read her post? Because she said she was using examples of fashion copycat. Modcloth was one of them. And she supports Modcloth – especially since they came to her post and said, “We had no idea! Thanks for telling us!!”

    I think the feedback Modcloth received was overwhelmingly positive because they (relatively) quickly and directly responded to the issue at hand. People who saw the post can be assured that they DO respond to customer concerns.

    Reply
    • Suze

      Thank you, and I agree! I think Modcloth’s response showed they truly care about some random post some girl in the Midwest wrote.
      They took the time to look into the issue, and I think they really showed that they’re interested in what their customers think about them.
      If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t have taken the time to respond, nor would they have pulled a dress, or taken the time to check the products’ origins.

      Reply
  6. Treacle

    I see this a lot in the lingerie industry (there are only a few manufacturers of certain items, like silk stockings) and the price varies dramatically depending on if you’re purchasing from an online vendor or a luxury retailer (not naming names).

    It’s an issue I’m still grappling with, but I remind myself that my first allegiance is to my readers (not to brands, PR people, or retailers) and that helps.

    Reply
  7. Alyson

    Personally, before I post something that could be construed as negative or seen as attacking a certain brand, I will contact them directly. For example, I’ve won multiple contests from a company and been really displeased with the prizes ( only because one of the contests compromised my boyfriends time ). I contacted the company privately to resolve the issue.

    I always err on giving people the benefit of the doubt before I say something potentially damaging.

    Reply
  8. Jillian Rueter

    When I write about a product or a company I am always honest. I will not even write a review if I do not have the actual finished product in hand. The only thing I do is feature an item if I like it, but I won’t give an opinion about it. If it is on my blog, I probably like the design. I personally like it when people tell the truth. Using constructive ways to describe things is beneficial to all.

    This brings me to another point. I am getting sick and tired of companies that want free advertisement. How am I supposed to give an honest review without anything to look at, to touch or smell?

    Don’t believe everything you read online.

    Reply
  9. The Well-Appointed Catwalk

    That third bullet point of yours sounds awfully familiar, as I’m still waiting for my order, as well. I’ve thought long and hard about posting a review of that company, but in the end, I figure it won’t really get me anywhere, and I’m trying to give a new company the benefit of the doubt. We’ll see what happens. I still haven’t made up my mind, but from what I can tell, they’re already getting plenty of flak on Twitter.

    Reply
    • AsheMischief

      It’s entirely possible, doll! I saw quite a few angry and irritated responses on Twitter as well…along with more customer service and responses.

      If someone were to directly ask me about the process (say seeing a product, if I get one, in a blog post), then I may email them privately to share my experiences… but like you, I’m trying to give a new company the benefit of the doubt. Along with realizing, that problems happen. But it’s their responsibility to communicate that.

      Reply
  10. lisa

    I try to write balanced reviews of products and companies. I won’t be catty or sarcastic, but I will point out things I didn’t like and explain my position carefully. Recently I had to do just that with a discount sunglasses retailer: they got good marks for customer service and the authenticity of their products; however, they lost points for the restrictive return policy.

    Reply
  11. Jessica

    Having been the owner of a small boutique, and buying for a previous one, I realize the frustration of the consumer and the business when it comes to pricing. Many brands have an MSRP and there is a standard markup in the industry, but overall the final pricing is at the discretion of the retailer. The problem is, the bigger companies have more buying power and more room to negotiate, and most of the time they pay less for the same item than the little guy. This gives them the ability to sell the same item, at a lower price without affecting their bottom line.

    As far as whether or not to broadcast a companies mistakes to your readers, I think depends on the specific issue and how it is expressed. In the case of Modcloth as discussed, what birdie said above is spot on. Although there may have some some negativity floating around, it gave them the opportunity to respond to it publicly showing that they take their customers feedback seriously.

    When Twitter was first becoming the big thing, this was one of the positive aspects of it. I cannot recall the specific details, but I remember hearing a story of something negative being written about an airline by a passenger, and the company was able to rectify the situation, in the eye of the public, and was able to show they care about their customers.

    If you are talking about some more personal, and your specific shopping or collaboration experience with a specific company it is probably better to deal directly with them at first. If you feel it is important to inform your readers, do so once you can also share the resolution.

    Obviously it’s a fine line, so you really have to use your best judgement, and make sure when you are expressing your concerns you are doing it tactfully.

    Reply
  12. eyeliah

    When I have an experience where the negatives grossly outweigh the positives I usually contact the company. I let them know why I was dissatisfied instead of writing a negative post.

    Reply
  13. Helen

    I think it depends on the individual experience. waiting 3 months for a a product that was supposed to take a matter of weeks is a bit of a pisstake! There’s cautioning readers which i think there is no problem and there’s being deliberalty negative, i dont agree with that.

    Helen, x
    http;//areyoudressingupordressingdown.blogspot.com

    Reply
  14. Alys

    Personally, I have never had to deal with this because the only time I’ve been less than satisfied with a company was when they sent me the wrong dress… which was worth the same and I actually liked better than the one I’d ordered!

    Thanks for the tips in case this does happen to me though x

    Reply
  15. Shoulderache

    I think it’s like anything else–tell the truth. But, make sure that you tell the whole truth! If you had an experience with something that was only partially bad…point that out. The part that maybe went wrong for you won’t be so important to your reader compared to the part that went right and they’ll want to know that. Obviously, be specific. Anyone can say “oh, XYZ is terrible!” and that’s not helpful to anyone. But, saying “XYZ was terrible because they sent me a pile of cat hair instead of the shoes I ordered!” is something else entirely! Also, make sure to follow up with your readers and let them know if there were further events, sometimes that will turn out to be the most important part.

    There’s nothing wrong with saying that sure, a dress is absolutely beautiful but you found the lining was intolerably itchy.

    Reply
  16. Perfidiousgoddess

    Hi, I’ve just discovered your site. You’re all so creative 🙂 I would thank you for using my photo for this post. I’m flattered. Really. My pictures have never went out from Italy. 🙂

    Thank you all, so much 🙂

    Reply
  17. Michelle Christina of Tchaikovsky Darling

    I strongly believe consumers need to look out for other consumers in the case of online shopping experiences gone wrong. And this network of bloggers we have is a rare chance to spread the word effectively before too many people suffer at the hands of fraudulent business operators.

    I don’t think it’s an emergency when someone has a vaguely unpleasant experience shopping somewhere, but when someone is taken advantage of or given horrible service, it’s justifiable for any/all of us to speak out.

    Reply
  18. Milly

    I am currently waiting on goods from a small online based company that I have had past dealings with. This time round they have totally sucked out. But it is the first time in 7/8 transactions over a 6 months period. So in this instance, I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the weather/season/whatever it might be – we are all only human at the end of the day and fallible with it!

    On the brighter side of this discussion, I have started a VASE (value added shopping experience) series on my blog commending small online companies that exceed customer expectation. So, whilst I might not be shouting on my blog about the bad ones I am most definitely up for praising the good.

    If the company I mentioned in my opening paragraph, should I give them another chance to dip into my purse, fall under par once again then I will simply move my custom elsewhere rather than ‘blowing’ them out on my own blog.

    Reply
  19. Arjun

    I really like this discussion. A lot of bloggers promote products but not many negatively criticize big brands because it could negatively affect their blog. I think blogs are about self expression, and people should feel free to say what they think, negative or positive. I don’t really like it when bloggers praise designers they have criticized at one stage just because they send free goodies etc. Bryanboy is a good example. His blog used to be very critical (in a funny way) when he started out, but now it’s all about product promiton.

    http://www.thenonfashionista.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  20. Lady Julianne

    I think that there is a difference between pointing out disadvantages or dislikes and minor errors and posting something solely negative. I think you have to be more careful with your tone if you’re writing something entirely critical about a product or a company – just to protect yourself. Sometimes entirely critical posts can come across as angry, mean, or attention seeking (trying to stir up drama). I find that it’s fairly easy to avoid that if I think of all the people involved in the process of getting the product to me, and try to include any good points I can think of.

    You also need to include the context. If it’s the first time you’ve bought something from the company, and you got bad customer service, or delivery was slow, point out that it was the only time you bought from them. If you’re a regular customer and they messed up your latest order, then say that your previous experiences were fine. Filling in the backstory makes it seem more honest.

    I’ve been reading more make-up blogs and book blogs than fashion blogs recently, and in these spheres, criticism of products and companies doesn’t seem to be such a big deal. Perhaps it’s because cosmetic and book blogs tend to be review based, or because the products cost less, or because more bloggers get sent free products by company PR.

    Reply
  21. Chelsea Rae

    My mother, a dean if nursing who has a long history of giving students criticism, has always reinforced the necessity of the sandwich method. Say something positive, then say the negative, and end by reaffirming the person. In most cases, I try to do this. If I know I have to say something less than positive about a company, product or service, I always look for a something positive I got out of the experience as well. People need to hear criticism to improve, and it is up to bloggers and customers to provide that criticism to companies so they can improve. Most companies set up various methods to deal with critique and will just brush it off. Either they appreciate my honesty, or they don’t.

    I’ve also learned from my PR experience that the first people you should notify are the parties most affected by the news. If you are going to say something negative about the company, product or service, let them know directly that you had problems X, Y and Z (especially if you are working with them directly). If you choose to write a review, let them know this fact and tell them that these problems will be included in the review. Sometimes you have to burn bridges to maintain credibility. Also, if you have complaints about a product you’ve been sent and decide not to write a review of the product, let the PR person know you had problems with the product and have chosen not to review it.

    I guess I’m just saying complete honesty with all audiences is always the best policy

    Reply
  22. Angela Deaton

    I loved this. It is great to see what other bloggers would do in a situation like this and I feel like I have done the best option when challenged with these particular situations. If I am going to review a product, experience, or store and it has more negative points than positive, then I just call it a wash and don’t review at all. I HATE negative blogging so I try my darndest not to do it even though I am sure I have failed at some point or another! If there were a serious issue though that I felt like other bloggers needed to know about then I would most def email them personally just so they would be aware!
    Thanks again!!

    Reply
  23. Simone

    I think that you should always always give the company a chance to address it. In a lot of cases, the company is more than willing to resolve the issue. It’s easy to expect perfection of brands, stores, etc, but they’re run by people who are well…human!

    It’s only fair to give the party at fault a chance to respond. If they respond poorly or not at all, then it’s okay to post a negative review. Otherwise, I’d post about the problem and how the company solved it.

    Reply
  24. Mairead Clabby

    I think it would be really difficult to slate a small, starting out business as you so badly want them to do well. As a blogger who knows what it is like starting out and how hard it is, you know how important people’s opinions are of you. But without feedback, how would you know how to improve? I think I am on both sides of the argument – I would give both advantages, disadvantages … but if I was really irked about the service of a company for example, or a bad attitude from a company I would have no problem in giving a full and frank review because I don’t think that’s right.
    Just like if I had bad service in a restaurant, where staff are abusive or dismissive and ignore you, like I have done in the past, I will walk out.
    There is a difference between giving a company a chance to make amends and staying silent because you bullied by a company. Why shouldn’t you say if you are unhappy? If you don’t share your bad experience, then you leave the situation to be unhappy for the next customer. x

    Reply
  25. MJ

    I’ve had this internal convo with myself a lot when I’m doing reviews. I basically approach it like this – if I don’t have at least one good thing to say about a product, it doesn’t go on the blog. If there is a major injustice that I’m really passionate about, it will also go on the blog.

    I feel that if I don’t post negative things that often, my readers will know that it’s really important for them to know when I do, instead of being seen as someone who bashes everything all the time!

    Reply
  26. de la Pen

    Such an insightful post! When I first started my fashion blog, I knew I was going to do product reviews but I immediately decided that if they were more dislikes than likes I wouldn’t publish the review. In this case, I’d email the company or publicist let them know what I didn’t like and why and that I’m not posting the review. I do reviews for free and I don’t believe in publishing negativity so I just don’t. Great discussion!

    Reply