Wednesday, January 04, 2006

[Blog Ethics] Can I Ethically Take This Freebie?

I wrote a recipe recently including an ingredient I really love and would happily promote. Last week got an email from a sincerely nice person who imports a different version of that product that I have never had, with the offer of a free batch to try out. I checked out their site and the recipes had me totally salivating, and Im pretty sure wouldn't work with the version of the ingredient I usually buy.

I wrote back and said I couldn't possibly take a free sample, but if they let me know where I could find some locally, I would buy some and check it out. (Those recipes have my mind swimming. I have GOT to try some!) Only trouble...they aren't available to the public. The company only imports them for restaurants and some individuals who buy them directly.

So I looked around in some markets to see if anyone sells this version of this product, and to my knowledge its really not available anywhere.

I am intrigued by the offer, but do not think it is appropriate to tell my readers about something none of them can actually get. On the OTHER hand, there is something to be said for creating buzz, because buzz = demand.

Obviously, this person came to me for PR. While my site hardly garners enough interest to do them much good, I am a huge fan of helping out the little guy and want to find a way to resolve this so everyone wins. (As soon as I make sure they are environmentally friendly, not using child labor, gmo free, etc. Hey, I have to have some standards!)

And yes, I'm not mentioning it on purpose, since I don't want to be unethical or, whatever. But frankly, I really want the darned stuff! It sounds just too good to be true.

What would you do?


This post was written with treacly love by Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking


Andrew said...

Cant see the problem myself - take the stuff and use it. It might be rubbish but you will never know without trying it...

Sam said...

take it.
over the last year AMy has slowly been grinding me down about my policy of not accepting free gifts until i finally argeed to do so this week. I receved a recipe book and some cookies.

I make it quite clear to the solicitors, however, that I do not promise to write about these items. But the book at first glance seems so fine, I might have to.

the cookies havent been touched. You know -its january and I at least try and have to be good for at least a few more days.

I would say that you agre to try the product but can offer no guarantee you will feature it on your blog. DOnt be bought - retain your independence, and if you like the product, genuinely, then go ahead and share the info with your readers.

we will all be interested.

Amy Sherman said...

Yup. I don't believe any blogger can be "bought" and certainly not by cookies! Either you like 'em or you don't. Either you feel like writing about them or you don't. Accepting them does not mean agreeing to endorse.

I too enjoy discovering new products and even want to see certain products find an audience. Then again, I want to see Arrested Development find an audience...

Shauna said...

Rachael, dearest:

Take the freebie. Heavens knows I took the free Le Creuset! I have people offer to send me gluten-free products all the time now. All I tell them is that I'm making no promises, and I won't mention it unless I love the food. But, they're never going to reach me any other way, are they?

I can't wait to find out what this is!

Cate said...

What they all said ... take it, and then dish!

Rachael said...

So what you are all saying is, take it. Even though I would be getting something no one else can...

Um. OK! Thanks everyone!

(hee hee hee. tra la la la la)

Kevin said...


Take it but make sure you're not promising them a damned thing. Tell them:

1) You may not even mention it.
2) If you do mention it and don't like it you will say so.

And if you do mention it, let your readers know it was a freebie.

Nic said...

I agree with everyone else: take it, but don't make any promises. And enjoy!

Mark said...

I'm new at discovering Food Blogs, but am doing a lot of looking around because I really want to see (for our business) what people are writing and talking about. I think it's really neat. There seems to be a thread of blogs that are woven together in a nice appreciation of each other.
This is an interesting conversation to me for two reasons. 1 - my wife and I have just started an all natural and organic cookie company in Delaware & the idea that someone has sent you a recipe book and cookies of course perks my ears up. But also, 2 - I'm a marketer... I work for a CBS affiliate television station here in Delaware. Before my current stint in marketing and advertising I produced a morning radio show in Richmond, VA for 4 years. Now in my time as producer of that show, I got more free promotional stuff (in italics) than I could ever imagine & phone calls every day from people asking us to try their stuff (again) and talk about it on-air. It can be very uncomfortable, and very annoying... wait let me rephrase that, it can be extremely annoying.
Great word of mouth is the best form of advertising (we all know that) and is something that is to be achieved... it can't be bought or freebied to attain. But then again you knew all that.
Everyone here does a great job... I look forward to reading more.

Warmest Regards from Delaware.

Andrew said...

I receive wine samples quite often - as someone has gone to the trouble of sending them to me and valuing my opinion I do make an effort to be impartial but, unless really, really bad, I will write about them all. It seems common courtesy to me.

Perhaps the wine writing world and the foodie worlds are different. No one has ever sent me cookies or chocolate cake or doughnuts... :-(

cookiecrumb said...

When I worked at a newspaper, the amount of swag that came through the door was staggering. Most of it showed up without any preliminary e-mail or phone call. I took home a fishing pole to give to my dad, ferchrissake! I got myself a pressure cooker, delivered (uninvited) right to my desk... Etc.
If I got a follow-up phone call from the publicist, I'd just be honest and say "I won't be writing about it, but thanks." (Once in a while, it would be good enough to write about, and then, of course, I'd give it a mention.)
I understand your dilemma, though: What good is "publicity" for a company whose products aren't available to the public? But you answered that yourself: Buzz = Demand... if it's good enough, and by sampling the product, you'll be able to judge.

paul said...

I don't talk about the bad stuff I get sent (I once got some diet/no gluten cookies that tasted like moist alka seltzer tablets), but then I'm usually too lazy to write about the good stuff (I haven't seen much of anything lately).

Publicists know it's a hit or miss thing, so don't feel bad taking it with no obligations. I once worked for a PR firm that sent out these 1 lb. anatomically correct chocolate hearts, I'm sure a lot of reporters wives got a rather grotesque gift that Valetine's.

And Andrew, free wine? I need to start wine blogging!

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