I've often seen bloggers and the whole blogging community being slammed for providing positive reviews for ulterior motives. This makes me cringe. I seldom feature a brand or product that I'm not completely into. For those rare cases when I'm not completely satisfied with something, yet I see somewhat of a value or appeal, I may go ahead and do a feature on my site and provide a back link to the company, but you can be assured I'm going to be forthcoming in regard to what I feel are the negatives.
I like to think that I'm not alone and bad product review bloggers are a rarity. For those of us that do strive to be honest there may still be occasions when we are completely bamboozled. This happened to me, let me explain.
I was recently approached to review Personal Creations. I was provided with a gift voucher or code valued at sixty five dollars. My instructions were to use the code on the site and provide a review of my experience and product. Simple enough, right?
After entering their site I was met with a pop-up for free stud earrings from their site. Ever since foolishly entering my info I've been met with a slew of pop-ups. In my defense, I did see the site name in that pop-up, and that is the only reason for my lapse in judgment. The company assured be that this wasn't the norm and they don't even carry stud earrings. So it is possible that they could of just been infected by malware. Now my computer is infected. I will still give the company the benefit of the doubt on this one, since It is possible for sites to develop all kinds of bugs and so forth that are out of our control.
So lets move on.
After placing my order I proceeded to the checkout. After submitting my voucher/gift card number I received a prompt to submit payment to cover the remaining balance. Apparently there was a four or five dollar charge that I wasn't aware of, due to the fact that the total value isn't displayed until after you submit your payment. Well, regardless the second time I made this attempt I chose the cheaper shipping and my balance was no more then sixty two dollars. Yet, I still received a message to submit payment to cover the remaining balance. I notified customer service and eventually spoke to a representative.
Hopefully things will be rectified..not so fast.
After speaking with a representative I learned of the four plus dollar charge; and that's only because I still had problems with the balance being over my gift card balance. The lack of transparency is of concern. Not providing the consumer with the actual balance prior to payment is just bad business.
The website provides a shipping info link at the bottom of the page and that is where the additional fee is disclosed, however, not providing a balance total at checkout is obviously underhanded. The FTC has stricter rules for bloggers.
I brought the balance down, yet I was told that I would still need to provide my credit card information. Seriously? I was given the option to use PayPal, but the customer service rep stipulated that it had to be a PayPal account that I set up with their company. Err come again? The whole time their attitude was almost militant as if this was normal business. If I were working for that company I would of exuded a totally different attitude, such as one of complete embarrassment. The CR on the other hand acted as if this was all totally normal and I should always expect this type of business. Sure tracking on an additional four or five dollars without the consumer's knowledge is all normal, adamantly requesting credit card info when the gift card covers the total amount due and then some, is all normal.
I wanted to add that PR rep that I was in contact was wonderful to deal with and did stress an honest review. She also tried to get things remedied, however, when push comes to shove ya just can't change a bad business practice. The fact is it's just bad business, plain and simple.
Now I could of given an infrequently used credit card and canceled it after purchasing my item and then write an honest review. Or perhaps no review at all, but I preferred to not take my chances.
How was a conscientious blogger like myself bamboozled?
Well, it appears that I worked with this company a year ago on a couple promos. The company is Provide-Commerce and they are the conglomerate behind Pro Flowers, Red Envelope and the blogger-friendly Shari's Berries. Yes I have been trying to partner with the last company in hopes of receiving some of those fine looking chocolate covered strawberries I've seen plastered all over blogs for the past two years.
Requesting credit card info when it wasn't necessary proved to be a red flag
I've featured Pro Flowers on my site. I've since removed both posts because I realize that I never had the experience of actually ordering from their site. I dealt directly with a representative. I even received negative comments regarding their bogus shipping charges and so forth that I never posted because I erroneously labeled them as competitors looking to discredit the competition. I was wrong.
Fact: I wasn't bamboozled, but rather I was careless and a bit naive.
|An honest blogger can't be bought, no matter how high the stakes.|
Lack of transparency in regard to payment total= red flag
I did a little digging and the truth is neither Red Envelope, Pro Flowers or Personal Creations have a good reputation. Quite the opposite. It appears they're notorious for tracking additional charges to credit cards everywhere. Now, I'm not surprised that they were so bent on getting my credit card info when it wasn't needed. I haven't quite investigated the other stores, but I'm sure the policy is the same.
This is not a company that I would ever want to represent. The fact that they have even moderate success makes me wonder if we as consumers are getting dumber. Are we becoming more naive?
One thing is for certain, I will always endeavor to provide my readers with the utmost honesty. The companies that I partner with will only be what I deem to be reputable. I'm a blogger that can't be bought, regardless of the stakes at hand.
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