I’m annoyed. If you’ve looked around my blog at all, you probably noticed that I write about family-friendly technology for a well-known website. I have a not-so-insignificant readership over there and people often take my recommendations when it comes to purchasing technology for their families. Typically, if I am in need of a review unit for a product, PR people are more than happy to oblige. While I generally am not asked to return smaller items, I am expected to return items worth more than $100.
So, when I wanted to write an article about purchasing a netbook as a second family computer, I decided it would be wise to ask for a review unit so I could give better hands-on advice. I didn’t intend to keep it for more than a week or two and I planned to write a specific review of that unit to enhance my content and make it more worthwhile for the company in question. The obvious choices for me to ask were HP (they seem to be giving away netbooks like water) and Dell (well-known for family computer shoppers).
After digging around for contacts with both companies, I put out a plea (one at a time, of course) for the loan of a review unit. I explained my cause, gave some hard statistics about our site traffic (which is hardly trivial) and asked in my most polite, pretty-please voice. And while the answer wasn’t, “No,” in either case, it was actually a bit more puzzling: “We don’t have any review units available.” Huh? Where did they go? Why aren’t they coming back? And why can’t you just simply open another box? I mean, before you send Blogger X her swanky new netbook (sigh – Vivienne Tam mini…) to review and keep, why can’t I borrow it for two weeks? It’s free press for you! Theoretically they were going to get back to me when a unit was available. Apparently, other folks aren’t expected to return theirs… ever.
I admittedly have given up the cause, but not without a bit of a grudge against HP and Dell for not finding a way to make this work. Journalists and PR people need to work hand in hand when it comes to product reviews. And, yes, I could have gone after some of the other netbook manufacturers, but it’s actually not that easy to get contact info for the right people if you haven’t worked with the company before. I had to do a certain amount of digging and pleading to get the information I did find.
Ironically, when I have been asked in recent months about companies I feel good about recommending to others, HP has been high on my list. It’s a company that I considered myself fairly loyal to. Oh, well…