The Hidden Dangers of PR Freebies

When I started blogging, one thing that seemed particularly glamourous to me (besides the boatloads of money I was sure to make within months) was all the freebies. It's interesting to look back at those heady days now -- wow, has my perspective changed!

Mailbox full of freebies
Mailbox full of freebies

Like most parents of small children, my house is over-full. The toys, the art projects, and all that tiny clothing seem to take over. Some days I want to packs what I can in a backpack and move out. New products, free or not, no longer seem so glamorous. These days I turn away about 3/4 of product review requests, but when someone sends me email about a product that has potential, I often give it a try.

On very rare occasions I'm sorry before I even leave home...

A few months ago I received a product that promised to detangle the jumble of carry-on items I drag along one every trip. I have yet to find a system for stowing our snacks, toys, books, sippies, laptops, cherished lovies and spare clothes that satisfies me perfectly, so I agreed to take one along on a trip.

Even as I was packing, I could tell that this product wouldn't work well for our particular mix of gear, yet I powered through because I had promised to give the product a full review. No big deal, right? Wrong. E fell absolutely in love with it. In his mind the bag was his personal briefcase (pronounced Boreefcase), just like Daddy's. He didn't mind that it was too heavy to carry for more than a minute, dragged on the floor, sometimes dropped his stuff, and was otherwise completely impractical. 3 year olds rarely value function over form.

When we returned from the trip stowed the bag with the rest of the luggage, assuming that we'd return to our old system next time.

Wrong again... as we were gathering our bags for the trip to Phoenix, E realized something was amiss. His beloved briefcase, where was it? To avert the meltdown on our horizon, we spent our final moments frantically helping him transfer his gear from our reliable but un-glamourous old carryon bags to the new one.

So now I'm stuck with a carryon bag that is more hassle than help, but that's not enough... midway through the trip the bag's zipper broke! E was devastated, and to stop the drama, an we made an unplanned trip to the hardware store, and bought pliers we don't need to fix a free product that I don't like!

Does this sounds glamourous to you? Let me know... I have some freebies I'd love to send you.

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  1. Tamara on January 26, 2009 at 1:04 a.m.

    That's hilarious Debbie - really funny story - made me giggle this grey Monday morning in London!

  2. Luciano on January 26, 2009 at 4:37 a.m.

    Hi Debbie. First time commenting, although reading your posts for quite some time now (by RSS). We (wife and I) are from Brazil, have a almost 2 year-old girl and never put a trip aside because of Isabella. At six month we took her to Vienna, Budapest and Prague and a year later a week in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Now we are planning a trip "specially for her" to Disney in FL. The statement "we made an unplanned trip to the hardware store, and bought pliers we don't need to fix a free product that I don't like!" is one of the best that describe traveling with small children. I loved it. We often have to carry stuff she loves (and we wish we could leave in the way) but, what can we do? It is so fulfilling to see the expression on her eyes looking at all those different things, and then at home flipping through pictures and videos that it is totally worth the extra effort. Congratulations for the blog and it's excellent content.

  3. Globetrotting Bride on January 26, 2009 at 7:53 a.m.

    That is too funny. I feel your pain. I try to find a good home for all the things I review. Right now, I'm looking for a woman who's with "Jason" or "Adam." I've got some personalized wedding panties just waiting for them....

  4. Sharlene on January 26, 2009 at 9:51 a.m.

    While I get where you are coming from, free stuff is like a drug to me. I can't help myself. If its free, I need it. Is there a 12 step program for something like this?

  5. Debbie on January 26, 2009 at 1:05 p.m.

    I'm glad everyone seemed to enjoy this!

    I made a decision a long time ago not to keep any products valued at over $40 (this particular one happens to be just under the limit.) which is one of the reasons I am able to do so many giveaways. This one happens to be just under the limit, so I suppose I could keep it if it wasn't torturing me ;)

    The funniest part of this particular story, is perhaps that we had a system that worked reasonably well, but that now I'll probably buy some sort of enticing new travel bag for my son just so that I can stop using the (broken) freebie!

  6. jamie on January 26, 2009 at 7:18 p.m.

    Further peeves:

    1. Paying shipping costs on prizes.
    2. Goods that you try out and then don't like well enough to blog about---how do you handle that.
    3. Follow up emails.
    4. Follow up emails.
    5. Follow up emails.
    6. Follow up emails.

    I'm going to clear out the prize closet and keep it that way. Oh, who am I kidding?

  7. Debbie on January 26, 2009 at 7:45 p.m.


    1) seriously. I don't like to do "heavy" giveaways anymore ;) At the same time, I keep hearing stories about bloggers who are promised prizes to give away & then the company never delivers. They end up covering the full cost of the prize, which is a huge bummer.
    2) I never guarantee that I'll write about a product. In general, I like my blog to be a positive place, so unless there is some reason to warn people away from a product just don't write about it. Instead I send a polite note to the PR person explaining the issues I ran into & letting them know that I won't be writing about the product. Then I give it to the goodwill (except in this exceptional case where I'm still deciding what to do!)
    3) you always make me laugh

  8. Beth Whitman on January 27, 2009 at 5:04 p.m.

    This is LOL, Debbie. I have a few rules myself.

    I don't agree to review anything unless I think I'll use it in the long term. Even without kids, I have enough "stuff".

    I don't return anything, unless it's something that I don't like/wouldn't use/won't review. Too much hassle.

    I'm with you - if I don't like it, I don't review it because I'd rather focus my blog on what works, not what doesn't.

    I have one exception to the above rules. I reviewed the Kindle and had to return it. I actually didn't like it anyway, preferring the Sony eReader for it's ease of use. Amazon had it right though, I (and everyone else who reviewed one) told them everything they needed to change about it and I'm certain they'll incorporate the info into v.2.

    Thanks for the very funny post.