When a Review is not a Review

Whenever I’m going to buy something, I like to look at the reviews of the product online first to see what people are saying about it. In general, I think word of mouth is pretty valuable because it’s usually someone’s actual opinion based on their experience, as opposed to hype or advertising from the company that made the item.

Traditionally, a product review is something the product’s creator never pays for (other than the cost of the review copy and shipping); in addition, it’s bad form to ask for a good review. The whole point is for the reviewer to give an unbiased opinion. Obviously, if the review copy were to arrive with a check payable to the reviewer, the review would be biased.

We started Cardamom Publishers, our homeschool publishing business, in 2003, and we’ve never paid for a review or asked for a good review. We just send out review copies and wait. We’ve been gratified to receive good reviews, and we want homeschooling parents to know that those reviews are unbiased.

There are many good homeschool websites and magazines that offer unbiased reviews. But apparently there are others who require creators to pay for something they call a product review, but which is actually an advertisement. I recently received an email from one such site, howtohomeschool.net. They’ve offered to review our products. Here are the details:

Removed at the request of the writer 7/11/17

There’s nothing wrong with advertising, but to claim that a paid ad is a product review is dishonest. Homeschooling parents love hearing the opinions of other parents about homeschool products; I valued that input when I homeschooled my four kids. But there’s a huge difference between an unbiased opinion and a paid ad, and I don’t think it’s fair to imply that there isn’t one, especially when your intended audience is made up of very busy homeschooling parents who have enough to do without trying to figure out when they’re being misled.


It’s a Scam, But Not the One I Was Expecting!

Shortly after moving here six months ago, I received an offer in the mail for a year of Woman’s Day and a year of Country Living for the ridiculously low price of $10…for both!

This was too much temptation for me. Even though I long ago pruned down my magazine intake, I decided it wouldn’t hurt for a year. And if by some chance it was a scam, I’d only be out $10, right?

Well, it wasn’t a scam, at least not in the way I was thinking. Though it took a good two months for the issues to show up, they are showing up. And they’re ok, I guess. It’s been years since I “took a magazine,” as my grandma used to say, and I didn’t realize how full of ads they are now. In the case of Woman’s Day, they also have pretty much the same content they always did: recipes, diets and crafts. I’m flipping through them pretty quickly as there’s not much that catches my eye; Country Living is a little better than Woman’s Day, though.

But that’s not the problem. The problem is that I now know how and why they can offer these magazines so cheaply: they must have sold my name and address to everyone and his brother! I’m being inundated with catalogs, flyers and life insurance offers. I’m getting mail from companies I didn’t know still existed; apparently they spend their marketing dollars on direct mail instead of Internet ads or television commercials. Some days almost all the mail is addressed to me in the exact same way as the labels on the magazines; that’s how I know my name was sold by the Woman’s Day people.

Ergh. One of the blessings of a new address is that you start fresh and many of the companies that used to send you junk mail lose track of you. But after this move, it seems I’ve jumped from the frying pan into the fire. So beware of magazine publishers with irresistible offers! (On the other hand, I guess I’ve helped keep the Postal Service alive for a while longer.)