Under Review

by Rachel on May 2, 2010

So, I was thinking last week about reviews because we had a really good discussion about blogging, reviews, and free swag last week on Hollaback. Some readers don’t like reviews, especially when the blogger is getting stuff for free, because it makes them feel like they need to spend a bunch of money to be healthy. And I started to think about this and I realized…Wow, I do a lot of reviews! Do I really just LOVE everything?!

Actually, kind of. The thing is…I just love stuff. I can’t watch infomercials. I can’t watch Oprah. I love tech stuff, kitchen gadgets, food, books, lingerie, workout clothes, and beauty products. This is why I’m generally fucked if I go into Target. Part of the reason I started Shedding It is because I was giving informal reviews to my friends all the time. I was constantly getting e-mails and Facebook messages from friends (and randoms from high school) who know I try a lot of stuff and wanted to know my opinion on things before they bought them. My friends call me from Sephora and the grocery store all the time. I just wanted to be able to have a place where I could put it all. Want to know how I whiten my teeth? HERE. A LINK! Want to know if you should buy the Magic Bullet? (My friend Erica BBMd me this question on Friday. I told her what she already knew I was going to say and now she owns one.) I feel like I come from a, “I try it all, so you don’t have to” perspective. Sometimes that applies to things like diets, workouts, and foods and other times it applies to kitchen gadgets and workout gear.

Do I love everything? No, but I do usually love the things I buy because I put a lot of thought into it and buy things I’m 95 percent sure I’ll like. (And I read tons of reviews first!) This is something about me that’s changed since I’ve gotten older. When I was younger, I’d just buy anything and everything and it led me to having way too much stuff. Now it may seem like I buy anything and everything, but I actually do debate for a while before buying things. (And I’ve talked about how to decide when to invest and how to stretch your budget.) So that’s why I don’t do a lot of negative reviews; I just avoid things that don’t suit my tastes. I don’t do frequent DVD reviews because besides the handful I’ve already shared, I don’t really like workout DVDs very much.

In regard to getting free stuff, I do get some, although I’ve become more careful about only accepting things I’m pretty sure I’ll like instead of just saying, “OMG!!! FREEEE STUFFFFF! SEND IT TO MEEEE!!!!” to whatever PR person contacts me. (Oh and I’m required by law to tell you when I got something for free.) I really try to review things that I think you guys haven’t tried before or haven’t read ten other reviews of in the past week. Sometimes I review trendy things, like coconut oil, because I’m assuming you’ve heard some hype and want to hear about it from a “friend.” I review books because I love to read and I can get them free from the library. And a lot of times I don’t review new “hot” things — that’s because sometimes a product that’s been around for five years is exactly what I need right now — maybe I was too young to notice it the first time, or just too stupid — so even if I’m sort of the last person to get on the bandwagon, I always assume other people can benefit from my, “Duh, Rachel!” moments. And that would be the “getting it” I really meant when I named my blog. (But that’s evolved a bit, as we all know.)

While Leah said it well — I “don’t exactly discourage consumerism” — I hope you don’t get the impression that you need things to be healthy. You really don’t. And I don’t expect anyone to buy all the things I review…I really don’t! The reviews are meant so that if you’re wondering, “Hmm…what ipod should I buy?”…well, now you know! (Because since 2004 I’ve had ummm…five different ipods. When I bought the ipod Touch last summer, I wish someone had told me that I should really have gotten a Nano. Ugggh!) I read every magazine so I try to share the best info I find in them (which really isn’t much these days, sadly). In terms of make-up reviews, I’m not even going to pretend I don’t love beauty products and don’t think a beauty product can change your life; I do think that. (But I’ve also noticed that you guys actually seem to like those reviews best, especially when I share new nail polish colors.) And I think of food reviews as swaps as opposed to “your pantry runneth over” — i.e. I’m assuming you already buy peanut butter so I’ll tell you if you want to switch to macadamia butter this month. You don’t need to have eight kinds of nut butter at once.

So when I review things, know that it’s from the bottom of my heart. If something has helped me, I assume it can help other people too. Just like I’m here to say, “Don’t get hooked on fake foods; they will mess your body up!” I’m here to say, “Don’t waste your time on a knock-off Magic Bullet; it will die so you just need to buy the real thing!” (Seriouslyyyyy.) I’m a little materialistic. I know this. It’s sort of a joke among my family and friends and I feel ridiculous saying this but it’s honestly who I am. I’ve been like this since I was a little kid. If the house were on fire, would I save my Magic Bullet and leave my dog behind? Of course not. But would I find cheaper ways to socialize so that I can save up for a Kindle? Um, I sat at home last night, so you tell me.

So just like I own a lot of stuff, I’m also owning this aspect of my personality. But I really do my best to talk about things I think you guys want to know about or that will help you if you’re seeking a solution to a problem. (Like how the Nike sensor is a solution to wanting to buy a Garmin.) And I would love to hear more from you about the kinds of products you’re interested in. Yes, this enables my habit — a reader last week had me all craving a BodyBugg again, something I have talked myself out of several times — but like I said last week, I love getting ideas from you! So feel free to holler at me with questions in the comments or “Hey, have you seen…?” e-mails.

Seth Godin calls people who talk about products or ideas “sneezers.” They “sneeze” and spread the “ideavirus” to other people and that’s how things get around. Well I’ve basically had a bad cold my whole life, so you can consider me your personal sneezer. Gross image, but I think you get the idea.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heather @ Side of Sneakers May 2, 2010 at 10:40 am

I love your honest assessment of the “review” situation. I don’t mind reading reviews when they’re honest & fit into the blogger’s lifestyle (as opposed to clearly random because they got it for free.) I’m all about free stuff. And while you don’t HAVE to have stuff to be healthy, chances are you’re going to want stuff anyway- and it’s nice to hear from a “friend” a real opinion about it before shelling out hard earned money.
.-= Heather @ Side of Sneakers´s last blog ..Slow Mornings =-.

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2 Kionda May 2, 2010 at 11:19 am

Yeah I love stuff as well. Especially kitchen gadgets…or anything that involves the kitchen. I’ve been contemplating getting a juicer for a while now. There are three brands I’m looking at – Champion, Green Star & Omega. The first two you can actually make your own sorbet and nut butters as well as juice your fav fruits and veggies. The third you can do the same but at your own risk. The Omega (at least the model I’m looking at) is not made to do sorbets or nut butters since the blank attachment is not offered.

I know getting a juicer will benefit me in the long run. I know that it will be a great investment. I still find a way to talk myself out of it though. What is up with that?! Lol. I mean come on…who doesn’t want to make their own nut butters?!

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3 Rachel May 2, 2010 at 11:22 am

Kionda — Ugggh I feel like it’s like with food. Do I eat what I REALLY want and know I’ll be satisfied with less or do I choose the healthier (i.e. cheaper thing) and know I’ll still want the other thing?? In both food and shopping, I’ve learned to go with the former option. But I feel ya on contemplating. I have been talking myself out of an ice cream maker since last summer but I desperately want to make my own ice cream!

Keep us posted on what you decide. Making your own nut butters does sound pretty baller!

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4 Manon May 2, 2010 at 11:27 am

I love love loooooove reviews, which is also why I just did a post on a few things I love these days after I asked a friend for makeup advice and she said “it makes me so happy talking about things I love”, and I realized I did too! I love reviews when they are HONEST reviews, and let’s face it…..it seems a lot of bloggers out there may just be doing it for free stuff. Sometimes it takes me buying a bazillion different things before I find that ONE that I just fall in love with, so i’m always looking for reviews/advice before I buy new things!

And, on the bodybugg……HUGE fan. Like HUGE, HUUUUUUUUUGE FAN. I talked myself out of it about a bazillion times before i took the plunge, and let me tell you, BEST $170 I EVER SPENT.
.-= Manon´s last blog ..Spreading the Loooooove ♥ =-.

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5 Rachel May 2, 2010 at 11:30 am

Goddamnit, Manon. FML.

(But thank you for the encouragement because there IS something wonderful about sharing things you love!!!)

P.S. Have you done Core Fusion yet?!?

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6 Alicia May 2, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I really like this post. I have to admit I am guilty of being too giddy when being contacted by a company to review their product. I think you can still be constructive while being excited about a product, so it’s really about just being honest about what you think about the product. Not every meal when you dine out is fantastic, not every thing you buy lasts forever. I think if you write for your audience and not for yourself, you owe them that much.
.-= Alicia´s last blog ..monthly cooking class: chicken marsala =-.

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7 Kaitlynn May 2, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Rachel – I have to admit I’m a constant lurker & Shedding It is my #1 frequented blog ( Your updates fuel my EK & GDI friends’ discussions on the daily). Anyways, moving on from sounding creepy, just wanted to say ‘Ahhhhh SETH GODIN!’ I read Purple Cow for my marketing class this semester and I swear to god every 10 pages i was thinking ‘this sounds like the sassy attitude Wilkerson showcases on Shedding It.’ Glad you’re familiar with the book & you’ve obviously taken his preachings to heart. Consider me a ‘Shedding It’ sneezer!

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8 MelissaNibbles May 2, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I love reviews and read Epinions whenever I’m buying something. I appreciate HONEST reviews and I truly believe that yours are honest. I take very few bloggers reviews seriously though because it seems like everyone gets the same things at the same time and they all love it. It just strikes me as odd that 1 person doesn’t like something? That’s just not possible you know? I only accept free stuff when it’s something I want to try and it’s a pain in the butt for me to get packages where I live so I only do reviews if it really is something I want to try and I’m always honest.
Keep the reviews coming!!

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9 Kim @ LEO the lion says GER May 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm

I love reviews! When I’m thinking about buying something, I scour the internet for reviews like yours to make sure I’m not about to waste my money on something that sucks.
.-= Kim @ LEO the lion says GER´s last blog ..Finals! =-.

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10 amanda May 2, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I also love my share of free stuff. I also sign up for all types of samples all the time for free beauty products. I am a Sephora addict becuase they give out free samples and they also allow you to return the products if you do not like it. I also read tons of reviews before I make the bigger purchases on stuff as well. You really don’t want to be stuck with something that is a bunch of crap. Glad to know there are others out there like me. :)

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11 Laura May 2, 2010 at 8:56 pm

So first of all, what the hell is a BodyBugg…cause if you talk about it, I’m probably going to buy it (only if you LOVE it, of course!) I haven’t yet bought something you raved about and not liked myself! Core Fusion, check! Waist belt and eye drops from wal-mart, check and check! My Nike+…now that you’ve helped me FINALLY figure that damn thing out, CHECK!!! Keep the free shizz reviews coming!!!

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12 Rachel May 2, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Laura — the BodyBugg is this thing you wear that tells you EXACTLY how many calories you burn in a day. And then you can upload all your data online and manage it. I never like believe calorie calculators and I don’t feel like strength training “counts” (dumb, I know) so I’m always sort of at a loss when it comes to cals. So I’m DYING to try but it’s so expensive. There’s a cheaper version called the Fitbit which I’m kinda considering… http://www.fitbit.com/ When health meets tech, I’m allllllll over it!!

P.S. I’m so glad you tried those eye drops! They are BOMB!!

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13 Madelyn May 2, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Have you tried the new Crest 3d whitening mouthwash? I would love to know how you think it compares to listerine.

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14 Rachel May 2, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I haven’t tried it yet BUT I am out of mouthwash and I SWEAR by the Listerine. I’m all over this one!

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15 Stephanie May 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

OMG a guy friend of mine who is in the military has a bodybugg (he’s the one that got me into P90X) and he LOVEs it. He’s been trying to sell me on it for months and i’ve come so close a few times. I’m nerdy about the numbers and love shit like that but it’s got such a price tag on it I haven’t taken the plunge.

If you get it and love it that just may be then end for my wallet lol

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16 katie May 3, 2010 at 5:49 pm

very well stated – and i do really appreciate that you seem to buy most of the things you review.
.-= katie´s last blog ..listening to "Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Home" =-.

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17 Rachel May 3, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Thanks, Katie!! I’m glad your email and subsequent post really got me thinking about these things!!

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