Over the past few weeks, several PRs have mentioned that they’re seeing the samples they’ve sent out to beauty bloggers for review crop up on ‘blog sales’ and Ebay. In my view, this is not ok! Beauty blogging is such a new form of media that it is still under scrutiny, with PRs and brands looking for great beauty bloggers they can form a long term and open relationship with, so openly flogging their products on Ebay isn’t going to do it. Unfortunately, a few are in danger of spoiling things for many. Products that are sent for review, exactly as happens when PRs send out to journalists, are sent out in good faith that they are for personal use, and not a quick profit. Beauty writers would rather enter the seventh circle of hell that be seen making a quick buck on Ebay from product samples. In any case, where it has happened – and it has – they’ve been swiftly spotted and dropped from press lists. Magazines get a heck of lot of product, and they do charity sales at the end of each beauty season, with any profits going straight to a named and nominated charity. It doesn’t ever line the pockets of the beauty writers. More luxury brands keep a note of the code of products that are sent out and even buy back their own products spotted on Ebay so that they can identify the seller. So, if you’re looking for a fast way to be dropped like a hot cake, this is it. Products you’ve bought yourself are entirely your own business, of course. ‘Swapping’ products that have been sent by brands or PRs for review is a bit of a grey area…my thoughts are that if the product gets reviewed twice, then that can only be a happy situation, as long as no money is changing hands.
We’re trying really hard to be taken as a serious avenue for writing and reviewing, and the majority of beauty bloggers are dedicated, honest, and obviously breaking boundaries in terms of being seen as a legitimate form of writing, but relationships with brands are a two-way street. It seems disrespectful to me to profit from the goodwill of others and it genuinely makes me shudder to think of any credible UK beauty bloggers being banished from PR lists as ‘blagger bloggers’.
As ever, your views are very welcome.
All products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. Affiliate links may be used. Posts are not affiliate driven.
completely agree. I would feel ad making mony out of the samples. Once every cuple of months I sort through everything I cant make use of myself(as there is so much) and then take a huge bag to my friends who kwhat they want and pass things on if they dont want them. I feel priviledged to be sent someting to try out and feature on my blog. x
oh my godness, my typos are terrible!! x
I totally agree! I’m going to start giving my samples on a competition basis so they don’t just languish unloved.
I recently sold something on ebay which my dad bought me for christmas that was the exact same as a sample I was sent (a beautybox filofax) and I thought about whether they’d think I was selling that one (although a quick peek at the one they sent me and they’d know differently) and couldn’t decide what to do.
It’s the same for all types of blogging, we’ve got to get it seen as an actual industry not just a part time hobby and you’re right…it doesn’t help!
You raise an excellent point. Unfortunately, there will always be those greedy souls who want freebies and the chance to score some extra cash by selling press samples. There are also those women who haunt the cosmetic counters asking for deluxe samples which then end up on Ebay. Both types detract from those of you in the beauty blogging biz who are doing a wonderful job of unbiased product reviewing. I’m sure they rationalize what they’re doing by assuming that cosmetic companies have already gotten the benefit of writing off the cost as advertising and, therefore, shouldn’t care what happens to their samples.
I like what lipgloss86 is doing with her samples. Why not spread the wealth with friends? Or, donate them to a women’s shelter? Or, donate them to one of the programs that help indigent women prepare to enter the work force? There are so many good things that can be done. It makes the selling of them seem terribly petty.
OMG I typed a long comment and deleted it…..but I digress.
Yes agreed. Selling things you got given by PR is bad! Obviously. When I do my epic blog sales I always state its stuff that I have paid for and bought myself (unfortunately I still buy far far far too much make up and a lot of dupes).
The samples I do get I always photograph, I open and use it, then keep, pass or chuck!
I pass on to family, friends and the receptionist at work (yes really, she loves make up and can’t afford to buy much) and when they finally get sick of it I would consider doing a sample blog sale where all proceeds go to charity. Better than having something go off in my drawer I think!…
Is it possible that some of the bloggers really don’t know the score? The younger ones especially? (I’m trying to be constructive here!)
I think if you are business minded, you think like a pr and understand the importance of products that are sent and the chain of events that happens once they have been sent out ie, blog posts, reporting back to clients etc. We are lucky that pr’s have picked up on our ‘world’ otherwise ‘devil wears prada’ likes will still be telling us the most expensive cream on the market is the best.
I think there are bloggers who clearly blog for free products & if there are ones who sell the samples given then they should rightly not be given any. Anything i get sent to test if i love it i keep it if i dont my friends & family get my rejects. I’d feel so cheeky selling things unless the profits were for a charity. But well done for bringing it to light, i had no idea this was going on!!
I’ve seen this happen all too often on blog sales and subscriber giveaways. It’s a bit cheeky if you ask me, but every blogger has the right to do what they want to do. However, nice to know that the pr companies are catching on.
This is something that gets my goat as well. I have paid retail for 99% of the items I feature on my blog, not because I proclaim to be PR free (as I’m not!) but because when I started blogging I wanted to write about things I actually use.
I was over the moon when people started taking notice of what I was doing and wanted to send me items for review. If it is an item I’m not interested in, I’ll either say no, or ask a guest reviewer to try it out. I’m not down with grabbing everything on offer – this is why you see tons of posts in the same week on the same old thing. I could have hauled tonnes of parabenny (new word?) moisturiser by now, to flog on eBay, but I don’t,because it is unethical.
So, back to the point, I am very much a believer in not biting the hand that feeds you. Why profit from something you get for free?
Also, I did a blog sale recently and was nowhere near tempted to offer up items I’d been sent. It’s ungrateful and I think generally I’d just be too embarrassed. I might offer them to friends or fellow bloggers for review but I don’t see that as a bad thing, as if someone enjoys it and writes about it, then surely that’s a positive for the PR / brand as it gets more publicity / love / sales.
I’ve gone on a bit now but I hope you get my point. I’m too grateful and excited about blogging to want to do something so underhand.
I don’t even think it’s the younger ones who don’t know the score… it’s just the greedy ones.
Recently, I was out with a PR and they were telling me about a woman in Wales who continually pretends she’s a journalist to get free products.
Another two PR told me how two other London-based companies call in stuff all the time, products never to be written up (and not even an email to say they received it and can’t actually use it). They have stopped honouring the companies’ requests, but it doesn’t stop such free loaders from just seeking bumpf elsewhere.
There are many people associated with beauty blogs and lifestyle sites who actually (cross my heart) feel it is their god-given right to call in samples for personal use or gain, with nary the intention of having a professional write up the products. I’ve witnessed it with my own gobsmacked eyes!
Often times brands will offer to send me samples, and I turn them down until I know I’m writing something that relates to their product and have the time to sample it. Fitflop have even stopped giving out samples wholesale because, no doubt, a glut of people who should never have been given samples were handed them, never to be seen or heard from again.
In the meantime, PRs and brands, it would do every single one of us (brands, PR departments, and proper editorial outlets) a world of good if you would NAME AND SHAME the squeaky wheels who are ruining it for all of us. It will do you no harm (in fact, quite the opposite) and it will help to maintain an adequate level of professionalism in the burgeoning industry by self regulation.
Another thing and I say this as I come from a PR background myself is that it can damage the PR’s rep also. Not that the PRs are guilty but if a client thinks you’re just sending out samples willy nilly and that they aren’t getting results then the PR company will be dropped…so hardly fair from that perspective either.
Here here to that last comment. It’s totally true.
Interesting about the products being coded. I wonder where a blogger stands if she does a blog competition or passes the item onto a friend and then the friend shoves it up on ebay?
There is always someone who will take something that is great and works and ruin it! With my sceptical hat on I can say that it was bound to happen sooner or later. I get loads of emails from young girls asking how I get free stuff etc… My contacts in make up companies have told me about the massive increase in freebie begging emails they get every day.
In my defence of not keeping every single sample I have been sent, there is only so much one person can use and keep! I love giving away my extra make up, I would rather it went to a good and loving home than sit in a drawer gathering dust. My sisters and friends just love me for that and they get to try exciting products that they wouldn’t have known about.
I have sold things on my blog sale and the money raised went to a cancer charity, I was not comfortable keeping the money and it was not my intention. My reputation is worth much more than a few quid for selling review freebies!
I agree with BeautyWooMe – name and shame those ebayers, but make sure you really have definite proof before pointing the finger!
I’m not surprised there are people doing this. Lets hope they get found out and aren’t used again so that up and coming bloggers (cough cough) get a chance.
I haven’t really noticed any of this happening but to me, it’s so disrespectful and you’re right, it ruins it for the blogging community.
Completely agree, sweetheart! But of course it will raise controversy!
I’m either naive or stupid (I’m hoping the first haha) but I had no clue things like this went on. I 100% agree with what you’ve said, it’s awful that people do that!
Some people are just greedy, and spoil it for genuine bloggers, who would do it without the free stuff.
i agreed with you… i normally just give the rest of the samples/ products to my friends and hope they did so good to their skin/hair… as product may not work on everyone.
This really makes me cringe with embarrassment. Not because it’s something I do – hell no! But because when things like this happen a lot of prs will see it as a reflection of bloggers on the whole.
There are so many bloggers who work extremely hard, for nothing but the love of blogging, at forming relationships with PRs and companies so that they can find out about new products and launches.
But, in the scheme of things, beauty blogging is really still in its infancy and let’s face it with most blogs it takes a great leap of faith from a pr to send out press samples. Many bloggers are not professional writers or editors; they haven’t been told the processes of receiving samples and interacting with prs. The pr has no guarantee that they’ll ever see a review or hear from the blogger again, and there’s nobody else to ask for information.
With beauty blogging still trying to find its feet as a respected part of the media, these rogue blaggers are hugely damaging other’s efforts. Blows like this can seriously knock bloggers down.
If I were a pr and consistently sent samples to bloggers only to find them being auctioned off, would I trust bloggers as a whole? Probably not.
In addition, something which I love about reading blogs is the passion that goes into it. Generally, bloggers are not in it for any money – it doesn’t even cross their minds. They do it because they simply adore writing about products, sharing information and being part of a huge community with readers and other bloggers all over the world.
To find out that they’re blagging products to sell off makes me feel really sad, as they’re takign advantage of the situation they’re in and the prs who have trusted them. If they feel that they need to blag and sell products in order to make blogging feel worth it to them, then it’s a huge disappointment and very sad indeed.
Sorry for the scattered thoughts – there’s too much to say!
Fabulous post – I myself have noticed people selling samples they have recieved in goody bags – I know because I recieved the same samples at the same events. To me this is wrong on many levels. On one hand it is disrespectful to the companies who have given the bloggers these products for review and blogging purposes.
On the other hand, it also completely undermines the review that the blogger has written of that product. Even giving samples away in a giveaway is treading on thin ice in my opinion – It is a matter of professional curtesy to check with the person who sent the sample out surely?
At the end of the day, bloggers are trying to be recognised as a new and reputable form of media. This behaviour does nothing to support this claim , and cheapens what we are working so hard to achieve. If we want to be treated with respect by PR agencies etc, we have to treat them with respect – it is a two way street!
Fab article once again!
I take immense pride and passion in my beauty blogging and it’s a real shame that this happens and I am glad to see that you have raised this as a serious issue and concern.
I use to work in Music PR and we would be LIVID if any of the journalists started to ebay or share any of the albums we sent them for review prior to release date.
I have often thought all this, but never really spoken about it. I have seen people do this and really annoys me.
After I have tried something, if I don’t like it I will often give it to a friend or family member, occasionally I’ll take it to the charity shop.
I think it’d be unrealistic to expect people to keep everything they got just cos it was free, at the end of the day if you don’t like it and will never use it, where’s the point in keeping it, however selling it on to others is very bad. Even worse still when it’s something that’s been sent to quite a lot of bloggers… makes you wonder how they can actually do that?!
Good to see PR companies have cottoned on to this!
Interesting post. I’ve not seen any PR samples in blog sales but I did come across an Illamasqua listing on Ebay a few wks ago by a blogger who was selling her sample(s). She had used the same pic of her hand on her blog to swatch it ..duh! LOL
If I receive anything that I can’t use (i.e foundation is the wrong shade) then I’ll give it away for another blogger to review or if I’ve used it, give it either my Mum or friends.
I didn’t realise it was becoming a growing problem, but then I follow so many blogs I don’t have time to look in on them all regularly, so have probably missed the culprits.
I agree, it is so disrespectful and such bad etiquette to sell on a product that has been given to you free of charge for review purposes or otherwise. It’s like selling a gift in a sense, it’s just wrong to make profit from it!
As much as I agree that some bloggers are trying to be taken as a serious avenue for writing, I do believe a lot of bloggers still do it for a bit of fun!
In my opinion the bloggers who have most fun with it, think outside the box and are creative with their blogging are the ones who are the most popular in terms of readership and ‘followers’ … you can tell, the PRs love them! I think rather than trying to be journalists they connect with their readers through photographs and demonstrations of using products as well as simply just writing. This is what makes blogging what it is and makes it so appealing as a new form of brand exposure for PRs.
Thank you BBB for raising an important issue. As a PR we are very aware that there are several people within the media including bloggers and magazine journalists who often sell on press samples on ebay. Like you said we are not stupid however and have ways of tracking said products. PRs talk amongst themselves and we frequently warn each other about the people who have a habit of selling on samples. There have also been cases where legal advice has been taken and further action considered/taken against certain individuals.
Oh! I forgot to mention in my other post, people in the beauty industry are SO the same thing so I don’t think it’s anything new. A few months ago I bought a load of stuff from a VERY well known beauty editor who was flogging her freebies on a private forum that I post on, she easily made 100S of pounds and went on to flog more at a car boot sale increasing her profit further …
More often than not if people see a way of making a fast buck, then they’ll take it and I’m not naive enough to think that there are plenty of people in the industry have been doing the same thing for years. Yes it’s cheeky, but nothing surprises me anymore.
TOTALLY totally agree. I hold a charity beauty sale every season, giving 100% to stated charities (last one was split between St Mungo’s and my brother’s memorial fund, which encourages children through sport). I always state that products have been tested (therefore aren’t in perfect condition) and I take things out of boxes to discourage people selling on – but I still worry for weeks afterwards that someone will sell something on and put a black mark against my name. I have to do something with these samples, as my office isn’t big enough for everything I receive – for The-Beauty-Pages.com and for three national (freelance) publications.
I have to agree with some of the comments above though… It isn’t just bloggers that are doing this – far from it. I’ve worked for lots of publications where staff sold on their press gifts (nb – I worked mainly in fashion, so these weren’t necessarily beauty samples) – some don’t even try and cover it up.
Well said! It’s called professional integrity people. Let’s keep the standards up.
I totally agree with this post and all of the comments here.
I too can see it from a blogger and a PR perspective, as someone who crosses both worlds (not beauty PR) and feel it is simply disrespectful to sell a product you have been sent for free. It is such a shame that those that do choose to make a minor financial gain at the expense of the beauty blogger reputation.
I’m completely new to the whole area of blogging having only discovered it through staring so often at Illamasqa’s website and entering in Mizz Worthy’s competition as a result. I’ve learn’t so much even in the last month! I’m just trying to get myself together and track down the sites that really took my attention over christmas. The ones that are well written, like yours and Mizz Worthys (I can see her medical training in the analitical way she approaches reveiws!). You can really tell which sites are written by people who are passionate about the products and I’m sure the PR’s can see that too. It would be a great shame to have this ‘new form of journalism’ (I hadn’t thought of it like that) compromissed.
I have to say that my explosion into all things glittery was aided and abetted a couple of years back, by a lady I was chatting to at a kids club, who turned out to be a beauty editor (for what I don’t know). She gave me 3 products to try out for a gig I was going to (I don’t get to many these days lol). I was overwelmed at the time and it’s made a huge difference to my make up buying. Getting to try something new on a small budget was a Godsend to me at the time and I now realise cost here nothing. I’m really grateful to her all the same.
I started out writing this really against these things being sold on ebay, but writing the above I realise that this is also away for someone on a lower budget to try something out initially and therefore continuing the PR for which the sample was ment. However I do think that this should be stated in the listing and would personally prefer to see the money going to charity. Profiteering is not nice but I can’t stand the thought of stuff ending up in landfil either.
I get a lot of stuff. I mean, a lot.
If I do not keep it myself, which is seldom the case, I give it away to blog readers and sometimes I even get a review.
I give stuff also away to younger friends, who cannot afford to buy so much stuff or are new into “beauty”.
But to be honest – I swapped perfume twice. Is this already “selling”? I do not think so, it is just usual for me to swap perfume after using it for a while.
I would/will never sell anything on ebay.
BUT: I can understand some doing it, because they see it as an incoming source or maybe “payment” for their work on the blog. Bloggers do not geid paid like an editor or anone other who sells a (paper)magazine.
Still, I am a big blogger in germany, I spend a lot of time and work in it, but I am not getting rich with it, I tell you! It does not even cover the expenses for the blog, which are… high (I buy a lot for testing, because small/organic companies NEVER send stuff!).
But Bloggers will still live a while from their reputation or their income they make with ads for the next years, until blogging has established as “something” I am not quite sure yet what it is going to be.
For me it is free speech first.
And credibility. I do NOT sell that on ebay.
Although I totally understand your point of view, I am going to explain my view as industrial: when I do send stuff to people in the hope they create some buzz about my products, I know I have to let go of my product. They might not talk about it, they might talk about it in a bad way and they might sell it or give it away. It’s a risk I am taking.
Of course, it sucks, it’s not very respectful but hey, I gave them the product, it’s theirs, and it’s their prerogative to use it as they want.
It’s part of the game, really.
Great article, BBB. It’s one I think that every blogger (not just beauty ones) should be forced to read.
Yes, it’s nice to get free stuff to blog about, but if you want to make money from blogging, there are better ways about it than abusing positions of trust.
I agree – although I think swapping is ok or donating to others and they just cover postage costs.
Congrats for this great post! I totally agree with you! I receive replies from PRs departments (is great when I receive any kind of reply, because most of them don’t bother) saying that they don’t have enough samples to send to every beauty blogger and some of them told me about this problem. They are unhappy cause they are sending samples or sometimes the whole quantity of product, but they don’t get back reviews and even when they do, bloggers write a small review of a 100-200 characters and put 1 or 2 photos. They also don’t like to see their products offered in a Giveaway, many beauty companies have this specified in their policy, but some beauty bloggers still give the products away after reviewing them.
I’ve never held a blog sale and I do have so much make-up that I won’t use (some samples, used a couple of times for review), I feel really bad that it’s wasting away. I actually do understand why bloggers would sell them on, we work so hard on our blogs for no payment and it probably does help in keeping your blog cost free. We get products because PR’s like our blog, the blog we spend hours and hours working on. In a way, we’ve earned those products. But, I probably won’t do a blog sale as personally I just don’t have the time! And now I’m actually concerned about giving stuff away in case friends put stuff up on ebay and it gets tracked back to me. Will have to extra cautious now.
The naïveté expressed by some of the bloggers here is charming but not really rooted in the reality on the ground. Only Musing on Beauty has a realistic view of the matter. The kind of behaviour discussed here is rife within the industry and you’d be surprised how many ‘top name’ writers are engaged in it. Many talk openly about it to each other.
All this talk of ‘ethics’ and ‘disrespectful’ behaviour is laudable but a bit silly. At the end of the day when a sample leaves a press office it’s on a journey that could take it anywhere (unless of course they request it back). And as for all this altruism, you might not realise it but many companies are not exactly thrilled about their premium products ending up in the hands of your great aunty Gladys who lives in a tower block either. What annoys them more than anything, though, is the fact that when a sample is sold a sale is lost. And you can understand that anger. It’s not about the naughty bloggers/journalists behaviour. if the product gets press why should they care?
To my mind, what a journalist or blogger does with it is up to them. I utterly abhor people requesting product form PRs purely to sell but have no problem with people selling on stuff they no longer have use for. Okay, so maybe their halos will slip a little but I don’t those who give everything away to friends and relatives should sit and judge. I bet some of you have given samples as presents at some point? Well, is that ‘ethical’? You could tie yourself in knots debating it.
I have talked to PRs about it and many know what’s going on but tolerate it as long as they get their press. if PRs want to blacklist people that’s fine but all that means is another opportunity for publicity lost. Let’s just be adult about all this ok?
Great post BBB.
As a beauty PR i find it so frustrating when I see products I’ve sent for review (requested or not) featured within a bloggers blog sale.
It’s just so darn cheeky and rude,
Especially when this whole arena sits on such tentative ground with a lot of companies who do not believe that investing time or money on digital media is worthwhile.
I know everyone has the right to do what they want with there blog and the samples that they receive but seriously have a think about the way you’re portraying your fellow online writers when you’re tempted to make a quick buck.
I think anonymous here misses some of the point. There is a degree of difference, between bloggers who write up stuff and then dispose of it how they will and blaggers who call stuff in, have no intention of writing it up or lie about their traffic statistics or employement to get products simply for personal use or financial gain.
It’s obvious that if you amass thousands of products, as most in the industry do over time, that you are not going to keep them in a vast beauty closet. However, if you don’t actually give the product and its PR any press (good or bad, or at the very least a follow up email stating that you can’t place it) that equivalent in value to the man hours, lost retail cost and admin involved with sending out products, chasing up, cut clippings, etc., then, indeed, it’s not just a lost sale, but a dent in the PR’s image and less product available for proper press next time. It is an issue, whether you want to believe it or not. Yes, products, once released into the public realm, will follow a course that cannot necessarily be controlled by the brand, but, jesus… manners, personal standards and self regulation are good things to have within an industry.
And you’re just a shameful piece of work hiding behind an anonymous profile. Just as bad as a blagger blogger using a fake name and title to get beauty bumpf.
If you have something to say that’s worth the time and word count you put into your comment, then you should have the balls to stand behind it. Especially as you’re contributing to the so-called debate you deride here. Pot and the kettle much?
agreed with BBB x
Totally agree with everything you say in this article. It was definitely one of the things that jarred with me and eventually led to me becoming completely disillusioned with beauty blogs and blogging.
One minute you’d see haul” videos greedily showcasing their goody bags and two months later half the items would show up in a blog sale.
The point that “anonymous” (hmm, funny how all the snarky posts are always anon huh?) makes about this type of activity being widespread and here to stay is probably correct – and whilst they might be comfortable to “be adult” about it and push their “altruism” to one side, I was not and hence I’m not part of this ‘scene” any more.
Anyway, well written and I’m glad there are still people in the blogging community with a shred of decency. I’m glad I didn’t write this either because I would have been labelled a moaner and a drama queen. Hey ho.
I am anonymous because i am a beauty PR, working, currently as i type.
Beauty samples are not gifts or rights of passage – they are part of work. To sell them on for personal gain isnt right. Is it then ok to steal other things from the office to sell on ebay?
I send out samples to gain coverage – an activity that is getting harder and harder for a brand that isnt a big advertiser.
However BBB cant pick and choose which parts of our industry to support..One post suggests PRs are the enemy for approaching bloggers, another breaks an embargo set by a PR.