This is the fourth in a series of articles about the practice of toy reviewers being given free samples for review, and whether that represents a problem for readers looking for honest assessments to make purchase decisions. You can find the other articles in the series here.
Today’s Q&A is with Rob Bricken, editor of Topless Robot and former editor for the now-defunct ToyFare magazine.
1.) When you receive free samples, do you find an urge to be kinder to the item than you might be? If so, do you find yourself softening a bit, do you try to simply be fair, or do you think you end up trying to be even more objective than usual?
Topless Robot is not a toy review site, so 1) I don’t get a lot of toys and 2) I don’t feel compelled to have to review them when I do. My overall review policy is to only review things I like and think my readers will like (not counting movies) partially so I don’t have to crap on someone’s life’s work and partially because TR isn’t a review site, it’s trying to do news and promote awesomeness. If someone sends me a crappy toy to review, I just wouldn’t review it, because I don’t see any need for me to be mean. Of course, even when I review something awesome, I still try to be objective about its faults.
2.) Do you ever worry when writing a review that being too negative will hurt your chances for more free samples, or damage any potential personal or professional relationships?
No, because I’d rather TR be objective than get free toys. I have plenty of toys already. Same was true back in my ToyFare days, for everyone at the mags.
3.) Do you think that, in general, reviews of free sample toys on the Web are generally fair, or do they tend to be biased? Is this a problem for the toy collecting hobby, or a tempest in a teacup?
I’d say it depends on the site, really. I think many smaller toy reviewers are biased merely by getting products, but I don’t think there are too many companies giving toys to fansites in the first place, because most toy companies are too big and most toy sites are too small. Honestly, I don’t know how many toy review sites are there period period, let alone ones I’d trust as objective. In all honesty, Poe, the only toy reviews I read anymore are your MOTUC ones.