Today, I read the sad news (here) that Mocha Beanie Mummy has decided to give up the Silent Sunday linky. Sad news not for the linky itself - the #silentsunday hashtag on twitter works just as well and I can see lots of them in my blog reading list anyway. But sad news because she talks about all the hassle she went through trying to organise it and make people stick by the rules and for all the nastiness she got in return. It saddens me to see that people can be that ungrateful and just plain petty. Which leads me on to my rant for today - my first ever rant here on my blog, in fact ! Usually, I'm so laid-back, I'm practically horizontal, but today - maybe because I've just read Mocha Beanie Mummy's post - I'm feeling really narked.
First of all, I want to say thanks to each and every one of you for reading my blog. And thanks for leaving me comments, which always make me smile. And thanks for entering my competitions too. Whether you're a full-time comper or just a parent who follows my blog and enters the odd competition along the way, I'm very happy to have you here. Some bloggers hate having compers enter their competitions because they want people who are genuinely interested in the products to enter their competitions rather than people who will enter anything and everything, just for the sake of winning (and then go on to put a lot of their winnings on ebay. Which is a shame. I have nothing against compers but I would like to see my prizes going to a good home.)
But sometimes, people just take the pee. And get stroppy. And start hounding me with emails demanding to know where their prizes are and telling me about their rights and the legal delay that exists for them to receive their prize. Which - even if it's not the way I'd go about things - is maybe understandable if you're dealing with a big company or a PR agency, full of employees whose job it is to follow up just such issues and chase up prizes.
But I am not a big company, nor a PR person. I am a mum of three under 10's. I have a full-time job. As this full-time job is in teaching, I also have to sit down most nights and weekends and sort out my marking and lesson-planning too. Blogging is my hobby. I don't get paid for it (apart from the very rare sponsored post). In my list of priorities, it comes below my family and my job.
I love hosting competitions and giving something back to the people who read my blog (ie you lot). When you enter the competitions, you probably never think about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes on for them to happen. First of all, finding the time to trawl through the hundred or so emails that pop into my inbox on a daily basis regarding reviews, giveaway opportunities and press releases. (To give you an idea, after a fortnight in Turkey, I came back to 3010 emails - many of which I still haven't had time to reply to. Because real life gets in the way.) Then working out the prize details, any special requirements the sponsors may have in return for the prize, writing up the giveaway post, adding it to blog linkies and trying to get people to RT it so that it generates enough interest for the companies to be happy. Then picking a winner, informing the winner, sometimes chasing up the winner when they don't understand twitter or forget to put their email, contacting the PR people,sometimes chasing up the PR people when things gets overlooked. All of which I do, with a smile, often after a long day at work because I love all the über-excited tweets and emails from winners saying "oooh I've been looking at this for months and drooling over it" or "OMG I never ever win anything" or "oh wow, my daughter/son will absolutely love this for xmas".
Then you get one, who comes at it all from a totally different angle and just makes me wonder if the whole competition thing is worth it. Maybe I should just go back to reviews. I don't need all the hassle.
I won't name names but let's just say someone won a prize in late July. Within minutes, I'd received a tweet then a DM and an email, both giving me the same info. I smiled and thought "wow, she's keen" and waited for the details from the other winners. This was a Thursday, a couple of the other winners didn't get back to me until the start of the next week but that's OK, they have a week to do so, in my competition T&C's (and even when it goes beyond that, I go to great lengths to try and get hold of them). So I sent off all the winners' details on the Monday night. An out of office reply pinged back, which makes sense - I was in the midst of packing our cases for Turkey too. Many people do in July/August.
The following Thursday, just seven days after me announcing the winners' names, I got the first slightly stroppy email :
I'm sorry to have to email you again, but I thought that [the prize] would have been delivered by now, still no sign of it my end. Have you not sent it yet or is it being sent from the manufacturers?
I replied, politely explaining that it had only been a week, prizes often take a month at least to appear in my experience, even when people aren't buzzing about on holiday, that I was about to be offline for a fortnight and that - if it hadn't arrived on my return - I'd send another email. Then headed off on holiday.
On my return, another email arrived :
Just thought I'd better let you know [my prize] still hasn't arrived yet.
I know you said that you waited until Monday 25th July to send the addresses of all winners to the PR person you deal with, and that it could take up to a month for it to arrive, but it's now been more than a month.
I always start chasing things up after a month has gone by (There's always the chance that I could forget otherwise), just in case it's been lost in the postal system.
Could you email the PR lady for me please and find out what's happening.
Despite being in the middle of visiting family, organising a christening and making the most of the summer holidays with the kids, I chased it up. Still no reply from the PR person concerned but, as I'd mentioned in one of my replies to the winner, she's someone I've worked with on numerous occasions with no problem so I'm sure everything will get sorted out after the summer.
Roll on a couple of weeks, the school holidays draw to a close, time for the mad back-to-school shopping spree, getting the kids back into routine, sorting out the new childminder's contract, going back to school myself, lesson planning, etc ... Oh look, another email pings into my email inbox ...
Well another 10 days has passed, making it 7 1/2 weeks since notification, and still no sign of my prize or a reply from yourself re my last email.
Can you give me the name and email or phone number of the PR lady you deal with please, that way I can find out 'first hand' what is happening about sending my prize to me.
Now, maybe I'm being unreasonable - I'm tired, my brain is fizzing with all the things I'm trying to sort out simultaneously for work and the kids with the new school year, I have paperwork coming out of my ears every time they get home from school, Pierre's totally out of routine and waking up way too early and falling asleep way too late and I'm STILL trying to clear my backlog of emails from the summer ... But the tone of this email just really annoyed me.
I have no problem with chasing up prizes - they do sometimes get overlooked or go missing. I, myself, am still awaiting a prize from back before the summer but, after a quick friendly email to the blogger concerned, I've let it drop. Even if it never turns up, it's a competition prize, I haven't lost anything. I know she's a busy mum like me, as are many of the PR people I work with, so we're all a bit overstretched at the moment.
I have some absolutely fabulous prizes in the pipeline for the next couple of weeks - a year's supply of laundry detergent and a year's supply of mayonnaise with a top-of-the-range hamper, just to name a couple - but this morning, I actually sat there wondering if it was all worth it. After a lot of soulsearching, I've decided I will carry on, at least for now, because I know some of the winners have been really bowled over by their prizes in the past and, in these times when every penny counts, they can really help make a difference in some families where money is tight, especially with Christmas fast approaching.
But the way I see it is, when you buy something that is handmade, you expect slight imperfections - maybe a wobbly seam or a wonky stitch. When you buy something at a bootsale or on ebay, you know it may have a slight scratch or stain. Well, when you enter a competition on a blog, you know that you're dealing with people who often have families and lives that don't entirely revolve about getting your prizes out to you and answering your emails. If you can't deal with that, don't enter them. There are plenty of other competitions out there for you to enter.
OK. Rant over. Normal happy smiley service will be resumed !
And if you do want to enter my competitions, they're here !