“Hey, guys, if I send you to *insert city* to try out so-and-so shoe and put you in a nice hotel and give you a steak dinner, can you maybe be nicer in the review, since we know the shoe needs work and is really not very good? Please be nice?” Would you go?
This has been a heavy and real subject on our minds here at WearTesters for a long, long while: the idea that we, as WearTesters, are less than honest with you, the viewing public, because we are sometimes “gifted” product by brands and companies for review. Maybe it’s a trip to an event, or an open gym at All-Star Weekend, or a media party, or just a trip to HQ when we are able. Some commenters, and even some review sites, have felt the need to bash us as dishonest and biased because of these perks. Let’s discuss.
WE GET FREE PRODUCT
The first pair of shoes I reviewed for a different site, I bought. The second pair, I bought. The third, fourth, fifth, I bought. After about nine or ten reviews, I was contacted by the editor of that site to see if I wanted to try the newest Under Armour basketball shoe, the Black Ice. What? Free shoes? Hell yeah! I am a sneakerhead, so free shoes were better than money. The shoes performed great, as anyone who wore them will tell you, and I gave them a glowing review. Was it a better review because they were free? Nope, they were just really good.
Then I got a pair from adidas, the Rose 1. Again, a really good shoe that got a good review. Then, I got a shoe from Hops, an Australian “basketball” company. It was trash and I said so. Said it so strong that the owner of the company emailed me, asking me to change the negative parts to not seem so harsh. I refused, and Hops never contacted me again, for shoes or otherwise.
After a year or so of writing reviews of shoes I was given and shoes I bought, it came to the point that every company (except Nike) was sending me anything I wanted for free and in multiple colorways. Some sucked, some didn’t, but I was always honest. I had designers from the biggest brands texting and emailing me about designs, technology, what worked, what didn’t. This isn’t to brag — well, maybe a humble brag — but to show that honesty gets you noticed. If you talk up a shoe that is terrible, your readers and watchers will buy the shoe and feel duped, destroying your credibility. And let’s face it, credibility is really all we have as reviewers.
A big push has been made lately that we at WearTesters should be honest with our followers and let it be known when we receive free merchandise. First of all, why? What difference does it make? If you believe we are honest, does it matter if we bought it or received it? What if we trash a shoe we got for free and build up a shoe we bought — are we more credible for that? Nope, not at all. So divulging that information is a non-issue, if you truly follow and believe in what we are doing. If not, then don’t read or watch us. Simple. (Besides that, if you aren’t following our Instagram accounts — @nightwing2303, @jahronmon, @duke4005, @noahgoldowitz, @nyjumpman23, @thewongkicks, @quickkickreviews, @weartesters — then what is wrong with you?)
At this point in the game product is given away so rampantly that it is no longer a big deal, unless you aren’t getting it. For some reason, those sites that are left out want to imply, or straight out accuse, sites that are seeded product as biased and in on the take. Actually, it’s quite the opposite — most brands looking for professional performance opinions value honesty, not “yes men.” We at WearTesters have connections at brands that we talk to continuously and on a regular basis. Why? Because we are dishonest, loyal, and biased? No, because the people at those brands know we know our stuff and will tell them if something is working or not.
Here is the kicker, though: we still buy our shoes! We get pairs gifted, but nine times out of ten it is after we have already bought and reviewed the shoe. This is expensive, people, especially for us.
WE GET FREE TRIPS
Well yeah, if free product is given, free trips are next. Every company wants the newest designs and products on as many social media accounts and websites as possible. Notice a lack of shoe commercials on NBA games lately? “Back in the day” we had four or five Jordan commercials for the new shoe, along with Nike Basketball, Reebok, FILA, and whoever else saw a market in basketball. Now, companies recognize the power of followers and viewers.
Why spend millions on marketing when you have “shoe-lebrities” who will do it for the price of a trip to wherever and a free pair of shoes? Companies like Nike and adidas can bring in the top YouTube sneaker channels, website managers, and Instagram personalities and accomplish more than a multi-million dollar campaign and promotions in established publications. Yes, we have been to more than a few of these trips and parties, and yes, they are generally big industry get-togethers where everyone is nice to each other for a couple of hours or even days — then everyone leaves for their own corners and gets back to business.
There are some companies who don’t invite WearTesters and it is because we are honest — we tell you exactly what is right and wrong with the shoe, and the brand, and it doesn’t go to well in some meeting rooms. Do those brands get marked down when they do produce a good performer? Not at all. Again, honesty. If we downed a shoe because we didn’t get flown to wherever, fed, and dropped off at a concert for an artist no one has heard of, then we aren’t worthy to wear the WearTesters name.
WE GET PAID
HA! We have not made one dime from any shoe company for a review, regardless of company size or collaboration.
You may be asking about the WearTesters x Brandblack Ether — I’ll have Chris step in here for a moment.
“Yes, we had an opportunity to collaborate our brand with another. Yes, we took that opportunity to create a product we believed in. No, we did not accept any money for the collaboration even though it was offered. Instead, we accepted 30 pairs of the product we co-created and then proceeded to give them away. About ten pairs were sold by us with international shipping available to give some of our overseas supporters the opportunity to grab a pair — we wish we had more to give, but we didn’t.”
Again, ethics and credibility. The first time we take money from a company for a review we immediately become snake-oil salesmen making you believe something that isn’t true. We make some money from YouTube and site hits, and you know where that money goes? To buy more shoes for review! We aren’t millionaires and we didn’t make a fortune in the tech industry — we work at real jobs, with real bills and families, with real injuries and time constraints. We play as much as we can and buy shoes when we can afford them.
Don’t misunderstand, there are sites that get paid for reviews, and you will be able to tell which ones they are if you pay attention. When language sounds like a movie review — “stupendous,” “revolutionary,” “ground-breaking” — that person is either paid or quite loquacious.
WE ARE BIASED
So, after reading all of the above, we get to the meat of this debacle: we are biased. Well, if we get free gear, free trips, and paid off of our videos, we have to be, right? No.
It all comes back to honesty. The moment we aren’t honest, our viewers quit us, our readers go somewhere else, and our followers, well, unfollow us. Bias towards a brand, any brand, destroys us as a site. The reason we are who we are is the fact we are unbiased — we just don’t have to advertise it. We publish press releases for upcoming shoes, we publish pictures of shoes we may never wear, and we are given product from companies we may never, ever use again, but we will never promote a company or product based solely on gift or friendship — everything we do is based on performance and quality. The moment a company forgets that, it gets called out, regardless of reputation, history, or personal attachment.
There is a reason we are the best at what we do, and a reason we aren’t going anywhere. In the end, I guess you could say that yes, in a way, we are biased: we love performance and hate pretenders, falsehoods, and accusations that confuse us for something we aren’t instead of recognizing what we are: We Are Testers.