Monday, February 4, 2013

Negative Reviews

Let's talk about negative reviews, and if you think negative reviews are helpful.

In my opinion, a negative review can be a blogger stating that a perfume simply doesn't work for them, is boring, is another repeat performance by a house,  is not understandable, or a perfume simply not up-to-standards.

The majority of perfumes that I absolutely adore are ones that transport me.   Ones that bring me to places I have been, or never been, or have dreamed about.  That make me cry or smile or blush.  Memories of my grandmother.  An afternoon from my childhood.  A sticky rainy day in a second-hand shop in Paris in the 60s.*

So if a perfume doesn't move me, I usually don't like it. I don't have a good nose (meaning I have difficulty picking out notes, knowing if something is synthetic or not, etc.) - there are other bloggers out there that have the ability to discern much better.  But perfume for me is mostly about emotion.  (There are perfumes I have on hand that I like a lot - that don't transport me - but that I have on hand for days when I don't want to be moved...sometimes I need to be still.)

Reasons why I like negative reviews?  Well mostly it's a money and time issue.  I follow other perfume bloggers closely that I have similar reactions to with regard to perfume.    If a blogger, who I have been following, who I like what they like a lot of the time, writes a negative review, I will probably not worry about exploring that fragrance.  Again, I have little time and money to spend on things that I may not and probably won't enjoy, be moved by, or understand.

And admittedly, it is easier to be negative about big houses than smaller independent type perfumers.  Like it is easier to post something a bit nasty on Facebook about, say, a chain store than to say something snarky about your local artisan baker, esp if that artisan baker is your pal.

Sometimes negative reviews are pretty darned witty.

I would love to hear what you have to say on this subject.



*Serge Lutens Sa Majeste la Rose, L'Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons, Miller Harris L'Air de Rien
Painting by Mark Rothko

40 comments:

  1. I don't mind constructive criticism in any genre. mostly I am turned off by mean spirited unnecessary snarkiness unless it is an attempt at humor, but if it is not funny then its pointless. There is a lot of negativity on the internet, its not helpful or interesting. If there is a point, maybe.

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    1. good to see you here T: I don't like negativity without a point either. And I must say that most if not nearly all of the perfume posts that I have read aren't negative to be mean. But I do like to hear other points of view.

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  2. I don't mind negative reviews at all (and they don't necessarily change my mind about trying/buying a particular thing), provided that they are substantive. I want to know why you didn't like this particular item. But, like tricia above, I want them to be constructive rather than nasty just for the sake of being nasty.

    I think for anyone to have an authenticity as a reviewer (of perfume or anything else), they have to be willing to post non-glowing reviews.

    That being said, I completely agree about it being much easier to post negatively about an established brand, particularly because one negative review to a fledgling enterprise (especially one that has only a handful of reviews) can have a huge impact on whether or not they succeed going forward. I have to admit that in many cases if I don't like a book by a new author, I won't post a review. BUT I don't review every book I read or even every review copy I receive and there are many, many reasons why I might not post about a book.

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    1. Hello Karen! Always nice to see you here.

      I started my blog as a record-keeping devise. To write down what I liked and didn't like in this journey of mine. I probably, in hindsight, should have kept it private, but I didn't so here we are!

      I do not talk about small independent perfumer creations that I don't get - I don't think it's fair to those who are trying to succeed, like you mentioned with book reviews. A little kindness goes a long way!

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    2. Yes! Dissing a fledgling company just strikes me as nasty. If one sends me something I don't like, I won't review it at all.

      What's tough is giving negative reviews to perfumes that the company sent to me. I am not a PR blog, so I won't approve things just because they're sent to me. But I wonder if they'll stop sending them if I give bad reviews. Thoughts?

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    3. Hello Joan! I hardly ever get PR samples in the mail - phewww! Some have emailed me to ask if I want them - the only company I said yes was Rouge Bunny Rouge and I haven't even opened the package up yet. The others I declined - basically because I have soooooo many samples already that I haven't tried.

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  3. I have a few perfume bloggers who I have followed for some time and who I put a lot of trust in... If they give a perfume a negative review (that is not about personal taste or chemistry) I will trust that review and probably not be interested in that perfume. Conversly if they tell me that they believe that I would like this or that perfume I will be more willing to try it!

    A perfume that is negatively judged on taste and chemistry alone is not really negatively reviewed, that is just a subjective view. I need it to be more general than that for it to influence me... Most positive reviews, on the other hand, are very subjective. So yes, I think truly negative reviews are very helpful, even more helpful than positive reviews...

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    1. Thanks Nadja - I like that you pointed out the negative v. subjective

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  4. I think a mix of good and bad is the ideal blend, especially when you know with whose taste you are most closely aligned. Mine is closest to Robin of NST, for example, while there are a number of bloggers who like much more hardcore stuff than me. Therefore when they post a positive review, I usually invert it and treat it as a no-no for me. : - )

    I do agree that it is harder to be negative about the work of small houses, and I have difficulty doing that. In principle, though, negative reviews are helpful to the community, with the caveat that we have to be careful not to chop anyone's legs off.

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    1. No chopping off legs!! Hey V - so glad that we have been able to meet, and talk, and read one another's blogs; our tastes merge at a little tiny space in time but when they meet, I'm always joyful (i.e. Labdanum!)

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  5. I'm another one who likes a good negative review, if that makes any sense. There are people whose tastes are similar to mine and if they don't like something I know not to waste my money on sampling. If its a review that's negative just because the person has a personal grudge against a brand or perfumer though, that's not helpful. Sometimes it can be amusing to me but it doesn't help me form an opinion on whether or not to try a scent. I appreciate it when people say that the peach note in a certain perfume smelled like cat pee to them. There's no way anyone can like every scent and I'd rather have someone be blunt and honest about what they smell but I agree that there is a way of saying things that is constructive and another way that's just plain mean. I don't like when they get mean.

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    1. Howdie Poodle! I think that the general consensus is that negative or subjective can be really helpful, but down-right mean is just mean. Thanks so much for posting!

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  6. I don't like very much writing negative reviews and the reason is that if I don't like something I usually do not have the time to develop a relationship with that perfume, I run away.

    Another reason is that perfume appreciation is very subjective. The fact that I do not like something should probably mean nothing to people who read my blog unless there is a story behind why I do not like it. Telling that story might be interesting.

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    1. Hello Christos - Thanks so much for your point of view - it is something I haven't thought of, another angle.

      I started my blog as a mostly record-keeping of the scents I have tried, both positive and negative - perhaps I should have kept it closed only for me, as I use my blog to go back to, to see what I thought of certain fragrances over time.

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    2. Of course not! This is just my point of view and I often feel a little ambivalent about it as I may come off a little docile. It doesn't mean that I find negative reviews inappropriate :)

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    3. C, I enjoy your thoughts! Thank you. AND if it wasn't for you, I would never have found my beloved Les Nereides Opoponax (and all the other LNs that I enjoy)

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  7. With perfume I think it is alright, everyone has their own likes & dislikes.

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  8. I've been struggling if I should review Chanel Coromandel at my Chemist in the Bottle or if I should remain quiet about this one. It impersonates all my perfume fears and it just doesn't smell good to me.

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    1. Hello L! Personally I think a truthful thoughtful review is worth it - now you have me itching to know how it impersonates all your perfume fears!!

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  9. I see nothing wrong with negative reviews. No one likes everything they try. But I would much prefer that the reviewer says what they don't like; the perfume is weak and doesn't last an hour, it's too heavy on skank for their taste, it made them break out, this perfume has so much rubbery note it smells like a skunk's back side, whatever, rather than just saying "this is revolting"

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    1. Hello Laurie - Good point!- I think sometimes I don't detail enough why I don't like something (though usually it's because it doesn't transport me, but that in itself needs to be embellished.)

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  10. Interesting question, Carol. I've written some negative reviews in the past and didn't feel good about it afterwards because I sensed I offended a few people -- and no doubt with good reason. Whereas when I really love a perfume I go to great lengths to write something thoughtful, I have a tendency to let my emotions get the better of me when I smell something I don't like, and then my writing takes the form of a knee-jerk reaction that isn't constructive. And, of course, there will always be times when I let my emotions get the better of me (and I'll leave some off-the-cuff remark in someone's commenting forum, unfortunately), but I try to steer clear of writing negative reviews for that reason.

    On the other hand, I don't mind reading a negative review if, as you said, it's coming from someone whose tastes are similar to mine and who isn't being snarky about it.

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    1. Hello Suzanne!! I think that those of us who blog and/or reply to blogs shouldn't worry too much about being negative, in general. I can be knee-jerk as well, and one thought is that we are being truthful (though the constructive-not constructive thing is something the chew on). Hmmm.

      Plus, unless one is the maker of said perfume, why should anyone be offended by a negative review?

      (I had to delete and re-post my reply - I wish I could edit replies with deleting!)

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  11. I do not usually write good or bad reviews so, in general, it's not a problem for me: if there is a story, I'll tell it. And stories about perfumes I like happen more often than about those I don't.

    Reading negative reviews... I don't like either good or bad reviews that are trying to be objective: in my opinion perfumes are too subjective for me to trust anybody's "objective" opinion. But I like reading whether my blogo-friends liked a perfume or not: knowing their tastes I can deduct if I'm likely to like it or not.

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    1. I agree, Undina - I love hearing what blog pals are saying about what they like and don't like!

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  12. This is a very interesting question. I'm not comfortable with reviewing, which is why I don't really do it. If I never mentioned it, chances are, I never knew it, or I had my reasons.
    In order to save time, heartbreak, and most importantly, wallets, new enthusiasts should be smarter than I was, and learn the classics first. Then they won't be fobbed off with an inferior version of Habanita or L'Heure Bleue for too much money.

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    1. I love this idea - get oneself acclimated to the classics first! Thanks BA!

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  13. Chiquitita (as Diego Rivera called his Frida, so I call you!)....

    I don't mind if a review is positive or negative as long as it is honest, well-written, poetic, vigorous, and full-of-voice. The only caveat is that I have a vexing habit of checking a reviewer's content against whether or not their samples are perfumer-supplied. I worry that being on the receiving end of such offers can subtly skew the reviewer's opinion away from total honesty. I know this is only my own worry; it does not necessarily reflect on or alter my good opinion of others who accept such samples. I mostly don't, so that takes care of me.

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    1. Hello darling pal o'mine! I often wonder about that too - and rarely take samples from perfumers/companies because I know I would tend to slant my view positive.

      "full-of-voice" :)

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  14. Carol - This is a fascinating subject. The 2 easiest posts to write in my opinion are for fragrances that you love and those that you hate. Given that, I think its in most peoples nature (or at least I hope) not to be mean or hurtful. I have written some negative posts before, but I hope they have not come off as mean. I always want to point out that the post is solely my opinion only and is a reflection of my use of the perfume. However, this the fragrance business is just that, a business. Bloggers, etc. provide free marketing to consumers on their product. Billions of dollars are spent on the selling of fragrances and the general market will not be affected by nor react to postings by bloggers. Now the niche market is a little different. I believe that this is a pretty active community and if you are into niche perfumes you probably do listen to what others say which brings me to the lemming issue. It sometimes seems to me that people will jump on a love bandwagon and I'm not sure if it's truly love or if it's like you're hanging out with the head cheerleader and one wants to be part of the cool club. I have found that some of those loves were in fact not to my liking and have posted some not so flattering reviews always conscious of the fact that I may tick some folks off. The bottom line is that we all have opinions and likes and dislikes and freedom of expression is our right just as long as you're not hurting anyone else. Now, I have no idea if this response makes any sense because I started writing, then had a large cat walk and then plop down in front of my monitor and then walk on the keyboard so I went to have supper and then came back 45 minutes later to finish. OK, I'm done rambling. Steve

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    1. Hello Steve! I love love love your blog, and am super happy you commented. And yes, it makes total sense, and you do not come off mean at all. You are the 'witty' I mentioned. Thank you!

      Yet again, I have to ask - why do others get upset or ticked off if someone writes that they don't like a perfume that others do like? It doesn't make sense to me. Sigh.

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    2. Carol - you are too sweet. I'm not sure why people get ticked off...maybe us perfumistas are just a sensitive lot!

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  15. Hallo, Carol,
    I'm Lyubov and I comment for the first time in your blog, though I am following it for quite a period.
    If I ever bump into something negative written about a perfume I always consider it is either from a real critic (the one that has credentials about it) or it is just a chemistry turned bad on someone's body. There is no bad perfume (well, I haven't tried the notorious Secretions Magnifique...), just bad circumstances, I guess. At least, this is how it goes for me. I sense dead fish in Infusion d'Iris - Prada eau de toilette while there is no such odour in the eau de perfume - my favorite creamy iris for the previous spring! How come? I always answer: body chemsitry and unfortunate conditions.
    I don't like something written negatively 'on purpose' and I ignore it.
    However, if any of the bloggers I follow writes something not negative but odd about a fragrance I am twice more curious to try it in order to experience something new and weird.

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    1. So glad you posted, Lyubov! I love hearing from new perfume pals.

      I agree with you "there is no bad perfume, just bad circumstances..." Even SM is good on some people - my DH happens to like how it smells but because I nearly throw up when I smell it, he cannot wear it at all! I don't believe I have sampled that Prada you mentioned - interesting how the EdT and EdP are so different.

      I'm also a big fan of odd and weird! I think I'm going to wear Tokyo Milk Arsenic today.

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  16. Yes, I do think the various types of negative reviews are helpful. The fact-based negative reviews (disappeared in 30 minutes) offer helpful information. The subjective ones (too sweet for me) give me something to go on, especially if I know the reviewer’s taste (I agree with what Vanessa says a few posts up about this

    When delivered with a sense of humor, or a bit of self-aware irony, that sort of snarky review can be truly entertaining. But not everyone can deliver Oscar Wilde ish zingers I do cringe, though, when I read reviews that earnestly bash the perfume or those who wear it. But I don’t encounter those often.

    It’s true, as you say, that a negative reaction often leads to wittier remarks. And it’s easy to go mawkish about great perfume.

    I’m thinking of how the first sentence of Anna Karenina grabs me precisely because it promises some negativity: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

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    1. Cheryl, thanks so much for posting! Fortunately I have not read that many posts bashing those who wear a certain perfume - I think I can remember only one.

      So many blogs, so little time. Over the years, I have whittled down my actual 'to read' list to those people I know, have chatted with on email, and/or have similar perfume taste to me.

      I love that quote - thank you!

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  17. For a blogger, negative reviews, especially when you've been given samples by a small niche or artisan brand, are a real minefield! I think it was Tom on the Posse who said writing a negative review about an artisan/indie perfume is like calling someone's baby ugly. Back in the day when I wrote reviews, if I was in this situation, I'd send the critique to the artisan in question, but not necessarily publish it on the Web. When it came to artisan/indie, I usually only reviewed the ones I was really amazed by, the truly unique and artistic perfumes (according to me, of course!) But what's been disturbing in the perfume blogosphere is the resultant absence of any critique/negative reviews of these perfumes. I mean, classics like Mitsy and Angel have droves of lovers and haters. So when a new niche or indie fragrance comes out and every review is glowing, that's...weird. Don't know the solution, though.

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    1. Hello Marla! It can be a real minefield, but what I usually do, like you did, is that I don't review them negatively it is an artisan (i.e., the perfumer is the company).

      But I am glad to hear all sorts of voices; it helps me personally figure out what I think I want to spend money on.

      Glad you stopped by! Thanks.

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