Feb 262014

Disclaimers: This post is emo and ranty. Wibbly math and fuzzy logic and a fuck ton of rough estimating is involved. Sure it’s a really rough estimate, but I’m not looking to be precise here just to make my point. If you can’t handle that, don’t read this. The following rant does not apply if your name is SheVibe, Tantus, GoodVibes, Crystal Delights, Standard Innovation, and a few others not noted.

Many readers and even blogging newbies are so awed by the fact that sex toy review bloggers often get the items we review for “free”, in exchange for our honest review. A recent tweet by a fellow reviewer talking about their upcoming review on the latest version of the Revel Body got my blood boiling all over again just thinking about that fiasco.  After I found out that the unit I was sent was not the most updated unit, I became angry. Very angry. Due to the nature of that item, I spent a lot longer than usual on that review. All in all, I honestly want to say it was 20+ hours. And my anger spawned this ranty post.

“My point is that it damages my reputation and Shevibe’s if my review is pointless because of variances in product that a customer would get. And if half of my issues with the item are then a moot point because it no longer applies….I guess I don’t see why the “Version 1″ was sent to stores so soon and sent to reviewers. I spent, literally, more than 20 hours (and that is likely a very conservative guess) testing, writing my review, doing the accompanying video, and so on. I spent a huge amount of time on this…..and it was basically all for nothing?  I can certainly appreciate when a sex toy is improved upon. But the fact that we’ve all received possibly slightly different versions and no one knows what is what now equals up to something that I don’t believe I can support.”

The response to that was basically a baffled sex toy manufacturer who had no idea that someone might spend that much time on a review. And I think that MANY manufacturers (and newer retailers – or stupid retailers, like EdenFantasys, where Fred thinks we shit these out like goose eggs) have no idea what goes into it.  My average time spent on a review ranges wildly, and it depends on how much outside research I need to do. The minimum, including testing & comparison time, is about 2 hours. Hey, sometimes you just KNOW the toy sucks badly or is awesome and all you need is one or two uses – plus the really good and really bad reviews tend to (for me) fly from the fingers and get written faster. The average for me is going to be about 6-8 hours; some are more, some are less but most fall in that area.  I asked a bunch of others on Twitter what their rough estimate was, and though it varies the answer is clear: we put our backs into it. See what others had to say when I polled Twitter.

I do want to clarify that not every sex toy reviewer will go to these lengths. Some don’t. But if you look at the reviews from me and my friends you can quickly tell the difference between those who do this for reasons and those who do this to grab up free sex toys.

But let’s try and put a dollar value on this, just for the fucking hell of it because I’m curious. If we assume that it’s not just busy, grunt work that anybody can do, we should add a few dollars to the minimum wage. Let’s go for an even $10/hour. That average review time is now worth $60-80. Of course, many of the items I’m given to review exceed the $100 mark…..but wait….remember, that’s retail. I don’t know what the average shop marks up their items by – is it as much as 50%? As little as 25%? Hopefully some of you who work in stores can shed a little light. But my point is, simply the time value has probably met or exceeded the value of most of the toys we’re given to review. That’s to say nothing of the links. We’re also providing traffic and maybe even sales. It’s less about SEO these days; in the first 3 years of reviewing we were required to add in links to the site’s homepage with keywords like “vibrators” and “Sex toys”, etc. Even if there’s an affiliate ID on the link, it’s still a link. And what is that link worth? That’s harder to pin down, since it varies by the metrics of the blog.  If I were to sell a post with links (don’t worry, I don’t) I would probably charge at least $75. Now we’re up to a minimum of $135. I don’t know of any toy on the market that will set the manufacturer or retailer back by $135. 

And let’s shine a light on those affiliate links – yes, the store/site gets a sale. Yes, part of their profit goes to us. But they still make a profit from it. And if there is no affiliate program? They see even more profit. Are we sending them thousands of dollars worth of sales from that review alone? Probably not. But it’s still something, it still has value, and it needs to be considered.  Do we value the sex toy we were sent? Of course. Usually. Unless I hate the damn thing, then it’s taking up space and I can’t even fucking recycle it (Hi, Revel Body, talkin to you again).

But wait, I want to be fair. Yes, there is a chance that–IF there is an affiliate program–we might make more in commissions over the year(s) from that review and the balance seems to be outweighed in our favor, if your math is wonky or it’s 12:23am. Here we are again, back around the circle….if I’m making a commission, you’re making a sale. Unless you turned out to be a d-bag retailer who dropped 2/3rds of their stock from rotation and I had to change my links to another affiliate. BUT I DIGRESS.

Retail Sites1. CONSIDER ALL OF THIS before you start bugging us for the finished review when we barely received the product last week2. Consider all of this before you try to control our language and what we choose to focus on in the review.

Manufacturers. CONSIDER ALL OF THIS before you think nothing of sending us prototypes to review and then quickly launching a different version, knowing our review will have some irrelevancy. CONSIDER ALL OF THIS before you assume that we’re the ones making out like bandits and you’re always the one doing us a favor. 

And finally, to our dear readers. The ones we do this for. Consider all of this before you go shopping at Amazon. If we helped you, consider supporting our work and the places we work our butts off for by purchasing through our links. This way we get back a little of what we put in.

tl;dr – We work a lot harder at this than you may realize. Our work is worth more than you realize. And it is work. It is time consuming.

  1. Also I want it noted for the record: None of the retailers I currently work for ever fall into the “don’t be that person” camp. I work with really awesome companies and really great people, but I make it that way
  2. While I can’t personally come up with a reason why it should take me months to finish a review, and I try my best not to overstep that 30-day line, I’m not perfect. Usually if I have to, it’s because I’m waiting on someone to send me a replacement unit because mine might be defective, or I’m waiting on another, similar toy to help me do a comparison.
 Posted by at 4:10 pm
  • Great post. Sure, I could churn out reviews but the quality would suffer and the review would be hollow.

  • sexandweed.org

    Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

  • I
    love that you did this! I wish that I had seen the tweet so I could
    have responded in time for you to include it… I commented on your Storify and adding it here,
    better late than never.

    In total my reviews take DAYS! I usually have 3
    – 5 sessions with a toy to make sure I’ve got a good handle on it (the
    novelty of toys can wear off fast making later uses far less orgasm
    worthy), I take notes before and after each session, I write a rough
    draft in parts that usually takes 3 – 5 hours, then I go thorugh all my
    notes making sure I have everything I want to say, then there’s pictures
    (which I prefer to be artsy fartsy – props and such if possible) which
    includes me trolling my house for things I can use in the photo or going
    out to buy them, spending a good hour or so taking pictures, uploading
    them cropping or edting them (low light etc), adding them to the review
    and finally going over it 2 or three times with my husband (his writers
    eye helps) to make sure I’m totally happy with it. After all that I
    usually go through the post checking all the links to make sure they
    work, checking pictures for load times etc. I want what I do to be a
    representation of what I have to offer, and my personal standards are
    pretty high. And that’s all if I’ve got the itch to write, some days are harder than others – my writers block is ridiculous. Now if I add a video it takes longer since I do a rough script to help keep me on point (if I don’t I babble way too much and forget what I’m talking about), uploading time, editing, uploading to blip.tv, propagating it from there to YouTube…. If I didn’t loving doing this so much I wouldn’t. It’s a definite labour of love.

  • Rayne Millaray

    “…or stupid retailers, like EdenFantasys, where Fred thinks we shit these out like goose eggs”

    This is so true. I was going to explain what tipped me off, but then I remembered that forum thread where he basically said as much himself.

    As for mark up, it really depends on the item, in my experience. If the item’s pricey, the markup is usually minimal. If the item’s cheap, mark up can go as high as 300% at the shadier stores.

    I have it on good authority that a larger sex toy shop bought out a smaller shop for $1 a toy (over 5,000 pieces, some of which were LELO, nJoy, Fun Factory, and JimmyJane), and sold every toy at their regular price. Greed is alive and well in the adult industry. But why should we be any different?

  • Might I recommend joining Amazon’s affiliate program if there are things you can only link there? I occasionally link to them. People -are- going to go there anyway. I try to be flexible, I guess.

    I agree with this even though I spend much less time on reviews. Generally, this is because I often know whether I love or hate something before I even use it — honestly — and I can’t remember the last time I needed to use a toy twice to know what the review was going to be. It’s an intuitive thing. Either it calls to me or it doesn’t. I am different in this, however, than most reviewers.

    I spend a lot of time thinking about my reviews from the first time I set eyes upon a package. I should probably count that as work toward my reviews.

  • I love it that you’re putting this out there. People sometimes just doesn’t seem to realize that reviewing can be a very hardcore job. I know I took it for granted before I even started Naughty Reenie and thought reviewing was as easy as writing papers or diaries…

  • beautiful thunder

    You do a great job! I am always in awe of the time all my favourite reviewers take to test and then write down their experience in a coherent way. While a sex toy is always going to be an individual experience, it really helps to read a few reviews to get the general idea of how it works and feels before deciding to invest in one. Especially if they are around the $100 range.

  • i LOVE this post, i keep coming back to it. you hit the nail on the head

  • I am so glad I’m catching up on your blog, because this post is definitely up there in terms of being one of my favorites ever. It takes me longer than I care to admit to write my posts because my anxiety makes it hard to focus nowadays, then I revise constantly and proofread like five times (and STILL miss errors sometimes, it’s ridiculous). I can easily spend over six hours JUST writing. My sister said something the other day about how she was interested in starting a blog and it must be easy and bring in money. I set her straight reeeeally quickly, because… no. Just no. You have perfectly voiced everything that I was trying to tell her.