Usually, I am talking about things that I have already purchased with my own money.
Sometimes I get pens on loan from the manufacturer or from a friend. When that happens, I say so.
Sometimes I get inks to review from the manufacturer. When that happens, I say so.
Sometimes I get ink from a friend. I usually say so, to thank them. Sometimes I don’t, because I’ve forgotten, or because it feels like overkill, or even bragging, the fifth time you mention getting a gift from a friend.
In no case does how I obtained an item influence what I think about it.
However, it may matter to you. Which is why I disclose if I received an ink (or the loan of a pen) from a manufacturer. But at the risk of repeating myself, just because I disclose that I received an ink sample (or the loan of a pen) doesn’t mean that it has influenced my opinion.
It has not.
In no case have I ever liked something more because it was free, nor have I ever given a “better” review in exchange for something free. Nor have I ever pulled any punches because something was given free, or because I somehow worried that I wouldn’t get more free samples. I’ve never done that. And I never would.
Let me explain why.
1. I am an honest person. Of the values I consider most important, honestly and integrity are in the top three.
2. It’s an ink sample. Or a loaned pen. I don’t think I can be bought, but I am perfectly sure I can’t be bought at that price.
Further, I’ve never had a manufacturer ask me for anything in exchange for an ink or the loan of a pen. Nor have they ever expressed displeasure with anything I’ve ever said. There’s not some deep conspiracy out there, at least not one that reaches my little blog.
And I will keep it that way, thank you.
Those are my ethics.
There’s one more “rule” here at Fountain Pen Follies, I guess, besides honesty and disclosure. And that traces back to the third thing I value very highly. Though I don’t always observe this unfailingly in my daily life, I try for it always. And that is kindness.
As one aspect of that, I prefer to look at people (and things) in the best possible light. Not the worst.
So I do not enjoy trashing people or products in public or slinging nasty words. I’m not the person who’s going to post that a particular ink or pen is “ugly.” Even though those posts are the most popular. I don’t do that because I don’t find that helpful. Also because I figure your taste probably is different than mine. And I love that. We don’t learn as much from people we already agree with.
But though I don’t like to trash things, I will certainly say if something I’ve used has shown an issue. For example, if I found an ink hard to clean, or if I saw little creatures growing in a different ink.
Those two inks happened to be made two of my favorite brands. The first is even made by a brand that has given me some free ink samples. And the second, the ink that had the mold, well that’s a funny thing, because it subsequently turned out that I was not the first person to notice it. But I was the first person who went on two fountain pen forums, in addition to this blog, and warned others. And some fans of the brand didn’t take that well.
But those are my ethics.
And here’s another funny thing: the manufacturer ended up thanking me for telling them about the problem. People should consider that some companies actually want to hear honest opinions, because it helps them improve their products and know what customers are thinking.
There’s one more thing I should mention. I spend a lot of time on my reviews. With an ink, I like to use it over a few weeks. I take care that the photos are accurate and color-balanced, so the ink onscreen looks like the ink in real life. I don’t do a review hastily, and I don’t do it heedlessly. But nor do I do it because it’s profitable or I want free stuff. If you consider the value of your time, you definitely wouldn’t find it profitable to spend hours with a $2 ink sample. Or a loaned pen, for that matter.
I take care with my reviews because I want to do a good job. Because other people’s reviews and photos have been helpful to me, and I hope some of mine may be helpful to others.
Those are my ethics.