Everybody's a Critic, Taking Your Gardening Dollar

The EasyBloom Report, Part 3: Fake Comments

Dear Companies Whose Products We Discuss on GardenRant,

If you're going to post a comment in which you pretend to be an ordinary gardener who likes the product your company manufactures, thereby defending the product against the scorn or derision that has been heaped upon it by GardenRant and its readers, be sure to hide your IP address first.  Otherwise, you could find yourself in an embarassing situation such as the one faced by "Ben," who posted this comment from a computer registered to PlantSense,the company that invented and licensed this gadget to Black & Decker.

Here's "Ben's" comment:

"To each his own I guess. I have one and found it very useful. I'm also a really inexperienced gardener and had lawn care as a priority below my son, my job and our new house that needed a ton of remodel work. Just the reminder to water my roses was useful, and the monitoring of when to fertilize them was really great. Id love to be more naturally in touch with what our plants need, but as someone who had never been responsible for a garden before this year is was great."

I'm going to guess that Ben is senior software engineer Ben Newman, given that he posted a link to his personal website, which says that it's owned by Ben Newman. But anyone could have done that,right? What we do know is that he posted the comment from a PlantSense computer, as shown by this IP lookup:

Screengrab

Ah, what joy this gives me.  So often, when we get fake-sounding comments that seem to have been posted by someone inside the company, they put just enough effort into concealing their IP address that we can't be bothered to get to the bottom of it.  But PlantSense has given us the gift of an obviously fake comment and an easy to look up IP address.

So here's the thing.  We're happy to see posts from people who actually work at the company and have something to say about their products or services or ideas or whatever. Tell us what other customers have said.  Tell us about experiments you've conducted with the product. Or something.  That's a real conversation.  But don't post a "gee whiz, I've got one of these gadgets and I kind of like mine" comments as a way of pretending to counteract actually feedback from real gardeners.  Who benefits from that?

Now, it may well be that "Ben" actually does appreciate EasyBloom's reminder about when to water his roses, but "Ben" probably also appreciates the paycheck EasyBloom provides, so that belongs in the comment, too. I'm sure he was just trying to do the right thing and, having never been forced to sit through one of those dreary social media PR class, didn't know that he was committing a breach of blogging etiquette.

We've seen tool manufacturers go back and redesign a tool after our readers said it didn't fit in their hands or caused fatigue or pain after extended use. We have also, of course, heaped praise and adoration upon tools, plants, bulbs, and seeds we love.  I mean,there is some benefit to getting real feedback from real gardeners.

Thanks for playing, EasyBloom.  Our series of posts on this product have gone from snarky to reluctantly willing to give it a try to a reasonably fair-handed discussion on our Cocktail Hour to begrudging interest in at least one of its features–and right back to snarky. Nice try, folks!

Posted by on October 16, 2010 at 1:11 am, in the category Everybody's a Critic, Taking Your Gardening Dollar.
Comments are off for this post

25 Responses to “The EasyBloom Report, Part 3: Fake Comments”

  1. Les says:

    Speaking as a member of your viewing public, I appreciate this type of dogged old-school investigation. No matter what the product or how well or poorly it performs, this type of corporate shenanigans leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  2. Hurrah! Probably means the fake commenters will get more sneaky, but still! It’s great you call them out when you find them. Shame on Ben and shame on the manager who probably told him to do it.

  3. Laurin says:

    good grief, gals… you act all surprised, shocked, and victimized! remember my comments after the FIRST easy bloom installment?

    your manifesto is self-defense for this kinda thing, but you gotta keep it in your purse, have it with you at all times. would have loved to see a reflection on that versus FREE PRESS NUMBER THREE for ben and his easy bloom.

    get back to yer roots or get used to doing tricks for corporate pimps.

  4. Tara Dillard says:

    Hi Ben, I’m a real gardener and want a specific tool. Perhaps you can get it manufactured; making plenty of money for yourself along the way. This is quite serious.

    Using leaf litter mulch it’s best ground up in a few tight spots. In those few spaces I need/want a tool similar to the handheld emulsifier used in the kitchen.

    Perhaps rejiggering the concept of a weedeater by changing the angle of the thread & adding a (for lack of better terminology) garbage can lid at the top so debris won’t fly into my eyes/body.

    Ben, if any of your “corporate pimps” (thank you Laurin) are reading this, please, take it seriously. You know, creating what WOMEN need in the landscape. WOMEN instigate the highest percentage of sales in the industry.

    And, Ben, a lifestyle coach would do wonders for your ability to manage living on the planet with a garden while having a son, job, & new house needing a ton of remodel work.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  5. Laura Munoz says:

    I second what Tara said above. Ben & corporate friends(if you are reading this) please create more tools geared for women who work in the yard/landscape. Real tools for real people, not cutesy gadgets.

  6. Awesome. Now I have no reason to buy any Black&Decker product.

  7. Michele Owens says:

    Thanks, Amy! I always love real investigative reporting.

  8. Doug Green says:

    Great series Amy. :-) I confess I used the tool, found it useless and never got around to reviewing it. But delighted to see you “rant” about it.

  9. trey says:

    This tools development is not where it needs to be yet. It is cheesy, what with the flower shape and all. The technology however is improving, and the day will come when stuff like this will be used, even by people who say right now they wouldn’t.

    In the past companies controlled the conversation through advertising. They really are not ready to give up the control, hence the phony “customer” comment. What happens when the customer controls the conversation via posts and comments like this one? This is what we a finding out. Better for a company to answer via the comments as who they are. It shows they are listening and taking the conversation seriously. It’s really better than trying to “steer” the conversation.

  10. The organization for professional public relations practice, the Public Relations Society of America, upholds the right of the public to know who is behind any message an organization sends out to its publics, like customers or potential customers. I know because I have been a member of PRSA for many years, and on the Board of the Boston chapter.

    So let’s not think that all pr people post comments like Ben and conceal their connection with the client.

    I love gardening like any other gardener, but I also think pr needs a fair shake here.

  11. ~Deirdre says:

    Typical big corporate product slapped together with little intent for anything other than turning a profit. Then the fact that someone from the company got all defensive about it and posted a supposedly anonymous random comment in an attempt at damage control is hilarious (and sad).

    I appreciate Amy taking the time to document the actual uselessness of the product…it was an entertaining foray for those of us that already knew just by looking at this thing that it was a dolled up waste of money.

  12. Deirdre says:

    After reading Ben’s “comment”, I can imagine my computer tech son and nephew using Easybloom the way he describes, but I’d have been more impressed if he’d simply said, “This is the type of person and situation we think our gadget would be useful for.”. As it is, I don’t think I’ll mention Easybloom to either my son or my nephew.

  13. Susan says:

    Speaking of tools I would really like to have: a cutting tool for brush that I can use. I need to clear a lot of Autumn Olive and Buckthorn on my 10 acres. I am a 61 year old woman and I really don’t want to use my husband’s heavy chain saw. I bought a small battery-powered reciprocating saw but it is really too small for the job. The next bigger ones weigh over 8 pounds: just too heavy for me. If anyone can recommend something, I am all ears! Or maybe the manufacturers will listen.

  14. Elizabeth S. says:

    As a professional PR flack, I must say that is pretty low. If I worked in the PR department at PlantSense/Black&Decker and got wind of what he did, I’d have his boss royally give him what for. What a nightmare for people in my profession.

    Hey. regular employees, leave the PR damage control to the professionals! *Rolls Eyes* Most PR professionals know that we can’t fool you (the press/bloggers) with B.S, and those that do are not very professional.

  15. UrsulaV says:

    I have no useful advice, but I want to make sympathetic noises to Susan over her infestation–I’ve got autumn olive all through our wooded area, am terrified of chainsaws, and so the best I’ve been able to manage is cutting most of the limbs off with garden shears, waiting for it to come back, chopping the suckers off again, and so on and so forth.

    The only advantage to this method is that autumn olive being a nitrogen fixer, they’re great for building a hugelkultur bed with the chopped limbs, so I’ve been able to make use of ‘em, but it’s probably not viable for anything but a small-scale infestation.

  16. Jaime Sena says:

    Just to be fair, his being an employee wouldn’t mean that he couldn’t use his company’s own product, right?

  17. You’re mean.

    Just because people may disagree or even defend a product or company they work doesn’t give you the right to call them out publicly and belittle them.
    You are not the internet mother and your job is not to spank the children of the internet. You could have deleted the comment, you could have drawn attention to it and said “from the company”, etc.

    But what you did helped no one, not even yourself and your mission to help gardeners.

    It was just mean and vicious.
    You can attack a company and product all you want but you attacked a person. Ben did not call you out, did not say you sucked. He simply told you what he liked about it. And it should’t matter if he works for the company or not.

    Please do not attack me or post my IP address if you disagree with me.

  18. I think I fall in line with John-Michael on this one. I don’t see what Ben did to be nearly as bad as you’re making it out to be. He posted under his real name, and linked back to his real website where you were able to find his first and last name. He didn’t say anything crazy, just that the product works well for him. It would have been nice if he had disclosed that he works for the company who makes Easy Bloom, but I don’t think that lack of disclosure justifies this post or your gloating.

    Ben is probably just a guy who worked really hard on a product that he is proud of, and he was bummed that you guys didn’t like it. I can identify with that. I would think you guys should be able to identify with that too.

  19. Aztechalo says:

    I don’t think it’s mean Jaime. He was dishonest. If he had posted that he was an owner of the company (or an employee) and here is who/what the product was designed for, then it would probably have been alright. Instead, he’s just another business owner saying nothing is wrong with his product when clearly there are problems. (Does Toyota come to mind?) And not only is he saying nothing is wrong, he’s doing so under presumed false pretenses. Furthermore, if he is the engineer on this project and he truly did just start caring for his lawn, then he would do well listening to what actual, real gardeners want in a product, instead of sloughing off the gift of feedback and saying everything is fine. Essentially, he just said that we the consumers, can f* off and he lied to us as he did it. I don’t want to buy from a company that doesn’t value the opinion of those who use the products so I would like to thank this blog for exposing the a*holes who want my money. If they are going to be like that, I’ll give my money to honest a*holes.

  20. Aztechalo–Why are you assuming that what the Garden Rant folks have to say about this product is the final word on its effectiveness and that Ben’s opinion is completely invalid? You’re acting like Garden Rant author’s/commenter’s opinions are facts.

    Moreover, you’re reading crazy things into Ben’s comment. He didn’t even come close to saying consumers can f-off. He said “to each their own” and then discussed how his experience with the product was different.

  21. Amy: I love your books and also loved your reviews of what I also see as an incomplete and misleading product. I’m pretty sure the plant list that it comes up with really includes appropriate natives or unusual plants that are a bit harder to come across. That being said…

    While I am impressed that you were able to track down the origin of the comment, I do feel like it was a bit much to include his name and personal info in the actual post. For all we know he has an emotional attachment to the product and really does like it AND the paycheck, calling him out personally was a little too hardcore. How do we know that it won’t impact his career and livelihood?

  22. Whoops, meant to say that “I’m pretty sure the plant list DOESN’T include…”

  23. Amy Stewart says:

    Now,now. The post speaks for itself. People who post about their company’s products need to be straight about who they work for, not post as a newbie gardener or other satisfied customer.

    And while IP addresses are easy to track down, we recropped the screen grab anyway.

    I’m sure that all of these folks are nice people. I mean, most people are nice people. But we’re going to call out company employees who post about their products without identifying themselves–of course we will!

  24. That was much better and more normal.
    Communication is good and even better with an open mind and empathy towards others.

    In full disclosure I know Ben and he was honest enough to tell everyone he knew about the experience, even if it did make him look bad. But that’s why I like Ben, he is a person of character, integrity and one who is extremely humble.. one of the greatest traits in a good human being.

    He was even so kind to link your site which I would have never found if it weren’t for the misguided judgment. And since then, I haven’t been able to stop going through the archives and articles.

    My garden grows naturally. Meaning if it cant live without my attention then its going to die. I am the 3rd owner of my 135 year old home. The previous owner before me loved to garden. We have a good mixture of succulents, roses, orchids, plants, etc. It’s well spaced and since I love her home, out of respect I would like to be able to maintain the plant life that she cultivated over the 70 years she lived her. The problem I have had is finding the right resource on how to take care of the different plants in our garden and even add to it.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Follow Garden Rant

    Follow Me on Pinterest RSS