I started the blog back in the autumn of 2008, so later this year the site will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. During the past nine and a half years, I have written just over 900 posts, so I should hit the 1,000 mark later this year; especially as since 2015 I have aimed to write a minimum of 10 posts a month.
This isn’t always easy, given that I am still gainfully employed running a busy quality control department in a company which manufactures medical devices. I also have other interests apart from beer, pubs and travel, and these include walking (sort of travel, I suppose), home-improvements plus the odd spot of gardening. Then of course there’s the family, and all the domestic stuff associated with family life.
He has now achieved a full time position working for the Morning Advertiser. The reason for my interest is I happen to know his father, who is chairman of my local West Kent CAMRA Branch.
Now I will name drop briefly, as due to my Membership of the British Guild of Beer Writers, I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with esteemed beer writer, Martyn Cornell, and I was also briefly introduced to the famed and prolific beer historian Ron Pattinson.
Right, back to the main point; goods in kind or for want of a better word, “freebies”. This word covers a multitude of different items from the odd bottle of beer sent for review, books or even in some cases an all-expenses paid trips abroad.
Some writers will eschew such “freebies” altogether, whilst others will make a big point of declaring them. One well-known pair of beer bloggers even have a separate area on their site disclosing all the items they have received. Whether or not you think this is necessary depends on your own individual conscience and how you feel about accepting such items.
Some might say that you are more likely to give a favourable review for something you received for free, than you would if you had to buy it. Personally I am quite happy to receive bottles of beer, beer-related books, or even the odd all-expenses paid trip , and whilst I fully accept I might be more likely to review such items favourabley , this is more because I tend to look for the positives in something, rather than singling out the negatives.
Like many beer writers I have been invited to various product launches, the majority of which are normally held in London. It is easy for me to travel to the capital by train, providing the function takes place at a reasonable time, and does not interfere too much with my day job.
The main problem here is that, in my experience at least, PR companies tend to leave things to the last minute and then assume everyone else runs their life the same way. It is no use emailing me on the day of the launch asking if I want to attend an event the same evening. I prefer several days notice, a fact which probably hasn't gone unnoticed and may explain why these invites have more or less dried up.
Or do you? Surely everything comes at a price, and just recently we have seen some of the worst examples of human greed, particularity in public life. A few years ago we had the "cash for questions" saga in parliament, and more recently there were the well-publicised cases of MP's fiddling their expenses.
In industry, the supply of "gifts" from suppliers at Christmas time has substantially reduced. My company takes the eminently sensible, and fair practice of raffling these items (mainly chocolates or bottles of booze) off to the work-force (management are deliberately excluded).
It used to be standard practice to take the auditor to the pub at lunchtime for "a pie and a pint". Nothing too excessive and nothing, apart from a possible fuzzy head, or relaxed frame of mind, which could sway the outcome of one of these audits in our favour. A former colleague, who worked for a while in pharmaceuticals in the Irish Republic, told me it used to be the case that come audit time, the Medicines Inspector expected, and invariably received, what was euphemistically described as a "good lunch".
There is however, one exception, and that involves the man (or woman) from across the pond. Every six or seven years we receive notice that the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA), wish to come and audit us. No-one and I repeat no-one, relishes these visits, as they are disruptive, extremely thorough, very probing and normally take place over a four day period, but where the US Government is concerned, they will pick up the tab.
I have probably over-laboured this point about auditing, but I wanted to get across how the world has changed when it comes to ensuring complete objectivity and total impartiality when monitoring company Quality Management Systems, and in the wake of previous scandals (think silicone breast implants), this can only be a good thing.
On the rare occasions I do receive products for review, I always declare this in my write-up, as by doing so I feel I can present a more balanced view to my readers. For me it is not so much a question of ethics as one of transparency, so whatever your viewpoint, I feel this can only be a good thing.