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Why I skipped a big blogger trip

It’s happened before, and I’m sure it will happen again. But it just leaves me shaking my head.

On a recent weekend, when I was supposed to be half-way across the country being wined and dined and learning about some products that I have a genuine interest in, I was instead at home with my family. Which isn’t a bad consolation prize. But the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth and a bias against ever working with the company involved, and the PR team that set it up.

I’d had this trip on my calendar for months, and as the trip got closer I asked for details about out-of-pocket expenses. Now, on past trips my expenses have been higher because I’ve needed child care (and if you want to know my stance on that, read this). But since this trip was over a weekend, the only expenses I would have that would be coming directly from me would be transportation to and from LaGuardia airport, about $80 total. I did not get an answer – it simply wasn’t addressed in the next email.

As airplane reservations were about to be made I asked again about airport transportation. I was told that they were not able to pay for that. I responded with this:

Hi XXX, is there any room for negotiation with transportation? I’m sure you can understand how fast expenses add up – getting to and from LGA will be almost $100. While I’m looking forward to next weekend and learning more about XXX, I don’t like the idea of paying out of my own pocket to promote a product. I’m not even asking to be paid for an entire weekend of my time or other expenses related to me leaving my kids for the weekend, just the expenses directly related to the trip.

The PR person’s response:

I completely understand your concerns.  However, we are only able to accommodate travel to and from the airport in XXX.  We feel that the [event]will be valuable outside of and unrelated to product promotion–and we hope that you’ll still be able to join us!

So that was it, then. I was getting a free trip, so I should just be grateful for that and pay my own way to the airport. I declined the trip.

There’s an idea that giving bloggers a trip is some kind of payment. And if the trip is to a vacation destination, I can totally see making that argument. But when you are being brought somewhere to spend a couple of days meeting people from a company and learning about their products, that’s not my idea of a vacation. That’s work, no matter how many nice meals it’s built around. And the fact that I’m not even asking for compensation for the time still doesn’t sit right with me. So to not even get all of my expenses paid for is completely unacceptable. Besides, there’s absolutely nothing stopping me from writing about their products – I don’t need their help for that.

This is not a company I’d ever worked with before. This was not a company dangling future work in front of me. This was presented completely as a get-to-know-us weekend. There are companies that could invite me somewhere and I would likely pay for my own airfare, let alone car service, because we have a relationship. I’ve been working with them for a while. I trust them. I know that good will come out of the trip and I’m not worried. But this was not that. And now it likely never will be. Their loss.

Did I shoot myself in the foot? Do they now have me on a big list of bloggers they’ll never work with? Were they planning on announcing during the trip that they wanted to work with all of us long-term? I don’t really care. Because if they’re not willing to pay my expenses to come meet them on their terms and in their city, how likely is it that they would be generous and great to work with down the line?

Until we all take a stand against this kind of thing, it will continue. I’m sure they found someone else to take my place. I’m sure there are many people who would jump at an (almost) all-expense paid trip, albeit one where their schedule won’t be their own the entire time they’re gone. But by writing this, if you’re one of those people who would’ve taken the trip, or many others like it, I hope you’ll ask yourself next time: What am I really going to get out of this? Is unpaid time away from work and family worth it to me, when they don’t even respect me enough to cover my expenses?

Do this kind of thing often enough, and it will just become the cost of doing business – for you. You won’t even notice how much they’re taking advantage of you.

Originally posted on Behind the Screen. All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted. This post has a Compensation Level of 0. Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.