I pissed off two of my readers a few days ago.
It was a different experience from pissing off trolls, who will lambast you for saying the sky is blue. These were intelligent readers who had felt a genuine connection to my story until they read a post I intended to be a light-hearted piffle — in which I “prayed” to Nordstrom for a gift certificate for my kids.
The readers told me they related to me due to their own nasty divorces from difficult husbands. But with the advent of my Nordstrom post, they were no longer going to read my blog, they said.
They thought I was out of touch with the reality of most Americans. They believed that my choosing Nordstrom over thrift shop clothing was imparting materialistic values to my kids. They said that since both my husband and I had jobs we were better off than most people and therefore, it was inappropriate to make a “plea for clothing” for my kids.
I mentioned in my Nordstrom post that I was inspired by Jen from People I Want to Punch in the Throat, whose cyber-jonesing for a minivan led Honda to loan her one. When she heard what Honda was doing, she even asked Toyota and Chrysler to get in on the action.
Although I probably would not use one company’s offer to garner offers from others, this is a perfectly legitimate strategy employed by sellers. And I didn’t have a judgement about Jen using this strategy. In fact, it struck me as amusing and it fit the irreverent tone of her blog. The truth is, car companies would be smart to loan her one of their vehicles: it’s great advertising and PR for them.
Should Bloggers Monetize or Otherwise Get Stuff from Their Blogs?
I say yes, resoundingly. Most bloggers I know, myself included, bust their collective butts blogging, trying to build community with readers, and hoping to give back. If I ever make enough money from this blog, I would love to set up a fund for single mothers. Or, if my readership grows as large as Momastery, I would love to do what Glennon Melton does, use blogging klout to raise money for needy families.
Blogging is a mostly unpaid part-time job for me. I love it, truly, madly, deeply. If I could do it full-time, I would. As it is, I’m up at 5:00 a.m. blogging, and I also blog late at night. I provide a product. Why shouldn’t I run ads? Magazines run ads. Newspapers run ads. TV shows run ads.
What makes it acceptable to be paid for my office job but not acceptable to generate revenue on my blog? Don’t we all need to make a living? Especially those of us who don’t get child support and need to pay for our kids’ braces, and tutoring, and yes — clothing?
My Nordstrom post was intended not to take itself too seriously and to riff off the swag factor inherent in many Mommy Blogs. (For those of you who don’t know, bloggers are often offered swag in exchange for reviewing said swag). If Nordstrom were to give my kids a gift certificate, they wouldn’t be doing it for nothing — they’d be getting great PR for their brand.
I do, however, understand the objections of the two readers who wrote to tell me they would never read me again: with the struggles most American families are facing, who am I to ask Nordstrom to gift my kids some clothes?
First, let me stress that the post was intended to be a light-hearted experiment.
Second, If I offended anyone because I appeared oblivious to the day-to-day struggles of others less fortunate, I sincerely apologize. The last thing I want to do is pull a Romney and say I’m just like everyone else when in fact I have multiple houses and dressage ponies. Note: I have only one house — underwater — and absolutely no ponies, I promise.
I’m Not at Mad at Rich People
I ended up having an interesting e-mail exchange with one of the readers who had taken offense to my Nordstrom post. She said she was primarily interested in my divorce pieces and was disappointed that I had started writing posts that she felt were too materialistic. She thought I seemed “mad” at people who had money.
So I’d like to clarify what I’m mad about. I’m mad at the abuse of power in this country. I’m mad at the corporate, let-’em-eat-cake mentality that is depriving the majority of Americans of a decent quality of life. I’m mad that we are spoon-fed this opiate of the people mythology that hard work will automatically generate wealth. The truth is, wealth generally requires social connections and luck. You can work harder than Donald Trump and never become rich.
I’m mad when people who have privilege don’t use that privilege to better the community. I do believe that wealthy people have a moral imperative to help those less unfortunate. And I don’t understand people who AREN’T mad about social injustice.
Most of my friends have money. Their wealth puts them in a different stratosphere from me. When I hear them talk about estate-planning, month-long vacations, and purchasing property, I’m not mad at them — but I do feel an apartness that makes me sad.
Years ago, when my life looked more like my friends, a bunch of us were sitting around talking about our pregnancies and babies. Mid-conversation, I noticed the expression on one of my friend’s faces: an expression that, if it could have talked, would have said I don’t relate to any of this at all.
My friend had gone into menopause at thirty-two. She had desperately wanted the experience of childbirth and would never have it. On top of this, her long-time boyfriend told her he didn’t want to get married, so she had moved out of his house and was starting life on her own. So there she sat, watching the rest of us babble about the life she thought would be hers as well. She told me later how surreal it was feeling so separate from people to whom she also felt close.
I think that’s a metaphor for what’s going on in this country. The 1% and the 99% inhabit completely different universes. That dynamic is especially profound for me because I am a 99% mother raising 1% kids. Yes, most kids of divorce experience different values in each house, but most kids of divorce don’t straddle wildly different economic realities. I’m never sure how my kids navigate spending one weekend playing tennis at the homogenous country club and the next buying corn from the street vendor in our transitional, racially diverse neighborhood.
And there’s this: how do I teach them the importance of a strong work ethic when they will eventually figure out they never actually have to work? How do I teach them there are consequences for their actions when they are also being taught that “rules are for the little people”? How do I teach them that all people should be treated with respect when they are also being taught how to smush those who get in their way?
And What Does Any of This Have to Do with Nordstrom?
I believe you can be socially conscious and prefer designer clothes. Shopping at Nordstrom isn’t going to turn kids into Kardashians, unless the only people they associate with are other Kardashians. As long as you treat people fairly and contribute meaningfully to society, why shouldn’t you wear Uggs, trick out your kitchen, or buy a second home if you can afford to?
I love to blog. If I never made another dime, I would still do it. I love knowing that there are readers out there who have felt less alone after reading my story. Part of what motivates me to write is to touch people and provide a community.
However, I don’t believe that monetizing my blog diminishes the quality of the content, or whatever social value it has. If Toyota offered me a brand-new Prius, I wouldn’t turn it down. And if Nordstrom sends my kids a gift certificate, I’m not going to send it back and take them to the thrift shop instead.
What about the rest of you bloggers? What’s your position on monetizing, product reviews, and accepting free stuff that comes your way?