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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Singapore Food Blogger Saga - Lady Iron Chef and Private Affairs

I've been contemplating about whether to blog regarding this issue for quite some time. I've lots to say about the recent Food Blogger saga that has been taking over the blogosphere and twitter streams recently.

Some of you might be clueless about what's happening, so here's a quick brief.

DAY 1:

Read this article by Yahoo:
http://is.gd/ey5Ex

How did Yahoo get the exact details of what happened, and what's the motive of the informer? How did the informer knew so much about the conversations and details of everything that happened, unless he was there himself during the incident?

Apparently another food blogger Hungry Epicurean wrote an open letter (post deleted now) chiding Brad Lau (Ladyironchef) for "demanding free food" before the Yahoo article came out. I'm not sure where he got his information from. I don't think he was at the restaurant at the time things happened.

Did Private Affairs leaked all of this information out on their own?

(I'm not sure about this part. But if it was Private Affairs who had given these news to Yahoo/someone else who informed Yahoo, the restaurant certainly had presented it in a way that sounds good for themselves (words like "out of goodwill), and exaggerated Brad's actions in a way that can be read in another way.)


POINT NUMBER ONE:
I was extremely pissed reading the comments left at the yahoo page. If you read through the 400+ comments, you'd have see more than 98% of the commentors bashing Brad without even hearing from his side of the story first.

It's like, such a big majority of the people are running into conclusions without knowing the full story. I can think of so many possiblities that shows the article might not be what it seems, yet all the commentors are taking everything at face value. People feed you what you eat what issit?? I have no idea why so many didn't think before judging harshly based on ONE side ONE article, NO evidences. Name callings like "ugly", "rotten", "cheapskate" were used, and people even made fun of his name.

The bashings were childish, uncouth, and uncalled for. As though Brad murdered someone. Tsk.


POINT NUMBER TWO:
Some commentors start thinking they are funny and added comments like "wah if I'm a car blogger I get to demand a car free??"

NO, you won't get to demand a car free, but YES, a car company might offer you a free car IF you manage to make it big. Can you?

(via Jayden's twitter)


These people talk like whoever is a blogger can get free things as they demand. No, that's not the case. Being a blogger with benefits is not just about signing up for a blogspot account. It involve YEARS of commitment and writing articles that people want to read. Some of them acheive it overnight with their looks and controversial stories, some of us get lucky and get followers even though our articles are mediocre but still, it's not even easy to get lucky.



DAY 2

Brad posted up an entry to clarify the article by Yahoo.
Here is what he wrote, for your easy reading since his website server is down for the whole day.


Below excerpt by Brad Lau, Ladyironchef.com






--- start of post ---

I am aware of the articles that have been
circulating in my absence, regarding an accusation that I visited a restaurant
and asked for a waiver on their meals. I would like to make certain
clarifications here.

1. The Basis of Food tasting events

Food
tastings in the Singapore food scene are regularly organized and non-obligatory
events. Any food blogger who has been invited to one to sample delicacies of the
particular restaurant will agree that it is akin to inviting someone into their
house. According to the dictionary, an invitation is, “The act of inviting;
solicitation; the requesting of a person’s company”.

2. Invitation to
the restaurant

Story: The articles seemed to suggest that I paid the
restaurant a visit on my own accord, that I walked into the restaurant and
announced myself as a food blogger.

Fact: This is not true. I was
invited to a food tasting session by Melanie, PR Manager for the Restaurant. The
first invite came June 2nd. I was unable to make it then and it was not until
Friday, August 20th that I scheduled the Sunday brunch. In the invite, i was
told to bring a guest.


Story: I had informed the restaurant that as
food blogger, I assumed that the bill for all 4 of us would be waived

Fact: Following up on the food tasting email, I had duly informed that
there would be 3 accompanying guests on that very day. There were no claims or
requests made for “free food” since it was a direct invitation to sample the
items on the new menu. It was an oversight to assume to that no acknowledgement
from Melanie about my 3 accompanying guests would mean that their meals would be
on the house too.


4. Asking for waiver for myself and my dining
partner

Story: It was reported that the restaurant had decided to “waive
the fee” for me and my dining partner out of goodwill

Fact: This was an
invitation to a food-tasting session. There is no hard and fast rule stating a
plus one for a food tasting. However having attended previous food tastings
before, I assumed that the meal would be, at the very least, on the house for
myself and one dining partner. I was not expected to be billed for and then
“waived” off from what was disguised as a “food tasting session”. When
questioned, Melanie then cited this to be in-line with ‘industry standards’ of
food tasting sessions: that the restaurant would only pay for my +1.

5.
Asking for waiver for myself and my other guests

Story: I had informed
the restaurant that I was a food blogger, therefore assuming that the bill for
all 4 of us would be waived.

Fact: In truth, I had asked for no waiver.
I paid for my other two companions. The bill for 2, inclusive of sparkling wine,
came to $260. Out of goodwill, they did decide to waive the wine and I
eventually paid $160 for 2.

6. My attitude towards the staff

Story: It was reported that I had said: “I always get free food wherever
I go“.

Fact: This was never said. Nevertheless, I must admit the
hostility while paying (I had tossed my credit card on the table) was uncalled
for and I sincerely apologise.

***

An eye for an eye makes the
world go blind. I would like to not point fingers at anyone – it was simply a
case of miscommunication. When I dine out, I pay for my food like any regular
consumer. When I am invited for food tasting sessions, it is a mutual
understanding between the inviter and myself, that I would be attending as the
identity of media for a possible food review.

I would like to urge all
parties to view this situation objectively. I hope this post clarifies any
misunderstanding that this might have caused.


--- End of Post ---




POINT NUMBER 3
At this point, there is clearly some form of miscommunication here.

YET, despite after reading Brad's clarification, the commentors continue to nitpick and throw insults towards Brad, through Yahoo's new entry (which wasn't linked to as a "follow up" to the older post which had bashed Brad - this I think was very unfair for Brad. People who chance upon the old post would not have a link to the new entry about Brad's clarification, and will continue to have misunderstandings about him. )

Here's what I wrote on Twitter:
"Even when ppl clarify liao, they still die die want twist and assume that ppl is lying. WTF? Ownself think up story ownself believe -.- "

Blogger Daphnemaia commented: "They demanded for B to speak up, then continue throwing stones at B anyway, even after his explanation. "

See how unreasonable these people are? At this point of time, I felt sorry for Brad. No matter how he explains, no one bothered to rethink their views that are obviously wrong.



DAY 3

Private Affairs issued a Press Release.
http://www.privateaffairs.com.sg/pdf/press.pdf
Nadnut has a blog post regarding it on her blog. Read the press release there if you can't open the PDF file.

POINT NUMBER 4
I think it's a bullshit press release. It doesn't clarify anything! Who leaked the news? What is true and what is not? All I see was Private Affairs trying to push the blame to everyone else (Brad and the blogosphere) and absolve itself from any blame. All I see was Private Affairs using this press release to market and boast about itself.

Here are some opinions found in my twitter stream, which I agree to.

Daphne Maia: it’s for them to say.. okay f-off this is none of my fault. it’s him! he did it!! not me!!

Tim: The point of it is so that we know that Private Affairs is a 40-seater restaurant serving Modern European cuisine with Asian touches.
And is of course a quaint gem.


Nadnut: They issued a press statement that infuriated many. Snide, snobbish, self promotion were a few words used to describe the press statement.

Daniel Goh: Their call for formation of blogger association to manage blogger etiquette basically accused e whole blogosphere. Poor PR.


Why didn't Private Affairs' PR person mention anything about not treating more than 1 guest when Brad mentioned that he's bringing 3 guests in total? Why did Private Affairs handed Brad a bill inclusive of FOUR pax in the first place? It's so obvious that it is because the restaurant has some internal staff co-ordination problem. Why no apologies towards this matter?


POINT NUMBER 5:
The commentors talk as if they know what is going on.

For your info, he was INVITED, and not like he called up to announce his arrival and expect a free meal.

Via YanKayKay on twitter,
If Im a beautyblogger n someone invites me to an opening of a nail salon n offers me a manicure, I would EXPECT not to pay too.

Via Sixpegs on twitter,
If I were invited to review something, naturally, I'd assume tt the services would be on the house too. That's how it works what...





If you are a blogger who has countless invitations to all sort of events where you can try their new products, then someone INVITE you for a waxing session at their newly open salon, would you expect that you have to pay for the wax?

If someone sends me a gadget for review, I would expect not to pay too. What, after sending me the gadget to use, you later send me the bill to pay for what YOU invited me to do?

If someone invites me to a F1 event, do I expect that I have to pay for the ticket after I'm there?

Okayokay, let me think in your shoes. If I'm not a blogger, then suddenly a restaurant come invite me, of course I'd think that i'm suppose to pay lah, but please think in our context as bloggers. If you are not a blogger, do not assume that everything is like how it is in your life.




POINT NUMBER 6:

Also, I'm sick of all those people saying things like "people give you free things, you MUST blog about it".

W.T.F.

Let me fill you in about our norms and some reasons why it is the norm.

1) After trying the product, we might not like it. If we blog about it against our real opinions, aren't we going against the main basis of what a blog is all about?

2) We are different from traditional media. Journalists are paid monthly salary by their media company AND one important factor is that they are not the face of their magazine. They can cover for a gadget they personally don't like, because it's presented via a magazine. But for bloggers, what we present on our blog is as good as "WE HAVE AN INTEREST IN IT" plastered on OUR faces. A blog is about opinions, a magazine is about facts. Different, okay.

3) Even so, not all journalists would write about whatever gets thrown their way. If your event/product is not WOW to them, they have an option to not feature it too (although they might lose some potential sponsors and relations to that company). If journalists don't cover the events they attend, it just means one thing - Your product/event/PR failed. If Public Relations is a guaranteed way of garnering coverage, why is there a need to pay for advertisement spaces in magazines when you can just send a gadget to the reporters and get a guaranteed feature?

4) I previously tweeted about a well-known company sending me an invitation for an event, with words along the lines of "bloggers MUST blog about event within 3 days".

I understand their stand because they need to answer to their clients, but I just think that they should know about the norm of bloggers invitation. I've never received a events invitation that blatantly request coverage and even a deadline.

I've seen PR companies do much more acceptable stunts like "best blog entry before (date) will win blah blah blah" or "hope you have fun during the event! please let us know the link if you blog about it!"

We bloggers all know that the purpose of these PR companies that invite us are expecting coverage. Obviously, no one would invite someone FOR NOTHING right? But still, I think said company should maintain some form of public relations rules. Please do not take us as free writers. We are not paid monthly by any bosses for transport and writing. We write what interests us. If we don't write about your event or product, it doesn't mean we are trying to act big or what. It just simply means - we have no time (sorry hor, most of us have regular jobs, and not like journalists who do it for a living and can use their office hours to write about your event), we do not feel a liking to your product and event.

Because they have alot of access to new bloggers, I just felt that it would be misleading for new bloggers who must have felt that it's a norm to MUST blog about every event. No, it's not the norm and since I started blogging and attending events, it never was. Most of us are nice enough to provide some sort of coverage for the event but there's an option to not write about it if we don't feel enough for the product.

I've nothing against said company because there are some nice people in there whom I've interacted with before (yes, this is also the reason why I'm not naming the company. Nope, it's not Nuffnang). Although I'm usually paid for attending events (without an obligation to blog about event), I'll still accept events from said company as long as it comes in the traditional form like other PR companies.


Back to this case,
perhaps there were mistakes on both sides, but this thing has gone out of proportion, and created a big misunderstanding for bystanders.

Me thinks that in future, PR companies and bloggers should clarify everything before they agree to any proposal. Although most PR companies know the unspoken regulations, I now have second thoughts about it.

I'm prepared for any backlash in regards to my opinions in this post.

Judging from the opinions of non-bloggers around me who have some bad things to say about Brad after reading the article, I understand why the people don't think like we bloggers do.


Still, I find the need to publish this entry to clarify any misunderstandings you people have about blogs.


Oh ya. One more thing. Stop naming us bloggers as "beggars". We are not. It's not our fault that brands sponsor us instead of YOU. Please do not look at one desperate blogger and pull all of us down with her/him. Thanks.


Update:
Erm, please read twice or more before posting a dumb comment okay. Don't make me repeat the same points that I've already written in this entry. There's one big conclusion I have about this whole thing: You commentors are really better at assuming than Brad.

Oh, and read Jayden's post regarding this as well. Totally spot on.
http://jayleif.com/2010/08/25/5-lessons-i-learnt-from-food-blogger-saga/


Update 2:
And so the misleading article said Brad was presented with a check of $400+, when in actual fact it was $260 for the 2 extra companions. Where did the $400 figure come out from? Xiaxue wrote an article about it last night, which I felt shed the light on THE TRUTH, and would be clearer for you guys.
http://xiaxue.blogspot.com/

As quoted:
"You want publicity, you can give your favourite blogger a product or sponsor them a service. If they happen to like it, they will blog about it. If they don't, they are not obligated to.

Just as beauty products are often sent to female magazines in hope that they will get featured. How many lipsticks and bags are tossed away a month?

And just as the magazine is a publication, so are blogs."

Please read this people out there. Doesn't mean we get free things we are obliged to blog about it. Unless the company has reached a agreement with us before they send the item over.

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