Monday 13 June 2022

Do-not-follow: my abortive brush with the world of affiliate marketing, and a "no comment(s)" apology

Source: Creative Commons ~ Nick Youngson, Alpha Stock Images

From time to time I receive unsolicited approaches from PR people working for perfume brands, sometimes offering me product samples - often in expectation of a review - sometimes asking if I would feature a guest post by them (invariably on the most off-topic of products, far more so than my own thematic digressions on Bonkers, which is saying a lot ;)), and occasionally asking if I would enter into some kind of affiliate marketing arrangement, whereby I would link to a particular website of a perfume I had been reviewing, and if readers clicked on it - or actually bought the product! - I might be remunerated in some way.

Taking these overtures in turn, I have always insisted that I won't write perfume reviews as a quid pro quo for free stuff, and would rather not receive samples in the first place if I sense any pressure in that regard. For when I do feel moved to write a review of something it is because I have thought of my own slightly sideways angle to the subject matter. 

Case in point:

"If you're interested in trying out the products, then I'd love to send you some samples to test and create a 'Christmas Gift Guide' with on your blog."

To which the only possible Bonkers reply was:

"I write about things I come across when the spirit moves me, so there is no guarantee I would feature them and if I did it wouldn't be in the form of anything like a Christmas Gift Guide."

And this, directly from a new perfume house, in an email entitled "I'd like to partner":

"Meantime, we would love to mail you demos and brochures of our recent products for you to evaluate if they fit in with your strategic plans."

I appreciated his conditional use of "if", but it was still a conditional response from me:

"Thank you for your inquiry. I don't have any strategic plans! I would be curious to try any scents you have available in very small samples quantities only, but I don't enter into partnerships or promise to review everything I have been sent. I have to like a fragrance and be inspired by some aspect to want to write a blog post about it. If you are still interested on that basis, let me know."

Radio silence.

And here are some of the more unusual product review requests - I have called the woman in question "Rebecca" rather than her real name:

"This is Rebecca from ****. I’m writing to you to see if our best-selling products 82% Merino Wool Socks and 100% Egyptian Cotton Bath Towels can be featured in your 2021 holiday gift guide." 

What's this obsession with gift guides?

"This is Rebecca from ****. I’m contacting you to see if you’d be interested in writing something about **** Carbon e-bike --- a full carbon e-bike known as one of the smartest e-bikes on the market."


This is Rebecca from ****, here. I’m very honored to introduce **** 100% Egyptian Cotton Bath Towel to you. Giza 86 (The top 10% of Long-staple Egyptian Cotton), 720 GSM, OEKO-TEX certified, super-thick and super-fluffy, **** Bath Towels encase you in a high-weight terry luxury that feels like you're lounging in a bathrobe waiting for room service."

Are you also getting the feeling that this may be one and the same Rebecca? She is really pushing those bath towels...And I must admit to being quite tempted by the idea of "high-weight terry luxury". ;)

As for guest posts on the blog, I have never had these in the 12+ years I've been going, for what I can only describe as curious Protestant work ethic reasons - I feel that as it is my blog, I should do all the work involved, though I realise this is an odd way to look at things, and that many of my fellow bloggers have several contributors on board.

Then as regards the affiliate marketing angle, I once dabbled very briefly in such a venture with Ormonde Jayne - it may have been longer, but it felt like all of five minutes, for no sooner had I set up the link in question, than there was a change of PR company and the link was promptly broken(!). I didn't earn a penny from that association - and given the low traffic volumes on here, may never have done, hehe.**

And so we come onto the most recent approach, from a US-based media company. The conversation went like this, where PRP = PR Person!

PRP: "I recently came across your website and noticed that you are linking to a similar page that (sic) one of our clients', and I'm wondering if you could add a link to an article for a reasonable fee?

My marketing budget is what it is, but hopefully, we can agree on an amount of money that makes it worthwhile for you to take a few minutes to add one more link to the article." [The offer for "link insertion" was $30, with a similar amount on the table for a guest post - which I declined smartish.]

ME: "Which article are you thinking of? I am open to adding a link, depending on the context / circumstances?"

PRP: "In the near future, we'd like to contact you with that information ready, for you to approve the do-follow link. The link and content would always be related to your existing blog post. Would that be OK?

PS: If you agree, please send your PayPal address and confirm that this is the best email to contact you in the near future."
ME: "I think the links would be do-follow - I am not very tech savvy, so I doubt I would have set them to something else. I don't have guest posts, so this would just be a link insertion on a post of mine - you have yet to tell me which one, so my agreement is subject to knowing that last bit of information."

PRP "We'll make sure to be in touch with our batch of links!

Also, keep in mind that after placing either an anchor or requesting a guest post, our team will always come back to follow up on our insertions' conditions. We will check if our anchors are still where we asked you to place them and are still do-follow tagged."

ME: "Just to check - you spoke in your first email of "a link", and "a similar page", so I assumed it was a one off? I don't want to have many links in one post that could look out of keeping with my normal way of doing things, which is one at most per post, if that?"

Who knew there was such a thing as "our insertions' conditions"? :) The whole exchange felt like talking to a bot...and I never heard from them again either.

So that was that. And while I am on the subject of blog housekeeping, I would like to apologise to any readers who left me a comment since the end of February(!). I experienced an absolutely "spam storm" about a week ago, which upset me so much that I went into the gubbins of the blog and started deleting pages of them at a time in a fit of panic. I didn't really need to, as I don't believe any of the comments in question had managed to get themselves published, but it was distressing to see this veritable blizzard of unwanted spam comments in my feed. What I think must have happened is that a whole bunch of legitimate comments from readers were included on one particular page I deleted en masse, but must have been out of "scrolling view" on my phone, as it were, and I accidentally vaporised them all. I am so very sorry, as there was a lot of collective time and thought involved in the leaving of them in the first place, and I will ensure it never happens again. So please don't be scared to comment here in future!

Lastly, it might amuse you to see one of a number of wrongly addressed emails I receive:

Hello abottledrose,

Get noticed in search results, You must have a responsive web design with advanced layout and search engine friendly design.

We can review and offer you a better design to allow brands to stand out among competitors

Well, personally I don't think there is anything amiss with the design of A Bottled Rose, but this company's punctuation leaves much to be desired.

I also got them for a long time addressed to the Non-Blonde, while she was still with us, at least.

Dear Team

Hope you are doing well.

I thought you might like to know some reasons why you are not getting enough website hits/visitors and conversion.

Till I could take it no more:


**Editor's Note: I have since had a catch up with the PR from Ormonde Jayne (see her comment below), and we have established that though she took up the role in 2003, there was a period of five years when she left OJ, before returning to the company in 2017. And my short-lived affiliate association was in 2013, when a different PR person would have been in the chair, with a different approach to marketing and social media. Since this lady's return in 2017, however, Ormonde Jayne has not entered into any kind of paid collaboration with bloggers.

Sunday 5 June 2022

The smell of disrepair: my stay at The Hylands Hotel - like Fawlty Towers, only faultier

It has been a while since I wrote a travel-related post, which is perhaps surprising, as I have been doing a fair bit of travelling lately. After a recent experience in Coventry - to which I went willingly, I might add, I wasn't sent there - I felt just such a post well up in me, on account of the extraordinary hotel in which I stayed. It was basically all the fault of Ed Sheeran, who happened to be on the bill that day as part of a BBC Big Weekend festival; some 80,000 music fans had descended on the city, snapping up all the decent accommodation. A fact that was rubbed in the moment I stepped out of the railway station and spied a digital screen that toggled between "BBC Big Weekend" and "This Way", over a big arrow pointing to the left. 

The band I was there to see (no prizes for guessing who) could have done with an equivalent sign really, to shepherd their own fans - plus any last minute punters not enamoured of the blockbusting ginger one - in the direction of the repurposed coal tunnel by a canal where their gig was being held.

I stopped by the Visitors Centre outside the station first of all to pick up a map of the town centre, and fell into conversation with the lady fielding questions from new arrivals. Right off the bat she asked me where I was staying, and I replied: "Oh, I'd rather not say, because it is so wretched." "Ah, I know where that is then...hmm, it is certainly tired-looking...but you should be safe enough. Well, why don't you come back tomorrow and tell me how you got on?" I wondered at the time whether her solicitousness and request for a vital sign from me the next day might have concealed a genuine concern for my well-being, and promptly tried to discount the thought.

"Where moss may safely grow"

The hotel was a short walk from the station: a sprawling white stucco building, with a peeling paint problem so pronounced that I was reminded of an albino snake sloughing off its skin. As I checked in, I inquired whether I could have a "quiet room". The amiable man on reception threw his head back and guffawed, which I took to mean no. He said he would do his best though to pick out a room not noted for being within earshot of the bar, or other areas where people congregate (as in "fight").

Without further ado I will fast forward to my review on, which I found quite cathartic to write, I must say...

Even Truffle is not this bad 

A very rum place!, but a bargain on a Saturday night for those with a strong constitution


It was with great trepidation that I approached my stay at The Hylands on account of all the awful reviews on here and Tripadvisor, not least because I was a woman travelling alone. It was the only hotel left in Coventry that had not been booked out by festival goers and in fact it met my expectations exactly, albeit they were very low! Special mention goes to the fantastic staff, notably Naseem(?) and Jad, who went above and beyond to be helpful and to watch out for me. They really should be working in a superior establishment as their customer service ethic was second to none. I also found the bed comfortable and the sheets clean, which is a very important point, although the pillows were a little firm for my liking. The bathroom was a bit dysfunctional - namely that the shower switch wouldn't stay in position, meaning I got an intermittent dribble of hot water - but it was better than I expected, and the water was very hot. If I had brought my own plug I could even have had a luxurious bath ;), so that is something to think of another time.

Stylish, if torn and grubby?


Ah, where to begin...filthy torn furniture, sets of drawers with no drawers, ripped carpet, bits of fluff everywhere, moss on windows, weird sticky black marks on a table, no milk for tea, no hangers for clothes - I ended up draping mine over the TV, after giving it a quick dust. But I was ready for this - and more.

What even are these?

The wonderful guy on reception did his best to give me a quiet room and it was quiet in the afternoon, but I was disturbed in the night by repeated knocking on the room next door and people raking around the corridors, also by the sound of the man next door's mobile phone. I did half wonder if he might have been running a little shop of some kind. I also encountered a man staggering down the stairs off his head on something, while outside there were a couple of guys stationed by the gate with bulging bum bags, who I suspect may not have been car park attendants.

Editor's note: I did wonder if the executive rooms might have had hangers and milk, along with mossless windows that fully closed.

I mentioned above that the hotel staff were extremely friendly and helpful: a further example of this was their being kind enough to put the remains of my noodle dinner in a bar fridge overnight, so I could take my doggy bag home the next day. They also reunited a lost mobile phone with its owner: one of the other guests had found it on the ground outside and brought it into reception. The amiable bloke gave another guffaw, and remarked: "We don't usually get people handing in phones, haha!"

No hangers, but extra pillows!, and is that by any chance a safe?

Also in slight mitigation of the place is the fact that it didn't actually smell bad to my nose, as some guests have reported in their many entertaining reviews on both and Tripadvisor. There was even a pleasantly fruity air freshener / disinfectant-type scent in one of the corridors. I suppose if I had buried my nose in the upholstery of the sofa it might have had a rather fusty odour, but it was enough already to dare to leave my coat on it.

Would I stay at The Hylands again...? Er, no, not if I could help it, even though the saving versus the usual chains was very significant - I paid just £36 compared with £107 for the Ramada, say, had it not been fully booked. I was pleased that I survived though - and on my birthday to boot! - it felt like a strange kind of coup...and the guy in the mirror never did get his sushi.

If you are feeling brave...