Category Archives: social

Why I will never again work with cheap Chinese companies

I would like to preface this post by mentioning that I am thankful for all the opportunities I have had to work with brands, big or small, over the past years. It is not something I expected when I started blogging, and I have learned a lot from it, which is what this post is about.

For those who want the answer immediately, these are the following reasons why I will never again work with cheap Chinese brands (think websites like AliExpress, even though they’re not who I am talking about):

  1. The clothing quality is usually cheap, and I often donate the clothes afterwards.
  2. Since the clothes are low quality, this does not justify taking time out of my day to shoot and edit photos and write a blog post for 2-3 clothing items that cost a total of $30 to $50 total.
  3. The clothes often take a while to ship, requiring me to wait anywhere from three weeks to two months to make my blog post.
  4. The representatives who contact me often try to make me do additional work I did not agree to so that I receive more clothing for review (hosting giveaways, posting additional links to their pages on my social media).
  5. A contact/company belittled my blog, was very controlling and attempted to take advantage of the work I had done, which included sabotaging my comments and refusing to pay me for any sales made from my blog.

This is the basic outline of this post, so if you would like to know the details of these reasons and claims, please continue reading. For the sake of privacy, I will not reveal which companies I am going to discuss.

Reason #1
The clothing quality is cheap

This is the most obvious reason for refusing to work with most Chinese companies. I always knew that these clothes would be difficult to sell to readers because they’re cheaply made. I accepted $30 to $50 gift cards to these fast fashion brands because it was a cost effective way to produce new content for my blog without having to spend any of my own money. But after a year of trying on and reviewing thin, ill-fitting clothing, I felt like I was cheapening my blog and my personal style. The clothes I received often ended up recycled, never to be worn again.

My “sponsored” blog posts (if you can call receiving free clothing a sponsorship) were often my least popular posts, and often the most difficult to write. I was never instructed by the company to remain positive in my review, but I still walked on egg shells with what I wrote because I wanted to be someone who could be trusted with promoting a brand. My opinions on this subject have changed, but a year ago I was wrestling with the responsibility of saying nice things about cheap clothes.

Reason #2
The clothes were not worth my time and effort to shoot and write about

Morning Ink is a one woman project, which means I take and edit all my photos. A typical shoot takes 1 to 2 hours, and editing and writing is an additional 2 to 4 hours minimum. For some companies, this was no problem since the cost of the clothing was often great enough to justify the work. But for the cheaper companies, who often demanded these posts within days of me receiving my shipment, and sometimes required separate posts for each item received, it was extremely unjustifiable.

Of course, I could have refused the collaboration offer and saved my time, but back then I was okay with spending my time making these posts. However, I am still being contacted by these types of companies and, as the post says, I refuse to spend any further time on cheap clothes.

Reason #3
The clothes take a while to ship

This reason wouldn’t be such a problem if I had a tracking code so I could know when the clothes would arrive, and if most of the brands didn’t demand a blog post within days of the clothes being delivered. Also, I live in Germany, where they place fees on products ordered outside of the EU, and expect them paid in cash upon delivery. If you don’t have exact change, then the delivery is held at the warehouse for payment and pickup. This isn’t exactly the company’s fault, since I didn’t have this problem in the states, but since I was unsure of when anything would be delivered, I often had to drive to DHL to pay for and pick up my package. Every company I worked with reimbursed the fee, but it was often done through PayPal, and sent as “payment for goods and services” which charged me fees and left me with a couple dollars below the amount I paid to receive my package.

Spontaneous deliveries made it difficult to plan a blogging schedule, which can be difficult when blogging is your hobby in addition to a full-time job or studying. I don’t want this to sound like my life was made “oh so difficult” because of this, especially since I blog by choice, but it was a mild annoyance that contributed to my decision of cutting ties with cheap clothing brands.

 Reason #4
The representatives tried to manipulate me into extra work

 This wasn’t as malicious as the title suggests, but rather repetitive and annoying. For example, a brand representative would send me an email offering me a gift card to use on their website in exchange for a clothing review. I would agree to their requirements (they often wanted links to their social media and photos of the clothing) and then place my order with the special gift code they gave me. Sometimes I would get an email back thanking me for placing my order, but before they would ship anything, they wanted me to help with a giveaway promotion/make a wishlist post on my blog/promote their sale on my social media/etc.

Getting out of these requests wasn’t a problem. I told them I wasn’t interested and they would usually back away from it after that, but the principle of it bothers me. I see a lot of small bloggers hosting these giveaways on their blogs, so it obviously works, but this game isn’t for me. If I am approached for a clothing review, I don’t automatically assume that I am indebted to this company and need to fulfill all of their requests. I would never contact a YouTuber offering to pay them to promote my channel in a 15 second spot on a video, send them money, and then ask if I can receive a Twitter shout out and a blog banner on their website for no additional cost.

I don’t pay hosting fees so I can display free banners. Get out of here with that.

Reason #5
A company belittled my blog, was very controlling and attempted to sabotage my comments

This is about one company in particular, but I have since learned that it is owned by the same company that owns other smaller websites that I have worked with or been approached by. They were, by far, the most bizarre company to work with and offenders of almost everything I mentioned in this post. I wanted to wait until all ties had been completely cut with them to write this post, and even though I won’t mention them by name, I wanted to include some email evidence of how I was spoken to during and at the end of this “collaboration.”

I worked with this brand last summer, and was approached with the usual offer of free clothing in an exchange for a review. I was looking forward to this project since the clothes were listed at a higher price than I was used to from other Chinese companies. I accepted the offer and went on to write 5+ reviews for this website, and made over $2000 in sales with traffic generated from my blog, and received commission as well as additional ad money from the new visitors.

This collaboration started out really well, and I was happily reviewing items for them and receiving praise from the company for my sales and traffic. However, I started receiving a lot of visitors who left comments on my blog complaining about this company’s customer service, and their dissatisfaction with the quality of the clothes and the shipping tax they had to pay (the tax the EU requires if purchasing from an outside country I mentioned before), all of which I could not help them with. I responded to many of the comments that offered constructive criticism, and deleted ones that were just rude, but could ultimately do nothing about the situation. The Chinese company quickly noticed these negative comments and asked me to delete them, and I did. I didn’t want to ruin the relationship we had so I happily obliged since the company was generating positive revenue and hits for my blog.

This is where I messed up. I should have been more assertive and politely tell them I wouldn’t delete comments, since I support helpful discussion on my blog even if it’s negative. This company suddenly had power over my blog, and I was asked to delete many more comments in the future. I continued to receive a lot more negative comments over things I could not control, but continued to defend the brand and explain why there may have been difficulties with their shipment/order/sizing etc. I even received emails from customers seeking my advice and help with picking their size on the website, since they didn’t understand the conversions. I gladly went beyond what the company and I agreed on, and even forwarded customer concerns to the representative I was in contact with to see if they could help with the person’s order.

Perhaps this overwhelmed them and they were not expecting such a mixed response to my blog posts and their new brand. By the beginning of December 2016, I still hadn’t received a commission payment that was supposed to be paid at the end of November. By the way, I didn’t start receiving a commission until months after I had started reviewing for them. I saw an advertisement for their affiliation program on their website and asked them about it. They decided to add me as an affiliate, and I essentially missed out on sales I made at the beginning of the summer. Anyway.

I asked about my missing November commission payment, and I was told that I would receive it the second week of December, and I did. But my representative told me that this would also be my last payment since I was no longer doing reviews, even though I was told I would make a commission as long as I was generating sales, not just reviews.

Of course I asked about this, and even included a screenshot where the rep told me I would “for sure” receive commission as long as I make sales.

To which they responded:

Excuse me?

After months of defending a brand against negative comments, deleting comments, editing my content to their specifications, taking photos and writing careful reviews, generating traffic (which was possible through my SEO marketing of each post) and sales and keeping their banner on my blog past the usual time I allow, they decided I’d received “enough.” Not only this, but this representative had the absolute nerve to make it sound as if THEY did something for ME. I was approached with this collaboration, not the other way around.

I did the only thing I thought was best in response to such an absurd turn of events:

I removed absolutely every affiliate link but kept the posts up, which now receive fewer views than they did before. I was not going to allow them to continue to make money from my blog while I don’t receive anything.

I wish that had been the end of it, but soon after this partnership ended, I started receiving questionable comments on my reviews defending the brand against the negative comments that survived deletion. They were written in poor English and explained how they didn’t blame the company for the taxes paid on their shipment, as well as other defensive remarks in response to the common customer complaints on my blog. I received at least one a day for the next week and deleted as many as I could. Though it is an accusation with weak evidence, I am convinced it was the company trying to manipulate my comments.

Of course this is just my experience. Other bloggers are perhaps better at negotiating with brands and setting their limitations. I wasn’t so particular about who I worked with at the time because I am weak when it comes to being offered free merchandise. I learned that it is better to walk away from something easy and keep working for something greater.

Thank you to anyone who read this far. I wanted to share my experience just in case anyone else is stuck in a similar situation. If you’re feeling taken advantage of in a business deal, don’t tolerate it. Say no, and remember your worth.

When your future relies on a language test

I recently had to Google “How to cope with expat depression” because it finally hit a week ago. I wouldn’t say I am legitimately depressed, but I am experiencing more waves of worry and self-doubt far more frequently than a couple months ago.

I moved from Houston, Texas to Cologne, Germany to start a master’s program in English this summer, but this did not happen. I didn’t score high enough on the Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang (the most difficult German language proficiency exam) to qualify for my completely-in-English master’s program. This means I couldn’t enroll and need to take another qualifying test, this time the Goethe Institut B2 Zertifikat exam.

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Blah blah blah, right. It’s a language exam, just study, shut up. I get that. But I am more bothered by the simple fact that all of my accomplishments so far mean nothing unless I pass a mid-level language exam.

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This, coupled with taking a 75% pay cut and dealing with difficult neighbors when trying to take blog photos, one of the few things that gives me creative joy, leaves me feeling dejected. On top of this I have three loan companies demanding payments of more than I make a month. But I have to remind myself that I am the one who made things this way. I decided to attend a college that cost $30,000 per year, I decided to leave my comfortable job, I decided to move to Germany.

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My master’s program, a job in writing and editing and my own personal happiness is currently dependent on this language exam. Maybe it doesn’t have to be, but it is the path I am currently committed to.

Top: Zara
Cardigan: Primark
Pants: J.Crew
Shoes: Zara
Earring: H&M

I check my Google Adsense account, SocialBlade and site stats religiously to try and figure out a way to make a little extra money and create content I enjoy. If any of you have tips, I would love to hear them. I have a few ideas for how to change my aesthetic and content, I just need to see it through.

Suspicious neighbors update

For the past few months I have been documenting the negative encounters I have had with my new neighbors in Germany. I live in a relatively small town outside of Cologne, so I understand that the sudden appearance of a brown girl with a large camera and tripod may be an unusual sight. However, I don’t think it is an excuse to be rude and presumptuous.


I filmed a new video as an update to the last one I posted, which was made after I had been accosted by a neighbor threatening to call the police if I did not leave. You can read that blog post here and watch the video here.



I am trying to venture away from my neighborhood whenever I want to take photos because I just don’t want to have to explain myself anymore, especially when they are not polite about it. I’ve been told that the problem may go away if they see me around the area long enough, but I don’t want to wait and find out.




In the meantime, I have a bike and the weather is nice so I will be scoping out places nearby to shoot photos. I am hoping to take this crap blog in a new direction soon and the last thing I need are nosy grumpy Germans.

Top: Primark
Jeans: American Eagle
Flats: Steve Madden (super similar)
Necklace: Forever 21
Bracelet: H&M

I love Texas, but there are very few days when it is comfortable to wear jeans and a button-up without drenching it in your own sweat and oils from the humidity. I bought this top a few sizes larger to have a bit of a loose painter’s smock feel. When I bought this bracelet, my German said, “Oh, are you going to wear it with that gold choker that I like?” I hadn’t even considered that when I bought it, but they totally match.

Cheap Steve Madden flats and the great Cholula discovery

Today I moaned and whined about not having any basic flats in my closet. Between my mustard lace-ups, my patent black buckled flats and an assortment of black boots, I basically have no quick warm weather shoe options. Sure, I could sashay through Kaufland in my thick soled bluchers, but I could also make a quick trip to the nearest mini mall and pick up some Chinese factory made flats, because I am poor and ignore the consequences of fast fashion like the horrible human being I am.

But I actually found these cool Steve Madden flats for 27 Euros, which is maybe $50 USD, but I generally ignore my depleting bank account these days so I can’t give an accurate conversion.


They’re perforated and pointy, everything I need as a girl who refuses to wear open-toed shoes.





Cardigan: Primark
Top: H&M
Skirt: Aeropostale
Flats: Steve Madden (so damn similar)
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff
Necklace: Forever 21

Speaking of Kaufland, THEY NOW SELL CHOLULA AND FRANK’S RED HOT. One of my biggest fears about moving to Germany was having to give up my hot sauce addiction. When I first moved here, I only thought Tabasco and the cheap Fuego brand hot sauces were available. My suitcase was over its weight limit and I refused to let go of the three bottles of Cholula I had packed for my move. I used them so sparingly in the first few months, only choosing the best pizzas to have them with.

But as we were shopping in Kaufland yesterday, my German came over to me and said, “Come with me, and I think you need to hold my hand.” He led me to the moST GLORIOUS SHELF I HAVE SEEN SINCE DECEMBER 2015.


I bought one of each.

The fun didn’t stop there, because Kaufland also decided that tiny overpriced fruit are the new hottest thing for summer.


Also this week, we ventured out with the Wes dog to a park nearby that had a bountiful amount of daffodils that I lovingly refer to as “tax flowers” because they were planted using tax money from working Germans. Germany decides what is beautiful and worth spending money on apparently.

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We also stumbled upon several man-made branch huts, which I made Wesley get in with me for a picture, which ended up looking like an awkward engagement photo.

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Today I made monkey bread for the first time, which I ate a regretful amount of. It’s a bit too sweet for my taste, but I am thankful it stayed intact.



I’ve spent the better part of my day trying to put together outfits for an upcoming sponsored post and making myself look ugly despite Snapchat’s beauty filters.


I have work in the morning, which is apparently going to be my Saturday ritual from now on because it’s easy to piss on the new person when it comes to scheduling. I really don’t mind, it’s money, but I am hoping for an easy train ride there, unlike last Thursday.


My neighbors (most likely) think I am from the Middle East

Being an Arab shouldn’t be a problem, and I am not offended by this assumption in the slightest. However, Germans (I am speaking for Cologne) have been more outspoken about anything they deem “odd” in their community circles since the New Year’s assaults.

In my last post I was upset about a woman who aggressively questioned me while taking blog photos. She tried to tell me that this area was private (it’s not), that I wasn’t allowed to take photos here (I am) and that she was calling the police (wait what). Even before this incident, I had a slight suspicion that their questioning may be racism fueled. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions because I am not one to become offended by that. I make fun of my skin, hair, poop brown eyes and Mexicans all the time. However, I do have a problem with those who are unreasonably rude to me because of the color of my skin.




I may regret typing this, and I may delete it later so I’ll remain vague, but I experienced racism the first time I visited Germany as well. I had to spend some time in a certain place as part of a college study abroad program, and I was treated very poorly. I was even refused at the door by a shoe shop in the neighborhood. This place I was supposed to spend a few weeks at wanted me gone after a week, and I remember calling my mom crying because I was miserable.


While taking these photos today, an older man and a young girl were riding bikes together. I was putting my hand over my lens and standing to the side anytime people passed, and I heard him telling the young girl, “She has a camera.” I told them hello as they passed me, and I didn’t see him again until I was finished taking photos. He politely asked me if everything had turned out all right, and if I had taken any nice shots. I said yes and he asked to see one. While I was going through my camera for a non-derp photo, I joked about my German being embarrassing because I kept fumbling with my words. He responded, “My Arabic is too.”


Cogs clicked into place in my head, but I remained calm and told him that I was from the U.S., Texas specifically. Even though he had been nice to me before, his attitude seemed to change from curiosity to relief and he left immediately.

I can’t help but think that the woman I encountered last week, and the people before her, are assuming that I am an Arab, the very people they are showing prejudice towards. I understand their concerns and worries, but since Germany managed to redeem itself from a grueling past, it would be a shame if they began to tarnish their reputation again with damaging assumptions. It’s worrisome enough how racially insensitive their Carnival celebrations are, but I’ll save that for another blog post.


I still love this country and I am happy it is my home. I just hope to one day receive mutual respect from my neighbors. I have done nothing to betray trust, and I promise, as is evident here, that my photos are only of my dumb self.


Jacket: American Eagle (similar)
Top: H&M (similar)
Skirt: Banana Republic
Shoes: Topshop
Earrings: H&M

Alright, this is a style blog after all. These shoes are the most dangerous clothing item I own, and also the most comfortable. I was feeling a bit “dressed up” in this outfit, so I toned it down with a jean jacket. If you’re looking for a fitted soft denim jacket, I highly recommend American Eagle’s selection. I’ve outgrown their clothing, but their denim is hard to beat.

My neighbors are STILL suspicious of me: Police edition

This is an unexpected part 2 of the the blog post I wrote this past February: My neighbors are suspicious of me

I spent my morning recording a video about why bloggers wear seasonal clothing if the temperature hasn’t yet reflected that season. For example, why a blogger might wear a sundress and strappy heels when there’s snow on the ground in April. But this idea was completely halted when a neighbor decided to accost me while taking blog photos for this project, accusing me of photographing houses.



Beyond my smiling ass face and cold legs, you can see trees, sidewalk, poles and apartments in the damn distance.

Oh wait, what about this photo.



Wait, wait, surely it’s these offensive photos that warranted being confronted:





Oh, oh no WAIT. WAIT. This old German woman cleared it up for me. This is a PRIVATE. AREA. This sidewalk here, y’all. Private. This open, connected sidewalk in a public living area is private. My camera and tripod and brown self are not welcome there, and that totally justified her saying that she was going to CALL THE POLICE.

I am SICK of this. She aggressively approached me and I answered as calmly as I could, told her I have a style blog, that I am only taking photos of myself, and just, ugh, listen to my rant if you want to know:

(WARNING: Cursing, whining, multiple chins)

This is getting out of hand. I don’t know what to do. I had the idea of making a sign in German that I can prop up against my tripod for anyone who may be curious or confront me again. I can simply say, “Lesen Sie” and point to the damn sign.

What would you do? I have every right to take photos in this area, and a quick scroll through my blog is evidence enough that I never post addresses, street names, houses or anything else “private.” I need a nice, mature way of handling this problem because I will not stop taking blog photos around here and I will not tolerate being mistreated by members of this community.

Dress: Vero Moda (similar)
Jacket: H&M
Shoes: Zara
Earrings: H&M
Ring: c/o SammyDress (similar)


Last September I set my alarm to wake up at 4 a.m. to buy tickets to see BABYMETAL at the Wembley SSE Arena for April 2016. They went on sale at 10 a.m. London time, so I knew I had to be ready with my card information because we fans are insane. I chose seats this time instead of standing, hoping it would be the best option for enjoying my first big BABYMETAL show. I had seen them once before in Chicago, which you can read my review of here, and see last year’s photos here.


Seven months later, I am now sitting here post-concert hoping to remember and share as much as I can. I arrived around 3 p.m. and immediately saw the thick winding queue for merch. My boyfriend and I had offered to help a fellow Redditor by keeping his bag under our seats while he was on the floor. In return, he brought us Polish snacks and helped me buy the Memorial shirt.




I was reunited with friends from the Chicago show, and finally met a few people I had interacted with or knew online. One of them was Callie from the YouTube channel CallieSakura, who makes cute unboxing videos and vlogs and has also done makeup tutorials of Su, Yui, Moa, the Kami Band and the fox mask. She was incredibly kind and had one of the best BABYMETAL costumes.



It was a relief to escape the rain and cold once the doors opened. I was completely surprised by how small the arena looked inside! We were seated in section N10, close to the middle of the arena, but it was a perfect view. The stage extended out into a smaller circle stage, and two large screens framed a set similar to the cover of the limited edition METAL RESISTANCE album. As soon as everything went black and BABYMETAL DEATH! started to play, we focused on the three hooded figures rising out of the top of the stage. But dammit, they completely fooled us because my boyfriend had to tap me on the shoulder and say “look!” because the ACTUAL girls were on the smaller stage, sparkling in their new black costumes.




Don’t sit in seats if you want to dance and jump around. No one around me was standing, and I felt like an idiot for doing so during the first song, but sat down for the rest of the show. That aside, I was absolutely entranced during most songs. Akatsuki seemed even more emotional and intense somehow, possibly because of the chilling opening piano solo and the red moon hanging brightly above Su. I wasn’t expecting her to top this with Amore, when she absolutely hushed the arena, falling to the floor mid-song with a single spotlight illuminating her. I don’t think I breathed at all during this silence.



Sis. Anger is probably my favorite song on the new album, but they didn’t play it! BLACK BABYMETAL had an opening video about how Moa and Yui had turned to the dark side, which I understood as a reference to the aggressive lyrics in Sis. Anger. Nope, they performed 4 no Uta. I love this song, but it wasn’t exactly the “evil” follow-up I was expecting after that video buildup.



The best new choreography award definitely goes to Meta Taro. I don’t know how many times I said, “They’re so damn cute!” during their performance. My German boyfriend later said that he was wondering how that dance will be received when they perform it in Germany. He said the raised fists could perhaps be misconstrued by the locals, but we both agreed that people are smart enough to know that they are not making any historical references.



Things I loved about the show: 

    • It was a healthy mix of the old and new album, with some surprising inclusions. I would have happily traded Iine for Headbanger, but I was ecstatic that they still performed Megitsune and Catch Me If You Can.
    • The extended stage made the show even more intimate. I had no trouble seeing the girl’s facial expressions, and never had to rely on the big screens.
    • The girls and band were energetic and seemed to have fun the entire time. Yui seemed especially emotional during The One, when she started noticing the various country flags.
    • Speaking of the flags, that was a beautiful moment I was so happy to be a part of. I brought my Germany flag to represent my new home, and raised it as high as I could without annoying my forever sitting seat mates. What started as an idea on Reddit soon became one of the most uplifting additions to The One. The live feed of the viewers in Japan coupled with the flags showed the unification of this diverse fan base. I think it needs to be a tradition at every large show.





What wasn’t so great:

  • THE SOUND. Maybe it was where we were sitting, but Su’s microphone was turned up incredibly high, and you could hardly hear any instrument besides the drums. It all turned into white noise at some parts. The bass became so heavy during one song that it vibrated the seats, and was even louder than Su.
  • The show was still too closely similar to the last world tour. It felt odd to watch them perform Doki Doki Morning despite their music being more mature on the new album. I expected a different show layout, perhaps with more crowd interaction.
  • I miss the red skirts. There, I said it.




See more of my pictures here!

I may write more as I remember details, but this is as much as I can recall. I tried my best to take photos and video during the performance and immediately post them to my social media, and I plan to do the same at the Cologne show. Follow me on Twitter @leahmoreno or Instagram @morning_ink for those updates.


Thank you to everyone who gave me souvenirs and said hi before and after the show! I plan to make keepsakes for the Cologne show, just trying to figure out what. BABYMETAL fans are the most generous and kind people I have ever met. This band has united people from all over the world for something completely unique, and I was overjoyed to share the night of April 2nd with you all.