Online product reviews

I’ve come to understand that one must take any online product reviews with a grain of salt. Most people are reasonable but some people have very high expectations going in. Like the speakers I recently bought for my MP3 player. They are small, portable, can use AC power but can also be powered by 4 AA batteries. This must tell you not to expect any mind blowing sound, the kind that can be heard in the midst of a great party. But I didn’t want that. I wanted some subtle background noise while I write, I wanted to be able to carry them to different rooms and I wanted to be able to take them outside on the patio or to the beach, in the summer. I could also pop them in a suitcase for when I’m in the hospital after having baby next month. And these fit the bill perfectly. So perfectly that when my sister-in-law saw and heard them she immediately got the same ones. They were on sale at Princess Auto of all places and very reasonably priced for what I got. But I’ve been looking for the right MP3 speakers for a while now and have been researching them a lot. Mostly I check out Amazon for such reviews. I’m doing the same now for booster seats, travel stroller systems, and baby slings. But, like I said, I take them with a grain of salt.

These are supposed to be reviews about the product. They get a rating out of five stars and a written review. Some are quite comprehensive, some are short and sweet, and some are inane. The inane ones tend to give a one star rating and say things like “this is the best [insert product category here] I have ever used and I think everyone should buy it but I bought it from Online Selling Company and they just put it in an envelope. I’m amazed it arrived in one piece. Their shipping sucks”. Well, go rate the company somewhere and give the product you love the five stars it deserves, please. Other inane reviewers just expect too much. Like with the various minispeakers I’ve been researching. Someone might review a small set of speakers, running on four AA batteries like this: “I wish I could give negative stars because these are the worst speakers ever. I had a party of 350 people the other night in a rented nightclub and no one could hear the music. I paid $29.99 for these and all they did was ruin my party. Stay away!”

While booking a cruise for our honeymoon, hubby and I checked out reviews of cruises and found the same thing. People would give awful ratings and warn you to not travel certain cruise lines and when you read the details it was because “my whole vacation was ruined because of the food. Not one morning did I get crispy bacon. Never travel with these people” or other minuscule things like that. You also have to remember that people don’t go out of their way to praise things as often as they’ll go the extra mile to criticize and complain.

If you take the time to read the reviews you will be able to exclude the reviews which don’t add much to the debate. You will also be able to quickly identify patterns in reviews. Like if a lot of people seem to have the same problem with a product while others don’t. Sometimes those who don’t have the problem might suggest why other people are having this recurring problem. Mostly this involves not reading the instructions. Like some silicone baby bottle nipples I bought a few years ago. I checked them out online and it was pretty split between the people who thought they were fantastic and the the people who said they were complete garbage and didn’t work. But if you read carefully, you could see that the people who liked it kept reminding people that they had to boil the nipples for a certain period of time in order for them to open up or they wouldn’t work, as explained on the package contents. So I bought them, boiled them and they worked great, And that’s the point. Online reviews can be great but you have to be careful and thorough when reading or you might miss out on a great product.

And as incredibly funny examples of all of the above, see the reviews on Amazon for the Bic Crystal Ballpoint Pen and Milk. With review titles like “not a crystal ball”, “Not as flavorful as a good ham” and “doesn’t teach alphabet” for the pen, and “Doesn’t Work with Macs” and “WARNING: Causes Mustache!” for the milk, these people really get the truth about online product reviews.

One thought on “Online product reviews

  1. I found you through Chris (Mombie) and am enjoying your writing very much. But when I got to this post, I had to laugh — reading the reviews here is one of my favourite hobbies:

    http://www.amazon.com/review/product/B0000070S1/ref=cm_cr_dp_all_summary?%5Fencoding=UTF8&showViewpoints=1&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending

    There are some of the finest examples of creative writing I’ve ever read.

    Bye for now – I’ll probably lurk a bit, and enjoy your archives. Thanks for making my day, and giving me new product reviews to read!

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