Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Review of Reviews

Aren't people mad for consumer reviews lately?
 I must admit I am flabbergasted that people buy things based on a random strangers opinion. I am not talking about blog reviews which are a different beast altogether, a complicated one at that. In truth I find blog reviews fairly in depth and helpful for the most part. Part of the useful aspect is the fact I can gauge what the blogger is like by reading other posts. You are denied that luxury when you read a consumer review. You could be buying based on the advice of someone with completely different ideologies and goals to your own, a Neo-Nazi or worse one of those people who leave comments on newspaper articles! This is a best case scenario too. The sad reality is that a whole heap of consumer reviews are there for three reasons:

1) The reviewer has been incentivized (IE bribed) "$20 voucher if you leave a good review on Truelocal!" hrrm hardly objective there. 'Nuff said.

 2) It's fake, read some Indian restaurant reviews. They are shockers for this but very entertaining. "The fixed banquet was more epic than the Bhagavad Gita, it is the most astoundingly authentic North Indian cuisine in the known universe, more authentic than even that found in the north of India" etc... I suppose they do them themselves or outsource it perhaps? Not the only offenders...this seems widespread.

3)Someone has an axe to grind. Perhaps they couldn't diva a business owner into submission, perhaps they expected their $7 baby carrier from Hong Kong to be as good as a $300 carrier, perhaps they think that the customer is always right and have found that actually the customer is only right if they are right, maybe they are having a really bad day with their anxiety problem and have lain awake all night dreaming of the wording of a scathing but not necessarily justified review*."My Wendy walker Doll does not have a natural gait at all and the action could scarcely be described as walking, hobbling at best, it is completely unsuitable as a basis for my robotic butler project, I have attempted to get my money back for the doll but have been COMPLETELY IGNORED BY THE MANUFACTURERS!" etc Axe grinding reviews are not helpful for consumers although they may have merit for venting purposes they tend to reflect more poorly on the reviewer than the reviewed.

Sometimes there are people who leave reviews based on their experience in order to help others make an informed decision. I know at least one person who does this for realz without being bribed. Unfortunately I have never encountered her reviews when I am researching something.

I think that the concept of consumer reviews may have started off as a good idea on paper (like Communism or Eugenics**!) but there is a reason we have proper paid reviewers writing proper reviews. They know a bit about what they are talking about and hopefully understand the purpose of the product or service they are reviewing (how many scathing reviews on extremely budget hotels have you seen, there are a lot of people wanting a Hyatt experience for Hostel dorm money in the world!), we get to know them and their foibles like the chaps on Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson always wants to hate a Porsche and James May will always dribble all over a 911 and I can adjust accordingly because I know this!

What do you think? Do you think that consumer reviews are akin to readers comments on a newspaper or do they have merit? Have they ever helped you or just made you more confused?

* Not having a go at those who suffer from anxiety disorders, drawing a bit on my own experiences here. I try not to post "dead of the night  reviews" for this reason.

** If you lived in my Suburb you might think Eugenics were good on paper too.


  1. Actually they can have some merit, the reviews on ModCloth are very helpful if people include their measurements and a photo of them wearing the clothes they are reviewing. This is an example of when it works!

  2. Helpful sometimes if en masse. So, say 20 perfect strangers say something is total shite and 1 says it's great, or vice versa, I might be somewhat swayed. But taken in insolation, the views of a stranger mean nothing to me. However, the views of people I follow, like yourself, would be given more consideration. Then again, I am a curmudgeonly type and perhaps not the average consumer :)

  3. Curmudgeonly or sensible? I don't think you are the average anything Alison- but it is a shame, I would prefer the world have more like you! People have such differing priorities to mine that I can't see the value in their opinions (I saw someone the other day wanting to be a soccer mum.. this boggled my mind!)

  4. What a terrifying thought. More people like me :D I know all about not understanding other people's priorities, some days I just scratch my head, other days I yell, today is a sarong and under the blankets sort of day :)