Tips for reading online reviewsFeb 24, 2022 03:40PM ● By Adam Cochran
One of my Saturday chores is to mop the kitchen floor. My home’s previous owners chose to install solid white 1-by-1 tile in the entryway and kitchen. That’s right—bright white tile throughout our kitchen. We hate it. But not enough to spend the money to re-floor it.
Because I believe that purchasing tools that increase efficiency is money well spent, I decided to shop for a multi-surface vacuum mop.
Purchasing a new tool is something I take very seriously. I spend days reading online reviews and watching comparison videos before deciding on which tool best fits my needs.
This month, I’ll provide a few tips for reading online reviews to ensure that you can make an objective and informed decision before buying anything new.
Don’t solely rely on stars - Not all five-star reviews are the same. The number of stars is an average rating of all reviews the item has received. For an item that has hundreds of reviews, five stars are fantastic, but if an item has only received a handful of reviews, five stars can be deceiving. You always have to assume the manufacturer and accomplices likely wrote the first reviews.
Consider sample size - I alluded to this above, but any rating with less than 100 reviews is probably not worth considering. Shady companies can easily pay for positive reviews. Large retailers try to monitor for artificial reviews, but it can be difficult to prove.
Look for confirmed purchase reviews - Anyone can leave a product review on Amazon or most other shopping sites, but the best sites will note which reviews came from people who actually purchased the product through their site. These aren’t always reliable, but they can be trusted more than reviews by anonymous contributors.
Read reviews carefully - It’s surprising how many people will leave one or two stars because the device was shipped slowly or arrived broken. These types of reviews are not reflective of the product itself. When I was shopping for a 55-inch TV, I was surprised to find out that all of the one and two-star reviews came from people who had the item shipped and it arrived with a cracked screen. Such reviews say more about the shipping service than they do about the product itself.
Consider the time of ownership - Disregard any positive reviews that include sentences like, “I’ve been using the item for several days and it works great!” Almost all items work well out of the box. It takes a few weeks or months to get a feel of the pros and cons of anything you buy.
Watch for brand loyalists - Consider whether the reviewer is loyal to the given product brand or possibly loyal to a competitor’s brand. If you are shopping for Nike shoes, you will most likely find that a large percentage of the five-star reviews will state that they always buy Nike. Conversely, a large percentage of negative reviews will likely say something like, “I’m going back to Adidas.” Or, “I decided to give Adidas a chance, even though I usually buy Nike.” Either end of the spectrum can be influenced by unobjective brand loyalty.
Make sure the review is for your exact product - Amazon and similar sites will often bundle reviews of similar products without considering the given model you are considering. For example, make sure that you are looking at reviews for the 2022 Toyota Corolla and not general reviews for all Toyota Corollas. Something as simple as a faulty part or an important option can make a big difference in whether the product is reliable or not.
Be aware of sponsored placement - This advice isn’t necessarily related to reviews, but it’s important. Amazon, eBay and even Walmart allow vendors to pay extra for placement at the top of a search. That usually leads to those products having more reviews and even higher reviews than similar products on the site. For the best price and better selection, look past the sponsored results and browse the items lower in the search. They may not have as many reviews, but you may find a better price or a better product farther down.
Avoid review-only sites and apps - Sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, and HomeAdvisor make money by sending customers to local businesses that pay for referrals. Reliable businesses with great services often get overlooked because they don’t pay for referrals. Companies that pay these sites often have more sway with the service over how to handle negative reviews as well.
Hopefully, these tips will help you become a more informed decision-maker the next time you search for the perfect product to fit your needs.
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