I bought a leaf blower last year. I know, stop the presses, this is big news! But it taught me a lesson. Two actually. One, if I win the lottery, I will hire someone to do my yard work. And two, I must start writing more online reviews.
Almost everything you buy these days is rated, presumably by customers who have already purchased the item. They seem more than willing to share their opinions, on everything from a $1 bottle of root beer to a $1,500 heat and air system.
That leaf blower was on sale, and the price was right. But when I checked the reviews online, the average opinion of buyers was only three stars, out of a possible five. As I read the reviews, a few people absolutely loved it, lavishing it with five stars. However, others hated it from the moment they unpacked it, branding it with a scathing one-star review. Who was I to believe?
I took a leap of faith. Maybe those one-star people are the habitual complainers. We all know someone like that. They find the negative in everything. They’re the people who write nasty things on Facebook when Jimmy Carter celebrates his 94th birthday. While most folks are content to wish him a happy birthday, or to thank him for building houses for poor people, some will write, “Worst president ever.” These people are so negative, that if Mr. Carter found a cure for cancer, they would write, “What took him so long?”
So I bought the leaf blower anyway. It does everything I ask it to do, and it does it well. I remembered the other day, I have not gone online to give it a five-star review. Yet something tells me that if it had malfunctioned during its first season of service, I almost certainly would have sat at my keyboard and shared my dissatisfaction. What does that say about me?
It says that like most people, I am quick to complain, and slow to compliment. I would be doing the rest of America a favor if I went online, and let potential leaf blower buyers know that I am happy with this product. If more satisfied customers did so, that three-star rating might gain another star or two, as it should.
I’m telling you this because we’ve become a nation of review readers. We have information that was not available to us a generation ago. Are you going on vacation any time soon? I’ll bet you’ll check out the reviews on that hotel or condo. Thinking about buying a new printer? If two of them are sitting side by side, at the same price, and one of them rates a 4.6, and the other is a 3.5, I know which one you will buy.
But here’s the rub. How do you know those ratings are accurate? Like everything else that has emerged in the digital world, crooks have found a way to taint the process. It has become widely known that you cannot believe it just because it is on the internet. Several hotel chains have been exposed for fake reviews.
What’s to keep them from paying people to write creative, realistic-looking reviews, praising the cleanliness, the convenience, and the delicious complimentary breakfast? We believe those reviews, book the room, and find ourselves with a balky air conditioner, nasty carpet, and stale muffins.
If you’ve heard it once, you’re about to hear it again. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Read the reviews carefully, and with a healthy dose of skepticism. If several of them seem to spout the same outrageous claims (“this anti-aging cream makes me look thirty years younger!”), you might be reading a fake review. Besides, that cream only made me look twenty years younger, so I’m sending it back.
But seriously, if you are truly satisfied with a purchase, share it with the world. You know you’re a real person, and if more real people would share a sincere, positive review, it might balance out all those negative nellies who don’t take the time to say something nice.
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” a collection of his best stories. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.