Years ago, I got had.
I wanted an air mattress to give company a nice place to sleep, so I scrolled through Amazon and settled upon a queen sized mattress with fantastic reviews. Well, they weren’t all fantastic. A sizable percentage of these poor reviews complained about the mattress’s poor quality. Hmmm, thought I. It’s a risk. But the price … it was so good. Surely I wouldn’t be one of the buyers to get a lemon. Right?
The mattress lasted for one night. The second time I tried to use it holes opened and it deflated. After the return date had passed. Of course.
That event sticks in my mind. Yes, experience is a hard teacher. But also, I should have known better. I’m a student of human nature, and such studies tell me that people (and companies) will always do what benefits them and what they can get away with. An online shop’s ultimate goal is to sell you a products, so what is to stop them from “adjusting” bad reviews on their system? And what’s to stop sellers from engaging others to write great reviews for them, for cash? Other than vague warnings of legal repercussions, nothing, it seems.
Forbes, NBC News, The New York Times, and other sites, agree. You are right to be wary of product reviews – good and bad. Yet what is your choice if you wish to make use of the ease of online shopping?
I’ve come up with a system that does a good job of supplying me with quality products. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s a lot better than taking a blind chance. This applies to Amazon.com, but you can also use a modified system for whatever site you wish to use it on.
- I use the search bar to find the category of products I am interested in. Say, trail cameras. Or Vitamin C. Or dog food. Whatever. I choose one product and copy the URL into a review verification site like Fakespot or ReviewMeta, both of which offer Chrome extensions. These sites employ specially designed algorithms that calculate the probability of false reviews. Fakespot provides a letter grade, while Review Meta gives pass, warn, or fail. I only keep products with a pass on Review Meta and A or B on Fakespot. It’s a good idea to use both because sometimes they do differ in their results.
- If the product passes step 1, I take a look at the review chart. Here are examples of good charts (accessed by scrolling down the product page):
The idea is that there is a downward progression – the most reviews at 5 star and 4 star and the least at 2 and 1 stars. The “bad” reviews (2 star and 1 star) should be less than the 5, 4, and 3 review percentages.
I discard any products with graphs such as the below, where 1 star reviews are a higher percentage than 2 or 3 stars. The reason being that this discrepancy points to disappointed customers, and thus, fake reviews skewed toward 5 stars:
I also discard all products with such review curves from the same companies, the idea being that the company must have a policy of encouraging or allowing for dishonest reviews.
My final step is to look at the reviews themselves. What do the reviews tell me about the product’s pros and cons? I keep in mind that the most thorough reviews (which often include photos and videos) are probably from people who received the product free for their review. They didn’t have to shell their money out for it so may be more inclined to give the company a good review. You will find the best reviews – according to Amazon – under the “Top Reviews” heading just above the product’s first review:
These provide helpful information for the most part, but not necessarily perfect info. My final step, then, is to click on the down arrow next to “Top Reviews” and choose “Most Recent”:
For sketchy products you will often find reviews here that say: “How did this product get so many glowing reviews?” The recent reviews are most likely to provide you with the reactions of everyday buyers like you and I. If they are overwhelmingly filled with one or two stars then I reconsider my choice. All products have some low ratings but a large number of them in the most recent reviews points to a problem, possibly with a product’s reformulation or the use of new ingredients or suppliers.
With all this information in mind I compare prices and decide whether or not I want to purchase the item. If I don’t purchase it right away, I will save it under “Wishlist.” Occasionally the Amazon Android app will alert me when one of these items goes on sale, which can be a money-saver.
Like I said, it’s not a perfect system, but I find that it works well and has helped me to avoid any more air mattress fiascoes. Hopefully it will help you as well.
What about you? Do you use a different system? Let me know about it in the comments below.