1 EAGLETON NOTES: How Much Credence

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Monday, 22 July 2013

How Much Credence

do you give to reviews of products on Amazon and other on-line purchasing sites?  Do you usually read the 1 star reviews first or the 5 star reviews?

I do read reviews of some things and often find very useful information.  For example when I looked at the reviews of a piece of electronic equipment recently a lot of the 1 star reviews were very damming.  However when I read the 5 star reviews a contributor pointed out why the problems outlined by the 1 star comments were occurring: people had patently not read the instructions.  I learned a lot from that review and have nothing but praise for the piece of equipment which I acquired.

I ask the question, though, because today I came across a singularly silly 1 star review where the reviewer had lambasted the manufacturer of a standard (non-rechargable) alkaline battery which had reacted badly to an attempt to re-charge it.  As some commenters pointed out she was very lucky not to have been injured or set her house on fire.  However she had also reduced the star rating of the battery quite unjustifiably.

20 comments:

  1. To be honest, I hold no credence to anything Amazon does at the moment. Especially when it comes to paying tax.

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    1. I wasn't just thinking of Amazon Andrea and I hold no brief for Amazon. It was only the fact that I happened upon that particular review when I was buying some batteries and I wondered why someone might give a battery 1 star. Usually I would have worked on the basis of make and price (these were a well-known make). In Amazon's defence though for those of us (ie you and I) who live on a remote Island they do provide an excellent carriage-free service that many others do not provide.

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  2. How much credence I give to reviews depends partly what kind of product it is and partly how many reviews there are. If there are lots of reviews the average rating is of course more likely to give a fair idea than if there is only one or two.

    If there are lots of good reviews and only one bad I think I usually read the bad one first to get an idea if that seems relevant at all to me personally.

    For example, if it's a Kindle book review and the one star review gives several examples of bad spelling and grammar etc in the e-book ... Then I consider it relevant, because I know that is likely to irritate me too. But if it just says "I didn't like it" or "I found this book boring" then that kind of opinion from a stranger does not really tell me anything.

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    1. I rarely read Amazon book reviews Monica although I might read a Kindle review to see if there is a problem with the formatting of the book (which seems less common with the more recent additions). I'm far more likely to go on personal recommendations for friends (including fellow bloggers like you and Meike who frequently blog about books). On other things my approach is pretty much the same as yours.

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    2. It's mostly when I'm browsing Kindle cheap deals and freebies (by contemporary authors unknown to me) that I read Amazon book reviews (to get a bit more substance to an interesting-sounding title before I decide). If I already know I want to buy/read a certain book then I don't usually want too much revealed beforehand.

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  3. Reviews are written by singularly silly people.

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    1. Hmmm. That might come back to bite you on the bum Adrian.

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  4. I write reveiws for the Amazon Vine programme (so according to Adrian, I'm a singularly silly person...oh dear!), and you wouldn't believe the tactical voting that goes on so that (some of) those among the 'top' reviewers can keep their places. But most reviewers play fair, and I enjoy reviewing (not least because of the free books and other things), and try to write a fair assessment of what I think of the book/product. I also often read reviews when buying from Amazon, and (sometimes) when I'm stuck in a book, and wonder whether others have felt the same way. Like everything in this world, there is good and bad to be said for Amazon reviews, but they have their place. If I'm unsure about a review, I look up the writer's other reviews to see whether they seem to be fair/intelligent.

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    1. Frances, I'm very silly. (I'll use your grammar) I Just struggled through Roddy Doyle 'The Dead Republic'. To retain my sanity I read his brilliantly written 'Two Pints'. Five stars I'll give both.
      Are we friends now?

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    2. Oh....go on, then. I'm a forgiving soul.

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    3. Heavens above (a saying not a statement of an absolute truth) Frances I had no idea about any of that (although I do recall you mentioning that you were a Vine Programme book reviewer). If I'm concerned about a product I'm looking for information. All the bad reviews for a piece of equipment I recently acquired were very clearly the result of the manual not having been read. When I then read one of the many positive reviews (I skimmed through until I found one that addressed the issues raised by the bad reviews) it all became very clear and I learned a lot and consequently found the product performed perfectly. I might well have fallen foul of the same error if I hadn't read that review. However I accept that was an unusual case.

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    4. Oh dear Adrian. It bit you on the bum earlier than I expected.

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  5. I usually read all of the reviews, both good and bad.
    One can tell which reviews have been penned by the manufacturers and which ones are genuinely written by the folks who bought the product.
    I make my mind up from reading both sets of reviews. I have found that persons who have axes to grind spend their time and effort on writing incredibly bad reviews.
    I have purchased many products with bad reviews because I had already had the opportunity to experience the product beforehand, and found it to be a good product.
    I said all of the above to say, take the Amazon reviews with a grain of salt.

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    1. Gosh, Virginia, you are very thorough. The time that you helped me out so graciously if I had read the product reviews beforehand I would have discovered that the part I wanted had been discontinued from sale in the UK.

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  6. Like Frances, my Mum is an Amazon Vine member and gets to review all sorts of stuff from pans to baking mixtures to shower gels to books, and I do of course trust her opinion (although it is not always the same as mine). Since I do not buy much from Amazon myself, I usually only read other people's reviews when I post my own review. A lot of the kindle books I read are free copies of old books where my is the first and only review, but when there are others, I am always interested to see what they said about the book. They do not influence my opinion, though, and certainly not my decision to buy or not to buy, since it is only afterwards that I read them.
    Include me in the club of singularly silly people :-)

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    1. Of all the adjectives I might ascribe to you Meike 'silly' is definitely not one of them.

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  7. I tend to check the 1 star reviews first to see if the people making them are stupid or not. I then check out the 3 star reviews and tend to rely on the comments there rather than looking too closely at the sycophantic 5 star reviews.

    Now I'm sure Frances and Librarian's Mum write good/sensible reviews via Amazon Vine, but I've seen/heard about so many bad reviews from that programme that I honestly don't see the point of it. The problem seems to be that Amazon send out stuff for review to people who aren't at all qualified to review it; this seems to happen a lot to technical books. The reviews then end up being about the cover picture or the quality of printing, which honestly aren't usually relevant when I'm looking for a technical book. I guess Amazon is really the one to blame here for letting people review things that they know nothing about.

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    1. Mark I've never thought about reviews of technical books. I suppose, because I thought reviews were by people who bought the books, I would have assumed that a technical review would always have been by a technical person.

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  8. I look for the number (or proportion) of positive reviews rather than worrying about the occasional negative one, but if the item is expensive then I'll read the negative reviews to make sure that there aren't any genuine faults with the product.

    Can it really be next week we're coming to see you?! Time flies!

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    1. Helen that's pretty much the road I go along consistent with Monica's (Dawn Treader) approach.

      Yes only nine more sleeps until I meet you at Stornoway Airport.

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