Recommendations / May 30, 2013

The Worst Sort of Product Rating

In the era of online shopping and downloading, product reviews are a crucial part of any choice. When I go to Amazon or Goodreads or just about anywhere to look at a product the reviews make a significant difference. But I’ve noticed something about these reviews. The worst ones are not the lowest ones.

A one star review draws the eye. Why did the person hate the product so much? Did they buy a dud? Was it not the right product for their needs? Usually when you go read their comments you come away with the idea that they simply didn’t get what they wanted. Occasionally they bought a dud, the one product of a lot wasn’t good quality. In the world of movies and books they often just hate the entire genre (see: negative reviews of all comedies) or see it as a lower form of art, which makes the review invalid from the get-go since the reviewer is not, in fact, reviewing the actual product. He is simply exhibiting genre bias.
Yes, one star ratings lower the average consumer “score” for products. That’s why the conglomerate star rating should never be all you look at. But those same low reviews are often terribly inaccurate. And if you read the attached review you usually see something reactionary and often bombastic which is pretty easy to disregard.

The worst ratings are the two and three star ones, the average ratings. They aren’t written by reactionary, angry ranters. They just make a product blah. High ratings obviously catch the eye. Low ratings are either ignorable or intriguing. (Maybe it’s just me but if enough people hate a book or movie I want to find out why.)  But who wants to buy a three star book or watch a two star movie? That’s just boring. It’s not even worth exploring.

The old adage “all publicity is good publicity” fits well. High and low ratings catch the eye; they are publicity. Those middling ratings are too boring to even notice. They generate no buzz. They serve only to move the consumer right on to the next product. So if you are looking to undermine a product give it an average review. Make it boring. Don’t catch my eye with a one star, vitriolic, ranting review.     

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