Since Ryan wrote the post on helping people and making the world a better place, I’m going to write the rant for the week on helping people and making the world a better place – just not in the way you think.
The consistent and widely employed precursor to making a purchase in the 21st century, whether online or in person, is to look it up the product on Amazon.com and read the user reviews. Furthermore, if you want to see a movie or buy an MP3, or download an app it’s usually a safe bet to check out IMDB or iTunes (and Amazon) to see what people thought of it to assess whether or not you will like it.
It’s a glorious period that we live in to where we can determine with dramatically increased accuracy if a product is suitable for our tastes, going to fit our need, and be worth our hard earned money. I’m far from old, but I still remember having the strong desire to buy something and saving up for it, only to be disappointed by it shortly after purchasing. The terrible feeling in your stomach of buyers remorse is never something we want to repeat. Reading reviews on stuff would have saved me loads of time and money and sheer disappointment. Think of all the throw-away products that would have received terrible reviews online that you could have avoided had a bunch of reviews been available and accessible. It gets to a point where you know that paying a little bit more for a quality, lasting product that isn’t going to crap out on you the third time (or the first time) you use it! A few weeks ago I was in Target to buy a pan to make corned beef for St. Paddy’s day – just a cheap pan for a festive occasion – and I still went on Target’s website to read reviews on the 5 or so pans that were presented on the shelf. Who reads reviews on a pan? This guy. Reviews are important.
So what’s my point? PROOF READ YOUR F***ING REVIEWS!!! That’s my point. I have come across an untold number of reviews with egregious spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors. Many of them are lacking in a structured thought thread that could so easily be corrected with just one quick read through before you click ‘submit’.
Think of it this way: Your entire history of online and physical purchases is unlike anyone else’s. A well thought out review can have a dramatic impact on someone’s purchase decision. So when a reviewer writes schlock, they automatically discredit themselves in the readers eyes and distract them from the whole reason that they wrote a review to begin with.
A rule that I learned early on in school was to re-read everything you write. Get your thoughts out on the ‘paper’ (or text box) and then re-read it for yourself and clean it up as you go. It is so simple, it only takes a minute, and if you catch mistakes you will have greatly improved your review to the very people (and the very reason you are writing a review) you are trying to help. By no means am I saying that every review you post has to be amazing and incredibly well written, but just clean it up so that your ideas are clear to a complete stranger. That’s it. A simple once over to clean it up of obvious mistakes.
Now, having said all that, there is another reason to write your best review: The Chinese Review Machine. The CRM are actual PAID sources for product reviews. They are paid by companies to either promote their product or to trash competitors. These account for many of the terrible reviews out there. They are not quite masters of the Queen’s English and therefore their reviews look like shit and are pretty easy to pick out. Consequently your reviews need to stand out from the crap that the CRM puts out there. Real consumers (I hate the way that sounds) are the only thing that can help other consumers and that’s why your reviews are so critical.
This post was more than half written before I learned of the passing of revered film critic, Roger Ebert. What Roger Ebert did for a living underscores my point emphatically.
Ebert is a shining example of the attitude towards writing that we should take when trying to communicate our thoughts and opinions to strangers online. The whole point of online product/movie/music reviews is to share with others what we thought of a something and whether or not others should engage with it. Your contribution is a source of pride for you and it shouldn’t be treated haphazardly. You can always take down a review, but its impact on a buyer lasts forever.