To buy or not to buy

The fare comes to Rs. 492. I hand over a five hundred rupee note. While searching diligently for the change to return, the Ola driver smiles sheepishly and says, ‘Sir, five star please’..

Let me simplify this for you. There are two kinds of reviews. Influenced reviews and honest reviews. Or, paid reviews and honest reviews. Actually paid reviews would never put a disclaimer that it is a paid review. So you have honest paid reviews and honest reviews. Some honest reviews are not paid in advance. But they come with an honest admission like – if you click the link and buy the product the reviewer may get some commission out of it. At least in this case the reviewer is honest in putting forth his intention for writing the review. So there can be pre-paid reviews, post paid reviews, honest reviews, undisclosed honest reviews, serious reviews, casual reviews ….. wait. It is not all that simple after all.

Some time back Maria Popova who runs the popular website ‘Brain Pickings’ drew flak when it was discovered that she was making a lot of money out of affiliate links even though her website declared that the sole source of revenue came from donations of generous readers. There goes your honest reviews.

But there are reviewers who do not get paid by the product owners. They wish to create and protect their reputation for honest reviews. Even in such cases the reviews could be as good as the bias and and the lack of product knowledge of the reviewer.

The taste, inclination and the prejudice of the reviewer may make the review universally inapplicable. Take the case of movies and books. Each book or movie can appeal to a particular type of audience. It is possible that the critic is the wrong audience for that book or movie. Sometimes people with a taste for art movies review commercial movies and speak very low of these. But the movies become a commercial record breakers leaving the reviewers red faced. Some times such reviewers become objects of ridicule.

Earlier, published reviews were restricted to newspapers and magazines. These days online marketing platforms and utility apps have made every one a potential published reviewer. When you go to the review section on an Amazon product, the range of contrasting reviews for the same product may confuse you. You may find that mediocre products have got an overall five star rating and products that have been considered timeless classics have got three star ratings. It may be noted that overall rating for a product is a kind of quantified representation of aggregated opinions.

We have made tremendous progress in ease of publicizing reviews, and then classify, quantify and demystify mass and expert reviews. Unfortunately for me, in spite of all such evolutionary steps, when I have to make a wise choice, the existential dilemma still remains – to buy or not to buy.

(In response to Indispire Edition 288 )

11 thoughts on “To buy or not to buy

  1. We know the concept of caveat emptor . Similarly, the readers should do at least the basic analysis of what they read. It is a good idea to stick to reputed sources and compare the recommendations of at least three reviewers.

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  2. It is tricky to be a reviewer. Be it a book or a consumer good or human behaviour. A dishonest review creates credibility issue. A dishonest review makes the writer / creator angry. I had one such experience. I did not say a book was bad. But I made a few suggestions. The author went ballistic. In most social media space, we often do not have time and energy to read a full post. So most readers simply press like. Those who are a bit more generous include “Nice post” in comment section. Hope is, the writer will read reviewer’s post and do the same. A good reviewer puts his point across without sounding rude. But there are a very few of them.

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    1. Honest observations there. In this age of paid news, paid reviews cannot be avoided. What it means is that reviews should not be taken at face value. Of course, with time, the discerning reader knows what book to read and the movie connoisseur knows what movies are worth spending one’s time and money.

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  3. Yes, the entire process of reviewing has undergone a sea-change with online media management stepping up their noise purely for the sake of sales graphs. However, despite the pitfalls, reviews do make a lot of sense… for instance, before buying a product from Amazon, I do go through experiential reviews by customers and they do help me reach an informed decision.

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