Online reviews: are they useful, and do you use them?

Yesterday when the menfolk came to visit us girls at my mom’s place, we got into a conversation about online reviews.

Do you read reviews?

I’m always hesitant about spending too much time reading product reviews, for instance. How do I know the person leaving the review is legitimate? Unless their icon takes me someplace legit where I can see something, I find I don’t give that reviewer much value.

Today, many, dare I say most people, have an online presence. A profile, of sorts. After all, we’re tracked day and night by our phones, our online searches, our every word we type into any screen.

Yet reviews, it seems, hold a certain value for those who consume the internet. And not just consume it, but purchase things. Places like etsy, ebay and other places rely on feedback.

My partner does a lot of research before shopping for stuff. Sometimes though, I think that maybe there is such a thing as spending too much time researching. Not every item we need/want is a huge expense warranting endless hours of reviews, and besides, almost everything is made in China these days which doesn’t exactly imply quality (to me). (Sorry not sorry.)

I mean, how much of the day-to-day stuff do we purchase at the dollar store, or Walmart and similar mass retailers where the bulk of their stock comes from China?

So I take the reviews that are placed on websites with a grain of salt.


There are other types of reviews that populate the internet. Readers leave reviews of material they have read: books, articles, essays, blog posts…

I try to leave reviews for things I read online, and sometimes even go the extra step to hurl one out on social media like twitter. There are also websites dedicated to leaving book reviews, including amazon/kindle, and goodreads…I sometimes remember to access those sites to leave my commentary.

Not always though. I want to give a thoughtful review, which requires eloquent thought and meaningful words. Words I have to put into such an order that they actually make sense to the reader, which is something that requires eloquent thought…

And we have come full circle. 🙂

The reason I bring this up now is because I spent some time reading and subsequently submitting stories, and flash fiction, to various venues today. But before I choose a venue to submit my work to, I read some of their published works first. I really like doing that; it gives me a better idea whether my chosen piece is suitable for that particular publication, or not. For instance, if I write a piece about some relationship dilemma, and the magazine focuses mostly on outdoor activities, or pets, then that wouldn’t be an appropriate place to submit this story.

I do my research, is what I’m saying. Research is time consuming but a necessary evil…and if you’re not careful you end up in some internet rabbit hole (and possibly in review purgatory)…

But I digress.

I read several stories in one venue of interest today. I didn’t like all of them, and I didn’t finish some of them. But a couple stood out and intrigued me. One in particular. It enthralled me.

I read the piece and forgot that I had to finish writing something, finish editing something else, my glass was empty, I had to pee… None of it interrupted my reading of this particular story.

So I sat there and read it and then immediately turned on twitter. I looked for both the publication she published in as well as her twitter handle, and hurled a complimentary tweet out into the social internet to let her, and the publication, know that I really enjoyed her piece.

Note to self: do this more often. People appreciate knowing that their writing touched them in some way.

In general, I think the majority of us are capable of being both honest and polite when leaving a review. Not mean or derogatory, or passive aggressive. I think this is important, and shows you are a professional, or at least, acting like one. Let us remember that our profiles on the internet are there to stay forever and all of eternity…

Unless you’re reviewing a crappy product that had misleading information and cost you too much money and caused you all sorts of grief. In that case, let ‘er rip. 😛

What do you think about reviews? Do you make a distinction between product reviews and written articles/book reviews?

41 thoughts on “Online reviews: are they useful, and do you use them?

  1. I only ever read amazon negative reviews when looking to buy something, years ago I used to write my own but now I just can’t be ass’d! Why only negative reviews? Well I think you can spot the honest ones when someone’s genuinely p****d, taken the trouble to share why the thing didn’t work and that’s useful to know.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading book reviews is very important to me. This helps decide if the book is what I imagine. I bought a book once for what the title said and it was a bad purchase.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I often do read 2 or 3 reviews if I’m buying something online. It made me laugh when you mentioned your partner though. My husband drives me nuts researching purchases for months before actually buying them. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The reviews of political books on amazon are pretty funny. If you want a laugh just browse the one stars. Some people get so angry.

    Also I think there’s a new form of humor emerging with regard to reviews and questions on amazon. Some people post funny reviews and I once spent a while reading the questions about the amazon Echo device when it came out first. There were many questions taking the mickey. One person asked, “My dog is called Alexa, is that going to be a problem?”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One thing’s for sure – reviews have changed the the way we purchase things. I’m sure that reviews are driving up standards especially in products and services. Suppliers are desperate to get good ratings. We buy a lot of stuff online these days and my wife won’t buy anything unless the supplier has a very good rating.

    I seem to remember that no so long ago a company (I can’t remember which one but maybe amazon) sued one of those companies who pay people to place good reviews and ratings. I think that shows how they take the reviews seriously. Amazon now has a verified purchase thing on their website and I’m sure they are looking at other ways of making reviews more valid.

    I’m still not sure about books and movies. They are too subjective. The only way you are going to find out if you like a book or not is to read it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. When it comes to reviews, especially when it comes to books and writing, both the positive and the negative have immense value. What one person really likes may be something another person really doesn’t and the same for the other way around. I find this especially true on books, but it applies to most anything. And yes, I do tend to read reviews (and write them, at least for books) on a lot of different products.

    It seems to be way too easy for just about anyone to drop a product out there for sale anymore without any standard for quality and still make money off it. When you have store buyers for stock, they have to decide on what customers would be most likely to spend their money on as they have a limited budget and floor space. Huge online retailers like Amazon don’t have those same constraints, especially when it comes to the individual vendors that ship items themselves and put whatever junk they want out there. That is why reviews and ratings are so important as it helps to weed out those that are looking to make a buck off the people that aren’t willing to take the time to look deeper.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think book reviews are different to product reviews because books are so personal. My wife and I rarely agree on books. I almost never leave a book review. If I do, I only leave good reviews for books I particularly liked but I’ve only done that maybe 3 or 4 times ever. I work on the old maxim – if you can’t say something good then don’t say anything at all. If I especially enjoyed or was moved by a book I try to send a message to the author saying so. Almost always they reply to say they are very happy to hear from their readers. I don’t do that very often either and usually it’s for a new author. I’m not an author but I kind of think for a new author they might want to know if their readers like their book. I paint, so when I do a new painting I’m insecure enough so that when someone praises my painting without even being asked for their opinion then I’m thrilled and encouraged. I assume that’s the same for writers.

    We buy a lot from amazon because we live out in the sticks and they are very efficient even if they are the devil incarnate (according to my daughters). It always amazes me how, for the same book, there will be one review which says “this is the best book I’ve ever read” and another which says “this is the worst book I’ve ever read”.

    Product reviews are useful when they highlight particular faults or problems with it. Especially with regard to reliability. There are lots of products on amazon where someone will say “this product was great at the beginning but it failed after a month”. That happens with the best manufacturers but if there are multiple reviews with the same report then I’d avoid it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I used to review every book I read on Goodreads, but have slacked off the past year. Most of my reviews were never below a 4 star as If only read books I like. If I don’t like the book I don’t continue with it…..but lately as my library book selection has been rather limited due to curbside pickup, I’ve found some less than good reads. Then I go on Goodreads and see if anyone else had the same problem I had/have and if I see enough of the same comments then I abandon it. We have to remember though that someone put a lot of work and effort into their book, so I try and be realistic about why it just didn’t work for me, and not too harsh. I will search out product reviews for something like a fridge, but wonder if some of those are paid endorsements, esp on Amazon. I’ll also read clothing reviews ex. Columbia website…..almost ordered a spring coat on sale until I read the reviews that the hood was not detachable, as it sure looked hoodless in the picture!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The thing about the books is tricky I think. Because it’s so subjective and can change anytime. What I liked last year may not appeal to me this year. But I too know how hard it is to write a book and get it out to readers so no matter what I try to be honest without the negativity if the book didn’t appeal too much.

      We had many issues with our Samsung fridge. We spent a lot of time reading reviews after the warranty expired… 🙂 Almost all negative reviews appeared at the same time as us – 2 years after the warranty was no longer valid.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I use reviews, but with a method. First, I ignore the 1-star and the 5-star. Both tend to be plants. I then look for a “theme”. If I am buying a weed trimmer, for instance, how many of those 2,3 and 4 star reviews mention the same fault? If I keep reading about how a little plastic part broke, then I take that to mean it is a legitimate issue. If I read about an issue just once, then it becomes a user fault.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I am always wary of online product reviews. For most people buying most products, the product will be fine — it does what was expected without being either great or terrible. And if you have a product like that, then most people aren’t going to bother posting a review. So you are left with the minority of people who either loved or hated the product which gives you a very unbalanced impression.

    That said, I will read professional reviewers before making a significant purchase.

    As for book reviews, I tend to ignore any star ratings and read the reviews in order to determine whether the book is for me or not. It helps if I know the people writing the reviews and how closely their taste aligns to mine, but if everyone is raving about some theme or trope that I don’t care about then I know the book probably isn’t for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes it’s so obvious a review has been fabricated by the sakes force it’s almost comical.

      It’s tricky with books. I tend to read reviews after I read, although with some authors or titles I may read some before. It really depends on my mood.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fake reviews can often stick out like a sore thumb.

        The thing with books is that it often comes down to a question of taste and, if I read reviews before picking up the book I am really trying to establish whether the book fits with my preferences, not whether the book is good or bad in any objective sense.

        Whether I read reviews afterwards tends to depend how much I liked the book. If I really liked it, I will look for reviews because I want to talk about it. If I didn’t like it, or it was just okay, then I probably won’t bother.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I only read book reviews AFTER I’ve read the book. I don’t need stranger’s opinions because I take recommendations from people whose opinions I respect, but I’m curious what other people thought. I often look at the one star reviews of a book I loved and they are usually DNF or some seriously disgruntled person who makes me wonder who hurt them to make them so hateful. My book has all positive reviews on Amazon and only one meh review on Goodreads (as far as I know.) I’ve actually met a few people recently who said they read the reviews of my book and couldn’t wait to read it, so that’s helpful.
    Regarding product reviews, I am in the market for a lot expensive items so reviews are helpful. Details about why the product met or didn’t meet expectations is really great when you’re buying appliances, expensive tools, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve checked out really bad reviews before. Out of curiosity. And honestly, the ones I’ve read were written by idiots.

      One was for a non-insulated stainless steel travel mug. It said clearly it was not insulated, not meant for hot beverages. Idiot decided to pour coffee into it, burnt himself, then wrote up a bad review. I mean…come on. 😬

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I think product reviews are helpful…I usually throw out the most complimentary and the most critical, and look at those somewhere between.
    As an author, reviews are critical…I am so appreciative when readers take the time to review my work.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I often read book reviews before buying, though being aware that they are going to reflect individual tastes. But if a theme shows up repeatedly (like the story contains too graphic violence or long-winded descriptions or typos) it’s good to know. It may not deter me from buying but at least I am prepared. The same for other items. I just got a selfie ring light and tripod (getting ready for the fall semester, when I’ll be teaching mostly online) even if some of the reviews were critical. It seemed like it would serve its purpose and that’s what I care about.
    On the other side of the issue, I always leave book reviews on Amazon and/ or Goodreads because as an author, I know that getting reviews often feels like pulling teeth! And I try to be as generous as possible, finding something good to say even if I don’t give the book four or five stars.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand the practicalities of some reviews, like equipment for online teaching. My partner might look at reviews about microphones and take those at face value. What worked? What didn’t? Why or why not? So yes, definitely.

      Book reviews are exciting for authors. 🙂 I really try to leave at least something somewhere for an author I enjoyed.


  14. I rarely read book reviews as I find every ones taste different. For example, people rave about Oprah’s picks and I’ve despised everyone I’ve ever read. I do use Trip Advisor when we travel and have found it quite useful in avoiding the tourist traps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The whole Oprah or celebrity reviews and recos irritate me to no end. I’d rather read a review by a blogger I got to “know” than some celebrity who likely hasn’t even used the product or read the book.


  15. I will look at star rating, but rarely pay too much attention to reviews. I think too,any good or bad reviews signals an issue. Much depends on the actual product though. I rarely look at reviews of clothes, more likely to look at reviews of appliances, but don’t take too much stock in them

    Liked by 1 person

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