“Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Today is a sad day for me. Today I watched a large community of reviewers essentially agree to be “more positive” in their reviews, I assume in part (if not in all) to ensure the flow of free products.
As reviewers, I understand there are certain pressures. If we write negative reviews, perhaps we will lose our sponsors. If we write negative reviews, what product is there to buy through our links? Even if our sponsors are okay with negative reviews, I have seen manufacturers come down from on high to criticize negative reviews of their products. It’s stressful. I get it.
Herein lies the thing: negative reviews are crucial. Why? Whether you’re writing on a company site or your blog, people are trusting you when you type up those words. Thousands, if not millions, of people will stumble onto your review and use it in part to make a buying decision. Perhaps sometimes the item is $10, sometimes $100. It doesn’t matter. Someone worked for that money. Not everyone gets these items free for testing. I think sometimes that fact gets lost.
I have fallen victim to the falsely positive review. I have been on sites and seen rave reviews of what turned out to be a crap product. You know what? I was pissed and I bet you would be too.
I see people who say they write honestly, yet somehow every review is glowing. So out of hundreds of products not a single one was a dud? Okay, sure.
I also see people who openly state they will only write positive reviews. The only reply I can muster to this “what’s the fucking point then?” Let’s take a moment to remember what “review” actually means:
To examine with an eye to criticism or correction;
To write or give a critical report on
How one could gleam from that “write positively about” I’ll never know. No, I’m not saying all reviews should be negative, but perhaps the term “critical report” should be in the forefront of our minds as we write.
Am I overreacting? I dunno, maybe a little. Today I saw someone state that if a product did as claimed, that meant a positive review even if they didn’t personally like it. So the box states “Runs on AAA batteries, 7 Functions, Waterproof.” Great. It does indeed take AAA batteries. Putting them in makes the toy turn on. Check! Click through and seven functions are found. Check! Didn’t die when placed in water. Check! Orgasm? No, but that wasn’t on the box I guess. Five stars!
Can someone explain to me how that review helped anyone make a good buying decision? To me, performing as stated by the manufacturer is a bare minimum, not some great accomplishment. You know the type of people who complain because they don’t get told “good job” for doing the most basic things required of them? Yeah, it’s like that. You do not get a freakin’ gold star simply for turning on without a malfunction.
Sex toys are such a personal thing. There is no one toy that will work for every person out there. To give high ratings because “it may work for someone” is no longer reviewing. It’s writing a long product page. Sex toy reviews must then come from personal experience. Did the damn thing make you cum or not? That’s really what it boils down to in a simple sense.
Yes, I provide a lot of technical details in my reviews because I believe that specs are important in buying decisions. All the best specs in the world don’t make a good product though. This is why I am pretty strict about not giving over three stars for a toy I got nothing out of. If something isn’t good, you will know.
As a reviewer, I stand by my negative reviews. If they have lost me potential sponsors or sales, then so be it. My integrity means more to me than free toys or money. My readers’ trust means more to me.
As a reader, I have complete respect for those of you who are not afraid to write truthfully. When I am making a buying decision, it is the truthful among you I will turn to. I know we each face a decision with every review to write honestly or make a sponsor or manufacturer happy. I know this decision can be difficult and I’m almost certain that the latter leads to more free items and affiliate commissions, at least in the short term. In the long run though, it is the reviewers who speak truth that people will go to.
I like writing positive reviews. I like when something blows me out of the water and I get to go on and on about how amazing it was. I don’t really get off on saying things are awful. In my mind, however, I am a failure as a reviewer if I don’t do so.
I know I don’t write a lot of non-review content here, mostly because I’m more of a technical writer than a creative one, but I thought this was important enough to warrant a post. So I leave with this:
“You ask me what forces me to speak? a strange thing; my conscience.” ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
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