Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Sunday rant: reviewing stuff online

I don't know about you but I'm thankful for people who post reviews of products. It's a great way to get a grip on the quality of an item, and it's helpful when you need a hint about the sizing of clothes. But I have a complaint. If a company invites reviews, they have to do it sensibly.

Case in point. Recently I reviewed a leather bag I purchased at Levenger. Sadly, I broke the golden rule by posting my review the very same day I received the bag. That's not the way to go. You have to live with a thing to discover its pleasures and faults. Then you post a review. What can I say? I was overly happy with the bag.

The problem concerns the ability to edit reviews. Amazon, for instance, allows you to edit your reviews. This way you get a second chance if you discover something new about the product -- or if you're simply unhappy with what you said or how you said it. The same is true of Blogger. If you leave a comment on a post here, and then decide you don't like it, you can kill the comment and post a different one -- or none at all. However, Levenger doesn't allow customers to edit reviews. That's way too controlling. And it's counter-productive.

This policy reduces the accuracy of reviews. The customer has something more to say, something she considers an important addition to the review -- so let her say it. In my case, I'd read one review of the product that mentioned a terrible odor that smelled like petroleum. I sniffed my bag and didn't smell anything like that. It seemed to have a "new leather" smell, and nothing more. So that's what I said in the review.

But the next day when I showed the bag to a friend, she sniffed it and said "Eeeeyuuuuw! That's awful!" So I stuck my nose inside the bag (as she had) and there it was: the much-rumored smell of petroleum.

Now, here's a weird side-issue: I like the smell. It reminds me of pleasant days I spent as a teenager, working on my motorcycle in the garage. These happy times coincided with the smell of petroleum. I guess that's why I didn't react to the odor at first. To me, it was simply pleasant.

I don't know. Perhaps some people don't care about a review after it's up. But I feel embarrassed to have said that the odor isn't present. I mean, it's there. I'd like to correct this but I can't because Levenger won't let me.

That sucks. I won't review any more Levenger products until this policy changes. Oddly, in the meantime the smell wore off. I left the bag open for three days and it's pretty much gone. Still, I don't like to mislead people. But there's nothing I can do about it. Grrrrrrr!

Anyway, keep on reviewing stuff, folks. It helps other people. And yes, we savvy buyers are able to tell which reviews are shills, scams and lies placed online by tacky, unethical manufacturers. We easily discount those and are able to get useful information from the remaining reviews. It's a good business practice that's very helpful to consumers.

Have you had any weird online reviewing experiences? Do tell.