It’s hard writing negative reviews…
I was peer reviewing a loudspeaker review today and had to laugh when I got to the reviewer’s conclusion – which went something like this:
“After hearing this system I can maybe, sort of, in particular cases recommend this product to some people sometimes if they really want it perhaps.”
OK, it wasn’t that bad (but almost), but it brought to mind the times I’ve been caught off guard with a so-so product. The only thing worse than a bad review, in my opinion is a mediocre review. It does no one any good. If the product isn’t bad enough to warrant a thorough trouncing and it isn’t at least moderately good enough to be a recommended product in some cases, then you are stuck with something akin to gargling luke warm water. People just want to spit it out of their mouths. It’s not entertaining since it doesn’t slam the product sufficiently enough to get a “heck yeah!” from the peanut gallery, and it’s not something people will find interesting if they are shopping for competing products.
The Optoma DV11 was a very ‘luke warm’ review for me. On one side it was an interesting concept – portable projector with integrated slot-loading DVD player. That’s cool, right? Now hamstring it with a native (less-than-HD-and not-widescreen) 800×600 resolution, remove all semblance of video processing quality… well, you’ve got a very middle-of-the-road product that should have been cool.
Now, the last product I really took to the cleaners (and it deserved it) was an Axion 20-inch LCD TV with integrated DVD player (what is it with me and slot-loading DVD players???) That product sucked on a number of levels. The only reason it didn’t garner less than 2.5 was because it had the DVD player and that is a useful, space-saving feature to have. Value got a 2, however.
Then there was the infamous ad notam Mirror TV. To this day I’m not sure that I’ve ever given another product a 1 star value rating… After realizing that the item was ridiculously overpriced, and sending emails to the company to indicate this – ad notam actually RAISED the price to an unbelievable $7000. For a sub-par 30-inch LCD with a piece of one-way glass over it! That review is legendary in my mind, though I think I was quite kind to it overall.
Nobody likes doing negative, or worse – mediocre – reviews. It’s a horrendously boring and frustrating experience. Out of sheer guilt (after all YOU accepted the product) you find yourself looking for the good – trying to eek out that scrap of minuscule praise that can be leveraged to help the product not appear to be completely without merit or hope… And then there’s the technical peer review process… since you are essentially sending a bad review to the manufacturer to fact-check you just KNOW they are going to do one of several things:
- try to send you a new product claiming the one you have is defective (trust us, it RARELY is)
- try to convince you that it’s not as bad as it seems (yes it is)
- attempt to have you not post the review since you simply MUST be crazy and ALL the OTHER reviewers just raved about it online and in print
- never send you anything to review ever again
So what have I learned? Bad reviews happen to good reviewers. That’s the way it is in a “fallen” world. A wise woman once said: You take the good, you take the bad, you take them…. uh, never mind.