Review Do’s & Don’ts

Did you ever read a review for some product or service that ended by saying “Do your homework” or “Do your research”? This is of course a rhetorical question. The real question is, when did you last read a review that did not say that?

Let’s face it. The reason you are reading reviews is because you are doing your research. You are interested in a type of service, e.g., cross country moving, or car insurance, or a type of product, e.g., a digital camcorder, so you go online and look for reviews.

Reviews are supposed to give objective facts, subjective opinions, and conclude with a recommendation. The recommendation ought to be justified by the reviewer. It gives you an opportunity to agree or disagree. Reviews are not supposed to just reiterate the press release and advertisement from the company offering this product or service.

Alas, most reviews one finds today by various magazines, newspapers, or online sources do not adhere to these simple requirements. Many just give you list of things to watch out for. Of course, it is important to know what criteria are critical. But then there are two more steps. First, review pertinent products regarding these criteria, and second, organize that information in a way that results are easily interpretable. Ideally, there will be a recommendation for a particular service or product given a certain set of constraints.

There is but one important exception: Consumerreports.org. Here you get some quick picks and a detailed table listing all the features and their rating. Of course, you have to pay to access them, so you get what you pay for is true once more. It is just a shame that ConsumerReports cannot review everything. Also, it would be nice if you could click on individual items to get more detailed information. Free reviews found online are, with few exceptions, worth just that.

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