All Reviews Need to Be Taken With a Grain of Salt

reviewsI’ve been disturbed recently reading reviews on the internet across a myriad of topics. The three biggest offenders for me are reviews on books, reviews on over the counter products and reviews on recipes. These reviews are put up on the web where the anonymity of the internet allows consumers to post how they feel about a product, whether or not that person is even credible. Many times they are not.

One Star Book Reviews: Most of the time if you see someone post a one star review they are either a troll (a person out to simply be vindictive to that author, or they just want to make a nasty statement to hurt someone). Why do I say this? Because if you READ the review, you’ll realize the reader many times NEVER even read the book, didn’t go more than two pages, reviews another book and mixed them up, or is upset that they thought they bought a romance and got a thriller. I kid you not. I’ve seen people give one star reviews because they bought a book in the wrong genre and are blaming the author. I saw another person give a book a one star review because they bought Book #5 or #6 in an epic series and were upset they didn’t know the history of the series because they never purchased the other previous novels.

Now, I’m not saying people aren’t entitled to say they hated a book, but make sure the review is solid. Is it poorly written? Filled with grammatical errors? Did they not like the plot or heroine? If there is a solid reason for that one star, okay, if not move on.

One Star on OTC (over the counter products like aspirin, laxatives, allergy meds, etc): I saw this yesterday all over amazon. People giving reviews for medications. The big thing I noticed is that most people claiming one star reviews over-medicated themselves each and every time and were trashing the products for the side effects. One medication said take 1-3 pills with lots of water. (and to START with one) These people went right ahead and claimed they took three pills and were upset they got very bad side effects like their insides were about to explode. Even when the packaging said that you should start with one, but you CAN take up to three if your symptoms keep persisting. I saw one star after one star review, all of these people took too much medication and then blamed the product. Others already have problems where they shouldn’t even take this product in the first place, others didn’t drink enough water, milk, food, with the medications and blamed the product. It’s odd to me that people will feel this need to post in this fashion. Where is their own responsibility in this? People must be participatory in their own healthcare issues. Be smart.

One star recipe reviews. I’m a cook, so I read reviews on recipes all the time. I know enough about cooking to be able to look at a recipe and adjust it if I need to, but when I see a one star review for something and the person didn’t have half of the ingredients in the recipe and instead substituted and THEN writes a one star review that says “this wasn’t tasty at all,” well, I have zero sympathy. I didn’t have sugar, so I used X, and I didn’t have nuts, so I used X and I didn’t have wine so I used X. How in the world can you write a bad review of a recipe if you didn’t use the ingredients listed or follow the directions?

Some of my favorite one star comments:

The meat was tough, but I didn’t have enough time to cook it for the instructed 5-6 hours, so I just upped the temperature on the stove. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

I didn’t have tomatoes so I used bell peppers instead. (gee, are we magicians that we can turn bell peppers into a decadent tomato sauce without tomatoes?)

I know the recipe called for fennel, but it was too fennel-y for me. And I also don’t like fennel in the first place.

The thing is, think before you review something. People look at reviews, but we are starting to be smart enough to realize some of our reviewers are not credible. If you haven’t even purchased or read more than a page of a book, and slam it, well, you have no credibility. If you slam a product because you didn’t take the correct dosing and overmedicated yourself and now have side effects, that’s your problem. If you do a recipe and substitute ingredients and are upset with the end result, that is again your problem.

I think people just don’t like to follow directions. They want to beat to their own drum and get upset when things don’t go their way. Accountability folks.


34 thoughts on “All Reviews Need to Be Taken With a Grain of Salt

  1. I have a friend who is a best selling author, she has had one star reviews from people who have just read the first page or have been told about the book from a friend! I only review things I like, my mother always told me if you don’t have anything nice to say keep quiet!

  2. I remember going into my favourite Indian restaurant, which I have been eating in for years and hearing a gentleman complain about the amount of time he had waited for his takeaway. The owner apologised and offered him a complimentary bottle of wine. The gentleman rather gruffly refused the wine and left with his takeaway. I don’t know whether he subsequently left a review of the restaurant but, if he did I suspect it would have been a 1 or 2 star rating resulting from the slow arrival of his food. The man’s experience is regretable, however had he been a little more gracious and accepted the apology together with the wine his experience (and any review) would have been higher than a 1-2 star. Kevin

    • That’s a really great comment – I think people forget that we’re all human and sometimes things take a little bit of time. We live in a world of “instant gratification” and this owner tried to apologize. Mistakes happen, orders get screwed up. I’m always amazed when people in restaurants complain they didn’t get their chicken dishes in five minutes. I look at them and say “you know it takes more than five minutes to COOK chicken, right?”

  3. There’s nothing as ‘odd’ as folk! Everything is subjective, and yet, I agree that some reviews are just mean for the sake of it. I’ve had a couple where I wonder if they are talking about the same book? Even one where they said they didn’t want to read it (Gone in this instance) and so only gave it one star! Weird – and yet, we have to ignore such fools and write for our own sake.

    Good post, Elyse.

  4. Good post, Elyse.
    When I get a bad review for one of my books, a review that’s gibberish, I’m pleased to see that even illiterates buy books. At least that person paid me for the privilege of making a fool of himself at my expense. Once in a while, I get a bad review from somebody who read my book and didn’t like it. That’s okay. Tastes differ, and I find those negative reviews valuable if they explain why they didn’t like it.
    I think most people shopping for something and reading reviews are savvy enough not to be swayed by the kind of reviews that you mentioned. They just chuckle at the review, shake their head, and move on to the reviews that have real information about the product. I don’t think shoppers pay a lot of attention to star ratings alone.

    • Let’s hope they don’t pay as much attention. I do read one star reviews though – it’s like this compulsion to see what was so bad you’d take the time to write it, but then I realize none of them every sway my decision.

  5. I learned early in the game, before the Internet was “the thing” for reviews. Ebert and Siskel (and others like them) would review movies. It seemed that whatever Woody Allen produced or starred in, it was 2-thumbs up. I don’t care for Woody so it was usually 2-thumbs down BUT there were a few I did enjoy. They gave bad reviews for a movie – Short Circuit – and the movie basically bombed at the theaters BUT got rave reviews on the rental circuit and became one of the highest renters. How do I know? I worked a video rental store part-time back then and clients were always looking for good family fare. I discovered many movies the critics didn’t like that I thought were well done and fun to watch. Bottom line – sure a 1-star review can be vicious, but until I’ve had a chance to try it, it is just another person’s opinion. And, yes, you have to do a recipe the way it is given or know what you’re doing in the kitchen. I’m not a big lover of spicy foods so I tone those down but I don’t substitute until the 2nd attempt on the recipes so I know what it should/shouldn’t taste like. Regarding OTC drugs. They are drugs – use as prescribed, not as you feel you should. Just because a little does some good, a lot doesn’t necessarily mean it is better. Great post! I don’t give out 1-star reviews unless it is definitely bad and should be avoided. As stated before, my momma told me if I can’t say something nice, don’t say anything… just smile.

  6. I fully agree. I have received a one-star review for my first book because I had given a low rating to that reviewer’s favourite author. I got another because my second published book was not a sequel to the first, and another because the reader did not understand that I gave away the first third of the book for free as a sample. I just hope that prospective readers who read reviews take the time to analyze why a reviewer left a negative rating.

    • I’m so sorry that happened to you – I think people are getting smarter and can see the ridiculous excuses people give for a low rating. The shame is that it directly affects us, rather than just have it be a review.

  7. It seems that the worst reviews on books are from people who got the book for free. They just want to slam a book without thinking about the hard work it took to write the story. The first time it happened to me, I cried for an hour. Oh well, we live and learn.

    • I’m so sorry it happened to you. I have a horror book out that has been generating the best reviews and comments I’ve ever had. I just checked the UK and there’s only one review, and it’s a one star. They just hated it. You know what? That’s okay. We have to move on.

  8. I always take online reviews with a grain of salt, but they can be entertaining because they are so poorly written. It’s amazing what people will say when they are anonymous.

  9. Pingback: » Downvotes galore

  10. A few of my favorites…

    Complaining about the price instead of reviewing the product, often done by people who have not even purchased the product. This happens a lot with eBooks from what I’ve seen.

    Posting a bad review for a product when the problem was actually the fault of the third-party merchant (i.e. shipping issues).

    Posting rants about ingredients but nothing about taste, texture, etc.

    Specific to cookbooks: slamming a book by someone known for using pre-packaged ingredients because the recipes don’t use enough “real” or healthy food; there aren’t any vegan recipes in the book about grilling meat; a gluten-free cookbook calls for several different flours and starches.

    • You are so right about so many things. I once saw a bad review because someone’s kindle didn’t download properly so they gave the author a bad review. Are you kidding? Thanks so much for reading and responding.

  11. You have a good point. It’s hard to review something fairly if you’ve not read or used it or followed the directions. I don’t do many Amazon reviews unless I want to help an author or warn someone about a risk. I keep most reviews on my blogs. I try to be fair with book reviews, since I realize each person brings her own experience to a book. I don’t give a bad review on a book I did not finish, but I do sometimes say the book did not hold my interest or inspire me to keep reading after the first fifty pages so I stopped reading to move to something I might like better. By the end of fifty pages I can usually tell if this is a book I want to finish. The book I decided not to finish last night was a best-seller, but I couldn’t get used to the voice, and decided I’d rather read something different. There are simply too many choices to waste time on something that doesn’t click with me.

    • Oh goodness, 50 pages in and you are off the hook if you didn’t like it! I’m talking about people who judge a book without even reading it, or get upset a dog was killed, or give a 1 star because they thought it was a $1 too much. I personally just won’t review a book if I didn’t like it and I usually don’t finish it, either. Life is too short to read something you don’t like.

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