I am a huge fan of the Internet for thousands of reasons. And right up there at the top: reviews.
I have come to count heavily on the opinions of others before trying out a new recipe, buying something online, visiting a new restaurant, booking a hotel or hiring a service provider. But I have learned reviews are not infallible. There is a fine art emerging for how to use a review and also how to write one.
Security in numbers: It is not wise to rely on a single online review. You cannot know if the review is an "inside job," meaning the best friend or mother of the new restaurant's owner took it upon themselves to post a five-star review.
However, if there are 27 reviews averaging four stars plus the one you think might be bogus, that's a recommendation you should take seriously. It's possible that many others happen to agree with "mom."
I find myself visiting Yelp.com for feedback, particularly when I travel.
Bogus reviews: Just because there are lots of reviews for the items you are researching, it doesn't mean all of them are viable.
Read them carefully. Immediately discount any reviews that begin, "I didn't actually read this book" or "I haven't really eaten here, but ... ." You want to consider honest reviews, and you'll learn quickly how to spot them.
Mandatory consideration: Never buy anything on eBay.com without first reading the seller's feedback.
Other sites where you should always read the reviews include Zappos.com, the online shoe retailer. Zappos reviewers are amazing. Most give detailed reviews for how shoes fit ("true to size" or "they feel small," etc.).
AllRecipes.com is another review-heavy site. After reading several dozen reviews for a single recipe, you may feel like you've just enrolled in culinary school.
Assessing the negative: As a member of AngiesList.com, I have learned to scrutinize carefully a single negative review for a service or health provider. That's because I know human nature.
That reviewer could have had a bad day or have an ulterior motive with nothing to do with the service, choosing instead to use the review process as a means of revenge.
AngiesList.com does allow a service provider to post a rebuttal or explanation.
Write reviews: Customer reviews are only as reliable as those who write and submit them. Each time you offer an objective, honest review, you are helping others. Be brief, honest and thorough. Don't just say you love the shoes, say how they fit, if they arrived on time, how they were packed, what it was like to deal with customer service, if you'd buy from this site again and so on. Give the kind of review you would enjoy reading -- an honest review.
Write to mary@everydaycheap skate.com or Everyday Cheap skate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.