Saturday, April 10, 2010

Consumer Reviews Make a World of Difference

I love shopping, but I'm terrified of purchasing anything more than $20. It may even be something I truly need, but once I get to the store, I freeze up and panic. What if it doesn't work? What if there is a better product I don't know about? What if there's something better I could spend my money on? Like a Cricut.

Unfortunately, I've had to face this fear multiple times in this past year as we moved and have been settling in our new place. It's been difficult, but the thing that's really helped me through it has been online user reviews. Nearly every major online retailer has these online user reviews, usually in the form of a star rating and comments. These are amazingly useful in deciding which product to purchase, and if you have a husband like mine who despises shopping only second to reality TV, this cuts down on the amount of time needed in the store.

Today, we went to Wal-Mart, looking to buy a new vacuum. We'd received one as a wedding gift and we loved it at first, but like my father-in-law says, all vacuums die after a couple years, no matter how expensive. Ours hasn't picked up an ounce of dirt in months. It's been very frustrating and the crunching of the carpet finally got to me.

Before we went to the store, we looked at the online reviews. The first trick is looking at the star rating system, but don't be fooled by how simple it may seem. A product may have four out five stars, but only be reviewed by three people. Is it that reliable then? Maybe. Maybe not. Fortunately, nearly every vacuum on the site I was interested in had fairly good reviews. We went to the store, grabbed the vacuum -- which happened to be on sale -- and we were out. My husband didn't even have time to whine, and he even tolerated my craft aisle obsession.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, I've been impressed with their reviews. Sometimes it's hit and miss with Wal-Mart products, so you want to be careful if you're going to spend the money. The online reviews help alleviate the frustration with that and most reviewers tend to be fair and at least some of the comments address your questions about the product. We've found our TV, vacuum and kitchen table through the online Wal-Mart reviews. And hey, even if you don't like buying stuff at Wal-Mart, use their reviews and get the product elsewhere. It's the information that matters.

Have you used online reviews to help buy a product? What was your experience like?
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