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Give us your view on user reviews

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Finding out what others have to say can help you buy anything from a car to a meal out. And with more than 150m posts on TripAdvisor, it’s clear we love user reviews. Do you love or loathe user reviews?

When I was growing up I remember getting really excited when the holiday brochure dropped through the letterbox and landed on the doormat. This signalled that the summer was on its way. Mum and dad would trawl through the brochures to find and book a holiday cottage for us somewhere in Devon, Dorset or Cornwall.

But, nowadays, it seems almost inconceivable that we’d choose a holiday based on glossy pictures alone.

Reviewing user reviews

Instead, fast forward a few years and the search for a holiday begins online. Last year when I went away with my grilfriends to Portugal, our first port of call when searching for a destination was TripAdvior. And it worked a treat. We found a charming and very cheap villa in rural Portugal. Had it not been for the hundreds of shining reviews we’d probably never have discovered this place, and we certainly wouldn’t have been brave enough to try it out.

And it’s not just travel recommendations. User reviews exist on almost every retailer website. It’s rare that I buy something without checking the user reviews (and checking in with the Which? experts) first. There might be contradictory reviews sitting cheek by jowl, but reading over a few posts can provide a pretty coherent picture and help you make your purchasing decision.

Why user reviews are important to Which?

We really value user reviews here at Which?. We encourage all members to give us their opinions on the products and services we test. Your experiences can reveal problems that develop over time that are impossible to spot when testing for a few days or even weeks in the test lab.

And, in some cases, your reviews help bring about change. For example, earlier this year you told us that you were suffering issues with the Tesco Hudl. We asked Tesco to do something about it and the supermarket giant has now released a fix.

It’s clear that user review sites do a great job at opening up a dialogue between consumers, retailers and manufacturers, ultimately leading to better products on the shelves.

Well that’s my take on user reviews sites. Now it’s over to you; I want to know what you think of them. Do you trust the reviews? Have you got any tips for using them? And have you penned any reviews yourself?

Comments
Guest
Colin T says:
27 June 2014

Generally, look out for trolls who like to rubbish everything and anything. TripAdvisor gives a helpful graphic of the split of comments between excellent and hopeless. You can always expect some poor reviews, but look at the average.
Closer to home, Which? seems guilty of taking no notice of its out reviews. For instance, look at Logik L90SSS11 steamer cooker reviews. Rubished by just about everybody, though still a Best Buy according to Which? The last reviewer there (not me) put it succinctly: “The chasm between the Which? best buy rating and the user experiences is a really worrying indictment of Which? and its testing philosophy.”

Guest

Where Which has the opportunity for user reviews it should display a histogram of user scores like Tripadvisor. There needs to be a some monitoring of user scores, and best-buy products where user scores are low should be re-evaluated. I now find it very difficult to know what to make of the situation where Which raves about a product and users don’t. I would like to see Which analyse and explain why these variances occur.

Guest

as a new user I would like to comment on International phone calls that you cant block as they do not leave a number and phone companies cannot help to stop them even though you are paying for viewing numbers, how can I stop international numbers and withheld numbers calling my land line without having to register and pay an on line company who say they can do this ?

Guest

Hi Cath, international calls are a difficult one. You may want to invest in a call blocker: http://blogs.which.co.uk/technology/phones-3/cpr-call-blocker-vs-truecall-call-blocker/ And we have other tips here: http://blogs.which.co.uk/technology/phones-3/six-ways-tech-can-stop-nuisance-calls/

Guest

Cost of frames is an all time con, extortion and robbery.

Manufacturing and “design” is low tech. and materials relatively inexpensive, clearly demonstrated by low cost sunglasses and reading glasses.

Suggest costs per gram of frames be compared with those of a Ferrari and its spares.

Guest

You do have to read the reviews carefully. Sometime the reviewer has different priorities than you, sometimes they’re outright prejudiced. Worse, some are fraudulent.

But I would often prefer the views of users than believe the gloss of a sales brochure. Just look at the reviewers’ profiles and look at the dates of the reviews too. Used properly, Trip Advisor can be as useful as Which?

Guest

We have used Trip Advisor several times and been happy with the results. This has included personal tour guides in the Azores and in Valparaiso Chile, and B&Bs’ in Canada and the UK, and hotels in the UK.

However I am conscious that we have may have missed even better experiences because of malicious negative reviews. This is why I have been proposing to Which? that they use their user base as it will make it far more difficult and unlikely that we will get malicious or unreliable reviews.

I have had good experiences so far but it is a known problem that there are firms that can be engaged to post black and white propaganda [reviews] for around a $1 a post. There are also aggregating firms that will populate a new web site with hundreds of reviews from other sites to make it look like a business of some stature which has sold enough merchandise to generate feedback.

Restaurant reviews are very subjective and one reviewers experience may be diametrically opposed to another who dined there on the same night. Add in changes in chefs, menus, and owners, it is always going to be an area of contention.

Guest

Re: Colin T and the Logik steamer

The problem with the current Which? review system in which readers opinions are apparently not of sufficient importance for Which? to reconsider Best Buy status. Besides the Logik mentioned first post, the Red Next microwave, and the Kenwood Kmt are all Which? Best Buys where owners disagree vehemently with the BB rating. Which? say they do not do the long term testing on small appliances , around 59m a year sold in the UK. This being the case I think Which? should be reacting much more to its subscribers experiences in actually using these Best Buys.

” The Logik L90SSS11 is a three-tier steamer, and it’s one of the cheaper models we’ve tested. We’ve looked at everything from how easy it is to wash to how quickly it cooks food so we can tell you if it offers good value. Despite its relatively low price, the Logik L90SSS11 is one of the best steamers we’ve tested, earning it a Best Buy award. ”

And of the 21 reviews there are two 5 star, sixteen 1 star, one two star, and one four star. One of the five stars is a response by a Which? editor to the first complainant in February 2012. The other five good rating and the four rating were from people who had “just” or “recently” bought the steamer. The two star was from someone unhappy with Curry’s for not stocking it in store.

Overall everyone who bothered to post who had owned it for a period thought it was very poor. The quote from Which? and its BB rating still stands. There seems to be no effort by Which? to extend their original testing to see if under continued normal usage the product really is not a Best Buy.

http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/small-appliances/reviews/kettles/kenwood-kmix-sjm-042/customer-views/
http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/home-appliances/reviews/microwaves/next-red-800w/customer-views/