Friday, August 17, 2007

Reviews You can Use

It has been said that the "customer is always right," but sadly many of us have experienced quite the opposite in our dealings with vendors. Shoddy workmanship, couldn't care less customer service, defective equipment, expired warranties--who doesn't have a horror story of a purchase gone awry? Now with access to the Internet, not only are we able to warn our friends about the Thai restaurant that gave us food poisoning, we can share that experience with numerous strangers as well.

An article by The Washington Post profiles the online review site, which is one of the newest and hippest places where consumers can voice their opinions--both positive and negative. Need to find a Thai restaurant that WON'T give you food poisoning? Or a massage therapist who can really smooth out all your kinks? Or a dry cleaner to get the evidence of the afore-mentioned food poisoning out of your most favorite silk blouse?

That's the beauty of other local review sites such as Citysearch and the Insiderpages. You can not only give your opinions, but you can research the experiences of others as well. Just keep in mind that people are far more likely to vent their spleen when they have a negative experience, and remain silent when their experience is good. That being said, if there are ten reviews on a Thai restaurant and seven say that the service was terrible, the food was awful and they ended up with food poisoning the next day--chances are that's a place you want to avoid.

If you're looking for some sort of restitution or you want to make sure management is aware of your negative (or even positive) experience, PlanetFeedback is the way to go. Not only are the experiences of others available for you to peruse and use as guidance as to whether or not you want to do business with a company, but the site will help you craft a coherent letter to the company's management. (Note: this probably won't be effective with the little Thai restaurant down the street whose Green Curry required you to get your stomach pumped--or the little Mom 'n Pop dry cleaning establishment that ruined your silk blouse, but it will get your letter to major companies like Dell, Wal-mart or Bank of America.)

Before you buy that new CD Player or ceiling fan, you might want to check out for user reviews on a wide variety of products. You can also find user reviews at many retailer websites like, BestBuy and Circuit City. Based on customer reviews you can find out BEFORE you buy an item whether it is easy to use or will it break down in three days.

For great technology reviews--software, hardware, peripherals and gadgets, c|net is the site to check. The site features products which have been given c|net's editors seal of approval, but also ratings by end users like you and me.

And for reviews on products that are near and dear to my heart--skincare and makeup products, the best resource I've found is at Makeup Alley. The site boasts 938,372 reviews of 79,678 products (and counting!) so if you're wondering if that new moisturizer will make your skin look as luscious as the model in the magazine ad, Makeup Alley is a great tool.

Finally, because you can't believe everything you read on the Internet, can finally put your mind to rest about the Neiman Marcus cookie incident (Talk about customer service horror stories! But the cookie recipe is awesome...), whether microwaved water kills plants or if you should worry about a roving band of kidney thieves harvesting the organs of unsuspecting travelers. I'll give you a hint--they're all FALSE.

So hip hip hooray for the Internet once again where you can just about anything about almost everything. Before it was caveat emptor--"let the buyer beware." Now with online review guides like Yelp and Citysearch it's more like, let the buyer be AWARE!

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