Why so negative?


I’ve been going on about all my purchases online, particularly through my Amazon Prime membership (in fact, I have some Weber grill grates arriving later today).

One of the more beneficial aspects of the internet and online shopping is that people weigh in with their opinions on the products and services they purchase. The vast accumulation of those reviews generate the rating systems that help us make better buying decisions.

I happily participate in that concept, writing up my views on a product with as much functional detail as possible. The only exception is with creative works (books and movies), where I try to avoid giving away the plot. I see reviews out there where they just about tell you everything that happens in the work! Yeesh.

Within Amazon, they have a “Top Reviewers” program that publicizes the names of their best 10,000 reviewers. 10,000 may sound like a lot, but considering the size of Amazon (a recent estimate was that there were 65 million members of Prime alone and millions more non-members), I guess that’s not all that much.

The methods for calculating a reviewer’s ranking are shrouded in secrecy, with some vague reference to number of reviews, number of positive responses and “quality” of the review (as if that could be measured).

The vast majority of my reviews have gone mostly unnoticed. A stray vote or two. A couple of reviews have apparently hit the nail on the head, leading the vote casting for those products. In general, my review methodology seems to be positively received.

But there are negatives on there and here is where I get confused.

When I look on the product page, none of the negative votes show. I can see them in my Amazon history, but on the actual product pages, only “helpful” votes show. While I can’t decide whether this is a good thing or bad, a more confusing issue nags at me:

Why bother saying a particular review was “unhelpful” (Was this review helpful to you? Yes/No) if no other shopper will ever know? How does this help anyone?

Further, I get the idea of seeing a review and letting other shoppers know, “Hey, look at this thing, it helps you decide on the product!”, but what is someone thinking when they read a review, maybe go “meh”, and look for a better review. Why bother saying it was unhelpful in the first place?

I’ve not read anywhere that, like comments on an article, a sufficiently “unhelpful” review will get hidden or deleted. I actually had one of those once (8 of 9 votes were negative, though the product simply showed “1 person found this helpful”). Seems to me that it’s like shouting at a falling tree in a different forest.

Since my history as a nerdboy is well-established, I like to peek at my “positivity rating” from time to time. It’s been pretty well mired in the 93% range for a while (I won’t go all math geek and talk numerators and denominators).

Nobody expects 100%. Not if they are realists. And that percentile is pretty impressive, by Amazon standards (though not so much by their mystical rankings, which have me way down at 6,987 of 10,000), so I’m pretty sanguine about my negative votes.

But I’m still puzzled about someone taking the time to actually say, “Nah, this wasn’t helpful”, when no one else will ever know about it (and likely no one is going to rewrite their review).

Seriously, just go find a review you like and vote it up. Why so negative?

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