There is a problem with leaving ratings on shopping sites. Actually, there are several problems, but the main one is that an objectively fair rating does disproportionate damage to the product and seller unless it is truly excellent.
There is a thing called social proof. Basically people look to other people to advise them if something is desirable / useful. When I buy electronics I tend to stick to a company I know I trust or find a site that seemingly offers impartial reviews. As a last resort I will go with the reviews on the site I’m buying from. But then I will click products that meet a minimum review criteria.
Minimum review criteria means that product reviews of 4 out of 5 are problematic and anything below that can be a disaster. Think about that for a second. 3 out of 5 should be average and represent a product that does what you expect but no more. I bought some hasps recently that were a little flimsy and didn’t sit absolutely flat. They were adequate for the purpose and cheap. If I leave that review I will harm the seller although I think it is a tempered recommendation.
If I see a film I want to see has a rating of seven out of ten with a reviewer I trust, or a positive recommendation with caveats, I will happily spend money to see it and will more than likely not be disappointed. If I see the equivalent rating on an item on amazon I will skip it and move to the next.
This has led to a while industry where sellers try to get positive reviews through various means. From basically giving the product away, to significant discounts, to outright paying reviewers. I know I am lenient when I’m being positive because I know how it can affect the sellers, and will tend to skip reviewing products I feel ambivalent about, saving what would be harmful reviews for products I think deserve them. Such as an ebook I bought on Nginx which actually set me back, such was the inaccuracy of the information within.
So, basically, reviews on sites from purchasers should generally be treated with skepticism and products with more reviews treated as having a higher proportion of genuine reviews. And the reviews shouldn’t be treated as absolutes, rather the relative deviation from the average review for that type of product should be considered when making a purchase. But try to find a review on an independent site instead.
Recently I have bought rather a lot of pairs of headphones. They are, in no particular order:
OneOdio Over Ear Headphones Closed Back Studio DJ Headphones – For the money, I really like these. The sound is spacious, and encompassing. You struggle to hear anything else when you have them on and the bass is pleasantly deep. They come with a nice long lead and they’re comfy enough to wear for a long time.
Betron HD800 Bluetooth Over Ear Headphones – I haven’t tried these as either a mic or for Bluetooth, so I can’t say whether those are selling points or not. The cord is shorter than on the OneOdio and I would say the sound is slightly thinner. They’re equally comfortable and I am more than happy with them. The problem is that they’re slightly edged by the OneOdio.
KLIM Fusion Earphones High Quality Audio – These are excellent by any measure. The sound is as good as over-ear headphones and they have similar abilities when it comes to blocking out external sounds. They come with a long lead and I fully intend to replace my gym pair and pair for work with some of these.
Rokerworld R1 Gun metal Noise Isolating Earphones – These are good for the money and come with lots of extra bits. The sound is adequate and I would be very happy with them but for the fact that I have fallen in love with the KLIM.
Betron B750s Earphones – I had these for about ten seconds for the gym and lost them. I can’t really comment on them compared to the others as I don’t have them to hand. Their carry pouch, oddly, was the best of any I bought and I love the flat and tangle free leads. They’re generously equipped. The sound didn’t disappoint, but I may find them less impressive now I have heard the KLIM.
Betron AX3 Earphones – Again, a good set of earphones suffering from comparison to the KLIM. They’re my work pair and up to the task of ignoring colleagues. They have a similarly good pouch to the B750s but don’t feel quite as well made overall. A slight annoyance is how hard it is to tell which is for the left and right ear at a glance.
I bought my mum some Betron several years ago and the sound is as good as it was when we got them, and they have been dependable despite being thrown in various handbags and wrapped around a phone. I also have a Bluetooth headset from them that I used at my last job. It again has a spacious sound, but isn’t as bass heavy as some others and does let external noise through. It also sometimes lost Bluetooth connection, although I was unsure if that was the headset or the computer I connected them to. Overall they are a brand that I am happy returning to and feel confident in.
I buy a lot of unbranded stuff. Or, rather, brands I don’t recognise and aren’t well-known. In my experience branded goods are often made in the same factories, by the same staff, to the same specifications and are frequently the same products.
Brands tend to establish themselves by building a reputation for quality and customer service. They then trade on that to build a reputation as they double down on marketing and raising their profile. Once this is done there is a tendency to become complacent or, frequently, be bought out and the easiest way to increase profitability is to cut costs. This is often done by cutting back on customer care and the product itself. The things that made the brand worth having in the first place.
Whenever I see a brand being promoted I think of a familiar logo emblazoned on a thin box with lightweight plastic goods inside. And then, if I am in the market for a similar product, I look at the name no one knows, costs less and has better packaging, responsive support and actual physical heft.
I was with Three for something like nine years. Typically what would happen is I would approach the end of the contract they would besiege me with offers and I would eventually give in and accept one of them, with a shiny new phone and regret it within six months or so as a much better mobile became available or my mobile usage changed dramatically.
This time, as the end of my contract approached, I actually was in a position where my mobile usage had changed and I had a lot of data on what my usage was. I knew I never came near my data limit and that I used a mere fraction of the huge number of texts I was allowed. With this in mind I found a deal with another provider that I intended to get three to match as I fully intended to stay with them.
This is where the problems began. As I called three and told them they told me that I was using considerably more data than I was aware of. I agreed to a rolling one month contract while they came back with an offer on a handset I wanted. I also checked my data and found out they had lied to me. Still, I was going to give them the benefit of the doubt and I called them back. I got passed between pillar and post and offered a string of deals and tariffs that were patently unsuitable. I repeatedly told every advisor I talked to I never really texted and was repeatedly offered contracts with multiples of thousands of texts. I told them which mobile I wanted and was offered one that was nothing like it. I told them what deal I had found and was assured that they would match it.
They couldn’t. I cancelled my contract. They called me back and offered me something else that was nothing close in terms of handset and massively inappropriate in terms of text. I hung up. They called back and I told them not to call back unless they could match the deal exactly. A manager called back and told me they could match the deal, I told him how to locate it and he informed me that the internet was blocked in the call centre and all deal matching was done via a spreadsheet that he couldn’t edit. This whole process wasted the best part of a week for me. I told them I was still leaving and fully intended to switch to the cheaper deal I had seen. Then a funny thing happened. I had the PAC code in my phone (I was cancelling and taking my number with me) and was walking through Tescos. They had an even better deal than the one I had seen. I had a phone I had cancelled and the ability to transfer my number there and then. Sometimes life works out just right.
Three: nine years and they don’t even know if they’re going to lose a customer or not because they have no way of telling if they can price match or not. They lie about usage and offer utterly inappropriate deals. They listen to what handset you want and suggest one massively different anyway. If they can’t retain, their support is notoriously not good and their phone range is limited, how do they hope to grow to where they want to be?