Griffin Arkilic: Product Person

Reviews Need to be Reviewed

I am a sucker for reviews.

I cannot buy anything on Amazon without first reading a large majority of the ratings that are under any product I am thinking of purchasing.

It does not come from a place of rationality. It is not like I am making a thought-out and well-informed look before I buy something. I want to be an informed consumer, but at a certain point, I can't say that that is what I am looking at the reviews for.

Partly, it's entertainment. I love reading someones in-depth review of a coffee grinder for probably the same reason you like reading a technology blog written by a 20-something: you have no life. Personally, I think it's interesting that, even for a second, you can get a look into someone else's life whether it's a blog or an Amazon review.

"What kind of experience could someone have with a 35 dollar coffee grinder to warrant a 5 paragraph rant?"

I don't know, but I am willing to spend 5 minutes of my life finding out.

All of this to say that I think reviews are important... but are they as important as we think?

Star Ratings and Why it is now obsolete (or at least totally unreliable)

The year is 500 BC and a caveman doesn't know if he go with Rock A or Rock B. How does he decide? By what metrics could he use to weigh the merits of a rock? If only he had some sort of way to compare the two rocks and rate them accordingly. All of a sudden he looks to the sky. Stars... of course. It being an overcast evening, only 5 stars were present, thus, the 5 star rating system was born.

Obviously, that is very true, because you read it on a blog on the internet.

(If you really want to know about the historical usage of the star classification, read this Wikipedia article

But, it doesn't matter, because now this rating system is how we decide what food we eat and what shoes we wear.

Let's set aside for the second the idea that people are rational when making decisions, they are not. Modern economists would like to think we are. In a perfect model, we buy an iPhone because it is the best phone on the market. While this could be true, it could also be heavily swayed by marketing, what kind of phones our friends have, where we live, what our job is, and a bunch of other factors. Being the "best" does not necessarily mean it is the choice a consumer will pick. It also brings into question what being the "best" actually is.

That being said, I believe at one point this system was a relatively fine way to measure what was good and what was not so good. If something was bad, it had 1-2 stars. If something was okay it had 3 stars. If it was amazing then it had 4-5 stars. It was simple and made sense.

Now we have a problem.

If you go on Amazon (or any other site that aggregates reviews) you will see that 90% of products have 4+ star reviews. This can be due to a lot of factors that aren't necessarily considered when buying a product.

  1. If someone is taking the time to rate something it is usually because they really love it or really hate it. Those who tend to write reviews tend to skew into a certain demographic. "People who write online reviews are more likely to buy things in unusual sizes, make returns, be married, have more children, be younger and less wealthy, and have graduate degrees than the average consumer". If you don't fit into that demographic, how can you reliably trust a negative or positive rating?

  2. When reading reviews, we tend to have a negativity bias which gives more weight to the negative than the positive. This means that even if someone leaves a well-researched and glowing review of a product, we may still judge a poorly written negative review higher.

  3. We have no idea who is writing the review and what their values are. What is one star to us may be 3 stars for someone else.

Reviews are totally subjective, which can be bad, but it can also be a plus when used in the right way.

Get a Personality

We all have to find our product sherpa.

Someone that we can trust for a specific type of product.

This is the type of review that I can get behind.

I think this is the quintessential way to find products that you will really love. Find a personality/reviewer that you connect with and look to them for recommendations on products.

Why is this effective?


  1. You know what the person likes and dislikes. If you know that they famously cannot stand bluetooth headphones, you then have a litmus test for future reviews of headphones. If they give a pair bluetooth headphones a favorable rating then you know; "these headphones must be really special".

  2. Their reviews follow a certain pattern. You know what will be discussed which will give you certain criteria to base your reasoning off of. There are beats that a typical reviewer will go through and you know what is important to you will be touched on.

  3. Ultimately, we want to mimic those we look up to. If someone you really believe in says something is exceptional, then you can automatically take a lot of thinking out of the equation. (We are lazy but efficient creatures).

Possible Solutions

What kind of product person would I be if I didn't pitch you ideas I thought of during the process of writing this blog post?

Solution #1: Stop Using Stars, Start Using Thumbs

Stars are too hard to decipher, especially since most products have a 4+ star rating, so what should we do?

Get more granular?


Get more general. Build something that can be understood at a glance.

I propose using a simple thumbs up and thumbs down rating system.

Simply show the amount of thumbs up and thumbs down a product has and let me evaluate whether that breakdown is good or bad enough for me to click the purchase button.

Solution #2: Database of Online Reviewers

While I do encourage you to find a reviewer you can trust, I also can empathize with the fact that most people Google whether a product is good and then read the first article that comes up.

Why should you spend the time finding someone to tell you what to buy?

Well... if you want to buy the right thing, you have to know who's recommending what you're buying.

Enter... 'The Reviewer Database' (Name coming soon)

With this database you will be able to sort by the following...

  1. Product competency (i.e. if they review gadgets or running shoes)
  2. Rating (thumbs up vs. thumbs down (thought I would use stars, didn't you))
  3. Amount of products rated
  4. Length of reviews

I really want you, as the user, to be able to pare down and find a reviewer that really fits your style.

For example; I would love to find a reviewer who runs long distance in cities who only reviews wearables.


If you couldn't tell, I am frustrated with reviews, and really just the buying process in general. I am frustrated that everything appears, on it's surface, to be amazing, when it is actually crap.

I am angry at myself for still buying stuff from Amazon that I don't really need. Or, that what I end up buying eventually gets thrown away or breaks.

I wish star reviews were the only things that needed to be fixed, that would be a lot easier.

When I take a look at reviews, I can't help but look at my own buying habits. I think there are a few things we could all do to be better consumers and happier people in general. If you leave this post with anything, I hope it is some of the following...

If you can, support your local restaurants and shops, I could definitely be a lot better about that.

Stop obsessing over ratings and give yourself permission to try something new.

Realize that the value most things have are in the amount of pleasure you get out of them, not their rating or price tag.

Be well.


#amazon #reviews

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