Amazon shoppers: Ratio of good to bad reviews.

What ratio of good to bad reviews do you consider good enough to warrant a purchase?

I’ve recently purchased a TV, a DSL gateway and am looking for a vacuum. In all cases I’ve had trouble pulling the trigger after reading the negative reviews. Everything I’ve purchased or looked at is approximately 4 stars. I’ve had no problems with the router. The TV was serviced for a buzzing sound after about 4 months of use with no other problems.

The purchases were made after a lot of hand-wringing and a ‘fuck it’. What’s your experience?

I think the ratio of good to bad ratings usually says more about the buyers than about the product. Some hobbies and interests seem to have a lot of people who are either overly critical or have low standards.

Instead I look at ratings as a good way of separating the reviews into “people who liked it” vs “people who hated it”. Read the content of a few of each, and see if any of the complaints concern things that are important to me.

I usually go to a more detailed reviewer, like the Wirecutter, for recommendations. If I am getting a book, I’ll always read the 3 star reviews, and use those to decide.

I agree; but would add that writing such reviews counts as a hobby or interest for some saddos.
Still I rarely check reviews beforehand: my determinant is whether there’s a semi-naked woman on the box. The cutest wins.

I usually go through the various ratings. Are all of the 1 star reviews by morons, or do they have actual points? Do the 2-3 star reviews point out actual flaws with the products?

If the overall rating is a 3 or 3.5, I have to carefully read the lower ratings to determine why. It is is product flaws, then I’ll usually give it a pass. If they’re people who thought the product was something else or were too stupid to figure out how to use it properly, then I can discount the bad ratings. Usually you only see lots of those kinds of reviews when there are a smaller number of reviews.

My favorite bad review (well, to reference as a BAD bad review) was one giving a silver coin a low rating because it weighed the same but was larger (in diameter) than the previous series of that coin. That was it. Two sentences. That’s because it is thinner, you jackass. :rolleyes:

This is the sort of thing I look for. If something I like due to specs or price has middling reviews, I check the negative ones to see if there’s an actual issue or just some idiots grousing.

IIRC there was an article in Slate once about how you should generally just ignore both the 1 and 5 star reviews because they’re often written by people who are stupid or biased. The article recommended just looking at the spread of 2, 3, and 4 star reviews and seeing if they skewed more towards 2 or 4.

If the Amazon forums are any indication, reviewing is a big part of many people’s lives. Folks are writing how-to books to show Amazon reviewers how to raise their rank.

I share the OP’s frustration. Lamia’s advice has worked for me. Ignore the 1’s and 5’s, look in the middle, and look for reviews written after the item has been in use for awhile. Those are harder to find, since Amazon reviewers get more Helpful votes (and a higher rank) if they’re the first to review a product. Some reviewers will return and edit a review after some time has passed, but that’s rare.

Watch out for shills. They’ll be the 1’s (from the competition) and 5’s (from the manufacturer). The AVP badge (Amazon Verified Purchase) is no guarantee either, since it’s possible to purchase an item, cancel the order before it’s received, write a review, and the AVP badge will still show up.

I agree that the content of the reviews matter.

E.g., I recently bought for Mrs. FtG a Fresnel magnifying sheet. The negative reviews for several of these were ridiculous. A lot of people complained that having the lens against the page resulted in virtually no magnification. That had to hold it off the page.

Well, duh!

And hardly any of the reviews gave any useful info about the stiffness of the sheet, image clarity, etc. So I took a chance and it worked out well.

For electronics, I look for multiple occurrences of the same flaw or deficit. Things like that. Filtering out complaints about non-item specific matters like shipping time and such (unless that is important).

I’m not really a hand-wringer, but then again I don’t typically buy anything all that pricey off Amazon sight unseen, and most of the stuff I buy has free returns anyway. I look at the overall rating, the distribution of good and bad reviews, Prime eligibility, and then start looking at specific reviews to see what percentage of the really low ones are complaints about the seller/shipping, and what percentage of the really good ones are compliments about product’s appearance and the seller/shipping. Then I buy the one that seems to balance cost, my needs/wants, and actual legitimate complaints best.

I don’t care what the ratio is, I care what the reviews actually say. If a book is getting spammed with one-star reviews from people who disagree with the author’s politics or are upset that it didn’t endorse their favorite conspiracy theory, of course I’ll buy it. If people who appear to be knowledgeable about the subject matter of the book are complaining about shoddy research or poor editing, I’ll take those negative reviews much more seriously.

Disclaimer: I rarely buy stuff other than books or movies from Amazon, and I think reviews for creative works are different from, say, reviews for electronics – there is very little chance that the product will actually be defective, but a high chance that people are going to disagree about its merits.

There are so many corporate shills out there writing fake reviews that I don’t even bother to read the good ones any more, especially the 5 out of 5 stars everything is great type of reviews. I don’t even look at the ratios because a completely crap product can still have corporate shills post enough positive reviews to bring its average up. I only look at the bad reviews to see what kinds of issues I might run into if I buy that product.

The written section of reviews is key, as others have said. I always do a quick read of some reviews at all ratings to get a better idea of which reviews to actually take into account. Bad reviews that are obviously from a buyer who didn’t know what (item) really was, or didn’t use it properly, etc. don’t impact my decision at all.

An annoying thing on Amazon, especially with the marketplace being huge, is people who leave feedback for a SELLER as an item review. This isn’t the same as leaving an actual item review but also noting if they had a bad experience with (seller y). That’s cool and good info. But when they leave 1 star and write “great item just what I needed but seller took forever to ship and didn’t email!” – STOP IT.

This exactly. A lot of the negative reviews have nothing to do with the product even: it arrived late or damaged. “One star for terrible service!” Yeah, by the post office! I tend to take reviews the most seriously when people take the time to point out things they consider positive and negative so you can decide which might be important to you. For example if someone points out a tablet computer is very lightweight, but kind of slow if you want to play games or something, that wouldn’t be an issue for me because I’d just want to check my email or read books on it when I’m not at home. If someone just goes: “This product sucks! Will never buy from this company again!” That is not helpful.

On this subject, I happened to check out the availability of the movie “Frozen” on Amazon. The 16 1-star reviews all cite the same problem - that the 3D version isn’t available yet. :smack:

Or when they use the review as feedback for Amazon. ‘One star!!! This book isn’t available on Kindle!!!’ From a prospective reader who wants to know about the actual book…um, thanks? I guess?

I was once booking at room at a hotel in N. GA. It’s a family run operation with a well known restaurant on the property. They serve fresh, locally raised country style food. One reviewer simply blasted the place because the ham was “very tough and extremely salty”. The reviewer further said that s/he complained to management and was told “that is the way it always is and they could not provide us with a tender piece” or words similar. :dubious:

The folks in the comments section were not particularly kind in explaining that country ham is, by definition, salt cured and has a texture nearly like jerky. Never mind that the meals are served family style and there were 3-5 other meats to choose from, plus veggies, sides and desserts. Just harp on something you know nothing about.

One of my guilty pleasure hobbies is reading one star Yelp reviews of truly authentic ethnic restaurants. Makes me crack up every time I look at a good Sichuan restaurant and see “I think ingot food poisoning because my tongue was numb and the food was way too spicy and there was no fortune cookie.”

Oooooh, even sven, that’s a kissing cousin to one of MY guilty pleasure Yelp trawling: finding negative reviews that are clearly written by entitled nightmare customers. It’s amazing reading a customer’s account of why the business and employees are just horrendous but your reaction when reading is, “holy shit, this reviewer is an asshole! And they have no clue, because they obviously thought this was a reasonable review!”

It’s become nearly impossible to gauge a product that has mixed reviews without carefully reading a good selection of both good and bad reviews. What I’ve found is that a lot of reviews, usually bad ones, can be discarded within a few seconds because they have nothing to do with the product - it’s about Amazon’s delivery, or the freight company, or something unrelated.

The next category that can be discarded are the ones who clearly bought the wrong product or had unrealistic expectations (of that product, product type, price point, etc.)

The ones that really make me blow a gasket are the positive ones based on a few days or less of ownership - sometimes MUCH less. “They just installed my new fridge and it’s AWESOME - five stars!” or even - and yes, I’ve seen this on more than one appliance review - “this [appliance] is by far the best and great and a value and awesome and incredible and so forth and I can’t wait until mine gets here next week.”

There’s no short cut, but if you read through representative reviews for ones by people that sound like they know what they are talking about, actually address the item’s function, quality and value, and seem to be based on some significant amount of time or experience with the thing, you’ll find a prevalence near one end of the review scale or the other.