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Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Thursday, April 25, 2019
Picking your poison
Friday, July 05, 2019
The Sad Truth


It’s all in the stars
In a world where internet shopping dominates, we have become a legion of reviewers and review readers. It doesn’t matter if we’re searching for fishing equipment or not, it is increasingly rare to find a product that hasn’t been reviewed. Nor should it come as any surprise since the review process seems so simple and democratic.

With just a single click, the implied promise is that you can figure out why something got all those stars or why it didn’t… at least that’s the idea. However, for anyone with reasonable expectations, one’s sights should be set lower. Expect reviews to offer a general understanding of why people gave the stars, which is not to be confused with an actual understanding of why they gave the stars.


For someone who has spent a portion of their career evaluating the pluses and minuses of everything from big-ticket items like boats to the smallest implements of terminal tackle, I’m aware of the pitfalls. No matter how dispassionate you may envision yourself, personal prejudices have a nasty way of creeping into those words. In an effort to tamp down my own bias, I have always followed the mantra of never writing when I’m too pissed off or when I’m too happy because, either way, it’s going to show.


Admittedly, there are times when your emotions can fuel your words and make them better. But, that’s not the point. The value of a review is not so much in what is being said as how it is being said. Often, the delivery of the message is what gets people to really pay attention. But, if the message comes with no substance, the effort can fall flat.


The best example of this can be seen in one of the most popular review sites which, in my opinion, is also one of the least helpful. For all of the attention Yelp receives from restaurant owners and restaurant customers, much of what goes on here oozes with pure subjectivity. Don’t know about you, but I’ve spent more than a few meals hearing my companions rave over their entrées while I’m staring down at a tough ribeye. Clearly, here is a review site where the sizzle means more than the steak.


When it comes to our fishing tackle, there is much more at stake (pun intended). For most of us, the days are pretty much over when an outdoor writer or professional angler held sway in cementing our buying decisions. Now, you can breeze through a hundred reviews from verified buyers at the very instant before clicking on the Add to Cart button. It’s a powerful and often frustrating experience.


Since I’m the kind of guy who wants to hear the bad news first, I always start at the one-star reviews and work my way up, especially when something is getting mostly fours and fives. If for no other reason, I want to know how someone can have such a negative experience while everyone else is seeing sunshine and daffodils. Usually, but not always, I find a big bag of nothing. Without specifics and a reasonable argument, the one-stars can be easily written off. Then again, so can a lot of the fives and for the very same reason: no specifics.


While it’s nice to know you’re satisfied with a purchase, an “Everything I expected” or “Just got it, well-packaged” doesn’t cut it. If it happens to be a lure, I’m pleased to hear it caught fish, but give me a little more. What size did you order? Did it work well right out of the box? Were the hooks any good? How does it compare to other brands in this category? I don’t need a mini-novel in response since that makes me think you’re a serial reviewer, someone more interested in becoming an online influencer than a real fisherman trying to help a brother out.


The result is I’m forced to scroll through a litany of useless reviews to hopefully find one or two with something of merit. This is particularly important when the item in question demands sizing information. Shirts, jackets, waders, boots, gloves and headwear all require a smidgeon of information that goes beyond the handy size chart from the manufacturer. When I see, “These shirts tend to run a little small so go up one size,” I want to reach through the computer screen and strangle Bob from Kalamazoo. How big are you Bob? Height, weight, overall build?


Recognizing the compulsion in people to have their say and desperately wanting to quantify it, there is a voracious corporate interest in surveys and reviews. That’s why you often receive a survey following an online purchase. Sometimes it hits your inbox before you actually get the merchandise. More often than not, the survey is generated by a survey company with the sole purpose of constructing a series of questions that compel you to answer in the always annoying multiple choice format. If there is a box for comments, it’s usually at the end of the survey and I generally consider this to be a marketing black hole where your words go to die. Even after writing what I have considered to be remarkably compelling arguments, never have I gotten a response from a customer service representative.


In this age of social media where fleeting thoughts can be broadcast in a few clicks and forgotten just as quickly, the expectation of having others make your decision for you is — as it should be — a fool’s mission. It’s especially foolhardy when it comes to something as important as your fishing tackle. So, if you choose not to give reviews, I completely understand. Unfortunately, you are most likely the exact person who should be giving them. It may be pure speculation but I’m guessing you’ve given more thought to not writing a review as those who have actually written them.


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