Thursday, October 27, 2011

Star Ratings vs. Actual Opinion in Amazon Reviews

Someone commented on a customer review I submitted to Amazon. There was discussion about what star rating to choose.

I did not like the product but I did not hate it. I explained that I did not like it in the body of the review. I gave it a 2 star review. Why? Amazon has the following rating system, which I found in their recommendations area.

5 stars = I Love It
4 stars = I Like It
3 stars = It's Okay
2 stars = I Don't Like It
1 star = I Hate It

The person acknowledged that I didn't like it but said I should have given it a higher star rating than a 2. Really? When submitting information to companies I use their own keys and definitions. It is an attempt to use standard language.

I often see star reviews that don't align with the body of the review. Here is one example showing a 5 star review but the review contains criticisms and the user admits she dislikes this product so much she doesn't use it anymore.

Customers are picky and they want information. Thus when I don't like something or even think it is okay or when I like it but don't love it I explain why. Then readers of the review can see what I said and relate it to how they feel.

For example I once read and used and reviewed a cookbook from an author who makes gourmet food and slow food that takes time to make from scratch. I happened to love the book as I am a slow foodie. Another reviewer slammed the book because it was not a book of fast food recipes. By reading her review and my review a person could indeed be helped by both, whether they are looking for quick simple recipes or whether they like gourmet complicated cooking.

What differs is it is fair to the author or publisher to irrationally rate a product or book. For example if I bought an economy compact car with high gas mileage would it be fair to rate the car poorly saying I love the high gas mileage but I really needed a car for carpools and long car travel that can hold 6 or 7 people comfortably? If you review a knitting book of complicated knitting patterns is it fair to slam the book if you are a brand new knitter who only wanted to make garter stitch scarves?

Something different though is when the marketing for a book or product says one thing but the item does not do that. Also, if claims are made that you can do something with the product but you cannot do it because it is non-functioning or it literally doesn't perform that operation then that's a problem.

Back to the star ratings. I think there is some deeper psychological reason going on with some reviewers and those stars. Too many people seem overly genererous giving high star ratings when their real opinion of the thing is at least one star rating less. Some people mince no words and have strong opinions but the stars give a different impression. At first I assumed they were using different definitions for the stars than Amazon did. I now suspect there is something deeper happening. Maybe some people are scarred after years of grades in school and think that giving "grades" out in the form of numbers and stars is something they are less comfortable with than using text descriptions to explain their detailed opinions. I don't know, that's just one idea.

What do you think?

P.S. Amazon does not allow half star ratings. That person told me she'd rate it with a .5 in the rating. Well that is not an option so...I use what is there...with their definitions. If someone actually has a problem with me using Amazon's rating definitions, well, I don't understand that; it leaves me speechless actually.


e-Expeditions said...

I couldn't agree more. I also -really- dislike people who say something to the effect of "I love the product, but the box was damaged, so I gave it one star." Rate the product, not the delivery service, right? -sigh- :P

Crimson Wife said...

Most of my reviews are 2, 3, or 4 stars. Sometimes I'll give an overall rating and then in the text list multiple ratings for various aspects. For example, I recently reviewed a cookbook that was gorgeous from a visual standpoint but I had very mixed results with the recipes I tried from it. So I rated it overall a 3 but noted in the text that from a purely visual standpoint it was a 5.