in: Behavior, Character

• Last updated: September 9, 2023

A Worthy Weekly Good Deed: Writing Reviews

Like every modern consumer, before I buy new sneakers, book a hotel room, or make a restaurant reservation, I check the reviews for the product/business. 

While doing this in this past, I would sometimes think to myself: “I don’t know what kind of person takes the time to write a review for a $10 alarm clock, but I’m grateful they do!” 

Eventually, though, I got to thinking: “Maybe I should be that kind of person and not only take from the collective review pot but contribute to it too.”

I started to try to leave one review for a product/business every week and found that in motivating myself to do so, it helped to frame it as a kind of weekly good deed.

Sure, leaving a review for something doesn’t carry the moral weight of, say, rescuing a drowning child, but it’s still an act of service: It’s something that’s easy to have good intentions about but not follow through on; it’s not something most people feel intrinsically motivated to do; you don’t get anything in return for it; and it helps people out. It can aid a consumer in making a purchase that will potentially benefit their life and save them time and money. And, in an age in which businesses can live or die based on online reviews, it helps worthy entrepreneurs and creators get the attention and traction they deserve. 

(I should acknowledge at this point that I myself run a sort of business — the AoM podcast — for which people can leave reviews. I am very grateful for the folks who leave a nice review for the podcast and knowing how much this act means to me has informed my own appreciation for it. But getting people to leave reviews for the show is definitely not my intent with this post! This is just something I do in my own life, that I genuinely think is a good thing, and it’s written from the perspective of a consumer to my fellow consumers.)

Coming from the “never complain; never explain” philosophy of living, I have thus far only left positive reviews as part of my weekly challenge. 

There are several reasons for this.

The first is that with things like restaurants or barber shops, I don’t feel sufficiently confident that a negative experience I may have had is indicative of the general quality of the place. Maybe they’re usually a lot better, but I happened to walk in on a day when they were short-staffed and stressed out. We all have bad days, and I know that if people could leave reviews for individuals, I’d hate for someone to write one for me like, “Brett is surly and cantankerous and not a good person. One star!” Well, hey now, yes, due to a confluence of unfortunate circumstances, I was surly and cantankerous on the particular day I happened to run into you, but there’s more to me than that! It just doesn’t seem fair to immortalize a business online based on a singular impression that may, in fact, have been an aberration from the norm.

Second, people are more likely to leave negative reviews than positive ones. You experience more visceral motivation in complaining about something than you do in praising it (again, the effort required in following through is part of what makes leaving a positive review a good deed). So I think of my positive review-leaving as a way to balance out the inherent negativity that’s out there, helping to create a more accurate, and therefore more useful, picture of something.

Finally, I strongly believe people shouldn’t conflate subjective taste with objective truth. So maybe this shirt/music/enchilada platter doesn’t float my own boat; that doesn’t mean it won’t do so for someone else. There are restaurants, products, and podcasts that I find awful that other people absolutely love. Am I wrong, or are they wrong? Maybe neither; we just have different tastes. I’m not going to trash someone else’s business simply because it’s not my cup of tea.

If I do use a product or service that is objectively bad, exhibits a clear flaw, or blatantly overpromises and underdelivers, I contact a manager or a customer service rep to see if the issue can be privately resolved. If the issue wasn’t resolved this way, I would consider leaving a negative public review; after all, letting other consumers know about a potential problem or scam is also an act of service. But I fortunately haven’t encountered this problem so far — largely because I make my purchasing decisions based on the beneficent reviews of other consumers!

Big thanks to the fellow review writers out there. Consider joining their ranks and making writing reviews a weekly good deed.

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