As all writers know, their books can live or die based on the reviews they receive, and at one time, only a precious few ever got to write them. Now, with the growth of the internet, and of social media, anyone can write a review. This allows light to be shone on works which would once have lain undiscovered.
This system where anyone can review anything at any time is, however, also open to mis-use and abuse. Some of this is pretty shameless, such as authors creating false accounts to write positive reviews about their own work or to trash the work of others.
Yet, there’s another, more mischievous side to the mis-use of reviews, and they can be highly amusing. This is when people en-masse start leaving reviews for other purposes than to simply provide a review for others to read, sometimes for the most mundane of products. In some cases, they are providing social commentary, sometimes they are tales of woe, sometimes they hilarious, and sometimes they’re all three.
Take the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer, for example. It’s just a simple piece of plastic for, you guessed it, slicing bananas, yet it’s gathered just over 4,500 reviews on Amazon.com, and reading these reviews you get the impression that few of them are meant to be taken serious. Take this one for example:
‘I tried the banana slicer and found it unacceptable. As shown in the picture, the slices is curved from left to right. All of my bananas are bent the other way.’
or this one:
‘For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. “Use a knife!” they say. Well…my parole officer won’t allow me to be around knives. “Shoot it with a gun!” Background check…HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands. 99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed. No longer consumed by seething anger and animosity towards thick-skinned yellow fruit, I was able to concentrate on my love of theatre and am writing a musical play about two lovers from rival gangs that just try to make it in the world. I think I’ll call it South Side Story.’
If banana-slicer based comedy is not your thing, what about the reviews of a book called Cooking With Pooh… Now, the title is literally correct, since it’s a Winnie-the-Pooh-based cookbook, but you can also see how it has left itself open to scatological-based humour in the reviews, like this one:
‘A refreshingly simple entry into the cookbook publication industry, this book brings affordable gourmet cooking to the masses by focusing on a single inexpensive and abundant ingredient. It finally answers the nagging question of “how much sugar does it really take to make my food re-edible?” It also teaches us valuable lessons about the beautiful and endless cycle of life.’
Want a bit more social commentary in your reviews? What about the ones for the $40,000 Samsung UN85S9 85-Inch 4K Ultra HD 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV (yes this is a real product and a real price), such as:
‘I was going to fund my daughters wedding in Hawaii, but I figured this Samsung TV would last much longer.’
‘I bought it just to watch the garbage man struggle pitifully as he attempted to fit the box into the back of his recycling truck. Worth it.’
Then we start venturing into the world of the surreal with the Proporta Elephant camouflage kit (which apparently was on sale for a cool £1,000,000 on Amazon.co.uk). One review reads:
‘This stuff is brilliant. I too have made my herd of elephants invisible to the human eye. I’m sure you know what’s coming next.
I have no flipping clue where my elephants are. Only by carefully inspecting the butter dish can I tell when they have been in the fridge. For all I know they have left the country or are carrying out a series of bank robberies. Keep ’em peeled, folks.
So 5 stars for effectiveness but only 1 for utility. I can’t for the life of me even remember why I wanted to paint my pachyderms in the first place.
I am now in the market for a cohort of zebra as I have invented a giant bar code reader and I want to try it out. Can exchange for some roller brushes (used once); some fencing which is almost certainly not elephant proof, but to be honest I have no real way of knowing.’
Finally, I’m going to end with those telling a cautionary tale, and that highlight why men should always be forced to read the instructions before using a product (and indeed to read other people’s reviews properly before buying a product!). These are reviews of Veet For Men Hair Removal Cream, on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Oddly, there’s only 31 reviews on the first site, and almost 750 on the second. I think this tells you something about the differences between the US and the UK, but I’m not quite too sure what.
Many of these reviews follow a similar, rather hilarious vein, and many are worth perusing, but the one I’d particularly recommend reading is by a certain Mr A. Chappell, and can be found here. Men, you might wince a little (or more likely a lot!) as well as laugh when you read it; women, you’ll just laugh your head off at the stupidity of men. Either way, the lesson to learn is always read the instructions AND do what they say, and if you don’t, you can always post a review to help others avoid your own mistakes. Not that they’ll heed your advice…
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.