Consumer Lessons

cardboard-box-161578_960_720So many products have come across my doorstep, and I’ve learned a few things by being able to review them.   I’m going to share some of the insights I have learned as a result.

If your buying common items, shop around first.   Amazon, Target, Walmart, Kohls, Overstock… all these outlets carry a lot of the same items.   I mean exactly the same.   The only difference will be the price and the return policy of the seller.  You can buy an LED light on Amazon for $9 or you can buy it for $15.  But it’s the same light and it’s the same seller (Amazon) with the same return policy (Prime).   I never buy anything now without first shopping around.

Brand name seems to only matter (sometimes) when it comes to electronics.   But it doesn’t really matter in other areas, unless you are trying to impress someone with a logo.  For instance, if you buy a leather purse that isn’t a brand name vs. one that is a brand name you will get the same quality minus the logo but at less cost.   Now that’s not to say a really cheap-o bonded leather purse will hold up as well, because it won’t.  You do get what you pay for.   But if you spend $100 on a good quality purse, you’ll be spending half as much for an equivalent quality as the name brand.

If an item seems priced ridiculously low, it’s a knock off and inferior quality 99% of the time.   Sometimes that’s ok, if you know what you are getting.  But don’t delude yourself by thinking that the $20 smart watch is as good as the $500 one, even if they look the same.   The $20 may work, but it’s not going to have the same functionality and in some cases it might be more of a hassle than you bargained for.  But it is worth exactly what you paid.

Some things are a gamble buying online.   Memory foam mattresses and clothes are the first things that come to mind.   They are a gamble because they are a personal preference issue.  For example, some people like a harder mattress.  When you are reading reviews and they say “it’s firm, but not too hard” what they mean is “not too hard for me”.   When you try it – it’s like a rock.   It’s really subjective.   I’ve tested 6 memory foam mattresses in the last 6 years, and each one was radically different, but all of them boasted being “soft”.  But for the record, two of the mattresses were anything but soft, two were like a cloud, and the other two were somewhere in the middle.  The upside is buying memory foam online is radically cheaper.  Maybe you can afford to make a mistake or two finding the right one.

I can’t tell the difference between a $300 necklace and a $100 necklace.  But I can tell the difference between a $100 necklace and a $10 necklace.   There is a law of diminishing returns with jewelry.   Diamonds are nearly indistinguishable from cubic zirconia now, weight wise they are the same, with CZ being maybe even a bit heavier.  Fakes are getting pretty realistic.  You can tell with rings or chunkier jewelry pieces by the weight of the metal if they are cheap… but visually… you can’t.  Keep that in mind if you are splurging you can get something really nice for $300, or get something that looks the same for $100.


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The best Item I ever was offered

bestI’ve even been offered expensive items like furniture, appliances, high end electronics and jewelry.   And all those are pretty great, who wouldn’t like to get that kind of stuff?  But there are always a few stand outs and they aren’t necessarily because of the expense.   Sometimes the best products are the ones that unexpectedly surprise me with how much I come to rely on them.  I can’t pinpoint just one “best item”.

For instance, I was offered breakfast cereal a few years back.  Yes, cereal!   Kellogg’s Krave and Crunchy Nut cereals.  I got addicted for awhile.   I’d be buying box after box when my originals ran out… they were that good!  Krave, by the way… is an excellent way to get a chocolate “fix”.   I generally eat it dry, as a snack.

I also can’t live without Luseta Beauty Argan oil hair mask.   When my free one ran out, I went out and bought some more.  It really worked wonders on my hair.  I use it also after the pool, I rub some in and my hair is soft and tangle free and it doesn’t look like a rat’s nest, which is something I prefer not to have when in public.

I have become somewhat dependent on my power banks.  I have kept about 8 or 9 even though I don’t need that many, but I’ve reviewed literally dozens, so I feel like an expert.  Aukey seems to make some of my favorite ones, but idaye has made some I really like too.

I also received a leather purse that I have come to adore.   If anything happened to that, I’d be buying a replacement, ASAP.  It’s 100% real leather, I still can’t believe how inexpensive it was, because the feel of the leather is amazing!  I had a few other “little black purses” but I gave those all to Goodwill, because this is the only one for me now.

And finally, I have to give mention to my memory foam mattress topper, which rests on our memory foam bed (which was also a review item).   The topper is nothing short of amazing.  It’s like no other comfort I’ve ever felt in a bed, and I really liked our memory foam mattress alone for it’s comfort.   With the topper added on though, it takes it to a whole new decadent level.   I’d advise if you want to take your bed to the “next level” get one of these yourself.  I think it can improve just about any bed.


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What do you do with your review stuff?

I get a lot of solicitations for reviews.  By my count I am getting about 60 requests daily (maybe 40 on Saturday and Sunday).   I am positive that there are people out there who get even more than that, but 60 seems like quite a few at any rate – and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Of those 60 requests I try to keep it to 3 or less a day that I actually accept.  This is for several reasons:

  1. I don’t have the time to review more than a few items in a day (because I have a job separate from this reviewing gig).
  2. I perceive that when I review more than a few items a day (if they are on Amazon) it negatively affects my reviewer rating.
  3. I don’t need or want the vast majority of things I am offered.
  4. I don’t have room for a huge amount of clutter.

Not my actual house

But, if you add it up – getting three new things per day adds a lot of tonnage to my house.   So what do I do with all this stuff?  The answer is, it depends.

Some items like those I get from Vine (or previously from Walmart) I am required to keep for 6 months.   After that point, I am free to do with them as I please – toss them, sell them, give them away… whatever.   But to sell them or give them away before that point could get me booted from reviewing for them, as it is a violation of their rules.

Items that I get directly from sellers I can do with what I want after I review them.   Some of the items I keep because I need or want them.  Some items I carefully repackage (if that is even possible) and I sell them (mainly it seems to my co-workers who also are aware of my reviewing gig).   Some items I give out to friends and family as gifts.  This has been such a blessing to me, because last year I did virtually no Christmas shopping.   The time and headache saved by not having to shop was priceless.  Is this tacky?  Maybe.   It could be seen in the same light as “re-gifting”, but I don’t care enough about the perception to stop doing it, and I am planning to do it again next Christmas.



To review or not to review… that is the question

Sometimes people ask me what kinds of things I review in my professional life.    The short answer is “anything”, but that isn’t necessarily true.   I can only review things that people offer me, and there are some items I choose not to review.

product reviewI have noticed that certain lower ticket items (inexpensive items) seem to go in cycles.   For awhile it was selfie sticks, and I was getting offered at least a handful of those on a daily basis.   After that it was battery operated Christmas lights.   Next it was silicone oven mitts.   Now it seems I get an inordinate number of review requests for light bulbs and Bluetooth headsets.  (Update – now it’s watermelon slicers.)

People have offered me everything from car accessories to jewelry and furniture to survival gear.  And I’ve reviewed a lot of things; but there are two categories of items I do not review.   Adult items (dildos, vibrators, bondage equipment -etc.) and eBooks or Kindle books.

Why don’t I review adult items?  Because I don’t want to associate myself with something I would be embarrassed by if my kids found out I reviewed or my own friends and acquaintances found out I reviewed.  I like to keep things PG where possible.

Why don’t I review books?  I actually have reviewed a few books, a Bible, some devotionals, and some books on North Korea… but only because I was interested in those topics and would have potentially read those anyway (and because they were physical copies, which I prefer).  The main reason why I don’t review books is when you review a book you are “locked in” to finishing it even if it really sucks, in order to give it a proper review.   I don’t have that kind of time, or energy.  But I also find book reviewing not to be great for business.   That’s a bad way to put it, but what I mean by that is books are so subjective and sometimes people take it personally if you hated a book they loved, or vice versa – it tends to generate a lot of negative feelings.

I have even heard some anecdotal stories of other reviewers who have reviewed books negatively, only to have the author of the book retaliate against the reviewer by harassing them, launching complaints against them to Amazon, and having all their friends and family down-vote the review.  Book reviewing can get personal!

There are reviewers out there who are niche reviewers.  They review only books, or only clothes, only one certain type of product.   My perception is that niche reviewers are usually very knowledgeable in the genre they have chosen and tend to get a lot more review requests in that category (obviously).  If you lean towards certain items, you tend to get offered more items that relate to it I have noticed.   For instance, I bought some shorts from Amazon, and then a week later I was offered several pairs of shorts for review.   I think companies must track purchase history.  Creepy to be sure, but you’d be surprised what people can track about you online, but that is a topic for another blog!

My advice is review only items you are interested in trying or using, or have a lot of knowledge with then gear your review around that.   If you are new to something, write your review from a newcomer’s perspective.  If you are a regular user of a certain type of item give an expert’s opinion.   If you are passionate about a certain kind of item, say camping supplies, try reviewing only camping supplies to build your reputation in that area.


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